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First-Half Monthly Dichotomies

With June over, and with it 1/2 the schedule, it's time to look at some position players and see what we might expect in the second half. I won't look at everybody, but rather those with some of the more peculiar monthly splits.

Michael Morse

April:  79 PA, .211/.253/.268, 39 wRC+, -0.5 WAR
May:    64 PA, .403/.422/.774, 223 wRC+, 1.0 WAR
June:  120 PA, .299/.375/.607, 170 wRC+, 1.2 WAR
Total: 263 PA, .300/.350/.550, 143 wRC+, 1.7 WAR

One thing we learned in June is that Morse is not as bad as his April, nor is he as good as his May. If he can provide even those June numbers through the rest of the season, though, watch out National League.

He's probably not quite June-good offensively either, but even if the power comes down a bit, he should have first base locked down the rest of the season. One thing to watch out for is that walk rate. His 7.5% is rate in June is acceptable, but it only brought his season rate to 5.3%. If he stops getting balls in play through (.341 BAbip on the season), he'll need to either walk more, or maintain that .300-level ISO.

Wilson Ramos

April:  61 PA, .358/.426/.547, 159 wRC+, 0.9 WAR
May:    77 PA, .167/.263/.288, 50 wRC+, 0.1 WAR
June:   81 PA, .216/.284/.365, 76 wRC+, 0.4 WAR
Total: 219 PA, .238/.317/.389, 91 wRC+, 1.5 WAR

Ramos' April was fueled by his .447 BAbip, which allowed him to hit .358 despite a 26.4% strikeout rate. However, his offense since has been suppressed by a .207 BAbip. The power has stuck a bit (.149 ISO in June), so Ramos isn't as bad offensively as he's been lately either. Look for his numbers to be higher by the end of the year than they are now. A nice milestone to reach by year's end would be 100 wRC+, quite good for a catcher with Ramos' defensive prowess.

Ian Desmond

April: 94 PA, .239/.287/.432, 110 wRC+, 0.7 WAR
May: 112 PA, .218/.255/.287, 54 wRC+, 0.0 WAR
June: 103 PA, .217/.255/.228, 36 WRC+, -0.2 WAR
Total: 309 PA, .224/.265/.313, 65 wRC+, 0.5 WAR

What to do about Desmond? After posting wRC+ of 88 in 2010, he started off quite strong this April. Since then, his offensive game has been an utter mess, way below even his 2010 marks. What's worse, is that his BAbip was .306 in May and .267 in June, so his ineptitude is not exactly attributable to bad luck.

Given his improvement on defense, Desmond probably deserves to stay in the starting lineup through the second half of this season to see if he can get his offense back to near respectability, but if July-September is closer to May/June than it is to 2010/April--basically, if Desmond is nothing more than a AAAA player or worse for the remainder of the season--it may be time to reduce his role. The more dramatic among us may even be inclined to cut ties altogether.

Danny Espinosa

April: 105 PA, .227/.317/.375, 90 wRC+, 0.6 WAR
May: 106 PA, .207/.305/.543, 137 wRC+, 1.2 WAR
June: 119 PA, .274/.345/.472, 130 wRC+, 1.2 WAR
Total: 330 PA, .238/.323/.465, 119 wRC+, 3.0 WAR

Let's end on a happier note. Espinosa leads all rookies with his 3.0 WAR, and it isn't close: he's more than 1 WAR ahead of the nearest NL rookie. But would voters look past a .238 average when voting for NL Rookie of the Year?

Espinosa has been somewhat notorious for his low line drive rate and therefore low BAbip, but his BAbip was .316 in June. Using the line drive rate plus .120 proxy, rather than the longer calculation, his xBAbip for the month was .296.

If Espinosa's AB/PA, K%, and HR% were to remain constant for another 330 PA in the second half, a .296 BAbip would bring his average up 10 points to .248. With the 30 HR and 96 RBI (which with a higher BAbip could easily pass 100) his current pace provides, would a .248 average be sufficient for the voters, or would the award still swing elsewhere?

We admittedly assume a lot in the above paragraph, but you would have to think Espinosa is the clear favorite for NL ROY regardless, were it not for that batting average that the voters will no doubt consider.

Conclusion

Using monthly splits is somewhat artificial, but the Nationals just haven't been able to get everybody on the same page on offense in any given month this season. Ramos, and to a lesser extent Desmond, helped out in April, but since then they have fallen off considerably, leaving things to Morse and Espinosa, who have recovered from bad Aprils.

If more than just a couple players (not just among these four, of course, but also including Werth, Zimmerman and co.), can click at the same time at some point in this second half, and the pitching stays remotely consistent, perhaps 82-80 or better is not too lofty a goal.

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