Finding some offense from the No. 9 spot

We’ve talked often about how the Nationals’ projected 2013 lineup appears pretty strong from 1-8 in the order.

Power, on-base percentage and speed; regardless of whether Adam LaRoche returns or not, the Nats will have a potent top eight in their order in multiple facets.

One thing we haven’t talked that much about is how the Nationals’ No. 9 hitter often will give this lineup an added element that not many teams can match. And no, by that I don’t mean that Davey Johnson will be channeling his inner Jim Riggleman and hitting a position player ninth in the order.

As a group, Nationals pitchers batted .164 last season. That number might not look too pretty upon first glance, but it registered as the best collective batting average among pitchers on any National League club.

Nats hurlers also led all NL teams in on-base percentage (.208) and slugging percentage (.221).

The leader of the pack last season was Stephen Strasburg, who won a Silver Slugger after ranking second among major league pitchers in batting average (.277) and pacing all pitchers in doubles (four) and on-base percentage (.333).

You won’t find too many pitchers out there who can reach base a third of the time they step to the plate.

Strasburg was also one of three Nats pitchers to homer last season, along with Jordan Zimmermann and Gio Gonzalez.

The Nats lost one of their better-swinging hurlers this offseason when Edwin Jackson signed with the Cubs, but they’ll replace Jackson in the rotation with Dan Haren, a guy who has hit an impressive .223 in 264 career at-bats.

Haren spent the last two-plus seasons in the American League, but back in 2010, he went a whopping 20-for-55 (.364) with a home run and seven RBIs with the Diamondbacks before a midseason trade sent him to the Angels.

Check out Haren’s full slash line with the D’backs in that 2010 season: .364/.375/.527.

Yes, folks, that’s an OPS of .902. It’s safe to say the Nationals’ offensive numbers out of their pitchers might even improve a bit over last season.

This isn’t to say that every starter the Nationals will send to the mound is a major threat with the bat. Gonzalez and Ross Detwiler took their share of awkward cuts last season, and combined to record just eight hits in 109 collective at-bats.

But with Strasburg, Zimmermann and Haren, the Nats have at least three starters who can handle the bat and help their own cause, giving an already impressive lineup even more depth.

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