There is really no underestimating how crucial Michael Morse has been to the Nationals' surge the last few weeks. It is not farfetched to say that Morse has been the offensive Most Valuable Player for the first 70 games of the season.
Not only has Morse's bat been the biggest in the lineup, but his play at first base has really solved two problems for the price of one. His defense has kept the team in ballgames and his bat has won them.
When Adam LaRoche started nursing his shoulder injury, the Nationals' offense was stagnating, but LaRoche's defense was continually better then the Nationals had seen in three seasons.
When Ryan Zimmerman went down to injury, I felt it might be a good decision to move Morse from left field back to the infield, where he started his career. Morse broke into the league with this week's opponent, the Seattle Mariners, as a shortstop.
The third base experiment never materialized. But because of the ongoing LaRoche injury, Morse was moved to first base and has done an impressive job of scooping up low throws, completing double plays and getting guys out.
Morse had a very good spring training with nine home runs. He started the regular season slowly, but now is rolling with the best power numbers of his career.
His 13 homers leads the team after 70 games and his 43 RBIs are a career high. Coming into this season, he had hit 21 homers in 237 career games. His 13 doubles are a career high. His slugging percentage (.564) and OPS (.921) are career highs.
If you add his games played from last season to this year, it totals a full season, 161 games. During that span, he has hit 28 homers with 84 RBI.
During the last 10 games, in which the Nationals have gone 8-2, Morse has hit .342 with four homers and 10 RBI.
And despite starting the season slower than he would have liked, Morse has not altered his approach at the plate that suddenly triggered these big power numbers.
"It hasn't changed one bit," Morse said. "(It is the) same thing. I am the same person. (I am the) same guy. I am just playing. Mentally, I am challenging myself everyday. I am going up there. I am trying to have good at-bats."