Despite an injury that caused him to miss the season’s first 50 games, Michael Morse continued to produce at a high level and play an integral role in the Nationals’ lineup. ZiPS projected him to hit .273/.331/.475 with 22 home runs and 80 RBI in 139 games, numbers that were actually quite close to the truth. In 102 games, Morse hit .291/.321/.470 with 18 home runs and 62 RBI, falling a bit short of his projections in every category but batting average, perhaps because of his shortened season.
In February, I wrote a piece comparing the eerily similar career arcs of Morse and fellow Nat Jayson Werth. Both suffered through injuries as younger players, and broke out in their age 29 seasons when they finally got healthy. That was 2008 for Werth and 2011 for Morse. Projecting Morse to continue Werth’s path, I forecasted an even better 2012 for Morse, citing Werth’s 38-point OPS jump from 2008 to 2009, which coincided with his first All-Star appearance. Morse, however, fell off the pace. His OPS dropped 119 points, but it is worth noting that Morse’s .910 OPS was 49 points greater than Werth’s .861 OPS in their respective age 29 seasons. With a healthy 2012, there is no reason to think Morse cannot resume following Werth’s way to stardom.
Morse began his season on June 2nd, after finally making it back from the strained right lat that kept him out for the season’s outset. He started off slowly, hitting only .209 in his first 17 games. He hit safely in 14 of his next 16 games, however, and brought his average up to .289 with four home runs and 16 RBI. Morse backed this up with another long hot stretch, hitting in 30 of 32 games heading into mid-August, with his batting average peaking at .303. Despite a cold end of August, Morse had a .840 OPS in September and October, finishing his regular season with an exclamation point by going 3-4 with two doubles and a home run in the final game of the season against the Phillies. In the postseason he was unnotable, going 5-19 with a home run and two RBI.
Season Highlight: The imaginary grand slam.
Next Year: As I said before, if he stays healthy, there’s no reason why Morse should not be an All-Star. His position, however, may depend on whether the Nats resign Adam LaRoche.