Nationals Baseball: Morgan and Lefties

Monday, March 01, 2010

Morgan and Lefties

Bill Ladson's most recent bag brought up something that somehow was not picked up by my all-seeing eye. Nyjer Morgan can't hit lefties. Don't read that wrong. It's not just that he hits lefties poorly. Oh no. He CAN'T HIT LEFTIES. Like "tie a lefty to a tree and give Morgan a bat and he'll break it on a nearby rock" can't hit lefties.

Here is his 2009 line :
.175 / .283 / .223 in 124 PAs

2008 wasn't that bad, and 2007 was actually alright but combined they only accounted for 51 PAs. If we take a look at his minor league splits, we see the same issue

2008: .244 / .293 / .267 (86+ PAs)
2007: .286 / .344 / .314 (35+ PAs)

Two things jump out. He didn't hit AAA lefties well AND he didn't face many of them. (and my god, that lack of power...) We have to assume with those PA #s that not only did Morgan not face the good lefties, he probably didn't face many of the just ok ones. What will he do against major league lefties? Well I think we saw that last year.

God bless him he wants to hit lefties, which would be fine if Morgan was a 22/23 yr old who just needs to see southpaws more to get them down. Morgan is a lot of things, but young ain't one of them. At 29 going on 30 we can't expect any great changes in what we see (and let's face it, Morgan is making the basic optimist mistake of assuming all the good things - in this case his rockin' of righties - will stay the same and if he just improves the negatives he'll be great. He could easily see a return to normal against righties.)

So what's the answer? Farid over at Bleacher Report proposes a Maxwell/Morgan platoon. Problem with that is relying on Maxwell to hold up his end of the bargain. His line last year was .242 / .342 / .273 against lefties in the majors, .245 / .372 / .330 against them in the minors. At 26 this year, do you really want to go ahead with this as Plan A? Sure you'd likely get some boost in average and OBP, Morgan is that bad, but not that much. Plus what would you be losing in fielding? To me there are too many questions to platoon. The other option off the top of the head is Willie Harris, but he's just like Morgan: .121 / .356 / .212 last year vs lefties, and history suggests not much better than Nyjer.

A more radical choice would be to use Mike Morse. Morse can't play center but if you put him in right and move over Dukes to center you could have a very good lineup vs lefties... and possibly the worst fielding outfield in the majors.

The truth is there is no good answer, not in the Nats camp right now. Given Morgan's insistence that playing time is what he needed to get hot, and his fielding which is not dependent on the handedness of the opposing pitcher (at least not until they come up with a stat for that) the Nats are probably better off doing nothing. Outside of the Phillies, the NL East is pretty righty heavy with only 3 (maybe) lefties out of 15 starters. I say suck it up - let Morgan play full time.


cass said...

My basic view is that Morgan is the anti-Dunn. His glove is so good and you need it so much that you put up with whatever hitting you can get, just like you put up with whatever awful fielding Dunn brings in order to get that big bat in your lineup.

So even against lefties, you put up with the bad hitting just so you can get his glove out there, cause that glove is saving a lot of runs. He seems to have one of the truly elite gloves in the game, so if you're going to have Willingham manning left, you better have Morgan in center.

The Nats are a funny team... they arguably have the two best defenders in the league and definitely the worst, and another who isn't far better. I wonder if the coaches say something like "Hit it to the RIGHT side of the infield, and whatever you do, don't hit it toward 3rd or Center!"

Sec314 said...

They got Morgan to play in the field. The hitting was a surprise bonus. Let him play and hope someone in the minors (including Bernadina or Maxwell) catches fire.

Dukes proved he was not the answer in CF and his base running mistakes scare me.

Harper said...

cass / Sec 314 - I hadn't come that far around but I guess that's something to be considered. He's a fielder FIRST, a solution to the CF issue that the Nats have had since they left great glove, blah hit Endy go so long ago. Sure he's awful vs lefties, but he's not awful overall, in fact he might be ok, so let's not worry about this. Maybe things would be different if the Nats were riding the razor's edge with a "last chance" team between playoffs and not. But they aren't, so just let it go and hope Nyjer learns something.

Section 222 said...

I suppose one other point that's relevant to this question is that Nyjer's lack of power against lefties is somewhat offset by his base stealing potential. The rare single or walk might become a double or even a triple, plus lots of throws over to first. So I agree, play him, appreciate what you get in the field, and hope for the best at the plate.

Harper said...

So we're all in agreement. Smoothies for everyone!