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Nyjer Morgan is getting caught up

Nyjer Morgan is not going to stop trying to steal bases. It would betray how he approaches the sport. "Hell, no, I'm not going to stop," he said. "That's part of my game."

But Morgan recognizes he needs to start stealing with more success. Morgan was thrown out Sunday, bringing his success rate for the season to 5 for 9. Only Matt Kemp has been thrown out more often than Morgan.

He couldn't quite explain what's going on, other than to guess his new sliding technique has something to do with it. Since Morgan broke his wrist sliding into second last year, the Nationals mandated he slide feet-first this year. After working in spring training, Morgan has slid feet-first all year -- and he hasn't had nearly his usual success.

"I ain't never been through a streak like this," Morgan said. "I ain't got no answer for you there. I just got to get it done. I'm about to go head back headfirst. It's just one of those things where I ain't got nothing for you guys, other than I better start getting it, because they're wearing my [butt] out."

Against the Rockies, Morgan was thrown out by Miguel Olivo, who has one of the best arms in the game. Morgan knows he's costing the Nationals runs. But how many? Let's use Baseball Prospectus' widely accepted system, which says a stolen bases is worth .25 runs while a caught stealing is worth -.64 runs. Morgan, by that metric, has cost the Nationals 1.31 runs this year.

"I got to start figuring it out," Morgan said. "Basically, I'm running into outs. It's one of those things where I got to make the adjustment. I got to keep going. I'm not going to stop. It's part of my game. I got to understand a little bit more when I should run and try to get there."

Morgan, as ever, remains confident. It would not help the Nationals if Morgan ceased swiping. The stolen base is a huge part of what Morgan brings to the team. His speed and his swagger were so pivotal in turning around the Nationals once he arrived last season.

Morgan spoke to Jim Riggleman about his steals, and Riggleman implored him to stay aggressive. "He believes in me," Morgan said. "He told me to keep going." Last year, he stole 22 bases in a row at one point without being caught. He sees a similar streak on the horizon.

"Once they start coming," Morgan said, "they're going to come in bunches."


Scott Olsen led the Nationals to a 1-0 victory Sunday, a win that concluded their convincing homestand.

Boz writes that when these Nationals lose, they take it personal. He thinks they're for real.

In case you missed it this weekend, Sheinin, Bard of Strasburg, crafted some kind of story about The Phenom's first weeks in the minor leagues. A complete must-read. Sheinin chats about it Monday at 10 a.m.


Syracuse 4, Rochester 2: Roger Bernadina went 3 for 6 and is batting .393. Andrew Kown allowed one run in six innings on four hits and three walks.

Harrisburg was postponed at New Britain because of rain.

Potomac 6, Lynchburg 4 (10 innings): Jose Lozada hit a two-run walk-off home run. Robert Jacobsen went 3 for 4 with two doubles and a walk. Brad Peacock struck out nine and allowed four runs on seven hits in 5 1/3 innings.

Hagerstown 8, Delmarva 6: Destin Hood went 2 for 4 with a double and four RBI. Glenn Gibson allowed two hits and struck out three in two innings.


How do know this is a different Nationals team? They won 1-0, writes Nats Insider.

Goessling Game agrees with that and goes into some of the game's crucial moments.

Before John Lannan starts Monday night, examine his slow start to the season.

By Adam Kilgore  |  April 26, 2010; 9:00 AM ET
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Willie Harris has MRI, may play tomorrow
Next: Nationals make some minor league moves


I would argue that it's not his new technique that's the problem. On Sunday, he did not get a good jump and would have been out head or feet first.

And his 5 for 9 doesn't count his pickoffs, getting thrown out trying to stretch a double into a triple, etc. I love watching Nyjer play, he's one of the most exciting guys on the team, but he needs to get it together.

Posted by: nervousnatsfan | April 26, 2010 9:31 AM | Report abuse

The last few years were so tterrible I spent a good deal of time looking at the future courtesy of Brian on NFA. Now the present is fun and exciting and I couldn't be happier but the old habit lingers.

I posted this on NFA this morning:

Folks, Bryce Harper update from the CSN website: 17 yrs old Playing against 18-22 year olds Wooden bat Avg-.410 Games- 47 AB-156 R-60 H-64 2B-14 3B-1 HR-21 RBI-59 TotBases-143 Slg%-.917 BB-27 HBP-1 K-29 OBP-.497 stolen Bases-Att-15-17. Wow! Anyone think we ought to draft someone else?

Let’s play two!

Posted by: SlowPitch63 | April 26, 2010 9:54 AM | Report abuse

Does the 5 for 9 figure really not include pickoffs? I thought they were scored as a Caught Stealing?

Posted by: shepdave2003 | April 26, 2010 9:54 AM | Report abuse

I agree with Nervous. I've seen him get thrown out where the damage appeared to be done before he started his slide. The double->triple thing; ironically if he'd slowed down, it would have scored the run. I think that's kind of an outlier. As for pickoffs, they're certainly something to get away from, but they don't really imply sliding problems.

Posted by: Section406 | April 26, 2010 9:55 AM | Report abuse

I agree that Morgan has to maintain his aggressive base running. That brings vigor to the team and upset the rhythm of the opposing team. I do have a problem with Morgan's bunting to get on base. That could be an important tool in his arsenal, but he does not seem to be a very good bunter. Hopefully, he is working on his technique.

Posted by: kecoh | April 26, 2010 10:04 AM | Report abuse

Someone asked in a previous thread when the Nats got their 10th win last season. Here's a list of how many games it has taken the Nats to get to 10 wins. It's looking like 2005 all over again (albeit with better players and more talent in the pipeline):

2005: ******************* (19)
2006: ****************************** (30)
2007: *********************************** (35)
2008: *************************** (27)
2009: **************************** (28)
2010: ******************* (19)

Posted by: SorenKierkegaard | April 26, 2010 10:07 AM | Report abuse

Pickoffs are indeed scored CS.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | April 26, 2010 10:09 AM | Report abuse

Nyjer has been mandated to slide feet first and is doing so. Yet other young Nats (Desmond, Maxwell, etc) still seem to slide head first all the time. Does the ban on head-first slides not apply to them?

Posted by: nunof1 | April 26, 2010 10:10 AM | Report abuse

He might also spend less time looking at the catcher and more at the base. I think I was taught that in, oh, pee wee. His head flaps all over the place when he is running, looking everywhere but where he is going.

Posted by: SCNatsFan | April 26, 2010 10:24 AM | Report abuse

Tony Plush baby, come on now...

You're going to blame your sliding technique? As others are saying above, he's been picked off twice, that has nothing to do with his sliding technique. He also got thrown out the other day after TELLING the catcher he was going to steal. I'm all for gamesmanship, but Tony ain't Rickey Henderson.

Being aggressive is a good thing, but you need to have better leads, get much better jumps, and start reading the pitchers better.

Posted by: ckstevenson | April 26, 2010 10:27 AM | Report abuse

As hot as Bernadina is batting .393 and as knicked up as Willie Harris is, why isn't Bernadina in Chicago now and Willie on the 15 day DL? Lefty for lefty. This bench can't afford to be 2 men down with Zim and Willie Harris. When Morse was slowed up they moved him to the DL to activate a RH bat in Justin Maxwell.

What am I missing here?

Posted by: dmacman88 | April 26, 2010 11:03 AM | Report abuse

Posted by: dmacman88 | April 26, 2010 11:04 AM | Report abuse

@dmacman88: Good point, but the main factor may be that I don't think Bernadina can play infield. Harris has been filling in occasionally at third.

Posted by: Meridian1 | April 26, 2010 11:45 AM | Report abuse

Although this will sound like piling on regarding Nyjer, I have another concern. It seems to me that he is giving up outs by trying to bunt without success. Twice on Saturday (remember that loss?), he led off innings with bunts that just weren't well done. He has great speed, but does not seem to be a particularly skilled bunter. I don't like giving up the easy out that way. We made a lot of noise on Saturday with two outs, and giving an out away without anything to show for it makes the task tougher.

BTW, I'm inclined to go along with the philosophy to "give him free reign" on the basepaths and if he runs us out of a few opportunities, so be it. I believe NM provides energy beyond his stats and that the overall team speed is a factor in the stronger start. I just wish JR would tell him not to bunt "for hits" until/unless he can execute better.

Posted by: NatsPark408Byrd306 | April 26, 2010 11:49 AM | Report abuse

dmac, very good point.
The infield issue seems insignificant in that we have 4 healthy guys (Guzman, Kennedy, Desmond, Gonzalez) for 3 positions, plus Zimmerman.
We need depth, bench strength, and if Willie's gonna miss a few more games, this makes sense.

Posted by: Sunderland | April 26, 2010 11:54 AM | Report abuse

Nyjer must and will keep running. It's a very small sample size. Others made good points; he needs to stop looking at the catcher, he needs to stop taunting catchers with howitzers attached to their shoulders and mostly make better decisions and reads about when he goes. Just eliminating the pickoffs gets his percentage up to a solid realm.

I also HATE bunting for base hits. I've never looked at stats on that specifically but it has to be awful.

But, big picture is NJ's OBP is .383. That's fantastic in any spot and especially at lead off. He is still doing his job. Little glitch on the steals but he'll sort that out. Plus, he's such a great interview! What a heart this guy has.

Posted by: Avar | April 26, 2010 12:33 PM | Report abuse

I agree that Morgan has to maintain his aggressive base running. That brings vigor to the team and upset the rhythm of the opposing team. I do have a problem with Morgan's bunting to get on base. That could be an important tool in his arsenal, but he does not seem to be a very good bunter. Hopefully, he is working on his technique.

Posted by: kecoh

Kecoh, I had overlooked your post when I made my more long winded one on this point. Agree on all fronts.

Posted by: NatsPark408Byrd306 | April 26, 2010 12:54 PM | Report abuse

Avar, I agree. Sometimes he needs to be a little less Plush and a little more professional major leaguer.

Posted by: SCNatsFan | April 26, 2010 12:55 PM | Report abuse

Nyjer, please don't go back to head first sliding. It doesn't get you to the bag faster and the injury risk is much greater. We need you in the lineup, not on the DL. I'll live with a few CSs until you hit your stride.

While we're assessing Nyjer's first part of the year though, doesn't it seem like he's diving and missing a few balls out in center that he was catching last year? There he really does need to slow down just a little because plays like that can be much more damaging than a CS.

Posted by: Section222 | April 26, 2010 12:57 PM | Report abuse

On the other hand, the game I went to against the Rockies, Morgan laid down a perfect bunt right along the third base line.

Mostly, I think the bunt and the stolen bases are things that are very situational. I don't think he should stop with them, but he does need to improve. He's still adding a lot, so I'm not worried.

Posted by: dlgood | April 26, 2010 1:11 PM | Report abuse

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