After Mike Morse began his 2011 campaign with a .224/.267/.284 batting line, there are a lot of predictions you could have made about the rest of his season that I might have believed. That Morse would be competing for the National League batting title in the middle of August would not be one of them.
“Mr. Beast Mode” is doing just that however, and the rest of baseball is starting to notice. Entering Wednesday night’s game Morse ranked second in the National League in batting with a .323 mark, trailing only the Mets’ injured shortstop, Jose Reyes. Should Reyes’ current hamstring issues put him in a slump, or keep him from reaching the at-bats necessary to qualify, the Nats realistically could have their first-ever batting champion.
That accolade would be quite the pleasant surprise when you consider how Mike Morse became an early season afterthought once Laynce Nix took his starting position in left field. Not only that, considering his outstanding performance since May 1, Morse will likely be seriously considered for the Most Improved Player award.
As we have pointed out, Morse’s improvement this season coincides with his move from the outfield, where he looked like a fish out of water, back to the infield, where he began his career.
Morse in OF: 27 G, .256/.273/.354 with 2 HR and 10 RBI
Morse at 1B: 71 G, .348/.403/.634 with 18 HR, and 58 RBI
To put Morse’s first base numbers in perspective, over the course of a season at that pace he would hit .348/.403/.634 with 41 HR and 118 RBI. To put that in perspective, last season Albert Pujols hit .312/.414/.596 with 52 HR and 118 RBI.
While we have made the argument that the switch to first base likely helped Morse at the plate, it’s hard to believe that was the only factor that turned the .250 hitter into a .340 hitter. It’s likely that on top of the position change, Morse benefited from a second chance. The slugger had been awarded a starting spot in early spring training and blew it by a terrible showing in April, he clearly wasn’t willing to let another opportunity pass by.