What do you do when you don't have a leadoff batter?
The average leadoff batter in the NL this year has an OBP of .347.
The Nationals are using a mix of Michael Taylor, who has a OBP of .271 and Ben Revere, OBP .256, who are roughly 80 points off of average. The Nationals are above average offensively as a team but their worst players are getting the most plate appearances because it was decided they best fit a theoretical leadoff mold.
So why is Dusty Baker still giving them the most plate appearances on the team? He dropped Ryan Zimmerman in the lineup yesterday to make room for Wilson Ramos based purely on performance, so can we assume that this lack of production at the top of the lineup will not go unnoticed forever? The Nationals offense will remain hobbled and below full potential as long as the worst offensive players keep getting sent to the plate more than everyone else.
Rather than guess at what is going on in Dusty's head, let's take a look at what his options are and figure out what he might do if he were to take action.
Let's rank the Nationals’ players by OBP to get started. I will add in current HR totals as that may affect the ideal order as well.
.397 - Bryce Harper (15 HR)
.390 - Daniel Murphy (12)
.376 - Wilson Ramos (12)
.331 - Anthony Rendon (7)
.327 - Jayson Werth (10)
.320 - Danny Espinosa (13)
.313 - Stephen Drew (6)
.300 - Clint Robinson (2)
.289 - Ryan Zimmerman (10)
.288 - Chris Heisey (4)
.271 - Michael Taylor (6)
.256 - Ben Revere (1)
Only three players here get on base more often than the average leadoff batter, but all of them are well suited for their current positions at the heart of the batting order.
We move on to the next pair, Anthony Rendon and Jayson Werth. They are both known for their advanced approach at the plate, which would be a big positive at leadoff.
Werth already bats second in the lineup with a .438 OBP in June, so what would it look like if Rendon joined him at the top?
There's good news and there's bad news.
The good news is that Rendon is definitely an upgrade over Taylor and Revere.
The bad news is that Rendon has had a really bad June. His slash line for June is .235/.299/.441.
His OBP in May was .368, though, so as soon as he gets out of his slump he will be a great leadoff batter.
Should Dusty bet on Michael Taylor bouncing back to his career average of .279 OBP (from his current .271)?
Should Dusty bet on Ben Revere bouncing back to his career average of .324 OBP (from his current .256)?
Should Dusty bet on Anthony Rendon bouncing back to his career average of .341 OBP (from his current .331)?
Anthony Rendon appears to be the logical and perhaps only choice here. He gets on base. He doesn't have as much power as the rest of the lineup. Even in a slump he is more productive than Michael Taylor or Ben Revere.
What would the lineup look like if Rendon moved to the top?
1. Anthony Rendon (R)
2. Jayson Werth (R)
3. Bryce Harper (L)
4. Wilson Ramos (R)
5. Daniel Murphy (L)
6. Ryan Zimmerman (R)
7. Danny Espinosa (S)
8. Michael Taylor (R) or Ben Revere (L)
9. Pitcher (because this club plays real baseball)
Daniel Murphy 5th? Yes, sir. His June slump is deeper than what Rendon is working through. Ramos is currently white hot. Also, splitting up the two lefty bats is rarely a terrible thing to do.
Vote Anthony Rendon for leadoff!
The Nationals have been hamstrung by the top of their order long enough. There are games that need to be won and there is no excuse for Dusty to let his team start every game off on the wrong foot.