.303/.333/.507 with seven doubles, seven home runs, 24 RBI's and a 131 OPS+, Michael Morse has a 10-game hit streak going in which he's hit three doubles and four home runs while raising his average from .267 to .301. The 29-year-old outfielder earned the starting spot in left field with a ridiculous power display this past Spring which saw him crush nine home runs in 20 games and 62 at bat over which he posted a .364/.421/.818 line. He started the season with a .211/.253/.268 April, however, and had slipped back into a bench role before he finally caught fire and had to step in at first to replace the DL'd Adam LaRoche.
In 22 games and 64 plate appearances in May, Morse has hit .403 with a .422 OBP, .774 SLG, five double, six HR's and 15 RBI's. What has been the difference? Luck? Morse had a .269 BABIP in March/April, and he has a .442 BABIP in May. During the last homestand, the Nats' Skipper said he really isn't positive what's made the difference, but he did have some ideas.
"I don't know. I like what Mike did for the ballclub last year," Jim Riggleman offered when asked for his read on the suddenly resurgent Nats' first baseman, "...and he did it in a manner of right field, left field, first base, pinch hit, just doing a little bit of everything. And he's just productive that way. I think when he comes to the ballpark and he wants to see if he's playing, where he's playing, where he's hitting, he's really a good player like that. And we want to try to get him to the point where he can lock down a position, but the manner that he's doing it in now is very productive so that's the way we go with it, we use him in the lineup, where we need him and we need him at first base right now so that's what he's doing. And he's very productive.
"When you get a job," Riggleman said, trying to further explain Morse's early issues, "...when somebody says, 'You are the left fielder, you are the first baseman, you are the...' whatever it is, it's tough to hold that job. Now you are 'the man', and you know, there's a lot of players...I know Bip Roberts* was a great player. Bip played everywhere on the field, but he played different spot in the lineup and he had to come the ballpark every day and see where he was playing, if he was playing and where he was hitting and he was a heck of a player. And those are very productive players, and until Mike settles in in one place, he's really doing now for us what he did last year."
Whatever he's doing differently, whether it's something that he and Hitting Coach Rick Eckstein have done, or the curious crane kick he does in the on deck cirve, whatever he's doing it's working, "He's swinging very well. We've all seen this from Mike," Riggleman said. "We saw it last year, we saw it in Spring Training, it got away from him a little bit for whatever reason. Now he's just playing baseball, not necessarily trying to hold on to a position, just [going] and trying to play the game. And he's not overthinking things, he's just hacking and the ball really jumps off his bat. The ball he hit in Milwaukee, to right-center, is about as good as I've seen a right-hander hit a ball that way and that's an indication of his power. He doesn't have to crush a ball, they go for him, he's just got that natural power that the ball jumps off his bat unbelieveable."
Keep hacking, Morse.