Take a look at this yummy batting goodness:
Adam Dunn: 284/378/563, 149 OPS+, 403 wOBA, 13 HR, 17 2B, 3 3B
- Ryan Zimmerman: 315/413/587, 165 OPS+, 424 wOBA, 12 HR, 14 2B
- Josh Willingham: 283/429/524, 155 OPS+, 421 wOBA, 12 HR, 7 2B, 1 3B
Zimmy's got a 1.000 OPS. All three have a dozen or more dingers. Heck, Hammer even has 5 stolen bases. Remember that a league-average hitter has a 100 OPS+, so they're all at least 50% better than average (okay, Dunn is lagging at 49% better...)! A lot more to love (plus some unpleasant truth about the rest of the order) after the jump.
Here's a table of the delicious hitting:
Going by wOBA, the Nationals have three of the top ten offensive players in the NL--Zimmy and Hammer are 1 and 2! No other NL team has more than two on the top ten. In fact, the Nats have three of the top 15 offensive players in all of baseball (the Cards and Yankees manage to have two players in the top 15, no other team has more than one). That's some heart-of-the-order heartiness, am I right? Take a look at the splits for the Nats' 3-4-5 spots:
That "sOPS+" column is comparing Nats' 3-4-5 hitters to league average for 3-4-5 hitters, who are generally the best hitters on a team. They're 13-39% better in OPS even compared only to players who can rake.
Oooh, you just knew there was a, "but" coming up, didn't you? Take a look at the whole lineup:
See any holes? First off, the "heart" of any order is usually 3-6, not 3-5. The lack of a bopper in RF to bat 6th means that the team's 6-spot is below league average, even if 3-6 overall is above league average. As you'll recall from our discussion of Hammer's newfound selectivity, this means the #5 hitter is getting fewer pitches to hit.
Even more troubling than the "gap" at 6th (offset slightly by an above-average 7th and 8th... overall, the bottom of the order is league average), is the gap at the top. The 1-2 spots have an OPS+ of 90 compared to a league average 1-2, with a 325 combined OBP; the critical leadoff spot is only an 86 OPS+ with a worrying 314 OBP--we need those guys to get on base if the 3-5 spots are going to drive them in! Take a look at the run totals for 3-5 compared to 1-2: the heart of the order is scoring each other more than they're scoring the top of the order.
How do we fix the order? Well, most of the possibilities currently in the bigs either have too little performance to extrapolate (
Mike Michael Morse) are already the problem (Cristian Guzman, Nyjer Morgan) or aren't good enough to help (Adam Kennedy, TAWH, Wil Nieves, J-Max). Here are a few options:
- Pudge might work in the 6 spot (as he does when he can). He's hitting 331/360/446 (115 OPS+), which is noticeably above the 269/341/429 for a league-average 6th--but he can't play every game.
- Ian Desmond's 272/304/410 (90 OPS+) is not compelling: it's slightly below 6-spot production to date, and offers an even lower OBP than our current 1-2 stats.
- Roger Bernadina's 273/341/418 might actually be a fit in either spot--the OBP is close to the 350 you'd like to see from a leadoff guy, and the 103 OPS+ isn't far off league-average for a 6-holer. Let him lead off on days Pudge is catching, and bat him 6th when Pudge is sitting?
- Alberto Gonzalez has quietly put together a respectable 298/353/362 (93 OPS+). That's only over about 50 PA, so it might be a fluke (career 260/304/347, 72 OPS+), but he may be a worth a start or two at 2B in the two-spot when Guz inevitably slumps.
I don't see any answers to the lineup troubles in the organization right now, but I'm enjoying the good part of the lineup being so good. Put your own batting-order suggestions in the comments--if the Nationals somehow end up buyers at the deadline, who do they get, and where do they put him?