NEW YORK | When Nationals manager Jim Riggleman looks at his players’ individual numbers, he sees an offense that, put simply, should have been better than it was this year.
For the first half of the season, the Nationals had possibly the National League’s best heart of the order, with Ryan Zimmerman, Adam Dunn and Josh Willingham all among the league’s top players in terms of OPS. The Nationals also got a solid rookie season from Ian Desmond, and Roger Bernadina and Michael Morse combined to give them more production than some thought they would get from the right field position when they cut Elijah Dukes this spring.
But as a whole, the Nationals’ offense is in the bottom third of the league in most categories. It’s been an attack that hasn’t equaled the sum of its parts, and Riggleman would love to know why.
“I don’t know exactly how to answer for it, but I think maybe a couple categories that we’re not real good in - the situational hitting, the on-base percentage - those two things probably have to go up a little more,” Riggleman said. “On-base percentage is the one area that we need to (improve). If our offense is going to score more runs, we’ve got to get on base a little more.”
As a team, the Nationals dropped from a .337 on-base percentage in 2009, which was sixth-best in the National League, to a .319 mark this year, which is 11th in the NL. That mark suffered as Nyjer Morgan’s production dropped, Dunn walked less and the Nationals gave plenty of at-bats to young players still trying to solidify their approach against major league pitching.
And there’s probably some correlation between that and Riggleman’s assessment of the season - that this Nationals team should have won more than it did.
“I’m not happy with the year at all,” Riggleman said. “I thought in the year (2009), we won more games than we should have won. I think this year, we lost more games than we should have. I thought we should have won 75 ballgames, and we didn’t reach 70. So I’m certainly not satisfied with what we did. Now, am I satisfied with the effort we got, the intensity and the passion we played with? Yeah. That’s what you ask for from your players - give me that every day. I think for the most part, we got that. So I know we got effort. I know we got preparation. We’ve just got to tweak some things.”