Day-Off Monday. The Denard Span line-up version 2.0

The season is a marathon, and the sprint has started as there are 39 games for the Nationals remaining in the regular season.  The Nats are back above .500 and optimism has returned about a lineup that got the bats going over the last few days, and will look healthier in the next few days when Denard Span returns.

With Werth, Rendon and Ramos all contributing in big ways, and with Escobar sidelined,  Espinosa stepped up again in the clutch.  Michael A. Taylor had quite the run with HRs and RBIs in the last week, and Bryce showed he can go oppo to beat the defensive shifts employed on him with just the flick of the bat aimed down the vacated 3rd base line.  Werth got back over the Mendoza line with a .202 BA and Ian Desmond raised his BA to .229.

The best news could be Denard Span’s imminent return to the Nationals line-up; however, this will change the outfield alignment with Michael Taylor being the most likely odd man out.  Denard Span will man centerfield, and Bryce Harper will occupy rightfield.  Most likely Jayson Werth is the every day leftfielder which will limit Michael A. Taylor’s playing time.  The good news is that MAT can be a much needed late inning defensive replacement, and can also give any of the outfielders some needed days off, but Matt Williams has never been too keen on many “rest” days for his veterans in the infield or outfield as well as days off for his 2 young studs in Rendon and Harper.

Soon Michael A. Taylor will be able to commiserate with Danny Espinosa as they both occupy the bench while thinking they deserve significant playing time.  It’s just the way it is under the management of Matt Williams, and while MW has various stats to show Espinosa is better on the bench, there’s no way to dance around the stats and try to convince us Jayson R. G. Werth is superior to Michael A. Taylor as the leftfielder.  In almost every offensive stat and every defensive stat,  MAT ranks higher than Werth.  If there’s any question, FanGraphs rates MAT as #1 on the entire Nats team in defense.  The important note here is that while we think MAT is better than JDub,  we have made previous points that even MAT’s season totals are weak for a corner outfielder and Mike Rizzo could have upgraded LF through a trade.

Here’s the movie screen version of the 2015 slashline comparison of Werth to Taylor:

Taylor v Werth

Thursday’s lineup in the series finale with the Padres could very well look like this:

  1. Denard Span CF
  2. Anthony Rendon 2B
  3. Bryce Harper RF
  4. Ryan Zimmerman 1B
  5. Yunel Escobar 3B
  6. Ian Desmond SS
  7. Jayson Werth LF
  8. José Lobaton C
  9. Gio Gonzalez P

The week ahead includes series in Washington against the Padres followed by the Marlins and then the Nats fly out next Sunday night for a road trip to St. Louis to start on Monday August 31st.

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  • The season is a marathon, and the sprint has started as there are 39 games for the Nationals remaining in the regular season.

    If the season is a marathon, there would be about six and a half miles left. And the Nats would be about 4/5ths of a mile, or 1424 yards, back of the Mets.


  • Glad to find your site, Steve! I was at yesterday’s game. Glad to see the win – with some key hits with men on the bases. But I’m still so annoyed that Desmond is in the lineup. His “hit” with the bases loaded and 2 outs was really an error by the Brewers pitcher, Garza, who bobbled the ball. Desmond came up again with bases loaded and (I think) struck out. Any chance of trading him – even this late in the season? The entire park was silent when Drew Storen came in at the top of he 8th. Of course, he allowed a home run. Just awful. He managed to finish his bit with no more damage, but it is really hard to watch him pitch. (Don’t expect to see him on the 2016 Nats.) Didn’t feel that way when Papelbon come into the game in the 9th. One more thing – I would rather see Trea Turner playing SS than Desmond, even with TT’s limited experience. And I hope MW will allow our third baseman, Anthony Rendon, to continue to play at 3rd base when Escobar returns. Let Escobar play SS. Wishful thinking, because MW is not a creative manager. I’ll be glad to see his replacement in 2016.

    • Welcome to our Nats community! Love having new input and we are always open to ideas for Blog posts as well as authors for the site. So far 6 different people have stepped up and written. Trying to make it less about me and more about everyone.

      I think there’s always a chance of Rizzo shocking the world and making a trade but looking at the contenders only the Angels and Yankees appear to need an upgrade at SS and wouldn’t pay what Rizzo would want I believe. Desi is still valuable to the Nats and almost certainly with his bounceback in the 2nd half will receive a Qualified Offer that he would reject allowing the Nats to receive a Draft Compensation pick in return.

      You and Jim Bowden and I’m sure many others would want to see TT at shortstop BUT this probably wouldn’t happen unless and until the Nats were mathematically eliminated from the playoffs. MW had a chance yesterday late in the game to insert TT and he didn’t which is the way MW is with his veterans + Harp + Rendon.

      • Re: Desi-dumping. Won’t be Turner, if only because Escobar, Espinosa, and Rendon (and Zim at first) would still be the infield without him.

    • jd

      People, have patience. Turner is next year’s story. For now, Desi is playing very well since the all star break. Now is not the time to experiment with new alignments, new players etc. This team was supposed to be good enough to win the division easily coming into the season. In a couple of days, and for the 1st time this year we will have the complete lineup healthy. Let’s see if we are good enough to win the division without converting the kitchen into a bathroom and the den into a bedroom.

      • Jim Bowden has been discussing this for weeks. I’m with you but PhillyGirl1807 brings up a hot topic and as I said above it needs to play out as the postseason is still the priority.

  • with Span back, do the Nats have one of the strongest bench if they make the playoffs (Espinosa, MAT, Clint Robinson and Loboton and ?…Wow)

    • Gonats

      I think the bench goes back to a 5 man bench and maybe you put a speedster like Turner on the bench. MAT becomes your 4th outfielder which is key so yes, I like that bench construction.

      Remember how the Royals turned their bench into a track team? It worked well for them. They inserted guys who could bunt, steal bases, cause grief to the other team and it worked. Trea Turner could be that guy.

      • I would like to see alot more of Trea Turner while hes here. Not in key spots, certainly in blowout games. He should have been playing the 8th inning last night.

        • jd

          I think Turner goes back when Span returns. I don’t think you want to burn too much of his service time while he’s sitting on the bench.

          • I agree jd but now that he’s on the 40 man roster he will be eligible to come back when the Syracuse season ends.

      • Yes, a good reason to bring Mr. Turner along come October if there is an October for the Nats

    • The September bench will give MW some great options to make late inning defensive replacements and probably pinch-run with Trea Turner

      • yes…i was thinking more of the Playoff bench (the october bench) as the best of any potential contender.

  • If you believe Span is an upgrade at leadoff then this should be a better lineup.

    I would go Span, Werth, Harper, RZ, Rendon, Esco, Desi, Ramos

    See how that works.

    • Gonats

      I could like that if Werth can get on base. You could substitute MAT for late inning defense and speed.

    • But will MW just do the position player switch so not to confuse anyone 😉
      eg: Werth/MAT eighth…..unlikely

  • You really think they drop Werth that low in the order after having success at the top?

    • Maybe you put him at #2. JD has him at #3. All I know is MW is writing him into the lineup and whether it’s 2, 3, 5, 6, or 7, he’s going to be in there the day Span rejoins the team!

      • Great discussion and glad you put this out there. It seems like this is the perfect discussion or debate for the off-day.

        • Gonats

          Nobody seems to be discussing the infield as Rendon at 3rd and Espinosa at 2nd also seems to be the best infield configuration.

          With a full roster I see MW has some work to do in putting together lineups and getting Espi some starts and also MAT.

          • I think we’ve already seen that MW is playing a healthy Escobar, Rendon and Desi in his infield and sitting Espinosa.

            Certainly the best defensive alignment is Rendon at 3rd, Desi at SS and Espinosa at 2B.

  • rayvil01

    FWIW, JW talked his way back into the lineup on Saturday, and then he went out and “Played hard” as FP said. That made me think that he’s decided to be the Alpha Dog on the team and lead them forward. It’s not just his play. He was the team spokesman to Joe West to tell him his Balls-and-strikes umpire was bad. He doesn’t have a “C” stitched onto his shirt. But, it’s definitely his team right now from what I’m seeing.

    MW isn’t going to sit him down unless he’s hurt at this point. I may be wrong on that. But, that was the vibe I got from reading the tea leaves all weekend.

    • Gonats

      Me thinks that JW talking his way into the lineup on Saturday was more how he felt. Who could forget how bad he looked on Friday night where a line drive hit right to him was miss judged in a 2 run inning then the flyball he couldn’t run 30 feet to broke the game open. Some said the change of altititdue going from the Denver thin air back to Washington DC would play havoc on his legs was right. I think after a good night sleep for Saturday he said to MW he was ready. He was and played better.

      I do agree with you that he is the team “C” without the “C”.

      I also agree MW isn’t going to sit him.

    • No doubt Jayson Werth is the clubhouse leader. Also the rumors of Jayson’s total demise was greatly exaggerated but let’s face it, he sometimes plays like he has concrete legs. Werth has raised his batting average from the .180’s to .202 and while that’s nothing to brag about it is progress and going in the right direction. His timing at the plate looks better also.

      With Denard Span coming back and at lead-off, who is the better LF for this team? JDub or MAT?

  • rayvil01

    The rub is that JW is doing well in leadoff. He works counts. He walks. Those are two things that MAT does not consistently do. If he had a good OBP, then playing him over JW is an easy call. MAT’s defense is head-and-shoulders better. And, MAT has more pop in his bat at this point. He’s also a better threat to steal. He just doesn’t get on base enough.

    • Gonats

      but MAT does have a better OBP than Werth. JDub takes more walks in the BB/9 but because his BA is so low MAT slashes better in every category. lets compare slashlines.

      Werth: .202/.278/.303/.581
      Taylor: 242/.290/.392/.682

      That’s a 101 point difference in OPS!

      The other point is once Span comes back he’s the leadoff and where do you bat Jayson Werth. It’s true that Werth did well in the leadoff in a very small sample size.

      In defensive stats, there’s no comparison. Werth still ranks as the 2nd worst Leftfielder in the Majors and Michael A. Taylor ranks as the 2nd best outfielder at any position in the outfield in the Majors.

      • rayvil01

        Thanks for the numbers. I was just going by eye test and should have looked.
        JW certainly upped his game when put in leadoff and that’s what probably gave me that impression. OBP is the one I was thinking of more than OPS where Taylor’s Homers are going to rule.
        Your question about where does JW hit is a good one. Could it be 8th?

        • I’m glad you both went there. Obviously MAT had also been en fuego lately and you should see his August slashline.

          This is the discussion I hope we were going to have. Who should be the Nats starting LF for the majority of the game?

          My answer is Carlos Gonzalez but since Rizzo won’t be getting him it would be Michael A. Taylor based on superior defense, speed, and OPS. I would work Jayson in a couple days a week just to keep his timing crisp and get him those starts against breaking ball pitchers.

          • jd

            I disagree. I think that at this stage of the season you have to go with the lineup you envisioned at the beginning of the year and let the chips fall where they may. We will have plenty of time to reconstruct the lineup in the off season but for now you need Jayson’s leadership in there every day with MAT coming in for defense any time we have the lead late and also playing a couple of games a week.

            My lineup is: Span,Rendon,Werth,Harper,Zim,Esco,Desi,Ramos with Espi in for the other infielders a couple of times a week and always in for defense late.

            • jd, I like how you see the intangibles in your lineup construction.

              I already know JDub will be in the Thursday line-up. No doubt in my mind which is why I penciled him in for my example in the blog post.

              I just don’t know if it’s the best for the team. Jayson’s leadership can still be on the railing of the dugout kind of how Uggla was doing it all year. I also think Jayson needs to play a couple games a week against those breaking ball pitchers.

              With all that said, MW will be starting Jayson Werth over Michael A. Taylor. Thursday will feel like Opening Day.

          • rayvil01

            With enough research I would imagine we could find a correlation for the Nats this year between leadoff batter On-base performance in a given game versus wins. It was like May of last year when people were hollering for Span to come out of leadoff because he didn’t get on base enough. Then Bryce said he wanted to play CF and Span caught fire. A year and change later and Span is the Man to leadoff without a second thought. Funny how that works.

            CarGo is my choice for LF also. LOL There’s a week left. It could happen!

            • This is Cargo’s road slash by the way .250/.307/.495/.802 Still superior to both with a huge SLG component. Unfortunately his OBP drop-off is significant. Still CarGo’s numbers are still better than Werth or MAT.

              Maybe that’s the concern about CarGo is that he’s certainly good on the road but not as dominating. Could he adapt to a new “home” park and dominate on a home slash? Great question. Road stats are tough because of the travel and park effects.

              While I don’t think CarGo would put up a .951 OPS like he has in Colorado, I think he would slash well over .800 in Nats Park.

      • zmunchkin

        IMO this is a classic example where the eye test is better. Comparing year to date numbers for a player who has been healthy all year with one who has had two extended DL stints can be terribly misleading.

        • I agree plus MW is putting Werth in LF and its his lineup card.

        • All good points on offense where the differential isn’t off the charts, but on defense Werth has been bad and you have to give a premium to defense. MAT in LF is probably the best next to Alex Gordon of any LF you could pencil in.