Oh Noes! Michael Morse Going Back to Left Field?!?

Posted by Dave Nichols | Wednesday, August 17, 2011 | , , , | 4 comments »

The title of this post is not a serious indication of my feelings about Davey Johnson's post-game comments last night about the possibility (likelihood?) of Michael Morse moving back to left field once rosters expand to make room for Chris Marrero, and staying there next season when (if?) Adam LaRoche comes back healthy (hopefully).

"Ideally, when LaRoche comes back we'll have LaRoche at first and probably [Morse] in left field," Johnson said of potential plans for next season.  Earlier in his comments, about roster expansion, he mentioned Morse moving back to the outfield, couching it with the comment,  "We got a guy down there [in the minors] that can play a little first base."

But, but... anecdotal evidence suggests (in ridiculously small sample sizes) that Morse can't hit when he plays the outfield!  In 35 games as a left fielder, Morse is hitting .248/.292/.339 in 120 plate appearances.  At first base, in 93 games (373 plate appearances) he hits .334/.389/.607!  He's a FIRST BASEMAN!!! 

Making the decision that Morse can't hit playing left field based on those numbers in that small a sample size is akin to nominating a party's candidate to run for President based on the exit polls of the first state to hold their primaries.  Oh wait. That's probably a bad example.

Michael Morse dealt with a knee injury earlier this season.  He hit .258/.286/.351 through May 21.  Since that date, when he coincidentally took over at first base for the injured Adam LaRoche, he's hit .345/.401/.641 with a .390 BABiP. 

He got healthy, benefitting from playing a less physically demanding position.  He's been somewhat lucky.  It was a coincidence.

Of course, Morse has to continue at the pace he's on for this debate to remain pertinent, but that's another story.  But if he can hold his value for the remainder of this year and next year, this team is much better off with him in left field and a healthy LaRoche at first, as opposed to the NRI platoon of Laynce Nix and Jonny Gomes in left.

Bottom line though, when Bryce Harper (then 20) and Chris Marrero (then 24) take over in left and at first Opening Day 2013, none of this will matter.

4 comments

  1. Section 222 // August 17, 2011 at 5:38 PM  

    Dave, nice post, but do you really think that Marrero will start at first in 2013 and Morse won't be in the lineup? I agree that Harper could be the starting LF by then. But it seems much more likely that Morse moves back to first replacing LaRoche (if that doesn't happen sooner). Even if Marrero is, finally, major league ready, who's to say that he'll be a better hitter than Morse? Based on this year's performance, I doubt it.

  2. Dave Nichols // August 17, 2011 at 7:00 PM  

    Appreciate the comment. Morse has been a great story this season, really carried the team. But at his age and with his body type, it's hard to imagine him holding his value past a couple years. Besides, he'll be a free agent after next season, and if he continues to put up equal numbers will garner a pretty big paycheck.

    At some point, they have to get a return on Marrero. If he's got big league talent, and is cost controlled, he'll be an option for the lineup.

  3. Glomp // August 17, 2011 at 9:10 PM  

    I think it's wholly possible that the Nats trade Morse next year at the deadline if he continues to hit. Then you could bring up Bryce to fill his spot, as well as getting premium young talent. If the Nats are contending, probably won't happen. But something's gotta give to let Harper in the lineup, whether that be a trade of LaRoche or whatever. Also clouding the 1B picture is the possibility of signing Fielder/Pujols.

  4. Dave Nichols // August 17, 2011 at 9:14 PM  

    Glomp, thanks for the comment. I think it highly unlikely the Nats pursue either Fielder or Pujols in the off-season.