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Nats Mystery Man: Josh...

*Only one Nat (Dmitri Young) has ever had as many homers as his 26 in '06.
*Only one Nat (Dmitri Young) can equal his career slugging average of .472.
*Only one Nat (Ryan Zimmerman) has ever had as many RBI in a year as his 89 in '07.
*Only one Nat (Nick Johnson) can match his career on-base percentage of .361.
*Only one Nat (Nck Johnson) can equal his career OPS of .833.

Yes, it's outfielder Josh Willingham, who always seems to take second billing to young lefty Scott Olsen when the Nats good trade with Florida is mentioned.

Last year Willingham missed 60 games with injuries, but still had 15 homers and an OPS of .834, cloning his career mark. He's a solid vet, 30 this month, on a Nats team without enough such players. As a hitter he's a modest imporvement on pre-'08 Austin Kearns.

When you consider Young, 35, weighs 300 pounds and Johnson has only 109 at bats in the last two seasons, Willingham might even end up as the Nats cleanup man in '09.

That Willingham is such a relative strength for the Nats merely documents how weak the Washington lineup is and how much it still needs a lefthanded power bat. But it may also explain, in some perverse way, why Washington isn't pursuing Adam Dunn as aggressively as many believe they should. The Nats already think they upgraded leftfield.

By Thomas Boswell  |  February 7, 2009; 11:29 AM ET
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Well, that, and Kearns is untradeable with that $8MM contract; Dukes is probably still too hot to get anything worthwhile back; Pena is one mediocre spring away from a new line of work; Milledge is either over-valued here or too good to trade, depending on who you believe; and Willie Harris, for all his superpowers, is still a .250 hitter with only occasional pop, IOW, the #4 OF unless he's in center, which he doesn't have the arm for, apparently. Willingham apparently believes, with reason, he's playing left.
So if they were to get lucky enough to be given a chance to overpay Dunn, they then have to write off at least two of the above as losses. Which they may well wind up doing in any case, but they seem to be interested in squeezing that particular nickel.

Posted by: CEvansJr | February 7, 2009 1:51 PM | Report abuse

They could've put Boz out in left field and it would've been an improvement over Wily Mo.

Posted by: Uncle_Teddy | February 7, 2009 2:31 PM | Report abuse

.....and only one Nat has career stats nearly identical to his -- Ryan Church! OK, so it's one former Nat. Look at their numbers:
Church: Age 29; 5 seasons; 437 games; 1,316 AB; 272 BA; 347 OBP; 457 SLG; 90 2B; 47 HR; 601 TB; 202 RBI.
Willingham: Age 29; 5 seasons; 416 Games; 1,422 AB; 266 BA; 361 OBP; 472 SLG; 82 2B; 63 HR; 671 TB; 219 RBI.

We've seen this guy before -- but the one we gave up on played much better defense. Welcome back, Ryan -- rather, welcome to you new home, Josh!

Posted by: VirginiaNatsNut | February 7, 2009 3:42 PM | Report abuse

Did Boswell divorce himself totally from the Nationals and turn in his keys to Nationals Journal along with his season tickets? Why isn't he making these 100% Nationals-centric posts over there?

Or did he just get knocked silly by an errant puck at Caps practice today?

Posted by: nunof1 | February 7, 2009 3:49 PM | Report abuse

Only one Nat (Lastings Milledge) was terrible enough in the field to match Willingham's -7 UZR/150.

Posted by: sbiel2 | February 7, 2009 3:58 PM | Report abuse

To be fair, Steven, Lastings's UZR is compared to CFs. Willingham is being compared to a worse group of fielders. And, as much as I love the guy, take a look at Belli's UZR/150 at second in '08. Yikes!

Posted by: jca-CrystalCity | February 7, 2009 4:10 PM | Report abuse

Boz, Steven, or whoever else:

I'll give you a Nats line up, not necessarily their best hitting line up, and you tell me how many of these guys do you project to be above average offensively for their position, how many around average, and how many below? I'm using OPS.

2 - Flores (below)
3 - Johnson/ Willingham (above)
4 - Harris / Belliard (above)
5 - Guzman (above)
6 - Zimmerman (above)
7 - Milledge / Willingham (average)
8 - Dukes / Miledge (above)
9 - Kearns (below)

Posted by: jca-CrystalCity | February 7, 2009 4:15 PM | Report abuse

"8 - Dukes / Miledge (above)
9 - Kearns (below)"

Move Dukes to right and you have instant improvement. Addition by subtraction. Does anyone really believe that Kearns will bust out of his funk enough to beat out Dukes for a starting job? I don't.

Posted by: nunof1 | February 7, 2009 5:23 PM | Report abuse

Why would either Dunn or Orlando come to Washington? They're both desperate for a shot at a title. The Nats can't promise that. Heck, even they don't believe it.

Dunn has some value not just because of the power (which is obvious) but because he gets on base. Orlando's a solid infielder as well as a respectable hitter.

So it's down to money. That's the ownership equivalent of a puncher's chance. Maybe we can just bribe the guys to play for us...

Sad, that's all I have to say about it. 102 losses should be an all-time record, but this club looks up to the challenge.

Somebody call Guinness.

Posted by: Samson151 | February 7, 2009 7:17 PM | Report abuse

I wish I could get excited about the Nats but so far their off season gets don't do a thing to make me want to pay big bucks to go the stadium. The Nats need more than slight improvements in order to compete in their division. I fear another long season. In fairness to Ryan Zimmerman they should trade him to a competitive team as an act of compassion.

Posted by: cdierd1944 | February 7, 2009 7:31 PM | Report abuse

nunof1 - I'm not sure about the offense / defense trade off between Willingham - Milledge - Dukes vs. Milledge - Dukes - Kearns. If Kearns can get back to .255, with his ability to draw walks, and 15 home runs, does his arm, range, moving Dukes to a more important defensive position and moving Milledge to a place where he might even be a plus defender make up for the extra hitting Willingham would give you? It may become moot if Johnson goes down to injury. It's not a bad problem to have as your 4th OF that kind of a choice. I'm also going to enjoy watching this year's 2d base battle in contrast to last year's "got to play FLop to trade him."

Posted by: jca-CrystalCity | February 7, 2009 10:13 PM | Report abuse

Took a quick look at Guzman projections. There seems to be a big divide. The high end is .785 OPS (Marcel the Monkey), which would clearly be above average, but the consensus of CHONE, Bill James, and Oliver seem around .735 range. Most of the difference is on how far you expect his batting average to regress. Project him as average rather than above, but move him out of leadoff or #2. That's Milledge / SuperWillieBelli territory.

Posted by: jca-CrystalCity | February 9, 2009 9:31 AM | Report abuse

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