The Washington Nationals and the Balance of Power
It goes without saying that part of the game of baseball is to score runs, and in 2012 the Nationals were good at that finishing in the top five in runs scored in the NL. It also should be a plain fact that a homerun is a great way to score runs. Once that ball leaves the yard runs are on the board. There is no waiting on base with the hope a teammate drives you in or trying to dance off third and scamper down the line as soon as a fly ball nestles in an outfielders glove. Scoring runs via a homerun is simple.
In 2012 the Washington Nationals hit the second most homeruns in the NL with 194. The big deal about this is that the Nationals didn't have a big power bat in the middle of their line-up. The club leader was Adam LaRoche with 33. Second to him were Ian Desmond and Ryan Zimmerman with 25 a piece. The reason the Nationals were able to hit so many homeruns was that they had a balanced line-up. They finished the season with six players over or close to 20 homeruns.
2013 should not be much different for the Nationals. They will get less homers out of the lead-off spot and center field position with the addition of Denard Span who is averaging just under five homers a season. The Nationals will get a boost from other spots in the line-up as Werth only hit five homers last season due to his wrist injury and the catcher's spot was a black hole for power for much of the season.
There may be no player that represents a greater improvement for the Nationals than the return of Wilson Ramos. It is questionable as to how Ramos will produce returning from a torn ACL, but if he can get back to the .267/.334/.445 slash line of his rookie season that would be a marked improvement on the .237/.294/.365 the Nationals got out of the catcher position in 2012.
The middle of the diamond is not a place for power hitters, and the league average SLG from SS and 2B was .387 and .391 respectively in 2012. Ian Desmond and Danny Espinosa are both better than the average middle infielders with respective SLGs of .511 and .402 in 2012. There is no reason to doubt that that will continue in 2013 and that the above average power production from the middle of the diamond will help to drive the Nats offense.
If Wilson Ramos proves to be healthy then the Nationals have 20 homer bats at every position except center field and the potential for 30 homer bats at every corner position. The Nationals line-up has no spots where a pitcher can relax. Nearly every player in the line-up can do damage and do damage quickly. The lone exceptions being Denard Span and the pitcher's spot, but Denard Span does have a .357 career OBP and will turn what would have been a solo homer in 2012 into a two run homer in 2013.
The Washington Nationals pitcher's spot is also not something to scoff at. In 2012 the average NL pitcher batted .129/.162/.168 while Nationals pitchers batted .194/.211/.250. Not great overall numbers but when compared to the league average it is another dimension the Nationals line-up has that others do not.
There is no 40 homer difference maker like Josh Hamilton, Albert Pujols, or Prince Fielder in the Nationals line-up, but what it lacks in impact players it more than makes up for in length. There is not an easy out or below league average hitter in the Nationals batting order. There is no player that opposing pitchers can circle as the guy they are going to abuse that night to get their outs, and if they think there is there isn't a single batter they want to make a mistake to. The Nationals have the type of line-up where any mistake a pitcher makes will be costly.