With Cristian Guzman on the DL, the Nats are missing their best approximation of something that most baseball teams have – a leadoff hitter.Guzman-run It’s not that he’s particularly fast, or allows the pitcher to throw alot of pitches so the rest of the team can see. What makes him a successful choice as the leadoff hitter is that he actually hits like a major league baseball player. Which is more than the Nats can say about everyone else that has been there. Milledge was the closest approximation, Anderson Hernandez has been a disappointment so far, and Alex Cintron has only really hit well one season, in 2003. He’s been given chances since then, but it has never worked out for him. As a result, the leadoff spot in this lineup has combined for truly laughable numbers.

The 1st spot in the lineup has exactly 0 HRs, 0 extra base hits of any kind, 5 walks, 19 Ks, and 11 hits. As the leadoff spot, it also sports the most PAs, with 67 (#2 and #3 each have 66). This all comes together for splits of .180/.250/.180. Yeah, those are the kind of numbers that make you miss Bonifacio. He, by the way, has fallen completely off the map since that first weekend in Washington. His numbers are pitiful, not even replacement level, and yet, since that weekend he is only batting .231/.245/.250. That’s awful, but it’s still .061 OPS points higher than the Nats #1 spot! Of course, I’m not saying Bonifacio should be here hitting leadoff. Not only does he still not get you where you need to be, he provides the dangerous chance that people will THINK he does, and KEEP him there. Wasting more outs, and more time.

The main culprits have been Hernandez, who is hitting.207/.303/.207, and Milledge, who hit .167/.231/.167. No power from either, although Hernandez has had an OBP that gets closer to respectable (and beats everyone’s favorite former Nat current Marlin). Milledge has been dealt with, and Hernandez seems to be the starter at second most days. I don’t have a problem with this, if they think Hernandez is going to be a good player, and hit well enough. My problem is batting him leadoff. Just to get an idea of how the rest of the lineup has worked out, here’s their numbersNickJ

2nd – .505/.554/.576
3rd – .274/.318/.468
4th – .271/.462/.583
5th – .259/.328/.431
6th – .245/.375/.453
7th – .208/.271/.245
8th – .245/.322/.340
9th – .159/.260/.250

Some are funny – 2nd is great because Guzman tore it up there, now Johnson has been doing it. 3rd is exclusively Zimmerman’s numbers, 4th is almost only Dunn. The 9th spot is hitting better than leadoff, but that’s because of pinch hitter’s, not because of pitchers hitting well. I’m not saying the lineup needs to be completely shuffled. I just don’t think the worst hitters should be on the top. I think Zimmerman is more of a #5 hitter than a #3 guy, but I’m ok with him there if that’s how they want to do it. As for Hernandez, there is room at the bottom of the lineup for this sort of player. As long as there is no player ready to take the reigns as a true leadoff hitter, and there isn’t, they should move the lineup around a bit. It’s not so much about the ORDER, just that, over the season, the leadoff spot gets the most ABs

So How Should They Order It?

One philosophy says just go best hitter to worst, since the guys at the top get more PAs. Or at least rank by OBP. If you did that, this would be the lineup tonight:blue-dukes

LF – Dunn
1B – Johnson
RF – Kearns
CF – Dukes
C – Flores
3B – Zimmerman
SS – Gonzalez
2B – Hernandez

There are some obvious flaws with this approach, even ignoring the fact that I am looking at numbers from a now 14-game-old season. The biggest one is that someone like Dunn gets on base alot, but he also gets alot of extra base hits. So he has the opportunity to drive people home. But that doesn’t mean I don’t think they should rearrange it. Here’s how I’d put the lineup together while there is no classic leadoff hitter (2009 #s, Career):

1. 1B – Johnson (.380/.446/.420, .272/.397/.455)
2. CF – Dukes (.311/.380/.533, .242/.361/.451)
3. 3B – Zimmerman (.274/.318/.468, .282/.340/.462)
4. RF – Dunn (.283/.476/.609, .247/.383/.519)
5. LF – Willingham (.174/.321/.348, .264/.360/470)
6. C – Flores (.268/.340/.317, .253/.305/.381)
7. SS – Gonzalez (.241/.313/.414, .236/.299/.347)
8. 2B – Hernandez (.207/.303/.207, .228/.286/.279)

– or if you prefer, in place of Willingham:
5. RF – Kearns (.229/.354/.514, .259/.354/.436)
and Dunn plays LF –

Some people would take issue batting Johnson leadoff. But that issue only really comes from him being slow. If you really want, you can bat Dukes leadoff. With me, it comes down to this – Johnson hasn’t shown much power recently, and I’m not sure that he ever will. But he can hit and get on base. So let him do that. Dukes can drive people in, he also has enough power to be in the middle of the lineup. Eventually, when Guzman gets back, this is the lineup that I’d like to see:

1. SS – Guzman (.515/.515/.576, .272/.309/.387)
2. 1B – Johnson (.380/.446/.420, .272/.397/.455)
3. CF – Dukes (.311/.380/.533, .242/.361/.451)
4. RF – Dunn (.283/.476/.609, .247/.383/.519)
5. 3B – Zimmerman (.274/.318/.468, .282/.340/.462)
6. LF – Willingham (.174/.321/.348, .264/.360/470)
7. C – Flores (.268/.340/.317, .253/.305/.381)
8. 2B – Hernandez (.207/.303/.207, .228/.286/.279)

By Charlie