Nyjer Morgan slumping in May
This month, Nyjer Morgan has endured the first true slump during his tenure with the Nationals. In 63 at-bats in May, Morgan is hitting .206 with a .286 on-base percentage and 12 strikeouts, dropping his season average to .253 and his on-base percentage to .339, 15th among leadoff hitters in the majors.
Today before the game, Morgan told hitting coach Rick Eckstein he was starting to feel more like last year, when he became an electric, run-scoring force upon arriving in Washington and taking hold of the leadoff spot. Morgan, Eckstein said, has been working on his stance and his position as he prepares to swing the bat.
"The last couple months of last season, he was in a real good position, really doing a nice job," Eckstein said. "The feeling that he had then, he's starting to feel that back. It's just a process that we're working through."
When Morgan broke his wrist last summer, he could not swing for an extended period of time. While he is no longer experiencing any physical issues with his wrist, the time away from swinging affected his stance and swing in a subtle way.
"Everything in this game is based on feel," Eckstein said. "You don't go up there and think your way through your swing. You feel your swing. That's why you go out there and practice every day, to capture that feel. That's what we're trying to work through, to recapture that feel, and run with that feel and lock it in."
Misfortune has contributed to some of Morgan's recent downswing. Morgan has a .304 batting average on balls put in play this season, which is above the league average but unlucky for a player as fast as Morgan - he has a .357 career BABIP. Opposing third basemen have also taken away more bunts this year. Morgan has one bunt hit per every 50 at-bats this season, compared to one every 33.5 at-bats last season.
"They're pitching him tough, third basemen are making plays on him," Manager Jim Riggleman said. "He's just in one of those ruts. He's just having one of those times where not much is going his way. I don't see anything different in his approach. I don't really want him to change too much. He's putting the barrel on there enough. He's just not having too much luck."
While Morgan has scuffled, the Nationals' offense has followed. In their last six games, the Nationals have scored 15 runs. If and when Morgan begins producing as he did last season, it will provide more chances for the middle of the Nationals' lineup.
"The bottom line being at the top of the order is to get on base and score as many runs as possible," Eckstein said. "He's had some tough luck at times, but he's also working to make sure he's in his position when he does get pitches to hit that he does what he's capable of doing with them."
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