Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Washington Nationals: Lineup Construction


Matt Williams, new manager of the Washington Nationals, has said that he believes in the new numbers and how they can change a team and lineup. Well thinking ahead, how should the 2014 lineup be constructed? I will use top notch data to have my say, while you can certainly try to change my mind in the comment section below, if you so well please.

A lot of different scenarios run threw my head when projecting this Nats’ lineup. If you look at the information it gets easier, but it still isn’t easy. I want to be able to put the best lineup, 1-9, on the field and be able to win baseball games. This is where I start. How does this team get better, just by the way the lineup is constructed? They will be better, if the lineup is constructed a certain way giving everyone a chance to show they’re strengths in that spot in the order. So here is who I have and why.

1. Denard Span – CF: The leadoff spot belongs to Denard Span. He doesn’t get on base a great clip but there really isn’t anywhere else to put him in this lineup. Having Anthony Rendon really restricts him to the leadoff spot. It isn’t all bad, as when he does get on base he has another great on-base player behind him in Ryan Zimmerman. Span needs to run more this season having Zimmerman, a patient hitter behind him. Span did have 39 extra base hits between doubles and triples. This will be his second season in the National League so hopefully he adjusts and finds a way to get on base at a better rate.

2. Ryan Zimmerman – 3b: The two hole could be a great spot for Zimmerman. He has lost some of his power but he still has enough power to hit the gap. He can fall right into this role and be successful.

The reason you put him into this spot is for his ability to hit line drives. His 21.5 line drive percentage, takes a lot of the risk of the double play out. Having the ability to hit a line drive in the gap, is huge in this spot in the order. This hitter, doesn’t always have to be the home run hitter, but the guy that gets on base. Ryan Zimmerman is that guy. He also has good speed ahead of him, when he does hit a ball in the gap, runs are going to score.

He also isn’t necessarily a base clogger. He is a great base runner with average speed for his position and age. Having him on base will also give you a chance to score more runs because of the hitters behind him.

3. Bryce Harper – LF: Bryce Harper is another guy that gets on base at a high rate. His .368 on-base percentage is very good. Putting him in the three spot will give him the ability to drive in runs. He also has the ability to extend an inning in this role. If he has to leadoff an inning, he can do that as well. He has the ability to hit it out of the ball park or get on base and let someone behind him drive in runs. In the three spot, he has the chance to steal more bases. Werth can be a patient hitter and give Harper the chance to run.

4. Jayson Werth – RF: Jayson Werth is my clean up hitter for one reason. He gets on base. The more runners you get on base, the more runs you will score. Werth was on base almost 40% of the time in 2013. That is amazing. You put him in the clean up spot, getting on at that rate and this team will score even more runs.

His contact rate is astronomical as well. He makes contact 82% of the time. With his ability to put the ball in play, that gives him a better chance to get on base via BABIP as well. His BABIP was .358 last season. The league average in BABIP is about .300. The more chances he has to get on base, the better. So putting him in the clean up spot, will give him more at bats, which means more chances to get on base, which means more Nationals runs.

5. Ian Desmond – SS: It is about that time for Ian Desmond to step up and assume a bigger role offensively. He has been very solid and has the ability to drive in runs. He is a high strikeout guy, so the five spot doesn’t hurt him too much that way. He still gets on base at a good rate and hits the gaps well. Being behind Werth could also be good for him. He can be patient and allow Werth to run and get into scoring position.

Also in this spot his good BABIP comes into play. Having a couple of those balls fall in extends this lineup tremendously. If he can find a way on base, it sets up a possible huge inning for the Nats’ offense. This is where the bigger role comes in. Moving him out of the sixth spot for good, will put more accountability on him to produce at a better rate.

Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

6. Adam LaRoche – 1b: Adam LaRoche now becomes a three hole hitter, lower in the lineup. He nows comes to the plate with some good speed on the bases, and the ability to drive in runs. Laroche hits more fly balls than ground balls, giving him the chance to get a sac fly. RBI is a useless stat, because it is a team stat, but this will give him the opportunity for more of them. He swings and misses 9% of the time and strikes out, more than league average, but he does make contact. He can move the runners over or drive them in, in this spot.

7. Wilson Ramos – C: Ramos, if healthy is a good number seven hitter. He drives in runs with the best of them. He drove in the second best percentage of base runners last season, behind Allen Craig. He is a big strikeout, but big reward type of player. You give him the chance to drive in runs and deal with his strikeouts. This could come in handy for the Nats’ if the players play to their ability who are in front of him.

8. Anthony Rendon – 2b: Anthony Rendon rounds out the position players for the Nats’. His job isn’t easy either. He has to get on base to give the pitcher a chance of laying down a bunt and moving him over to turn the lineup over. He will be playing in his first full season, so this spot won’t put too much pressure, but just enough to hold him accountable. He gets on base at an above average rate, so that is a good sign for Rendon.

That is how I see the lineup shaping up for the Nats’ this season. It brings the strengths of every player out and allows the Nats’ to score a lot of runs. Williams will be aggressive with this lineup and try to score more runs than he possibly can, but it is worth a shot. He has some good speed spread throughout the top half and then Rendon at the bottom to turn the lineup over.

Again, if you have a better lineup, please share it with us. We appreciate the feedback and would like to interact with the fans as much as possible, because we are fans ourselves.

Stats Courtesy of Baseball-Reference and FanGraphs 

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