The Washington Nationals have announced their intended lineup to start the season. Their big free agent signing ($126 million to be exact), Jayson Werth is going to bat second—Washington Post column.
There will be undisguised outrage at this decision.
I’m not as ironclad in lineup beliefs as others—I prefer the old-school style of having a speed/on-base guy leading off; followed by someone with a little pop, on-base skills of his own and reasonable speed to prevent the double play; the best hitter in the lineup batting third; the most feared hitter fourth; and RBI men fifth and sixth.
But it all depends on the personnel.
If the Nationals are going to think outside the box with Werth and bat him at the top of the lineup for the reasons presented (he walks and has power), why not bat him leadoff?
It’s not as if they have a prototypical leadoff batter; if they plan to use Ian Desmond in the role, it defeats the purpose of batting Werth second. I like Desmond, but he doesn’t get on base and strikes out a lot.
Werth strikes out a lot as well.
This concept of having a runner or runners on base for the middle of the lineup to drive in is, more often than not, going to be sabotaged.
Batting Werth leadoff might not be a conventional approach, but he would be a potential rally-starter. He gets on base, has power, hits plenty of doubles and can run. There have been players of this kind—who also struck out a lot—that have been very good leadoff hitters. Bobby Bonds was one such player.
In his early years with the Giants, Bonds would bat leadoff with Willie Mays and Willie McCovey behind him and he’d score well over 100 runs a year. He’d either strike out, homer or start something with his speed.
The Nationals don’t have that kind of power behind Werth, but there are hitters who will drive in runs—Adam LaRoche, Ryan Zimmerman and Mike Morse.
If they so desperately want to bat Werth at the top of the lineup, I’d bat Werth first; rookie Danny Espinosa second (he can hit—watch); Zimmerman third; LaRoche fourth; and Morse fifth.
Batting Werth second is an attempt to be too clever. Rather than that I’d prefer to go for the bomb early, especially considering how outmanned the Nationals are in terms of talent when comparing them to the rest of the National League East and NL proper.
Either bat him leadoff or bat him fourth.
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