After 32 unimpressive plate appearances last season, 24-year-old Steve Lombardozzi came into this season looking to improve, despite a limited role. ZiPS projected him to hit .265/.316/.379 in 655 plate appearances, a prediction that turned out to be quite accurate. In only 416 plate appearances, Lombardozzi hit .273/.317/.354 with three home runs, 27 RBI, and 40 runs scored. Lombardozzi played a fair amount as a pinch hitter, starting only 83 on the 126 games he appeared in. In 20 of those games, he never played an out on defense, appearing only as a pinch hitter. He also played second base in 51 games, left field in 41, third base in 13, and shortstop in one.
October 2, 2012; Washington, D.C., USA; Washington Nationals left fielder Steve Lombardozzi (1) singles in the first inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Joy R. Absalon-US PRESSWIRE
After starting only four of his first twelve games, hitting .308 in the process, Lombardozzi started nine consecutive games at third base from April 27th to May 6th as Ryan Zimmerman missed time with a shoulder injury. After 13 more games, including four more starts, Lombardozzi was hitting .310 before he stepped in to the left field starting job on May 27th after Jayson Werth broke his wrist and Roger Bernadina faltered in the starting job. He started the next 14 games, placed in the leadoff spot by Davey Johnson by virtue of his .366 on base percentage. However, he too did not perform in left, hitting .222, and was platooned with Bernadina.
Lombardozzi continued his role as a utility injury replacement after the All-Star break, when Ian Desmond missed a month with an oblique injury. He started 34 consecutive games after the break, almost exclusively at second base as Danny Espinosa moved to shortstop, and hit .297 during that time. He finished the season with a return to his bench role, starting only nine of his final 28 games while hitting .231. He made three pinch-hit appearances in the playoffs, going 1-3.
Season Highlight: Lombardozzi had no walkoffs or end-game heroics, but still had some great games. Against Houston on April 16th, he went 4-5 with two RBIs, both of which came on a tie-breaking double in the sixth inning, giving the Nats a lead they would not relinquish.
Next Season: While it does not appear that Lombardozzi will be jumping into a starting role any time soon, look for him to continue performing as a valuable bench member for years to come.
Chien Ming Wang