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Willie Harris coming up aces

Manager Jim Riggleman will make a minor change to the Nationals lineup today, giving Josh Willingham a scheduled day off. It allows for Michael Morse -- riding an 8-for-15, two-homer June -- to stay in the lineup. But Morse will probably DH, and the left fielder will be Willie Harris.

"Trying to get Willie going," Riggleman said. "We're going to need Willie. I can't just let him sit. I got to get him going."

Tonight, though, may not be the most ideal time. There are probably easier starters to break a 2-for-22 slump against than fireballer Justin Verlander, who will start tonight for the Tigers.

That's kind of been the story of Harris's season. When he's gotten a sporadic start, he's more often than not faced an ace. This is a list of the starters he has faced in his 21 starts.

Roy Halladay
Kyle Kendrick
Mike Pelfrey
Kyle Kendrick
Yovani Gallardo
Aaron Cook
Jason Hammel
Ubaldo Jimenez
Charlie Haeger
Josh Johnson
Tommy Hanson
Chris Volstad
Josh Johnson
Mike Pelfrey
Ubaldo Jimenez
Jason Hammel
Kyle Lohse
David Hernandez
Roy Oswalt
Jake Westbrook
Fausto Carmona

That's 11 of 21 starters who rank among the very best in the league. That doesn't fully account for Harris's dismal offensive production this year -- .163 batting average, .257 on-base percentage and .347 slugging percentage. But it probably helps explain why Harris is performing well below his typical output.

By Adam Kilgore  |  June 16, 2010; 12:18 PM ET
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Next: Jim Leyland's awesomely grizzled take on the Nationals' team chemistry


Willie Harris is a .242 lifetime hitter. He's had one season at .270 and nothing higher. I like Riggleman, but don't know what he sees in this guy.

Posted by: truke | June 16, 2010 12:58 PM | Report abuse

Forgot to add that I (and I'm 56 years old) could strike him out with a slider under his hands.

Posted by: truke | June 16, 2010 1:00 PM | Report abuse

Truke, I have a slot for you in my rotation. What are you doing a week from Sunday?

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | June 16, 2010 1:09 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: Sec3mysofa | June 16, 2010 1:10 PM | Report abuse

BFD! Dumbest blog eva. Poor Willie has to face major league pitchers. Wah Wah Wah. BTW what's his average against the other 10 starters? Exactly. Puleeze.

Posted by: dovelevine | June 16, 2010 1:11 PM | Report abuse


NJ blog poster is VPOTUS

Film at 11

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | June 16, 2010 1:13 PM | Report abuse

And don't forget the Nats defeated, Johnson, Hansen and Oswalt (who lasted all of 2 or 3 innings).

Posted by: dovelevine | June 16, 2010 1:13 PM | Report abuse

OK, to be fair, the Nats didn't knock Oswalt out, the ump did that.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | June 16, 2010 1:14 PM | Report abuse

Sorry Sec3mysofa. Not coming out of retirement unless I can face Willie...

Posted by: truke | June 16, 2010 1:18 PM | Report abuse

cut willie.

Posted by: longterm | June 16, 2010 1:22 PM | Report abuse

Why does Rigs "got to get [Willie] going?" He's just fine (for now) as a defensive replacement and PR.

How about if he took BP against John Lannan (as opposed to trying to hit these mean ol' righthanders)? Shouldn't that do it?

Funny how some of these teams, like the Tigers, seem to have a lot of hard-throwing righties. Almost like they planned it that way.

Posted by: CapPeterson1 | June 16, 2010 1:22 PM | Report abuse

ok, there are some very good pitchers on that list. but mike pelfrey and fausto carmona shouldn't be highlighted as "aces" or among the "very best" in the league.

Posted by: malcolmyoung1 | June 16, 2010 1:33 PM | Report abuse

If Riggs keeps pulling this nonsense, don't expect him back in 2011. The Lerners will demand a change to protect their growing investment (stras, Harper, dunn extension etc)

Posted by: swanni | June 16, 2010 1:41 PM | Report abuse

Swanni, who was it kept Bowden around?

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | June 16, 2010 2:02 PM | Report abuse

Sorry Sec3mysofa. Not coming out of retirement unless I can face Willie...
Posted by: truke | June 16, 2010 1:18 PM |

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | June 16, 2010 2:03 PM | Report abuse

Mark Lerner -- but I don't think riggs has bs-ed him like jimbo did

Posted by: swanni | June 16, 2010 2:05 PM | Report abuse

I see his point, but the problem is, he's assuming he has any control over that, and that's a questionable assumption. But a classic one for over-managers.

"Trying to get Willie going," Riggleman said. "We're going to need Willie. I can't just let him sit. I got to get him going."

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | June 16, 2010 2:07 PM | Report abuse

Riggs comment is just plain stupid - and I really like Riggs.

Like someone said a week or so ago - willie must have some really compromising pictures of either Riggs or Rizzo - or both. No other explanation.

Riggs treated Tavaras the same way - kept running him out there - until Rizzo DFAed him. Harris should be strictly used as a late inning defensive replacement and last option pinch hitter. He has stunk Nats Park up with his bat this year and last. Game saving catches he has made but please don't start him, ever. Since when do in-shape baseball players need a day off on Wednesday when they already had a day off on Monday. This "scheduled day off" crap is crap.

Like one of the umps said to him shortly after he became manager, "Cut it out, Jimmie!"

Posted by: alm1000 | June 16, 2010 2:17 PM | Report abuse

Actually, Malcolm, Mike Pelfrey is 9-1 with a 2.39 ERA....I'd say that qualifies as one of the best in the league. I agree with you on Carmona, though....middle of the league at best.

BTW, guess who's 5th in ERA? Some guy named Livo....I wonder what happened to all the haters from Spring Training?

Posted by: RPrecupjr | June 16, 2010 2:29 PM | Report abuse

Pelfey, 9-1, 2.39 ERA. Not a top pitcher?

Posted by: markfromark | June 16, 2010 2:32 PM | Report abuse

Willie has a lot of supporters, especially among fans who favor low-budget options for the Nats, but I have never understood why anyone could consider him a starting corner outfielder. To be one of those, you need power numbers or at least a high batting average and OBP. At this stage in his career (Willie is 32), he is a marginal MLB utility player.

The Nats have played Willie as a corner OF 41 times this year and 4 other times as a corner IF at 3B. He has started 20 games at those "hitter" positions this year.

If Willie were a kid with a big upside based on his minor league stats, then sure, run him out there with some starts. But he is well known at this point. You are only going to "get Willie going" so much, and not to the point of being a legit corner guy.

Posted by: EdDC | June 16, 2010 2:48 PM | Report abuse

I'm sure there were a bunch of yowling would-be managers over on the Tiger's blogs last night whining about them playing that bum Raburn and his .165 average. Too bad Leyland didn't listen to them.

Posted by: joebleux | June 16, 2010 2:52 PM | Report abuse

Classic, joebleux. :-D

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | June 16, 2010 3:01 PM | Report abuse

Fausto Carmona?

Also, I think maybe there's a little chicken and egg thing going on here. Maybe those guys are so good in part because they got to face Willie "The Outmaker" Harris so much.

I feel bad for the guy, but at some point everyone in the organization and fan base needs to confront reality. He's done. Willie, it was a nice career. We savored all the Mets-killing shoestring catches. We enjoyed the rare pinch hit heroics. We groaned at the indefensible swinging-at-the-first-pitch-after-a-walk rally killers. We laughed, we cried, we drank some beers and ate some half-smokes. It's over. Time to move on.

Posted by: Fozzie1 | June 16, 2010 3:02 PM | Report abuse

Giving Willingham and his top 5 in the league OPS the day off when you have the opportunity to DH him makes absolutely no sense at all. Didn't the whole team just have the day off the day before yesterday? It won't hurt Willingham to have to step up to the plate four or five times tonight. Instead he'll be in the cage four or five times staying ready in case he's needed to pinch hit. But hits and runs scored in the cage don't count.

Posted by: nunof1 | June 16, 2010 3:05 PM | Report abuse

When a team is going well you can afford to do what Riggleman's doing.

But when the team is sliding and struggling to win games -- and often struggling to score runs -- you have to put your best people out there and not worry about "getting people going." This isn't the instructional league, and these aren't rehab starts.

If the Nats don't win a few series soon, and maybe even put together a modest winning streak, they are going to slide out of contention and maybe stay permanently below .500.

Right now, you've got a starting rotation that is in deep trouble except for Livan and SS, and it needs to be supported with the best possible lineup. Willie Harris ain't it.

Posted by: Meridian1 | June 16, 2010 3:19 PM | Report abuse

Riggleman does not need Willie Harris anymore. He can now get by with an outfield of Willingham, Bernadina, Morgan, Morse and if he really must practice his strange cronyism, JMax. Riggs you aren't going to take out Guzman for Harris now are you? That is where he used to be used at 2nd base .... now you have Kennedy and A. Gonzalez (having a good year at bat and in the field) as subs?

The guy himself said he will be free agent and made it clear he wants to play for Manny Acta? Do you really think Guzman will be here next year as well?

C'mon Riggs get with the program dude. You are making us ignorant fans look smarter than you. I've been trying to get you to play Morse for months ... and now look. C'mon Riggleman do I have to watch an episode of the Office when I am expecting to see a major league baseball team? Can the damned politics!

Posted by: periculum | June 16, 2010 3:27 PM | Report abuse

I wonder if the cutting of Dukes and the subsequent parade of RFs not named Harris has played a part in the 'not typical Willie' numbers. I remember one old post where Harris felt the job should be his, maybe he's never got over idea he isn't a starting MLB outfielder but a utility man. Went to a dinner a couple of weeks with Bill Speirs who became a great utility man and was proud of it after starting his career as a phenom; he said some guys can handle it, some can't... and I still think its in Willie's head that he has to fight every day for playing time.

That being said, he has been flat out awful this year, I wonder how much Riggs can light a fire under this pile of wet leaves.

Posted by: SCNatsFan | June 16, 2010 3:30 PM | Report abuse

Carmona is far from middle of the league. He's a top flight pitcher who was top 5 in cy young voting in 07 and is pitching at, or close to, that level thus far in 2010

Posted by: Imjustlikemusiq | June 16, 2010 3:30 PM | Report abuse

I'm inclined to refer once again to Lou's rant on "getting guys at-bats."

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | June 16, 2010 4:51 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: natsfan1a1 | June 16, 2010 5:06 PM | Report abuse

Great point on Harris, Adam, I have noticed he's had alot of tough hitting assignments this year.

He does look like garbage right now at the plate, and to be honest, it looks like he's lost a good deal of confidence with some of his half-hearted cuts.

Posted by: CJArlington | June 16, 2010 6:26 PM | Report abuse

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