Nationals Baseball: Can the Nats Platoon Morgan?

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Can the Nats Platoon Morgan?

The comments yesterday turned into a little bit of a "We Hate Nyjer Morgan" Fest (to be held under tight security in Rome NY) even though he wasn't directly mentioned in the post. There's a lot of deep-seated ill feelings toward Nyjer and it's not hard to understand why. He's hitting .249 / .313 / .333. His fielding, courtesy of De Civitate, hasn't been up to snuff either. And let's not forget he's been caught stealing 10 of 22 times, leading the league in that category.

Nyjer isn't hitting, running, or fielding well, so it's pretty easy to call for his head, even though most Nats fans were naming their goldfishes "Tony Plush" at the end of last season. I'm thinking that's a bit premature. Morgan can be an asset to this team, if he is used correctly. In an ideal world this would mean Nyjer would be platooned. But can he be?

It wasn't easy to see his issues with lefties in 2007 or 2008, at least at the major league level. Nyjer hit fairly well against them. The problem is he only had 55 plate appearances against them over the course of 2 years. His minor league stats were also not telling. Through most of his minor league career he hit lefties just fine. It was only when he got to AAA did a L/R split begin to emerge and really only that last year was it pronounced. We needed to see more.

Last year he finally got to see a lot of lefties and the results were not pretty. .175 / .283 / .223. It was thought though, that maybe that was the fault of sporadically seeing lefties, that if Morgan could see them as an everyday player that he would gain some ability to hit them. What have we seen this year? .191 / .276 / .279. I guess that's a bit better but not much. Not enough to justify seeing him flailing at lefties the rest of the year.

The obvious solution would be to platoon Morgan. His line versus righties .272 / .328 / .355 isn't great but it's well below a career line of .317 / . 368 / .405 so you would expect a bounce back. Problem is the obvious "solution" may not work. One would think that vs lefties, Morse may start in RF and Bernadina could cover center. Two things though. Bernadina also may have been underperforming in the field and there's no guarantee Roger can hit lefties. The former might just be a temporary thing, but you have to question how well he'd do in CF all the time, considering when given the choice the Sky Cheifs would put Maxwell there and play Bernadina in right. The latter may take even more of a leap of faith. He spent most of his minor league career struggling against southpaws with only 2008 standing out as a year without a pronounced split. Part of his success this year I'm sure comes from only getting up to the plate 17 time versus lefties. By essentially replacing Morgan with Bernadina the Nats might be making a lateral move at best.

Of course that's just a guess and Roger does have one big advantage over Nyjer, he's younger - just about 4 years so. He may still be able to learn to hit lefties, where that has likely passed Morgan by. Do you move on Bernadina now, play him full time while Morgan "platoons" with Morse, something that for all we know does not have a very strong chance of success, or do you stick with Morgan and keep giving Bernadina the best chances to succeed. I would probably do the latter. Morgan's fielding, one would hope, would come around. It's hard to believe he fell off a cliff just this year. And he should hit better versus righties. The baserunning would have to be contained but if the other things come around he should be a worthwhile play and in the meantime the Nats can take the whole year if needed to make a judgement on Roger.


Hoo said...

People don't like Tony P.? Where?

I wasn't a huge fan of the trade last year which looks to be rather pedestrian as Milledge will never be any good. It's probably a push as Morgan has been a bit better than Milledge and Joel is probably better than Burnett. It's rather blah all the way around.

You're right. Nats can't platoon Morgan b/c all the CFs are lefty bats. But maybe Guzman can add center field to his expanding repertoire!

Still, I'd like to see Roger B get a few starts in center and Morse in Right. B/c this is should be the last test lap season of the Nats. Nats need to see if Bernadina can play center in '11 or if Morgan can right himself.

I'm not calling to replace Morgan right now. But I do view this season as a Thunderdome event for a spot in the OF next year. We're going to need one FA OF but hopefully not 2.

If the Nats are serious about trying to make a playoff push in 2011, Morgan has to play better in every facet of the game and bat 8 where his speed can be handy reaching 2nd on sacrifice bunts.

Harper, you think the Nats could be a playoff team with Morgan at CF? I know you're iffy at Nats playoff in 2011, but I think they can improve enough that .500 would be a disappointment.

Wombat-socho said...

I'd rather they brought Maxwell back up and let him find his feet. Kid takes a decent number of walks. Also, this post was linked at Beltway Baseball.

Sec314 said...

The primary reason the Nats traded for Morgan last year was to get someone/anyone who could play CF. Bernadina was hurt, Dukes wasn't doing the job, etc. Morgan was a vast improvement over the other guys they'd put out there. His hitting and speed were bonuses.

This year he seems to have forgotten how to play the position. I could live with his bad hitting (But not with his HORRIBLE bunting skills) and the easy solution for his bone-headed base-running is take away the green light. His regression as a fielder, however, has been truly damaging.

If Bernadina's hitting BA and OBP are no better than Morgan's, the Nats would still be better off. Bernadina doesn't slam into the wall with the ball bouncing around like a pinball, he doesn't get picked off and he hits with a little more power. He must have a higher OPS.

And anyone's got to be a better bunter than Morgan these days.

Use Tony P. as a pinch runner (under tight control!) or to effect double switches.

Anonymous said...

Who told you I changed my goldfish's name from Obama to T-Plush.
Just kidding, I still like Obama, I just wish he'd learn to hit righty's.

I vote for the platoon at the very least. More so because of his fielding and arm than his bat.
Bernadina and Morse (while he's hot at least) seems sooo much better that Nyjer and whoever.

Harper said...

Hoo - Right now there is too many variables to really look at 2011, too many injured pitchers, are the Nats going to deal or not deal? But ignoring the pitching staff, if the bring back Dunn and Willingham and upgrade at 2 of 2nd/RF/C (I know - Pudge has been great but I'd be nervous relying on him to carry the load in 2011) then yes, they could have the offense to compete for a playoff spot even with a still disappointing Nyjer.

Kevin - given the relative prospect status of Maxwell & Bernadina I can't disagree with the hot hand philosophy the Nats used to choose between them. I too like Maxwell better but I don't think he's that much better to let him work out struggles if Roger is doing well in the minors.

Sec314 - Seriously, what's happened there? It's starting to feel like it's not a roster problem but a team/field/stadium issue. How can the team have so many poor CFs? But that doesn't make sense does it?

Anon - it was the ghost of your old dead goldfish "Track Nats"

Sec314 said...

I call it "The curse of Preston Wilson."

I have no problem, philosophically, with a light hitting, good fielding CF -- so long as your other outfielders are carrying their weight. Bernadina's hitting numbers look like those of a typical Center Fielder.

Here's one idea that is not exactly a platoon: Play Morse and Bernadina on the days when Nieves catches. A line up featuring a pitcher, Nieves and Morgan is not very threatening.

-- This all is based upon the theory that Morse continues to hit, of course.

David said...

I like Sec 314s point about Morse&Bernie when Nieves

Still a big Nyjer fan, but I'd also let Morse play his way through his current hitting tear.

DezoPenguin said...

Mind you, Morgan didn't start to really stink at the plate until May-ish, so it's not impossible that he'll turn things around somewhat. Still, if Bernardina can't play CF, then it's probably better to find out now, because he's never going to hit enough to be a regular RF unless we can bring back the ghost of Andre Dawson to play center. Minimizing Morgan's AB against lefties at least maximizes his potential to contribute something, and who knows, maybe someone can remind him how to run the bases.

Sec314 said...

See today's line up. Riggleman obviously reads this blog.

Guz DHing is an added bonus!