Michael Morse: A Statistical Story

Back in 2009 Mike Rizzo and the Washington Nationals struck gold. They traded away a journeyman outfielder with less than 200 Nats ABs to the Mariners for a 6′ 5″ infielder. The player Rizzo sent away would only get 318 At Bats for the M’s over the next three years, while his counterpart managed to turn into one of the most feared sluggers in the National League East (true story). The disparity between Ryan Langerhans and Mike Morse grew even larger after a breakout year for the Nationals 29 year-old Slugger.

There is no question in anyone’s mind that Micheal Morse was the Nationals MVP this year – Hell, Joe wrote that very same topic in a post earlier this week! I’m not here to argue this fact, but to simply express some concerns over Morse’s future with the club – primarily which position he will play.

According to all reports, Mike Rizzo and soon-to-be full-time manager Davey Johnson have stated that, come Spring Training, Adam LaRoche will re-assume his position as Nationals First-Baseman. And according to all outside-of-the-beltway baseball writers, the Nationals are going to be one of the main players in the Prince Fielder sweepstakes; another First-Baseman. There are also rumblings that a former 1st-round Draft Pick, Chris Marrero, will end up wasting away in the minors after a solid September call-up.

This September Davey Johnson started to help Michael Morse with the transition early, playing some sort of Marrero/Laynce Nix/Alex Cora platoon. Things didn’t go so well for Morse at the dish or in the field, continuing a trend that started in April. Let’s take a look at the breakdown.

From the naked eye, Morse played roughly 2 to 2.5 months as an Outfielder (April and September), while the other 4 months were spent at 1B – but just to be sure that my ideas are correct, let’s take a look at the April, May-August, and September splits:

April – .211/.253/.268. 71 ABs. 4 R. 15 H. 1 2B. 2 HR. 9 RBI.
May-August – .338/.405/.617. 358 ABs. 56 R. 121 H. 31 2B. 23 HR. 68 RBI.
September – .237/.297/.505. 93 ABs. 13 R. 22 H. 4 2B. 7 HR. 18 RBI.

So, now let’s compare those splits above with Morse’s offensive stats as a first-baseman as opposed to an outfielder.

As 1B – .336/.401/.601. 318 ABs. 53 R. 107 H. 27 2B. 19 HR. 62 RBI.
As OF – .254/.293/.482. 193 ABs. 23 R. 49 H. 8 2B. 12 HR. 23 RBI.

For some reason, Morse hits .080 points lower by AVG, .100 points lower in OBP, and .100 points lower in Slugging % when he plays in the outfield as opposed to 1B. Want some more reason why I’m a bit worried about Morse roaming around in LF? Let’s take a quick look at his defensive numbers – proceeded by a very quick italicized description

You have, by now, seen UZR used and over-used. I love UZR, I just love UZR/150 a little bit more. Essentially, it breaks down defense into a shorter-term concept as opposed to UZR where you don’t get a good judge on a players ability (or lack thereof) until you have three whole years of data. UZR/150 is basically UZR per 150 games.

This one is going to be much easier to explain – here are Morse’s defensive splits for 2011.
As 1B – -8.2 UZR/150
As OF – -21.6 UZR/150

Both numbers are not great, but one is much worse than the other. Essentially in 150 games as a 1B, Morse will give up 8.2 runs worse than the average MLB first-baseman and when playing OF he gives up 21.6 more runs than the average MLB outfielder.

Looking at these numbers, both defensive and offensive, it really worries me that Michael Morse won’t be near as valuable to the ballclub when playing in the outfield next year. It really makes you think twice about Michael Morse’s true value on the 2012 Nationals.

Craig MacHenry is the Managing Editor of CapitolBaseball.com and a regular guest writer for The Nats Blog.  He will provide regular opinion and analysis posts throughout the year.

Joe Drugan

About Joe Drugan

Joe is the Managing Editor of The Nats Blog and host of the Nats Talk On The Go podcast. He's been blogging about the Nationals since 2010 and with The Nats Blog since 2011.