The sample size in the 2011 regular season is still small, but there is cause for concern in NatsTown about Michael Morse's plate appearances. Morse was hoisted into the starting left fielders role to start this season to the sounds of celebratory cheers from nearly everyone, including us. But since the Nats came north from Viera, it hasn't been pretty.
Morse had a breakout year as a utility/platooning player in right field in 2010. He posted a .289/.352/.519 line with 15 homers in a respectable 293 plate appearances. Things were looking up for the prospects of a good outfield, and that's before Jayson Werth was (publicly) on the Nats radar. The good news continued through an absolutely absurd spring, where he hit 9 home runs in just 21 games and went .364/.421/.818 in another admittedly small sample size.
Through the first two weeks of the season as a starter, Morse looks like a completely different player. So different, in fact, that Laynce Nix is seeing quite a bit of time against right handed pitching. And that move makes sense. Morse is hitting .174 while Nix is hitting .313. But to make matters worse, Morse is looking slow to the ball against lefties and righties and is struggling to hit for any power at all. He has 6 hits in 33 at bats for a dismal, below-the-Mendoza line .182. He has 7 total bases (meaning only one extra base hit) and hasn't hit a home run yet.
Not only his stats are concerning, but the feel when Morse is in the lineup is different. When Morse comes up to bat, it feels like an out before he takes his bat off the shoulder. When he's in the field, he take unsure paths to the ball. Here at Capitol Baseball, we advocated for Michael Morse as much as anyone when he was going well. And just because he's not, we're not calling for his head, yet. But it's a point of concern in a Nats lineup that has struggled to do anything at all offensively and has stranded runner after runner.
All of this shows just how meaningless Spring Training really is. It's mainly to help guys work on stuff they may not otherwise work on during the season, whether that's a new pitch or a new stance in the batter's box. And Morse seems to have reaped the benefits of "spring stuff." But he's struggling now, and Nats fans watching a Zimmerman-less lineup have to hope that he can come out of his slump soon.