Right field production and the Nationals
Publicly, at least, the Nationals right-field situation is murky. Willie Harris is going to start on opening day. After that, we may see any combination of Harris, Mike Morse, Roger Bernadina, Willy Taveras, Justin Maxwell and the ghost of Del Unser. (Bonus points if you had any clue before clicking on the link.)
Manager Jim Riggleman declined to handicap the competition with specifics, understandably not wanting to ruffle the players who won't make the team. But he's got idea of who will comprise the platoon in right.
"I'm formulating in my mind what I've liked, what I've seen in some guys, some guys who have taken steps backwards," Riggleman said. "It's becoming clearer for me."
One main question, in the wake of releasing Elijah Dukes, is this: How much production will the Nationals require from their right field position? This is by no means a complete look, but hopefully it will be a good discussion starter.
Last year, right field was one of the marquee run-producing positions. Aside from first base, no position in the majors leagues was more productive, measured by OPS+:
In the Nationals League, left field was barely more productive than right field, but you still needed some pop in right to remain competitive:
Last year, the Nationals were below average in right. The National League average of all right fielders was .264/.339/.442 (average/on-base/slugging), good for an .
881 .781 OPS. Nationals right fielders went .242/.340/.429, their .769 OPS ranking 18th in the majors. (The Nats' right fielders also had a .280 batting average on balls put in play, 27th in the majors. So that didn't help.)
Harris last season went .235/.364/.393 with a 101 OPS+. If the Nationals handed the right field position to him alone, they would be fielding a below-average right fielder in terms of offensive production, and that's not even considering how much more Harris's flaws as a hitter may be exposed if he played every day.
Morse and Bernadina seem to the most likely candidates to platoon with Harris. Here are the CHONE projections in the big three categories for all three players:
(By the way:
Elijah Dukes: .262/.364/.446)
Morse has the best chance to become the kind of right fielder who will allow the Nationals to compete with most any team offensively. Morse, though, is also the shakiest defensive outfield candidate of the three.
It probably doesn't take much research to figure the Nationals are likely to receive below-average offensive production from right field. Like the old saying about quarterbacks: If you have three right fielders, that probably means you have none.
One last note: As I was finishing up this post, I ran across this excellent work from Fire Jim Bowden from a couple days ago regarding the right field situation.
March 27, 2010; 9:10 AM ET
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