Thursday, July 23, 2009

Guzman Needs to Bat 7th... or 8th

Besides another team? Alas, that is a discussion for another time. Still, cannot believe the Nats were not able to parlay his hot start to a team in need of a SS (and there are several).

Since the acquisition of Nyjer Morgan, the Nats have filled the role of "prototypical lead-off hitter". Morgan takes pitches, bunts, gets on base 35% of the time or better, and can steal bases. So now that Guzman is out of the lead-off spot, where should Riggleman, or which ever lucky 5th grader he selects to pick his lineup, bat Guzman and his .300 average and .301 OBP?

The #2 spot is where he was the other night, and it was a disaster. He chases bad pitches, and while he isn't as prone to the GIDP as Zimmerman, he isn't moving the runner up. Besides, Nick Johnson really understands his role in that position, sacrificing power for control. And obviously the 3 and 4 spots are off limits, even if they are incorrectly administered. That's right, I'll get to that later.

Guzman batted fifth in the first game of this series, proving that Riggleman knows nothing about baseball strategy. Dunn was ahead of him in the lineup, and if Dunn is on first, which happens often with his walk rate, Guzman is NEVER scoring him from first base. Flat out foolish decision. And because Guzman is allergic to the #6 spot in the lineup, that leaves just three spots. OK, the pitcher will stay #9.

So #7 and #8 are open, and are usually reserved for the catcher and a spot starter. Guzman has been hitting the ball this season, but his ISO is still below .100. More often then not he is on first base. Same with Josh Bard. The difference is that Bard, even when healthy, is treacherously slow on the bases. Therefore, it probably best to bat Guzman ahead of him. Bard can paint the lines with double, and Guzman is quick enough to score from first. When Slappy gets the start, he isn't bringing power to the plate, but knows how to get to first and is quick for a catcher. Guzman should bat behind Nieves in the event he starts.

So what does that leave us with?

1. Morgan
2. Johnson
3. Willingham
4. Dunn
5. Zimmerman
6. Second Base (Gonzalez)
7. Guzman/Nieves
8. Bard/Guzman

Batting 8th does not mean that you are a poor hitter; just see what Joe Torre has been doing in LA. However, management seems to believe that Guzman has to bat high to protect his ego. This is pure BS. The objective is still to win games, and give his salary, he should be willing to bat near the bottom if it help produce runs.

The Nats run differential does not support a record as bad as what the Nats have posted. Yes, some of it can be attributed to the leaky bullpen, more to the defense. But those fundamentals do not support the fact that the Nationals hit the ball well, but often fail to score. Zimmerman is too much of a double play machine to bat third. His ground ball ratio also does not help Morgan score from third with less than two outs. Willingham is a good flyball hitter who can get on base. Zimmerman's propensity for ground balls up the middle should be moved down behind Dunn, where one of the following things are more likely:

a) the bases are empty because he is leading off an inning,
b) the bases are empty because Dunn just cleared them,
c) there are two outs so the infield is not at double play depth
d) if Dunn is on first and there are less than two outs, the Nats may have already scored (doesn't diminish the fact that a GIDP sucks, but hey, runs are runs)

Batting third does not allow for a-c, increasing the likelihood that the opponent will play for the double play against Zimmerman. This has probably cost the Nats a half dozen run alone this year. In any event, I will be stashing a printout of this blog in the home dugout every time I hit Nats Park this year.

1 comment:

  1. solid analysis. the Nats SLG goes down 30 points with men on base.