Nate McLouth: 2014 Year In Review


Jun 3, 2014; Washington, DC, USA;Washington Nationals left fielder Nate McLouth (15) warms up prior to the game against the Philadelphia Phillies at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Nationals fans were excited by the signing of Nate McLouth for the 2014-2015 seasons. McLouth was coming off a good year as a utility player with the Baltimore Orioles.

In 2013, Nate had 593 plate appearances for the Orioles. During that season, he hit .258, stole 30 bases and played good outfield defense. When he was available as a free agent at the end of the 2013 campaign, the Nationals signed him up for two years.

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The team anticipated having McLouth, a left-handed batter, available off the bench in a pinch-hitting situation and available in pinch running situations when a stolen base opportunity was available late in a game and a run was needed. He would also be able to give Jayson Werth, Denard Span and Bryce Harper days off or fill in if one of them was injured and out of the line up for a significant period of time.

Unfortunately for the Nats and McLouth, things did not work out as diagramed. McLouth sustained a shoulder injury which derailed the plan.

It is unclear exactly when McLouth was injured. It turned out that he had a torn labrum in his right shoulder (he throws right, although he bats left). It is also apparent in statements from the team made in August and in looking at McLouth’s production he had been dealing with the injury all season.

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The reason it is unclear when the shoulder was injured is that a torn labrum will affect a player’s hiting (just ask Adam LaRoche), and McLouth was not hitting well from the beginning of the season. In April in a mix of opportunities as a pinch hitter and as a starter, McLouth hit .108.
Everyone professed themselves to be mystified by his low production.

By the end of May, when McLouth was making lots of starts due to the injury to Harper’s thumb, his average crept up to .188, which was still painful.

McLouth had no stolen bases in April, four in May, and no more during the rest of his playing time during the season.

At the end of June his batting average was .197. That was as high as it got. By the end of July his average was down to .174. Apparently by now the team was aware that McLouth was having shoulder problems, which problems were aggravated when he made an outfield catch July 28th. He had been receiving treatment for the shoulder all season, but it was not improving.

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  • He played his last game for the Nats on August 1st, and underwent season ending surgery on August 21st to repair the torn labrum.

    McLouth is supposed to be recovered within six months of the surgery, which means he should be ready for spring training 2015, as long as his recovery goes as planned and there are no setbacks.
    Are the Nationals going to have the 2013 McLouth or the 2014 McLouth for the 2015 season? Only time will tell. The uncertainty with McLouth’s situation may cause the Nationals to pick up a cheap veteran left-handed bench player when the spring training cuts are made by other teams if McLouth has a shaky spring training.