When they needed the production the most, Washington Nationals designated hitters have put up putrid numbers.
The National League adopted a full time designated hitter for the 2020 season and the Washington Nationals were blessed with an extra bat in the lineup. Unfortunately they haven’t taken advantage of it.
Before the season began there were several good fits for the job. Howie Kendrick would slot as the DH, and could stay off his aging legs. Eric Thames was fresh off a 25 home run season and could provide some power for the position. Asdrubal Cabrera could rotate through on occasion, just to keep his bat in the lineup, after hitting .323 with the Nats a year ago.
Through nearly forty games this year the Washington Nationals designated hitters have been nonexistent, leaving the team at a huge disadvantage against other teams.
Seven different players have started a game at DH and none of them have produced like the Nationals hoped they would. Kendrick and Thames are the players penciled in the most, a total of 27 times, and have zero home runs between them as the DH.
In fact Nationals designated hitters have hit just two home runs collectively. They have combined for a .214 batting average and team worst .578 OPS. Only one position in the lineup has contributed less extra base hits, and the singles hitting Carter Kieboom at third base, is to thank for that.
American League teams have made a living on putting home run hitters at the role of designated hitter. The Nationals don’t even have guys hitting for average at the spot.
Of the seven players to DH this year, only Juan Soto and Kieboom are guaranteed to be back with the team next year. If the designated hitter is agreed upon as part of collective bargaining, neither Soto or Kieboom will be the DH. There isn’t a DH on the roster.
As much as an upgrade to the back end of the rotation is needed, a power hitting designated hitter may be just as important. Putting a bat in the lineup who can protect Soto, or get on base at a high clip himself, will drive the offense further.
A light hitting DH isn’t the reason the Nationals have struggled this year. The .266 team batting average is third best in the league. They are eleventh in home runs and ninth in runs scored, however. A power hitting designated hitter won’t push the Nationals over the top on his own, but it won’t hurt either.