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Michael Morse as an everyday player

At one point this season, Michael Morse asked Manager Jim Riggleman to stop telling him if he would be playing the next day. Morse wanted to walk into the clubhouse, scan the lineup and be surprised. Morse thought that made him sharper, more alert, than knowing.

These days, he pretty much knows. Since Josh Willingham played his last game before season-ending knee surgery on Aug. 15, Morse has started 28 of 33 Nationals games and appeared in three others. He always wanted to be a regular - "I knew I could play every day," Morse said - and for just more than a month, he has been one.

In 100 at-bats over that span, while serving as the Nationals' primary right fielder, Morse has hit .320 with a .389 on-base percentage and a .510 slugging percentage. That .899 OPS ranks best on the team over that span by 129 points; Ian Desmond is second. The absolute ceiling for Morse has always been as a Jayson Werth-type late bloomer, and his season has done little to dissuade that best-case scenario.

"I feel like I've settled in, especially in the field," Morse said. "I feel like I do belong as an everyday player."

He is still not all the way there. The other day, Morse met with Riggleman and hitting coach Rick Eckstein to discuss the primary hole in his swing. His height and long arms make him vulnerable to hard, inside fastballs - his best power, you have likely noticed, is to the opposite field.

"He's got to get over that hurdle," Riggleman said. "There's a method of pitching him that some pitchers have attacked. The more you play, the more information that other club has on you. I think when he gets over that last hurdle, he certainly could be a big-time run producer. He's going to have to do that, and he's going to have to do it here in the last couple weeks, and he's going to have to do it in the spring."

That one vulnerability has not stood in the way of Morse making relatively few outs. He recognized the issue and sees it as a battle of wills with the pitcher. At times, Morse said, he has allowed the pitcher to dictate an at-bat rather than the other way around - "falling into their game instead of staying with my game," Morse said. He will attack an inside fastball and make an out rather than taking it - even if it means taking a strike - and waiting for a pitch outside more to his liking. His solution to the inside fastball, basically, is to not swing at it.

"What I am learning is the mentality of being an everyday player," Morse said. "One of the biggest parts is just keeping with my approach day in and day out and not changing anything, no matter what the result is. It's something that I think everybody that's an everyday player works on constantly. It's pretty much just believing in your ability, not changing anything because of who's pitching or what the game says. Keep your approach no matter what the game dictates."

Playing every day has reaffirmed for Morse how rarely pitchers make mistakes. He reminds himself during at-bats, "Be ready, be hunting the fastball, stay with my approach." The increased playing time has taught Morse a mixture of patience and aggression - not giving in and swinging at a pitcher's pitch, but also being willing to swing when he sees what he wants.

"When you do get that mistake, I'll be ready for it instead of hitting their pitch," Morse said.

The lesson has helped Morse make a case for competing for a starting outfield position next spring. He feels comfortable in the outfield, but the advanced stats paint a bleak picture - his UZR/150 as an right fielder is -23.9. Maybe Morse has not proved he should be a everyday player this year. But he has at least shown he could be.

"I think Mike has made great strides," Riggleman said. "That position, right field, you're looking for a little thump there. And he's provided that."

By Adam Kilgore  | September 22, 2010; 3:27 PM ET
 
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Next: Drew Storen, Jim Riggleman and confidence

Comments

I'm sure the Natinals would rather have Michael Moore as an everyday player.

At least that way they'd get some national attention, or at least some discussion on Fox News.

Posted by: Poopy_McPoop | September 22, 2010 3:31 PM | Report abuse

Hey Gang-Gonna re-re-post cause...Hey, it's the end of a long long season and I'm....well, I'm tired...and it's not fair! We SHOULD be BETTER! (And it's not my fault!)....So....
Well!!!....lots of discord here with the Gang. Not a problem-but I hope we can keep even the "snark" honorable.....kinda old fashioned as a concept, I guess - but no one wants to be personally attacked for honestly expressing their thoughts. It's tough to have an earnest debate-even hotly contested-if all we're looking to do is play "gotcha" or needle mercilessly our fellow Gang members. That said....for all the points of contention (even those at one another's necks) we seem to agree that the Slows have fallen woefully short of providing not just the fans but all involved (the players,the f.o., too...and I'd HATE to be a sales rep for this team! Just wait til.....well, just TRUST us! It's gonna get BETTER! Since worse is almost impossible, we hope)really almost ALL invested in this team a reason for believing in the future. From broadcasting to advertising to that Clint guy at the park to...well, what should be a cause for joy (a BASEBALL team, fer cryin' out loud) has instead become a pretty sour experience. Not saying the Slows are cheap, or tone deaf..or any OTHER thing. But even if you feel that they're model owners, the level of frustration alone should tell 'em that they're not going about this the right way. So.....I HOPE they get THAT, if nothing else. And, of course....
Go NATS!!!

Posted by: zendo | September 22, 2010 3:32 PM | Report abuse

Unless there happened to be just one troll using multiple personalities/screen names in an attempt to stir up some psychodrama and/or drive people off. You know, kind of like a sock puppet ensemble show. But for a person to take all the time and trouble to do something like that... Well, it would just be really, really sad. So I'm sure that's not the case here...

---

Wow, it looks like even the other trolls hate the trolls here.

Posted by: FeelWood | September 22, 2010 3:05 PM

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | September 22, 2010 3:33 PM | Report abuse

Hey Gang-And I'm STILL saying we go to the playoffs next year. I figure The Rizz can leverage this dreck into the additions he needs...and we do have some real ballplayers in the wings.Just shouldn't be in the 7th year that I can say that and not feel like a total idjit! (Only partial, right?) 92 W's, baby!
Go Nats!!!

Posted by: zendo | September 22, 2010 3:38 PM | Report abuse

Natinals in the playoffs next year?

Playoffs?

For some reason the Natinals and the word playoffs reminds me of this quote:

"What's that? Ah -- Playoffs? Don't talk about -- playoffs?! You kidding me?! Playoffs?! I just hope we can win a game! Another game!"

Posted by: Poopy_McPoop | September 22, 2010 3:40 PM | Report abuse

>>Unless there happened to be just one troll....Posted by: natsfan1a1

Wow Natsfan, are you going to take your brilliant post and repost it 7 more times across 7 more threads just to make sure everyone sees your brilliant prose.
Look forward to reading it again tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow.

Posted by: skins_fan_22 | September 22, 2010 3:42 PM | Report abuse

Poopy has just ended up changing too many diapers ... he spent too much time inhaling diaper genie odors ... its why he is the troll that he is here and on RI.

That said, as I mentioned to Maddy today ... the O's have proven that they do INDEED have the far stronger farm system. Far be it for me to say this to Poopy but its up to the O's as to whether and then how they use that? The end of this year they have done extremely well ... as has this Houston Astro's ballclub taking that approach.

Again, the Nats still by far have the weakest farm system in the majors. Bar none. Rizzo himself intimated that that system looked than Arizona's did when it was just starting as an expansion franchise ... in 2006 when Rizzo first arrived. He also said it takes a good 6 or seven years to get past that ...

One need only look at Syracuse, and to an extent, Harrisburg to see the many older, cast off veterans on those rosters. Do you all realize just HOW fortunate we are to have gotten 2 pretty good position players from that system the past 2 years in Desmond and Espinosa. The dearth of close to MLB catching talent forced Mike Rizzo to trade a top closer for Wilson Ramos. He would be considered the top prospect in the system after Stras and Storen. Not sure if one or both are still considered prospects? He went to Cuba to get another younger potential top starter in Maya.

However, Rizzo appears to have been able to accelerate it to an extent. So, there is some hope. A large portion of that hope is playing in the Florida Instructional League. Yes, its still at least 2 years away by anyone's estimation. With next year's draft even more players will flood the GCL and Auburn ... hopefully in June instead of August. More pitchers.

Posted by: periculum | September 22, 2010 3:45 PM | Report abuse

Oh and as far as Mike Morse goes, it's a good thing NoPlan Riggleman continued to use Willie Harris and his .180 BA in place of Morse and his .290+ BA throughout the entire first half of the season or else who knows, we may have actually won a few more games. Anyone remember the Cleveland series?

Posted by: skins_fan_22 | September 22, 2010 3:45 PM | Report abuse

Honestly Harris defense has greatly eroded, drastically declined from last year. His offense is clearly no longer there ... this is someone they cannot afford to keep any longer.

Morse continues to improve at the major league level. Part of his problem has been his lack of confidence in the field probably resulting from his years as a shortstop in the Mariner's system.
He has the arm for right field or left. He has the height to get to balls Harris cannot. He has some speed even if it isn't the same as Maxwell. It is likely better than Willingham. He could make a pretty good #5 hitter.

Posted by: periculum | September 22, 2010 3:50 PM | Report abuse

Morse has proved his point. He is an every day player. He always was.

Posted by: chiro1623 | September 22, 2010 3:55 PM | Report abuse

In three years, Mike Morse has an excellent chance to be a marginal bench player on a mediocre to lousy ballclub, getting maybe 80-110 at-bats, and hitting in the .250-.265 range.

Anything more than that is the rage of dreaming sheep.

He's a career minor-leaguer. But then this is a team that thinks Justin Maxwell has the stuff to be an everyday CFer.

Posted by: Fairfax6 | September 22, 2010 3:56 PM | Report abuse

I think Morse has some Jason Werth's qualities. Given full time at bats he's capable of 25 HRs. The question might be if you can afford to have both Morse and Willingham in the outfield. They might be the same player. At any rate, we need a leadoff hitter. Espinosa is not there yet. Too much of a free swinger who has looked overwelmed at times. I'd have to take Bernadina over Morgan due to superiority in all phases of the game, but that still leaves us with a hole at the top of the order. Once we find that guy for the outfield we would have to weigh the factors as to how Willingham, Morse, and Bernadina fit.

Posted by: Jurgensen9 | September 22, 2010 4:12 PM | Report abuse

"In three years, Mike Morse has an excellent chance to be a marginal bench player on a mediocre to lousy ballclub, getting maybe 80-110 at-bats, and hitting in the .250-.265 range."

In the past three years his minor league stats seem to indicate the exact opposite. His offensive stats in AAA in 2009 were as good as Jason Heyward in AA most all of the year. He is hitting just around .300 with a decent OPP. His OPS+ is outstanding.

Bottom line he has done a heck uv a lot better than any other minor league player the Nats have had offensively.

He has translated that to the majors. His hitting isn't mediocre. That is Adam Kennedy.

Is he an every day player? His fielding is what holds him back from that and to be fair Fairfax6 it always has. Seattle like his bat enough to keep bringing him back ... but at shortstop it just wasn't going to work.

Posted by: periculum | September 22, 2010 4:15 PM | Report abuse

Wow - it's extra cranky in here today. Adam - do a post on Bryce Harper to cheer us up!

Posted by: PattyinSJ | September 22, 2010 4:26 PM | Report abuse

Morse's problem is that he has no position. He has not hit for power enough to play 1B, he's too big to play middle infield, Zim plays third, so he's off to a corner OF spot. His "thump" for RF has not been great, historically, and Willingham is in the other spot. So, the only way Morse gets an every day gig with this club is if he starts to knock HR's out a la Jason Werth. Maybe he can get the power stroke to show through the spring, but he has an uphill battle. He's been a very nice surprise on a club sorely lacking them, that is for sure.

Posted by: dfh21 | September 22, 2010 4:41 PM | Report abuse

Morse is a guy I'm on the fence with; the one thing I like is he doesn't make many weak outs, even when he hits into an out it's a relatively hard hit ball. I don't believe he's a player we can count on to be counted on for one position, but I believe he'll be able to get solid ABs playing !st, RF and LF next year (after all, how many years do we have to play Willingham every day to see him break down as the season goes on). I hope he isn't what mgt sees as a cheap solution to our potential 1B woes.

Posted by: SCNatsFan | September 22, 2010 4:53 PM | Report abuse

The trolls have invaded the place and you got to love the handles on these cyberhounds.

To all the BLO lovers out there, looks like another fine year in the basement of the AL East. Used to be the TB Rays place of honor but alas the crappy twenty-five from "Harm City" have made it their home.
Please check the track record of your Buck Slow-Water, he will implode one way or another, its been his MO and of course the Blo's aint the Yankees so it should come sooner rather then later. While we are on the subject it brought such joy to hear "Lets go Yankees" over the weekend, how is it that you can't fill the house with anything other then "out of town folks"!. Oh thats right something about DC having a baseball team and how its caused such pain at the gate for the "Asbestos King". Love your Birds, go to OPACY but if you troll stand by for heavy rolls.

Posted by: TippyCanoe | September 22, 2010 4:54 PM | Report abuse

>>He's a career minor-leaguer.Posted by: Fairfax6

Do they even have schools out where you are in Fairfax? Where exactly is Fairfax?

Posted by: skins_fan_22 | September 22, 2010 4:57 PM | Report abuse

>>Please check the track record of your Buck Slow-Water, he will implode one way or another

Boy Buck musta really hit a nerve with you huh? Yea I'd much rather have Jim Riggleman coaching my team anyday. I don't see 100 losses anywhere on Buck's resume. And I don't see playoffs anywhere on DoubleSwitch. But at least Riggleman won't implode right?
Good 1. Dude hardly has a pulse.
BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAH!!!!!!

Posted by: skins_fan_22 | September 22, 2010 5:03 PM | Report abuse

how is it that you can't fill the house with anything other then "out of town folks"!. Oh thats right something about DC having a baseball team and how its caused such pain at the gate for the "Asbestos King". Love your Birds, go to OPACY but if you troll stand by for heavy rolls.

Posted by: TippyCanoe | September 22, 2010 4:54 PM
---------

Really? You're gonna go there when Philly fans make games at Natinal Park seem like home games for the Phillies? Or how about when the flocks of fans for the Mets, Braves, and/or ORIOLES invade Natinal park.

Oh, and didn't you read that blog posting (both on here and The Bog) about the Natinals pathetic attendance numbers a few nights ago?

Posted by: Poopy_McPoop | September 22, 2010 5:22 PM | Report abuse

Lets keep it real simple.
Head to head. Buck vs Riggleman since Aug 2.
Orioles 29-17.
Nats 17-29.

Yea your'e right. Buck Stinks. I'd much rather have Riggleman at the helm of my team anyday.
And oh yea, the Os wins came against the Yankees, Rays, Red Sox, Tigers, Blue Jays Angels, Texas and White Sox. Justa buncha scrubs.
But please give me Riggleman anyday. I like 17-29.
Not to hard to parse what those #s come out to over the course of a season now is it.

Posted by: skins_fan_22 | September 22, 2010 5:25 PM | Report abuse

Skins-fan is right to remind us of the classic #Riggsfail -- his failure to use Morse when he was hot, particularly in the series when we had the DH. That makes this quote hilarious, if it wasn't so sad: "That position, right field, you're looking for a little thump there."

Yeah, a little thump, which is why we saw Willie Harris and his sub-Mendoza line bat out there so much earlier in the season.

The jury is still out on whether Morse can be a successful and productive every day player, but he sure has earned the chance to try. One of the few bright spots on this team. And a great attitude too.

Posted by: Section222 | September 22, 2010 5:31 PM | Report abuse

Morse can be a starter on a 90+ loss team, but is an extra outfielder/first baseman on a 90+ win team. He swings at way too many piches out of the strike zone (as do many of the Nats) and doesn't walk nearly enough.

Posted by: hapster | September 22, 2010 5:36 PM | Report abuse

>>Morse is an extra outfielder/first baseman on a 90+ win team

Wow if you're trying to figure out who we would play based on a 90+ win team, well we currently wouldn't even have enough players to field a quarter of a team, if that much. (Unless of course Buck was managing em.)
Uh back to reality.

Posted by: skins_fan_22 | September 22, 2010 5:45 PM | Report abuse

"Morse can be a starter on a 90+ loss team, but is an extra outfielder/first baseman on a 90+ win team. He swings at way too many piches out of the strike zone (as do many of the Nats) and doesn't walk nearly enough."

Neither did Dunn at his age. His improved OBP came with the Nats. He was also someone Cincinnati, (nor anyone else for that matter? ) could find a position for when he first signed. Lots of homers but a low batting average and OBP. He had no position either. So, he ended up taking the Nats 2 year 20 million offer.

Posted by: periculum | September 22, 2010 5:45 PM | Report abuse

Dunn's improved OBP came with the Nats? This = not true. Dunn's OBP has always been one of his strong suits.

2001 .371
2002 .400
2003 .354
2004 .388
2005 .387
2006 .365
2007 .386
2008 (ARI) .417
2008 (CIN) .373
2009 .393
2010 .360

Posted by: Section220 | September 22, 2010 6:01 PM | Report abuse

>>..low batting average and OBP. He had no position either. So, he ended up taking the Nats 2 year 20 million offer.

What a great country.

Posted by: skins_fan_22 | September 22, 2010 6:02 PM | Report abuse

Boy, McP & sf_22 have been hammering the keyboards today.

I'll grant the Orioles fans this - They have a manager in Showalter who grabs the players' attention, and quickly spikes the W-L record of the team he's in control of. His downside is that the 'my way, or the highway' demeanor seems to wear thin eventually: (NYY=3+yrs: MOY, 1994, Fired in-season, 1995), (AZ=3yrs: Won NL West 1999, Fired end 2000), (TEX=4yrs: MOY, 2004, Fired, end 2006), (BAL=??).

Posted by: BinM | September 22, 2010 6:02 PM | Report abuse

Regarding Kilgore's subject line "Michael Morse as an everyday player" - Umm, probably not; He's not the smoothest OF defensively, but if he were part of a regular four-man rotation (Willingham-Morgan-Morse-Bernadina), that could be a reasonably effective OF for the Nationals, imo.

Posted by: BinM | September 22, 2010 6:17 PM | Report abuse

BinM: You might be right about next year's candidates for the OF unless we get lucky in FA(not gonna happen).I like Morse he just scares me to death defensively speaking and honestly we cannot have another year in the field(100+E's)and expect to crawl out of the cellar.The Nats need to get to 70 wins which means they need to win today and tommorow and then beat the Phils and the Braves six of eight to go out on a winning note,piece of cake right?

Posted by: dargregmag | September 22, 2010 7:02 PM | Report abuse

Hey Gang-And I'm STILL saying we go to the playoffs next year. I figure The Rizz can leverage this dreck into the additions he needs...and we do have some real ballplayers in the wings.

Posted by: zendo

At least Riggles agreed in the 3rd inning that there's a rather large deficiency in Espinosa's left-handed stroke. They seem inclined to have him stay righty full time, which is my diagnosis completely. He's a natural from the right side, and the left is just not major league caliber. So there's one you put on the roster no question next year if he stays hitting righty. He's got all the pop from that side. Stick him at SS and forget about it. He'll be able to cross over that liability/asset line that way imo. Desmond goes to second base, utilizes his amazing range even more, because he'll have more time to gather himself and throw, and minimizes his throwing errors. Slam dunk.

Posted by: Brue | September 22, 2010 9:18 PM | Report abuse

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