We’ll start in the outfield, since there will be the most shifting there.
In 2011, LF was a platoon of (by games played, not started): Nix (73), Morse (54), Shark (33), Bixler (27), Hariston (21), and Gomes (19). Nix and Morse put up some pretty big numbers, with 24 HRs in 127 games. The outstanding 29 HRs for LF in 2011, which ranked 3rd in MLB, can hopefully be duplicated by a full year of Morse, who hit 31 in 146 games. What we should see is a climb in the other numbers. A team batting avg of .256 (13th in MLB) and OBP of .310 (18th) versus a full season of Morse at .303 avg., which would have put him 3rd in the league, and .360 OBP (4th amongst LFs) last year clamors for improvement in 2012. (2012 Outlook – Upside)
In 2011, CF was pretty much a disaster at the plate. Led by "The Arm" (104), "The Shark" (56), Werth (19), Hariston (9), Bixler (4), Nix (3). While the Nats got a respectable 17 HRs from CF, which was 11th in MLB, it was also 24th in Avg. (.245) and 25th in OBP (.307). In my analysis, I am going to assume 2 months of "The Arm" and Cameron and 4 months of Werth. Rick was out most of May last year, but if you double his April production, it would be pretty abysmal: 2 HRs, .234 Avg, .308 OBP. Cameron was terrible in ’11, but career is a .249 hitter with a respectable .338 OBP. Werth was also mediocre the last 4 months of last year (12 HRs and a .219 Avg), you have to feel there is some upside there to at least match the production from CF last year. It just can’t be that bad again, can it? (2012 Outlook – Upside)
In 2011, RF went pretty much as Werth-less did. Werth logged in 133 games in right, with the others including: Nix (12), Gomes (11), Rick and Shark (9 each) and Bixler (6). Werth only batted an abysmal .231 while playing in right last year and the team avg. of .239 ranks 27th out of all MLB. Werth did get on base at a decent clip with an OBP of .330 and the team .329 moves us up to a whopping 22nd in the league. RF contributed 21 HRs (13th) in 2011, with Werth hitting 15, and that helped the Nats get their OPS to .727 (23rd). It’s pretty clear that the Nats were awful in RF last year and we can only hope that 2 months of Werth and 4 months of Namath will make 2011 a distant memory. I just want to add as I close up the OF, that the importance of Laynce Nix in the early part of 2011 as our 4th OF cannot be over stated. He hit .307 the first 2 months last year (mostly in LF), with an OPS of .909. Hopefully, the Nats can find lightning in a bottle again this year. (2012 Outlook – Big Upside)
In 2011, 1st base was "A Tale of Two Cities". LaRoche, the "not so" Beauty, and the "Beast". Before Adam was shut down on May 22nd, he had a .172 Avg, .288 OBP and had 3 HRs in 147 ABs (43 games). Ugh! Then the Beast took over and all was right in the world. In 85 games, Morse hit .336, had a .401 OBP, had 19 HRs and an OPS of 1.002. Wow! That carried the day, since you also had light hitting Marrero (31 games), Nix (9), Cora (8), Stairs (4), Bixler (2) for a team avg of .271 (14th across MLB), OBP of .344 (14th), 22 HRs (19th), and an OPS of .785 (13th). I am going to assume that we get a full season of LaRoche at 1st. The big question is if he will come back to his norm. If he does, which is a .267 Avg, .337 OBP, .815 OPS and around 20 – 25 HRs, I think I’d be pretty happy and it would cover the production in 2011. (2012 Outlook –Hopefully a wash.)
In 2011, 3rd base just wasn’t the same. We were spoiled with RZ’s ’09 and ’10 numbers and 2011 was definitely a letdown. With Zim only in for 97 games last year, we had some very poor fill-ins: Hariston Jr (44), Cora (30) Bixler (14) and Lombardozzi (3). To give you an example, when Zim was in there, he had an avg. of .288, an OBP of .353. and hit 12 HRs (well below his norm) in 389 ABs. His counterparts combined for an avg. of .232, an ~OBP of .286 and hit 2 HRs in 228 ABs. Overall, this gave the Nats a .267 Avg (9th), .330 OBP (12th), .724 OPS (13th) and 14 HRs (16th). Surprisingly, not terrible across MLB, but if you put Zim’s numbers in from ’10 and see what the Nats ranking is: .307 Avg (2nd), .388 OBP (1st), .898 OPS (1st), and 25 HRs (6th). Granted, Zim has only played 162 games in his career once, but you get the picture. When healthy, he’s one of the best 3rd basemen in the game. (2012 Outlook – Big Upside).
SS, 2nd, and Catcher will be very similar to last year in terms of the starters, so they’ll need to focus on improvement year over year. The real change here will be in the backups at every position.
In 2011, SS was dominated by Ian (152 games), with a smattering of Cora (16), Bixler (2), and Lombo/Hariston (1 each). For the year, SS was at a .249 Avg. (22nd), a .295 OBP (22nd), OPS of .640 (22nd) and 8 HRs (20th). That’s pretty consistently mediocre. Ian, to his credit, was a tick above all of those numbers and counted for all 8 of those HRs, meaning, his subs were worse in every way (getting us back to the bench discussion). But, Ian was also down from his career numbers (albeit, a very short career, Sept. ’09 – ’11, thus far). Will we get the 2010 - .269/.308/.700 10 HRs Ian or the 2011 - .253/.298/.656 8 HRs Ian? Regardless, as offensive short stops go, and you can take "offensive" either way there, there’s doesn’t seem to be a lot of upside. The good news, is that to be in the upper half, he would need to do only .265/.326/.694 with 10 HRs, which is doable. (2012 Outlook – Slight Upside)
In 2011, 2nd base was all Danny. At 158 games, he was at one position more than any other Nat. At 2nd, the Nats as a whole were avg ..232 (26th), OBP .316 (13th), OPS .720 (12th) and Danny’s 21 HRs put him 6th amongst 2nd base over MLB. Danny’s first full year was nothing to cry about. Outside of his BA and Ks, his other numbers were quite respectable. You would expect to see some improvement through experience with him, Ian and Wilson in 2012. (2012 Outlook – Slight Upside)
In 2011, Catcher was a platoon of Wilson (108 Games), Pudge (37) and Jesus (22). There was a big drop off when our backups came in behind the plate. Wilson hit for a .267 Avg, .333 OBP, and .773 OPS and 14 HRs. Overall, the Nats were at a .248 Avg (14th), an OBP of .308 (18th), OPS of .708 (14th) and 17 HRs (16th). You have to hope Wilson can go 120 games this year and just maintain or improve slightly upon 2011 and Flores can pick up his pace from his .200/.229/.541 from last year. Career, Flores is at .253/.305/.699. Combining that with Wilson last year, you would be looking at Top 10 at the Catcher Position across the board. (2012 Outlook – Upside)
So, barring injury, outside of 1st Base, there is a lot of room for improvement offensively with this team.
Bench (PH) – In 2011, the Nats were a terrible Pinch Hitting Team. They had an Avg. of .186 (23rd in MLB), OBP of .291 (16th), OPS of .531 (24th) and 2 HRs (14th) in 204 ABs. Hopefully, Davy’s offensive focus with our reserves will get us to the middle of the road (.218/.292/.616). Hariston and Nix were good bench pieces, but they ended up being forced into starter roles for too much of the season. Out of the 204 ABs, the majority went to: Stairs (39) - .154 avg., Cora (37) - .188 avg., Nix (36) - .138 avg., Bixler (23) - .200 avg. You get the picture. (2012 Outlook – Upside)
Batting in the #1 Hole
Everyone knows the lead off spot was a big problem in 2011, but how big was it? The Nats were dead last in avg. 226, dead last in OBP at .285, dead last in OPS at .632 and 25th in Runs Scored at 83. For the majority, Ian had 221 ABs out of a total of 689. Almost a third. He had the highest Avg. and OBP at .281/.318. Roger was 2nd at 215 ABs, but had a .209/.283. Danny (81 ABs), .173/236, Rick (77 ABs), .273/.313 and Werth (49 ABs) .163/.281). If we really are going to put Ian there for the whole year, we should actually see an improvement over last year. Ian was the bright spot at Lead Off….go figure. He actually hit above his norm, so it might be good to give him a full season there. (2012 Outlook – Upside)
Batting in the #2 Hole
What about the #2 Hole? Well, the Nats were dead last in avg. .222, 28th in OBP .283 and in OPS .614 and tied for last in Runs Scored with 62. Who do we put there this year? I have no idea. Almost everybody stunk it up. Out of the majority of the 666 ABs, Ian (170) - .241/.276, Ricky (148) - .209/.278, Danny (143) - .189/.264, Werth (90) - .222/.327, Shark (64) - .313/.333. Going with last year’s numbers, it looks like it would have to be Werth for his OBP or you give Roger a shot. As long as the Shark isn’t leading off, he’s fine. Outside of lead off, Shark batted .319/.347. Not too shabby. (2012 Outlook – Upside)
So, as I said, this is just me having some free time and looking through rose colored glasses at the Nats. Even without landing PF, I still feel optimistic that this will be a better year for the Nats, not including the upgraded pitching staff. Take it FWIW!