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Where are all the runs?

The Nationals keep reminding us that they have not hit their stride offensively. If the Nationals really are better at scoring runs than they're showing, then they need to find their stride before it becomes irrelevant.

In May, the Nationals have scored 4.17 runs per game, 20th in the majors, despite their 14-run outburst May 13 against the Rockies. In their past 29 games, the Nationals have scored three runs or fewer 19 times. They've still managed to go 14-15, a testament to a pitching staff operating with little room for error.

They have a .263 batting average (12th in the majors), a .336 on-base percentage (13th) and a .415 slugging percentage (12th). Across the board, the Nationals are a little above average. And yet, they have scored 4.26 runs per game, 20th in the majors.

The reasons seems to be this: The more crucial the situation, the worse the Nationals have fared relative to the league. The Nationals this year have a:

- .743 OPS with no runners on base (8th in the majors)
- .761 OPS with runners on base (18th)
- .735 OPS with runners in scoring position (18th)
- .678 OPS with runners in scoring position and two outs (22nd)

The same thing, with batting average:

.258 with no runners on (10th)
.269 with runners on base (13th)
.268 with runners in scoring position (12th)
.233 with runners in scoring position and two outs (18th)

Depending on how your view of clutchness in baseball, this is either discouraging or encouraging. The Nationals can't come through when it matters most, or it's just a matter of time before the averages even out and hits start dropping with two outs and men on base. I'd lean toward the latter.

Another somewhat hidden factor in the Nationals not scoring: The Nationals have been caught stealing 17 times, most in the National League. That's 17 potential runs erased from existence. Given that 11 of Nationals' 23 losses have been by one or two runs, those disappearing base runners really add up.

Things get no easier for the Nationals tonight. Tim Lincecum pitches for the Giants.

By Adam Kilgore  |  May 26, 2010; 2:17 PM ET
 
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Comments

"If the Nationals really are better at scoring runs than they're showing, then they need to find their stride before it becomes irrelevant."

Adam wins 10 internets!

Posted by: poncedeleroy | May 26, 2010 2:26 PM | Report abuse

Me thinks the 4th is completely sold out except for singles. Don't think there's a pair available. Good time for Rizzo to bristle at the 4th.
Good 1.
(As Elaine would say: Can't spare a square.)

Posted by: dovelevine | May 26, 2010 2:29 PM | Report abuse

Maybe they should pinch hit for Dunn against lefties late in the game when it matters. It's a completely useless at bat. Just waving the wand at the outside sinker.

Posted by: dovelevine | May 26, 2010 2:31 PM | Report abuse

I think really what has settled in is this lineup now is what it is - one that will continue to struggle to score runs. Zimmerman and Dunn not withstanding, who really scares you in this lineup? Willingham is very inconsistent, and the injuries to Ivan will reverberate through the season. Lack of organizational depth is and will continue to be a concern. Simply put they must get better starting pitching to stay competitive and consider moving Dunn and Willingham to get some ready young position players. The Nats must continue to think long-term - this year is just an illusion.

Posted by: bendersx6 | May 26, 2010 2:32 PM | Report abuse

BTW am I the only one who wonders why Dunn, a professional hitter, can't slap a single down the third base line when there's no one playing on that side. Seriously. Why doesn't someone work on this with him. If they are gonna give you the entire left side and concede a base hit, why not take it every time until they move back. Then you can swing for the fences. This is absurd.

Posted by: dovelevine | May 26, 2010 2:33 PM | Report abuse

peri: "Guzman is HORRID not torrid against RHP when he bats left. Its when he bats right handed against the lefties when he does his damage and is TORRID"

So far this season, Guz' slash line batting from the left side versus a RHSP:

.320/.347/.381

Here's his slash line batting from the right versus a LHSP:

.367/.396/.510

Sure, he doesn't walk and doesn't have a ton of power, but guess what? He gets hits. More than can be said for most of the rest of the club.

Sometimes you got to stay with the hotter hand. And at this point in the season, it's still Guzman over most everyone else.

Posted by: erocks33 | May 26, 2010 2:40 PM | Report abuse

There are two possibilities with "things evening out". One is as Adam suggests. The other explanation is that their average and OPS with men on base represents their true ability. So they are overachieving with no men on base, and will regress to the mean on those statistics. I think, relative to offensive production, they need a bat in RF to contend for the wild card down the stretch. CF would be the better player between Morgan and Bernadina. The question is what are you willing to give up to get that bat?

Hopefully, the reinforcements are coming in the pitching department already.

Posted by: Jeff_Jackson | May 26, 2010 2:45 PM | Report abuse

We need Morgan stealing bases... this team started to stink it up when it stopped being aggressive on the basepaths.

Posted by: SCNatsFan | May 26, 2010 2:46 PM | Report abuse

It's hard to ask for more base-stealing from Nyjer, since he has been caught more than he has succeeded, and has been caught more than anyone else on the team. He has been terrible on the basepaths. It makes me want him to steal headfirst again.

What is nearly as disturbing is how often he is thrown out trying to get on by bunting. He has apparently been below average in his success rate at that, as well.

We all love Nyjer, but he has been stinking up the joint lately. He needs to get back some of last year's magic.

+1/2St.

Posted by: kevincostello | May 26, 2010 3:16 PM | Report abuse

Those numbers Adam uses sound like Alfonso Soriano's numbers back when he was a Nat...

Posted by: Juan-John1 | May 26, 2010 3:18 PM | Report abuse

It's a fair point, SC. But we also stopped being aggressive on the basepaths when other teams started to recognized that they needed to pay attention to our baserunners.

The same might be said of Morgan, in general. He has become the latest target of NJ ire, but, in his defense, I think that the scouting report is to keep him off-base and away from doing damge. The league has adjusted to Morgan in the past few weeks - now he needs to adjust to them.

Posted by: lowcountry | May 26, 2010 3:18 PM | Report abuse

I would try batting Bernadina leadoff and Morgan 8th for awhile, and see what happens. Couldn't hurt to try, I would think. Morgan is pretty useless right now leading off.

Posted by: thelonghaul | May 26, 2010 3:43 PM | Report abuse

>>I would try batting Bernadina leadoff and Morgan 8th for awhile, and see what happens. Couldn't hurt to try, I would think. Morgan is pretty useless right now leading off.Posted by: thelonghaul

Agreed. Also switch Willingham and Dunn around. Dunn shouldn't be cleanup right now.
Or even move Desmond to 2 behind Bernadina, Guz 3, Zim 4, Willingham 5, Dunn 6 etc.
Riggs is so afraid to touch Zimms and Dunns spot like they are sacred.
Hey the team needs to shake it up offensively.

Posted by: dovelevine | May 26, 2010 4:01 PM | Report abuse

bendersx6 -

You've pegged Willingham as inconsistent, but I just want to throw the man a little love: he's leading the Nats in runs (25), RBIs (27), and walks (33). True, his batting average is a bit low at .266, but his OBP is the Nat's best by far at .426.

So, he is actually the Nat that most consistently gets on base.

Posted by: JefComment | May 26, 2010 4:14 PM | Report abuse

I think the problem is there is no one to mentor Morgan, Bernadina and to extent Desi. It makes me wonder how much looing Grissoms knowlege as an outfielder and baserunner has hurt Morgan and Bernadina's progression. Maybe we bring in a specialist coach someone like Ricky Henderson to teach them, or trade for Juan Piere. Just think how good this team would be if we were batting Morgan, Bernadina, and Desi one, two, three and after learning the art of base running. Talk about "Track Meet Nats."

Posted by: hansenjo | May 26, 2010 4:17 PM | Report abuse

I think the problem is there is no one to mentor Morgan, Bernadina and to extent Desi. It makes me wonder how much looing Grissoms knowlege as an outfielder and baserunner has hurt Morgan and Bernadina's progression. Maybe we bring in a specialist coach someone like Ricky Henderson to teach them, or trade for Juan Piere. Just think how good this team would be if we were batting Morgan, Bernadina, and Desi one, two, three and after learning the art of base running. Talk about "Track Meet Nats."

Posted by: hansenjo | May 26, 2010 4:17 PM | Report abuse

In honor of Brian Wilson (and to inspire our offense):

Get a run run run I get a run
I get a run
Run
Get a run run run oooo
Wah wa ooo
Wah wa ooo
Wah wa ooo

Uh, what? It's not that Brian Wilson? Oh. Never mind. :-)

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | May 26, 2010 4:39 PM | Report abuse

"We all love Nyjer. . ."

Not me. He's proving he's not a ML player IMHO.

Remember Rizzo told Kasten he was about to trade for "the best center fielder in baseball." Well, Rizzo got him, and he ain't.

Posted by: JohnRDC | May 26, 2010 6:56 PM | Report abuse

bendersx6 -

You've pegged Willingham as inconsistent, but I just want to throw the man a little love: he's leading the Nats in runs (25), RBIs (27), and walks (33). True, his batting average is a bit low at .266, but his OBP is the Nat's best by far at .426.

So, he is actually the Nat that most consistently gets on base.

Posted by: JefComment
---------------------------------------

...and Desi is only 5 rbi behind Zimm and Dunn. The elephant in the room is the performance of the big bats. They have the most opportunities to drive in runs ans spend the most time striking out, flying out or hitting into DPs.

Posted by: Vze2sr66 | May 26, 2010 7:13 PM | Report abuse

From my observation, Willingham and Desi have the best at bats when it counts, with runners in scoring position. The other guys are not doing as well in those situations.

I'll have to check to see if the stats back this up.

Posted by: Vze2sr66 | May 26, 2010 7:27 PM | Report abuse

There are all kinds of stats we could talk about to show why the Nats offense is AWOL. But anyone who has watched a lot of their games recently can see that the main problem is that Nyjer Morgan has stopped hitting and is only 50% successful in stolen base attempts.

It was Nyjer's arrival late last year that sparked the Nats turnaround from historically-bad to merely mediocre. He hit well over .300 and was second in the NL in steals before he got hurt.

What is worse, Nyjer seems to be taking his struggles at the plate with him defensively to center field -- where he is making more errors and more bad decisions.

When Nyjer gets his game going like it was last year the Nats offense will return. Until then, they better hope the pitching stays healthy and that Stephen Strasburg gets here soon.

Kevin Olson
Manassas, VA

Posted by: noslok | May 26, 2010 7:33 PM | Report abuse

Zimm's doing well, but Dunn not so much.

Dunn's stats w/ runners on:

Runners on: .175
RISP: .143
RISP/2 Outs: .000
Bases Loaded: .500 (9 ABs)

Bases Empty: .303

Posted by: Vze2sr66 | May 26, 2010 7:41 PM | Report abuse

Desmond, so far, is the definition of a clutch player. He's hitting over .300 with men on and .1000 with the based loaded.

His batting average goes up in crucial situations.

Posted by: Vze2sr66 | May 26, 2010 7:47 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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