Last season’s leadoff hitters combined for a .325 on-base percentage (18th best in the majors) and scored 98 runs (tied for 15th), in large part because Werth reached base at a .388 clip over the 38 games as a leadoff hitter. If Span reaches base at his career percentage of .358, the Nationals’ on-base percentage from their leadoff spot would have ranked fourth in the majors. Through his first six games, Span has drawn seven walks.
With Span atop the lineup, the Nationals might also be able to avoid the feast-or-famine nature of power hitting. Maybe they can scratch out a run with a Span walk, then perhaps a stolen base, and a single. Werth, a veteran $126 million hitter who averaged 27 home runs between 2008 and 2011, is now somewhat freed from the main duty of taking pitches and working pitchers to get on base.
“Other than a handful of power hitters in the league, most of your power guys are a little bit inconsistent,” LaRoche said. “And if all those guys happen to be off for a few days, you don’t have a whole lot to fall back on.”
One of the biggest factors in replacing Morse’s power could be the presence of Ramos. Nationals catchers posted a combined .659 on-base plus slugging percentage last season, eighth worst in the majors. Ramos, who has already homered twice in 12 plate appearances this season, provides more power than Kurt Suzuki, Jesus Flores and the group of backup catchers last season. In his best season, Ramos hit 15 home runs in 2011. Suzuki thrived once he tweaked his swing after arriving in Washington in August and hit five home runs in 164 plate appearances.
“As a whole, the lineup’s a lot deeper and tougher to pitch to,” Zimmerman said. “I wish we could have worked out a way to have Denard and Mike in there, of course. But it’s tough. You can’t keep everyone all the time, I guess is the best way to put it. I think with the depth, the length of the lineup, and some guys being healthy all year, I think we have a good shot to score more runs than we did last year.”
Adam Kilgore contributed to this report.