One thing we haven't talked about yet, though, is the NL Batting Title. Why can we even discuss it? Michael Morse. The only two players in the National League with better averages than Morse's .323 are Jose Reyes (.336; on the DL yet again) and Ryan Braun (.326). Pretty good company for a player who hasn't had a full-time starter's role in the majors until this season.
Let's go into a few reasons why we think there's a real chance that Morse will compete for the title all the way to the end.
- Ryan Zimmerman - Not too many players have had the luxury of hitting behind All-Star, Silver Slugger, and Gold Glover Ryan Zimmerman, but Morse is one of them. We won't say that Zimm is the entire reason that Morse is here at this point of the season, because the Nats lineup was Zimm-less for the first few months of the season. But we will say that he's the reason that Morse will stay there. In the last 18 games, Zimm has seen his average go from .240 up to .298. An incredible jump indeed, and it will only help Morse get good pitches.
- Opportunity - Morse won't be a bench player this season. With LaRoche done for the year, Mike will spend most of the rest of 2011 at 1st base. We're sure he'll get a few off days in September to give prospect Chris Marrero a chance after the roster expands to 40-men, but it won't be when Morse is hot, that's for sure.
- History - This may surprise many of you, because it surprised me. Michael Morse's career batting average is .303. I couldn't believe it, but it's true (at least according to the wonderful folks at baseball-reference.com). Most of that may have been in a part-time role, and this year's astronomical numbers certainly haven't hurt, but you can't fake a .303 average over the course of 7 Major League seasons.
When the season ends, Mike Rizzo and Co. will have some really difficult decisions to make about the 1st base position. Do you trade Morse when his value is sky high? Do you make a push for Prince Fielder in free agency? What do you do with the returning (and expensive) Adam LaRoche? Is it time to see Chris Marrero's MLB potential?
But in the mean time, we get to enjoy having one of the best offensive first baseman in the National League this season, and one that can definitely win the batting title. It's one of those great stories in baseball. Enjoy it, NatsTown.