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Is the real Nyjer Morgan about to stand up?

For Nyjer Morgan, the question all year has changed. At first, it was when he'd start playing like he did when he arrived in Washington last season. At some point, it became whether or not he could.

With his recent surge, which included two hits, a walk and three stolen bases Thursday afternoon in the Nationals' 7-1 victory over the Reds, Morgan showed signs of recapturing the play that sparked the Nationals last year. Manager Jim Riggleman is convinced -- "He's playing like he did last year," Riggleman said -- but Morgan still feels he isn't quite there.

"Not yet," Morgan said. "Something's clicking, but not yet. Something's coming, but not yet."

Morgan stole three bases, setting a career high becoming the first player in Nationals history with three steals in one game. Morgan has been caught stealing 13 times, more than any player in the majors. But in his last 11 attempts, Morgan has nine steals and has only been caught twice.

"I was just getting good jumps, getting good reads out there," Morgan said. "I was trying not to really be so aggressive. I'm trying to let it come to me, trying not to do too much. After analyzing after so long, after so many months, I was trying to do a little too much."

Morgan's rise in baseball relied on his aggression, so it is difficult for him to change to a mellower approach on the bases. "That's one thing I have to start understanding, though," Morgan said. "Just let it come to me."

The uptick in stealing success has coincided with Morgan's recent improvement at the plate. In his last 101 plate appearances, Morgan is batting .300 with a .354 on-base percentage and a .322 slugging percentage.

The next two months could prove crucial to how the Nationals view Morgan in the long-term. He has never had more than 470 at-bats in a season, and he is on pace for 594 this year. The Nationals will have the clearest picture yet of what Morgan, 30, can do in a full season.

Morgan's focus remains more modest and more immediate. He wants to get his average, now .258, up to .260 by the end of the weekend, when the Nationals head back home. Little by little, he wants to prove he's the same player he showed the Nationals he was last year.

"Once it clicks, it's about to go off," Morgan said. "And I feel like something is about to pop off right now."

By Adam Kilgore  |  July 22, 2010; 6:31 PM ET
Categories:  Livan Hernandez  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Game 96 discussion thread: Nationals at Reds
Next: Signs point to Matt Chico for Sunday

Comments

Nyjer Morgan? No, man, that's Tony Plush. I saw it on his t-shirt. Atta boy. :-)

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | July 22, 2010 6:35 PM | Report abuse

Nyjer's hitting has defintely picked up, thank goodness. Does anybody else think it important that a CF catch the ball or hit the cutoff man more than once in awhile or throw to the right base most of the time? He turns the wrong way too often, and as a result just misses balls he was catching last year. Marquis Grissom is missed. But maybe Morgan's improved offense will lead to a resurgence in the field.

Posted by: grclarkdc1 | July 22, 2010 7:12 PM | Report abuse

so howcome there seems to be a correlation between his hitting, stealing, and fielding successes? That doesn't make much sense, unless he was ill or something.

Posted by: Section406 | July 22, 2010 7:38 PM | Report abuse

If we get T-Plush circa 2009 back, I don't think we'll care too much about the little blunders Nyjer Morgan regularly makes in centerfield. But I don't think we'll ever see the guy that that hit .357 and got on base at a .396 clip.

It's so strange to break the last 1.5 years into 3 parts.
2009 Pittsburgh .277 / .351 / .356 / 18 for 28 (64%)
2009 Nats .357 / .396 / .435 24 for 31 (77%)
2010 Nats .256 / .316 / .318 21 for 34 (62%) (before today)

More than one person (dargregmag)has noted that Morgan's best baseball was played with Marquis Grissom in his ear and by his side. I have no idea if Marquis really did so positively affect him.
But if he did, I wish more of it stuck.

(BTW, just wondering, seriously, does this make me a "hater"?)

Posted by: Sunderland | July 22, 2010 7:53 PM | Report abuse

I'm happy to see his recent upswing, but let's not kid ourselves--his stint with the Nats last year was an aberration.

There are two questions:

1. Can he get back to being the player he was with the Pirates?
2. Is that good enough for the Nats?

If the answer to #1 is yes, then the answer to #2 is probably, yes, for at least another year.

But it means we take the highs with the lows--when he gets praised as "aggressive" "emotional," "effervescent" etc, the down side is that we're talking about someone who lacks the self-control to exercise good judgment (and/or maybe just lacks good judgment).

Posted by: HHover | July 22, 2010 8:27 PM | Report abuse

I think he's showing signs of being that sparkplug he was the end of last year. If he is consistent and plays like he has recently, watch out. ;) This team is totally different when he finds ways to get on base and steals bases.

natsfan1a1: I saw his shirt too! That's the Nyjer that I love!

Posted by: rachel216 | July 22, 2010 8:28 PM | Report abuse

@Sunderland:
Doesn't make you a hater in my book; Just a skeptic, along with me.
The "Tony Plush" persona we saw before Nyjer's hand injury last year may never come back, but if the 'real' Nyjer Morgan can hit .265/.350/.355 and steal bases at +/-70%, I'm completely on-board with that.

Posted by: BinM | July 22, 2010 8:29 PM | Report abuse

I'm with you BinM. His OBP and steal percentage are the important numbers, his SLG is inconsequential.

At this point, Nyjer leads MLB in CS. Other guys with his number of SB's have half as many CS's.
Yet I think he can steal at 70%+.

His career OBP is .060 better than BA, and that's exactly where he is at so far this year. So asking for a .350 OBP might be asking too much from Nyjer (more like .330?). Although for a traditional MLB leadoff hitter, north of .350 is kinda what you are looking for.

Posted by: Sunderland | July 22, 2010 8:47 PM | Report abuse

Nyjer Morgan is a weak leadoff hitter and a sub-par fielder in center. But more importantly he has shown he doesn't have good baseball instincts. He just doesn't seem to understand the game whether it's in the field, at bat or on the bases. But Rizzo is so afraid to show he made a mistake, he'll ride this horse into the ground, no matter how much it hurts the team. Too bad. No really good competing ballclub would start Morgan in CF.

Posted by: skins_fan_22 | July 22, 2010 9:15 PM | Report abuse

He is just realizing that he needs to wait for his moment in order to steal? Where is the coaching staff

Posted by: Tom8 | July 22, 2010 9:15 PM | Report abuse

Nyjer Morgan is a weak leadoff hitter and a sub-par fielder in center. But more importantly he has shown he doesn't have good baseball instincts. He just doesn't seem to understand the game whether it's in the field, at bat or on the bases. But Rizzo is so afraid to show he made a mistake, he'll ride this horse into the ground, no matter how much it hurts the team. Too bad. No really good competing ballclub would start Morgan in CF.

Posted by: skins_fan_22 | July 22, 2010 9:15 PM | Report abuse

Amen skins fan. His biggest flaw is his lack of instincts in center and on the basepaths. He doesn't understand the game. That is something that can't be taught, and it certainly can't be learned at this level. He will continue to cost us runs as long as he is in the lineup. There's no place on a major league ballclub for someone who doesn't understand the game.

Posted by: egoodman8 | July 22, 2010 9:27 PM | Report abuse

@skins_fan, egoodman: Got a ready replacement for Morgan? If it's Bernadina, maybe (steady, but a step slower imo), but then what about RF?. If it's anybody else currently in the system, you're jumping the gun; If it's a trade, who / what do you suggest?

Posted by: BinM | July 22, 2010 9:48 PM | Report abuse

He does seem coachable though. His instincts - angles on the ball, throwing decisions, baserunning, hitting adjustments - were all better last year. It's more of a question of staying focused, I think.

Posted by: 202character | July 22, 2010 9:58 PM | Report abuse

Sunderland and BinM, there's a difference between skeptics and "haters," imo (and I wouldn't place either of you in the latter category). Haters can't separate the performance from the person. If someone's not performing, or has a different set of values (say, being thrifty, perhaps), they're a moron, a piece of garbage, a liar, or what have you. Haters seem to take it as a personal affront if a player, management, or the team doesn't live up to their expectations. Should the target of their ire do well, they may blow it off as a fluke, or they may go to ground until the next opportunity to vent arises. Haters also like to point out the ignorance of those who do not agree with them, or their affinity for colorful, sweet beverages. Oh, and, should they actually prove to be right about something, they'll be sure to tell you that, too.

I hope that this information has been helpful as far as making the distinction. I will now bid you a cordial good night. :-)

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | July 22, 2010 10:01 PM | Report abuse

It's not just perception, look at his stats on Fangraphs. They give him +27.6 fielding runs last year. That's phenomenal. 4.4 over 58 games in 2008 is solid, 7.7 over 28 games in 2007 is excellent. And yet he's at -1.5 this year.

To a lesser degree, he's got the worst stolen base success rate of his career, and he's swinging at more out of the zone (hitting them at a higher percentage, but that might just be producing easy outs)

His physical game hasn't changed that much. He was playing much better instinctual and mental baseball before, and whether's it's internal or it's coaching, I hope he or someone can get him back on track or even better.

Posted by: 202character | July 22, 2010 10:09 PM | Report abuse

Hey BinM, if you're still there: What about giving Morse a shot in right field?

Posted by: jdsp2000 | July 22, 2010 10:17 PM | Report abuse

Hey BinM, if you're still there: What about giving Morse a shot in right field?

Posted by: jdsp2000 | July 22, 2010 10:18 PM | Report abuse

Well, learn something new every day. Maybe that's what the Fuerer saw in him, and why he got so upset when the Pirates traded him. Could be that's Morse's problem: he needs to start beating people up.

******************************8
"Morgan's rise in baseball relied on his aggression"

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | July 22, 2010 10:25 PM | Report abuse

jdsp, for my thinking, we'd be in about the same place with Morse in right. Now I think we should do it, I think he deserves the shot at playing every day.
Maybe he hits and is more productive offensively than Nyjer. But he's not going to make us a stronger defensive team.
But I'll reiterate, IMO, he's earned the right to an extensive trial as an everyday player. I'm just not expecting we'll be fully satisfied with the outcome.

Posted by: Sunderland | July 22, 2010 10:39 PM | Report abuse

Baseball is 90% mental, the other half is physical. Glad to see he's beginning to get his composure back.

Posted by: rvrtis | July 23, 2010 1:41 PM | Report abuse

Well since the half that's 90% mental has a lot to do with plain old self-confidence, I certainly hope Nyjer's good feeling allows him to regain that composure...

Posted by: evanescent_panoply | July 24, 2010 3:39 AM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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