Adam LaRoche led all NL first basemen in homers and was second in RBI last year. That, plus a Gold Glove, meant that if all-star teams were picked after the season, he might have made his first one in ’12. This year, after a horrid April, he’s still only 19th in RBI among MLB first basemen and would be perhaps the NL’s sixth- or seventh-best player at his spot.
Denard Span is average. WAR includes defense and base running. It ranks him 16th among center fielders in ’13 and 17th over the past four years.
Among starting catchers, overworked Kurt Suzuki is the third-worst hitter this year by OPS and has the second-worst percentage of thrown-out base stealers (12 percent). He’s so agile he’s allowed only 12 wild pitches and no passed balls; so he saves about 30 balls a year from going to the backstop vs. an average catcher. That compensates for the thievery.
Last season, Danny Espinosa ranked second among NL second basemen in extra-base hits and steals — the power, speed combination — while making only six errors. Then, he plummeted back to Class AAA this year.
If we look candidly at these six everyday positions, we see why the returns of Harper and catcher Wilson Ramos from the DL, and Anthony Rendon’s eventual development at second base are so vital to the Nats.
Once again, the Nats have slipped to next to last in baseball in runs per game. When fans wonder, “How can that happen with so many ‘good’ players?” They should look at the all-star ballots they have been handed. There are no pitchers — the Nats’ strength — included there. Instead, there are eight everyday positions. Second base was a cipher for months. Four other starting spots have lost 151 games to injury with zilch value in bench help.
Because the Nats, when healthy, have no voids in their lineup, it’s easy to overestimate the sum of all their respectable parts. A batting order needs stars. And it needs serious thump. All the Nats’ center fielders, second basemen and catchers (except Ramos) have batted more than 1,000 times with only seven home runs. That’s a huge weight for five other everyday spots to carry, especially when most of them are good, but not great players.
For now vote for Desmond. And, maybe, stop right there.
For previous columns by Thomas Boswell, visit washingtonpost.com/