Monday, March 23, 2009


Conundrum. A Conjectural Problem. Anything That Puzzles.

The exact description of The 2009 Starting Outfield for Our Washington Nationals.

Manny says Lastings Milledge is his centerfielder and batting leadoff.

You can bet that Adam Dunn is Manny's starting leftfielder as well.

And it would be nothing short of shocking to see anybody but Eljiah Dukes rounding out this outfield trio and starting in right. After all, Dukes is the most talented all-around player on the team.

But this is Our Conundrum. Together, those three players are not the best defensive lineup Our Manager Manny Acta can put out there on the field. You could argue Milledge in left, Dukes in center and Austin Kearns in right would be far better. But there is no way that is going happen--as long as Adam Dunn is healthy and Nick Johnson is still manning first base.

Washington's not going to take Adam Dunn's Power Bat out of the lineup--for any reason--unless he's injured.

But if Adam Dunn is playing left, then the person assigned centerfield must also cover as much ground as possible over toward where Dunn happens to be positioned. Adam Dunn can sure let fly some serious baseballs off his very potent bat. He can also let baseballs hit towards him defensively--fly right past him. That's the nature of who Our Washington Nationals received when they signed Our New Number 44 to a two-year contract. The sacrificing of some defense prowess to provide a serious offensive threat.

That's OK, if the centerfielder can get to most all those smacked baseballs Dunn will be unable to reach.

Lastings Milledge has the athletic ability. Can he also make up for Dunn's defensive shortcomings?

It's a good question.

Dukes has the better baseball instincts and the stronger arm, nearly perfect body make-up to play centerfield. But Lastings doesn't have the strongest arm. So Manny can't put him in rightfield. Our Washington Nationals would not be throwing many runners out on the basepaths with Milledge positioned in the right corner.

On the other hand, Austin Kearns has all the defensive skills necessary to play right field really well. He is above average defensively. The possessor of a very good throwing arm and the ability to take terrific tracks to hit baseballs in the corner. Austin Kearns does a great job lining up his body for all throws--to any bag and even homeplate. Our Number 25 defensively, really is, borderline Gold Glove Outfielder, when healthy. Unfortunately, his plate discipline has suffered over the past two seasons. Austin's hitting skills deteriorating so badly, he needs to ratchet it up a few notches to re-gain his lost starting role.

Which all leaves Josh Willingham really having to wonder what his role will be in 2009? Strong Bat, OK Outfielder, but really no position to play--at least on this team--at least not now. Manny's not going to be putting Josh Willingham in the game as a late inning defensive replacement. If there is anyone sitting on the bench that gets that call first--it's Austin Kearns, or Willie Harris.

Which brings us all back full circle.

When it comes to Our Outfielders, this current unit is made up of perplexing parts. Together as one--all six combine to possess some quality skills. But individually, they are a mystifying group of unequal ingrediants when it comes to Washington placing their best lineup on the field each day. What is the best answer? Which trio provides the biggest net gain?

Dunn, Milledge, Dukes, Kearns, Willingham and Harris all have great potential. But it's certainly puzzling right now--how this issue is going to play out come April.

Yes, Manny Acta's starting outfield is a difficult problem to sort. A brain-teaser that may only lead to a migrane headache for him.

For this situation truly is a Conundrum.

PS--And if you were wondering--I am just not considering Wily Mo Pena as a viable option.

All Photos Copyrighted--Nats320--All Rights Reserved


An Briosca Mor said...

I don't see this as a logjam at all. Barring injury or trade, this is how it will probably shake out. Nominal starters are Dunn LF, Milledge CF, Dukes RF, Johnson 1B. Dunn plays pretty much every day. Johnson gets 1-2 days off a week, Willingham subs. Dukes gets 1-2 days off a week, Willingham subs. Milledge gets 1-2 days off a week, Dukes moves to CF, Willingham in RF. Look! Willingham is now playing 4-5 days a week. Kearns is the late-inning defensive replacement in the OF, Harris is primarily an infield sub. Hernandez and Belliard split 2B duties.

It's a long season, there will be plenty of ABs to go around for everyone. Plus, you know at some point someone will get hurt. This may be the strongest offensive lineup the Nats have ever put together. Defensively, it's not perfect, but hopefully the offense will make up for that.

Anonymous said...

ABM - There you go. That is it. Nick Johnson has to be forced to take days off right from the start so he can play the whole season.

Figure on some weeks you will face at least 2 lefties so those become the days that Willingham plays 1st.

MurrayTheRed said...

Congrats on The African Queen being pictured on one of the season tickets - have you guys seen it yet?

Game 76 Friday September 25 vs the Braves.

When I saw that the tickets had random photos on each one I searched thinking my son would be on one, he is not, but you are! Congrats!

Screech's Best Friend said...

MurrayTheRed: Thanks, yes we have seen it. We posted on it earlier this month.

yazzy1956 said...

Alas, farewell poor Wily Mo! Talk about a guy who has become invisible.

paul said...

ABM's analysis makes perfect sense, except that most of the time we will have arguably the worst defensive outfield in MLB out there. This is what I meant by the "fantasy baseball" mentality of our past GM. He built a team based on stats but not how the pieces fit together.

I guess we will be pitching all batters to the 1B side!

On another note, I am really enjoying MASN's telecasts of 2005. It is really fun to see the stands at RFK oscillating.