On Roger Bernadina hitting third and facing lefties
Though three games is obviously too small of a sample size to jump to conclusions, the Nationals' offense has sure been hot since Manager Jim Riggleman moved Roger Bernadina to the third spot in the order. The Nationals have scored 27 runs and won all three games comfortably, with Bernadina going 6 for 14 with a homer, a double, a triple and a walk.
With Josh Willingham out for the season, Bernadina's place in the heart of the lineup makes perfect sense. His 105 OPS+ ranks fourth* on the Nationals this season behind Ryan Zimmerman (144), Adam Dunn (142) and Willingham (128). So without Willingham available, Bernadina, in his rookie season, has proven to be a middle-of-the-lineup bat on this team.
*Michael Morse, batting sixth and also tearing the cover off the ball since the lineup realignment, has a 134 OPS+ but does not have enough at-bats to qualify.
The one potential obstacle with Bernadina as the regular No. 3 hitter: "We haven't faced a left-handed pitcher yet while he's been hitting third," Manager Jim Riggleman said.
Riggleman quickly added the Nationals would like to look at Bernadina against for left-handed starters, which would add another layer to their year-long evaluation of Bernadina. The Nationals made him a regular because they wanted to use his rookie season to determine what they have in Bernadina for the future. They can be assured, at least, they have a speedy runner with some pop who is slightly above league average when hitting exclusively against right-handers.
"I really didn't know exactly what to expect," Riggleman said. "With increased playing time and health, he's really been able to show what he can do. I don't know yet. This really may be exactly what he is right here. He may just be scratching the surface. We've got another month to go to find out."
In September, the Nationals may want to find out what Bernadina can do against lefties. The data for his minor league career is hard to come by on the web; all I can find is that he went 6 for 20 with a homer and two walks this year at Class AAA Syracuse against left-handers. Bernadina said he always hit lefties well in the minors and feels comfortable against left-handers. Last night, he clocked a triple of off Marlins left-hander reliever Andrew Miller.
"I hit lefties," Bernadina said. "I've never gotten a chance in the big leagues, but in the minor leagues, yeah."
The next step for Bernadina is to take on left-handers. Bernadina has only 43 plate appearances this year against left-handers, hitting .243 with a .310 on-base percentage and a .486 slugging percentage. In 307 plate appearances against right-handers, he's at .279/.333/.432. More and more, Riggleman has let Bernadina hit for himself against left-handed relievers.
"He's either gotten better against lefties, or maybe he was good all along and we just weren't playing him against lefties," Riggleman said. "I'm not sure which it is, but he's doing fine. He's held in there pretty good. We could get to the point where he's out there every day."
Riggleman has been happy with how Bernadina has played left field since the Nationals lost Willingham - "that's his best spot," Riggleman said. Bernadina began the year in the minors, and now he's the Nationals No. 3 hitter. They have one more to appraise him, and maybe find out what he can do when he faces any pitcher, no matter what.
August 31, 2010; 7:09 PM ET
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