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What the Nationals have in Michael Morse

Morning roundup

When Michael Morse came to bat in the sixth inning as a pinch-hitter last night, he had taken one at-bat in the past 10 days. Most times, that would cause a manager to worry. It was the biggest spot yet in the game - the bases loaded, two outs and a chance for the Nationals to improbably climb back into the game.

But Jim Riggleman didn't worry at all. He was glad to Morse in the game. No matter how much Morse plays, he seemingly gathers no rust. He roped a three-run triple to right and then scored on Ian Desmond's single. The Nationals had sliced the lead to a run.

"He's done that a lot of times," Riggleman said. "His preparation is unbelievable. He hits extra every day. He's focused during the ballgame. Prepared. Every time you say let's go, he's knows it might be his time. He's giving great at-bats."

If the Nationals are using this season to find out what they have in some of their players, than you could call it a waste of Morse. They Nationals have not let him sink or swim as an everyday player, have not learned if he can produce during the grind of getting four at-bats daily. Instead, Morse checks the lineup card every day and smiles on days he sees his name.

Maybe, though, the Nationals have found out exactly what they have in Morse. They know he is an excellent pinch-hitter who will embrace his role, an outfielder who can start every so often and provide quality at-bats, no matter how often or little he's been used. Despite infrequent playing time, Morse is batting .324 with a .375 on-base percentage and a .554 slugging percentage.

Morse has been a bright spot this season, and you could argue he hasn't been given ample opportunity to show more of himself. But he has proven he could absolutely come off a contending team's bench. If the Nationals ever reach that status in the coming years, the Nationals will know that much.

It helps that Morse has accepted his role. His success, ironically, might be what's keeping from getting more playing time.

"I think part of it has to do with that I'm doing a pretty good job of what I'm doing right now," Morse said of why he thinks he's not playing more often. "The role I'm in, my mentality is, it doesn't matter what I role I play in. Baseball is baseball. I'm going to be prepared every pitch, every at-bat. I know that skipper knows that. I know if there's a situation coming, he can say my name and I'll be ready. I think it's a curse and a good thing. Hopefully, I get some more playing time. If I do, I do. If I don't, I don't. I leave it all up to him. I think he's doing a great job."


The Nationals turned a blowout into a nail-biter in a heartbreaker in their 8-7 loss to the Reds, their fourth straight.


Syracuse 8, Norfolk 5: Erik Arnesen allowed no runs on one hit and no walks in six innings, striking out three. Boomer Whiting went 2 for 4 with a walk. Luis Ordaz went 3 for 5.

Harrisburg 2, New Britain 0: Aaron Thompson allowed no runs on three hits and one walk in 6 2/3 innings, striking out seven. Danny Espinosa went 1 for 4 with a home run, his fifth in his last 10 games.

Potomac was postponed.

Asheville 7, Hagerstown 6 (12 innings): Eury Perez went 3 for 5 with a double.

Vermont 2, Connecticut 1: David Freitas went 2 for 4, extending his hitting streak to 16 games and raising his on-base percentage to .448. Bobby Hansen allowed no earned on five hits and one walk in six innings, striking out five.


Mike Rizzo should feel free to consider Adam Dunn like Ryan Howard, Jack Moore at FanGraphs writes.

Atahualpa Severino, Stephen King and Zechry Zincola have made Moniker Madness, a bracket devised to determine the best name in minor league baseball.

The Nationals still care no matter how much they lose, Mark Zuckerman writes.

By Adam Kilgore  |  July 21, 2010; 10:50 AM ET
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Cuban pitcher Yunesky Maya agrees to terms with Nationals
Next: In-game chat: Nationals vs. Reds


Okay, So what is the ranking of our outfielders?

From what I can tell by the fans comments here it is close to this:

Josh Willingham- 1

Roger Bernadina- 2

Michael Morse- 3

Nyjer Morgan- 4

Willie Harris- 5

Posted by: alex35332 | July 21, 2010 11:00 AM | Report abuse

In addition to leading the league in pitchers who will be ready in a month or so (Jordan Zimmermann, Jason Marquis, Cheing Ming Wang, Ross Detwiler) they now also lead the league in pitchers who defected from Cuba.

In the box score of El Mundo, November 28, 1946: F. Castro pitched and lost in a game between the Law and Business Schools of the University of Havana. But all of the runs were unearned and F. Castro's WHIP remained low. Tho the report of a tryout with the Washington Senators is routinely debunked, I prefer to believe that they worked him out, because I like to play the what-if game. He could have been a back-end starter for our Nation's Capital team.

Posted by: nova_g_man | July 21, 2010 11:01 AM | Report abuse

Josh Smoker made the moniker madness bracket, too.

Posted by: fuglynats | July 21, 2010 11:12 AM | Report abuse

Harrisburg reliever Hassan Pena is from Cuba.

Posted by: nova_g_man | July 21, 2010 11:15 AM | Report abuse

Josh Willingham- 1

Roger Bernadina- 2

Michael Morse- 3

Nyjer Morgan- 4

Justin Maxwell- 5

Willie Harris- 6

Posted by: longterm | July 21, 2010 11:16 AM | Report abuse

A Cold War-inspired name reaches the starting rotation? Now pitching for Washington, Yunya Maya.

(There is) a Cuban dissident blog called "Generation Y" (worth a read) written by a girl named Yoani. She says that Russian-sounding names were popular in Cuba in the '70s and '80s. A quote:

"Generation Y is a Blog inspired by people like me, with names that start with or contain a "Y". Born in Cuba in the '70s and '80s, marked by schools in the countryside, Russian cartoons, illegal emigration and frustration. So I invite, especially, Yanisleidi, Yoandri, Yusimí, Yuniesky and others who carry their "Y's" to read me and to write to me."

Posted by: nova_g_man | July 21, 2010 11:21 AM | Report abuse

Ivan is a Russian name, but Pudge is not.

Posted by: nova_g_man | July 21, 2010 11:25 AM | Report abuse

The Vermont-Connecticut score is reversed. Vermont lost 2-1.

Posted by: SilverSpring8 | July 21, 2010 11:25 AM | Report abuse


Ross Detwiler is pitching at noon today and
J Zimm goes tonight.

Posted by: hansenjo | July 21, 2010 11:30 AM | Report abuse

Josh Willingham- 1

Roger Bernadina- 2

Michael Morse- 3

Bryce Harper- 4

Nyjer Morgan- 5

Posted by: hansenjo | July 21, 2010 11:34 AM | Report abuse

Sorry I mean or roster in DC, not in AAA ball or whatever sorority girl's bed room Harper is in right now.

Posted by: alex35332 | July 21, 2010 11:45 AM | Report abuse

Sorry, but I'm not buying this argument about Morse's best role being off the bench.

That kind of situational, off-the-bench role only makes sense on a strong team where other players have clearly earned starter roles ahead of the bench player. Neither is true of the 2010 Nats. One good pinch hit AB won't usually count for much in a game where you're already getting blown out/can't put anyone else on.

The Nats need Morse's bat more than one AB ever 3-4 games. I'm not at all sure Morse will ever develop as an everyday RFer (he came up as an IFer) but given the Nats' weakness in the OF, this seems likely exactly the kind of thing they should want to find out.

Posted by: HHover | July 21, 2010 11:49 AM | Report abuse

"Maybe, though, the Nationals have found out exactly what they have in Morse."

Well, see, here's the thing. You don't really know all that you have in a player until you find out for sure what you DON'T have. Riggleman is content with what Morse is doing for him, without ever pushing Morse to see if perhaps there's more he could be doing for him. Riggleman just assumes there's not, and continues to find ABs for Willie Harris so he can "keep him fresh." Hey, Jim. Did you ever think that perhaps a stale Michael Morse could be better than a fresh Willie Harris? And if that's true, imagine how good some fresh Michael Morse could be.

Thing is, though, we'll never find out. But at least we do know what we have in Jim Riggleman, because we've found out for certain what we don't have. We don't have a good manager.

Posted by: nunof1 | July 21, 2010 11:52 AM | Report abuse

Does anyone know: With Potomac Nationals playing a doubleheader today, is J. Zimmermann starting the first or second game? Also, can you attend both games on a single ticket? (I know, I know, "Call the P-Nats your own lazy self and find out," but no one's answering the phone right now..

Posted by: mvm2 | July 21, 2010 11:59 AM | Report abuse

Didn't bring Morse with him from Seattle?
He was traded for shortly after Riggs showed up. You would think he would have already known what to do with him.

Oh and Alex,

Bryce is a devoute Mormon, so I doubt he is in sorority girl's bed room.

Posted by: hansenjo | July 21, 2010 12:02 PM | Report abuse

I'm not buying it either. Morse is the Nats' fourth best hitter. (After our vaunted 3-4-5). It is simply irrational to argue that on a team that didn't was shut out two games in a row and didn't score for 23 straight innings or whatever it was, that he is best used off the bench. That is just post hoc rationalization by a manager who is doing an awful job. I'm sure Ryan Zimmerman would be an excellent occasional pinch hitter too. He hit a PH homer early in the season didn't he? But that doesn't mean he belongs on the bench. Willie Harris, who hopes to glimpse the Mendoza line before the end of the year, has more than 50 more ABs than Morse this year, and 42 total bases to Morse's 41. This simply cannot be justified, no matter how hard they try.

I give Morse alot of credit for "accepting his role." He's a pro. But Riggleman needs to wake up and realize what he's wasting on the bench. Each time Morse delivers in a pinch it shows hwo absurd Riggleman's meager use of him is.

Posted by: Section222 | July 21, 2010 12:02 PM | Report abuse


There website has not been updated in a few days either.

Posted by: hansenjo | July 21, 2010 12:04 PM | Report abuse

In case anyone other than me cares about the Potomac Nationals 2nite: I did get through, and the lady who answered the phone was "pretty sure" Jordan Zimmermann was pitching the first game

Posted by: mvm2 | July 21, 2010 12:12 PM | Report abuse

Chico wrote this last year when Morse was traded for,

"Though the Nats' are calling Morse an infielder, he has appeared in the big leagues at 1B, 3B, SS and both corner outfield positions."

Maybe Desmond to 2nd and Morse to SS would be worth a shot.

Posted by: hansenjo | July 21, 2010 12:13 PM | Report abuse

Oh, and, yes 1 ticket gets you in to both 7-inning games

Posted by: mvm2 | July 21, 2010 12:13 PM | Report abuse

What?! Boomer Potts makes Moniker Madness but not Boomer Whiting? The fix is in, I tell ya... ;-)

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | July 21, 2010 12:21 PM | Report abuse

Did Harper get signed?

Posted by: richs91 | July 21, 2010 12:30 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, we need a bat for when we are down in the late innings because we are always down in the late innings. How about playing the best guys and maybe we can get a lead; of course, then we'll put in defensive replacements for them late since players geberally can't hit and field.

Every time Riggleman opens his mouth I have less and less respect for him as a manager.

Posted by: SCNatsFan | July 21, 2010 12:31 PM | Report abuse

Does this mean that he will be taking time off for missionary work? If so, does this affect his contract negotiations, if he's actually LDS? Any independent verification?

Oh and Alex,

Bryce is a devoute Mormon, so I doubt he is in sorority girl's bed room.

Posted by: hansenjo | July 21, 2010 12:02 PM |

Posted by: chiefwj | July 21, 2010 12:45 PM | Report abuse

Mike Morse is a marginal talent whose only value to any team is as a pinch-hitter, late-inning replacement. He's a career minor-leaguer who in 10 seasons of farm system play has hit a total of 69 home runs - this from a guy who's 6'5" and 230 pounds. Both the White Sox (who drafted him but for whom he never played an inning of ML ball) and the Mariners have thrown him over. He's 28 years old. The reason he doesn't play more is because if he did, pitchers would figure how to get him out after no more than 50 at-bats, word would go out all over the NL, and his average would sink to somewhere below .240.

All told, he's a less talented version of Lastings Milledge and Nyjer Morgan.

The writer is in fact telling you this if you read between the lines, and stop assuming that just because he can get hits in very limited at-bats that necessarily translates into roughly the same numbers if he plays every day.

BTW, whoever suggested he step in at SS, he started 50 games at that position for Seattle in 2005. He had 12 errors, which projects out to 35-40 for a full season. That's every bit as bad as Desmond.

Posted by: Fairfax6 | July 21, 2010 12:59 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: Fairfax6 | July 21, 2010 12:59 PM | Report abuse

I don't buy this at all. I think the real reason he isn't playing is that Riggs doesn't have the balls to bench Nyjer Morgan. If he did then moving Roger to center and Morse to right would be a no brainer. A lot of players mature late in their careers. I wouldn't put much stock into what he's done up to this point. Concentrate on what he's doing now. I think we need to get him out there everyday and see what he can do. Maxwell and Bernadina were both given that opportunity even though neither was as good as Morse has been. Bench Nyjer, move Roger to center, and get Morse in there. What do we have to lose? More ballgames? Ha, we were going to lose them anyway. May as well see what we have for next year.

Posted by: PAskinsfan17 | July 21, 2010 1:32 PM | Report abuse

Fairfax6 - You're right about Morse in the IF, and probably right about another thing--if he were capable of being a starting OFer, he probably would have become one by now.

OTOH, what do the Nats have to lose at this point by finding out for sure? It's not as if he's singlehandedly winning games for them as a PH now. If he pans out in the OF, he's a pleasant surprise for a team that could really use one; if he doesn't, he goes back to the bench.

Your speculations about his batting #s are a bit far-fetched. His #s are abnormally high this year but his career BA/OBP/OPS are equal to or better than Nyjer's (he has more power) and much better than Willie's.

Posted by: HHover | July 21, 2010 1:37 PM | Report abuse

"Your speculations about his batting #s are a bit far-fetched. His #s are abnormally high this year but his career BA/OBP/OPS are equal to or better than Nyjer's (he has more power) and much better than Willie's."

You can't compare Morse hitting stats to those of either Nyjer or Harris because he's never played regularly. And he's never played regularly because no one in the 3 organizations he's been a part of thought him capable. The Mariners gave him 64 starts in 2005, and relegated him to the bench, then to the minors. His BA/OPS/OPS are basically rubbish because they aren't a large enough representative sample to compare to those of Morgan, who actually has played full time the last couple of years. Give him the kind of playing time Morgan has been given, and you'll see stats roughly comparable to those of Willie Harris, who I agree is completely inadequate for the role the Nats insist he fill.

"A lot of players mature late in their careers."

No, they don't. The number of guys who blossomed into good everyday position players in their late 20s is extraordinarily small, and of those that did, the number who did so who signed their first professional contract when they were teenagers is even smaller. Morse has been a professional baseball player for 10 years. What you see now is all that he will ever be, a marginal player capable of perhaps becoming a good pinch-hitter and late-inning replacement.

Like it or not, Bernadina/Willingham/Morgan is the best outfield the Nats can hope to field. Thinking that Morse playing everyday will improve things is wishful thinking.

Posted by: Fairfax6 | July 21, 2010 2:12 PM | Report abuse

First of all, no one is suggesting his numbers will stay the same if he plays every day. But there's a big gap between staying where they are now and not being an improvement over Harris or Morgan. In addition, though I would like to see him get a few weeks of playing every day, I'd settle for a three way platoon between Morgan, Bernadina and Morse. Or even just twice as many starts as he's been getting. Ok, so maybe no one in charge thinks he can be an every day outfielder, but don't his numbers so for warrant a shot at it. Maybe he is that rare guy who becomes a productive regular in his late '20s? For goodness sakes, it's not like we'd be risking messing up a finely tuned machine by giving all of Willie Harris's at bats to Morse!

Posted by: Section222 | July 21, 2010 2:36 PM | Report abuse

"For goodness sakes, it's not like we'd be risking messing up a finely tuned machine by giving all of Willie Harris's at bats to Morse!"

Well, Harris's playing time definitely should be given to someone else. And even if Morse only hits .215, that's an improvement, shocking as that is. Don't expect much, though. Bernadina's starting to look less like an everyday player, and at this time last year, Nats fans were crowing over having "stolen" Morgan from the Pirates.

Posted by: Fairfax6 | July 21, 2010 3:00 PM | Report abuse

Fairfax6 - I cited Morse’s numbers not because they’re great evidence but because they’re the evidence we have; dismissing it so you can assure us that you know would happen if he got more playing time is a little ridiculous, and it still misses the point--why not find out? What’s the downside in trying--are the Nats really likely to end up worse off than they are now? Those aren’t rhetorical questions.

To some extent, the Nats had to weigh 2 gambles--the chance that Morse might pan out as more than a PH vs the possibility that Nyjer will become a tolerable CF (since giving Morse more time in RF would probably mean more time for Bernadina in CF). The latter is probably still more likely, but the odds are narrowing every day. Nyjer has more of a track record, I grant you, but it’s not that long--last year with the Pirates was his first season as a regular, and he’s played more games for the Nats this year than he did for them in 2009. The more this season goes on, the more that it looks like he’s not just in a funk but simply showing who he is. And if who is were merely a .256/.315/.319 leadoff hitter, that would be bad enough; but add to that his errors, tantrums, and brain farts on the basepaths and in the field, and you’ve got something approaching toxic. And in his Nyjer’s case, I’m not basing those claims on speculation about what might happen--I’m basing it on what he’s demonstrated in 90 games.

Posted by: HHover | July 21, 2010 3:27 PM | Report abuse


Actually, I was saying that you don't have any evidence. It's too small a sample to have any validity. Total his ML at-bats (accumulated over 6 years) and you don't even get a full season's worth.

As to "why not find out?", well, why bother? Obviously, they don't believe he's capable of being even a semi-regular, a decision two other teams made as well. They might as well just take some guy off the waiver wire and hand him an everyday outfield job.

If they want to give him a shot, that's fine, but it's just as fine not to.

Posted by: Fairfax6 | July 21, 2010 3:54 PM | Report abuse

I'm as willing to swallow the company line as the next fellow, but that discussion of Morse makes no sense. When you're sort of flirting with losing 100 games for the third year in a row it is silly to say "but at least we got the come off the bench in a close game pinch hitter role nailed down, if we ever find ourselves in a close game again." Probably he can't play every day, but why not find out?

Posted by: markfromark | July 21, 2010 4:46 PM | Report abuse

Fairfax 6

Sure it’s evidence--it’s just not evidence that supports the conclusion you’ve already arrived at. If you think it’s not enough evidence to be dispositive, you’re right. But it then seems odd to argue against the one thing that would actually provide more evidence--giving him more major league ABs.

As to why do it: because things aren’t working out for the Nats the way they are, and because mildly desperate times call for mildly desperate measures. As to why not pick someone off the waiver wires: um, let's see - because Morse is already on the bench, and so trotting him out for a couple of games a week to see what happens requires no roster moves, added salary, etc.. And because having done it, the Nats will know for sure what they have with Morse and not merely have to guess from evidence that we can all agree is inadequate.

Posted by: HHover | July 21, 2010 5:03 PM | Report abuse

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