Now that the Nationals are healthy and Trea Turner is back and cycling around the bases, Dusty Baker is burdened with the best of problems: how does he build his lineup? Earlier this week, Court Swift discussed his optimal lineup with everyone healthy, but here we’re going to look at the options I think Dusty will be seriously considering for the long-term. Normally I would say that with a team this talented and deep, they can go the route of playing matchups and the hot hand. But Dusty is far too traditional for that, so my thinking is that within the next week or so he’s going to really decide on a lineup to stick with (until the next injury changes everything). I see three likely options.
First, the lineup we have seen often this week since Turner returned:
- Adam Eaton
- Bryce Harper
4/5. Daniel Murphy / Ryan Zimmerman
- Anthony Rendon
- Jayson Werth
- Matt Wieters
With this lineup, I think Murphy and Zimmerman are relatively interchangeable — at least until Zim stops homering on a ridiculous 33% of his fly balls — because there is not a severe grouping of lefties. It is easy to see why Dusty is comfortable with this lineup, with Turner just returning from injury and Eaton getting on base at a .385 clip. This is the lineup I would go with. I think it balances the lineup, allows Turner to use his power to drive in runs while still not being held back too much in the running game, and gives Harper protection with whichever right-side infielder is healthy and/or hot. Unfortunately, my wishes do not align with what I think Dusty will do. He has made it clear that Trea is his leadoff man *cue Matt Williams closer meme* so I think Turner eventually settles into that first spot, possibly by the time the Mets visit Washington on April 28th.
One option is the opening day lineup:
It is hard to ignore the back-to-back-to-back lefties hitting 3-4-5. This worked fine against the Marlins and their lefty-free bullpen, but I find it hard to believe that Dusty will run out this lineup against a team with strong lefty relief arms or against any southpaw starter.
Therefore, I think the lineup that the Nationals are going to go with as long as they are healthy will look like this:
Dusty wants Turner leading off, and I do not think there is any way he goes with three lefties in a row, which leaves this lineup as the obvious option. The problem with this is how necessary it is that Zimmerman continues to play at a high level and not revert to his 2016 form when he went 0 for 10 with the bases loaded and hit under .200 with RISP. Regardless of whether you believe this is sustainable, I think it puts too much importance on, at his absolute best, the fifth best hitter in the lineup. It is not what I would do, but this is the lineup I expect to see moving forward.Tags: Adam Eaton, Anthony Rendon, Bryce Harper, Daniel Murphy, Dusty Baker, Jayson Werth, Matt Wieters, Nationals, Nats, Ryan Zimmerman, Trea Turner, Washington Nationals