To help preview the coming series against the Pirates, The Nats Blog sat down with Pat from Where Have You Gone Andy Van Slyke (WHYGAVS), one of the top Pirates blogs on the net.
Here’s what he had to say.
The Nats Blog: Nyjer Morgan has been a great addition to the Nationals for the last 25 games. The centerfielder has put up lines of .389/.416/.484 with 37 runs in that stretch. You of course got to see a much larger sample size of Morgans abilities, what are your thoughts on him?
WHYGAVS: Morgan is a great guy and he's a fun player to watch, but I still don't think he's a viable long-term lead-off hitter. Way too much of his offensive performance is tied up in batting average and I think in that regard, he's much closer to the .277/.351/.356 player than the one you've seen the last month. The upside of it for the Nationals is that you can justify playing a player with that kind of bat if he has a good glove in center. The Pirates didn't have room for him there with Andrew McCutchen emerging. As long as the Nats don't fall captive to the idea that speed = leadoff hitter, I think Morgan can be a nice player for you guys.
TNB: The Pirates have been extremely busy this month with trades, how do you feel about the direction the Pirates are taking?
WHYGAVS: I couldn't be happier. Neal Huntington took over what was essentially a 67-70 win team late in 2007 that had practically nothing in the minor leagues besides McCutchen and maybe Brad Lincoln, who was recovering from Tommy John surgery at the time. In the two years since, he's torn down the Dave Littlefield construct and added players with talent and potential by the boatload; Jose Tabata, Tim Alderson, Jeff Clement, Jeff Locke, Charlie Morton, Gorkys Hernandez, Ross Ohlendorf, a passel of lower minor-league pitchers, and yes, Lastings Milledge have all arrived by trade while Pedro Alvarez and others have arrived through the draft. It may result in poor short-term results for the Pirates, but it's the only way to be viable in the long-term.
TNB: Who do you feel will be ready to compete sooner, the Nationals or the Pirates?
WHYGAVS: I may be a bit biased here, but I really do think it's the Pirates. I look at the Nationals and see a team that's where the Pirates were prior to 2007; ownership asserting itself too strongly on the front office, and a kind of directionless approach to player development and acquisition. Until the Lerners back off a little bit and until a full GM is hired, I can't see things moving in the right direction for the Nats, even if you manage to bring Strasburg into the fold (sorry!).
TNB: What do the Pirates need to do to be successful this series?
WHYGAVS: They have to hit. In their past five games, the Pirates have scored 0, 0, 2, 2, and 0 runs. With that kind of output, they're not going to beat anyone.
TNB: Any players we should keep our eyes on?
WHYGAVS: McCutchen is a ton of fun to watch. It's hard to believe, but I think he's actually faster than Morgan on the base paths and he's up to full speed seemingly two steps out of the batter's box. Charlie Morton, who should be pitching Sunday or Monday (the rotation is a bit in flux with yesterday's addition of Kevin Hart) has a very good, live fastball and a great curveball. And to be honest, despite all the bad things I've heard, I'm really interested to see what Milledge does with his fresh start after he went down to Triple-A Indianapolis and hit .333/.425/.433 in his short stint there.