Nyjer Morgan Getting Caught

Around baseball, and sabermetric circles in particular, Nyjer Morgan is best known for his stellar defense. However, because of his incredible speed, he’s also known for his ability to steal bases. After stealing a whopping 42 bases between Pittsburgh and Washington last season, Morgan’s name would be a priority among fantasy circles for those elusive steals. He has 12 steals in 56 games this season, which would put him on a pace for a mid-30s total, which could see an increase if his OBP can rebound up to the .351 mark he posted last year.

However, Morgan has also already been caught stealing a league leading nine times, and picked off another four. That makes 13 total outs on the bases against only 12 advancements. Ten of the steals and all of the caught stealings have came at second, and the other two steals have came at third.

Overall, this is simply terrible production from a player who is supposed to be a major asset on the bases. According to EQSBR, Baseball Prospectus’s statistic for measuring runs created from steals, Morgan has been the worst runner on the Nationals and the second worst to the Padres Nick Hundley, who hasn’t successfully stolen a base yet and has made five outs on the bases.

Obviously, Nyjer Morgan is a much better base stealer than Hundley and likely most of the league. However, somebody who is going to be caught stealing or picked off on 13 of their 25 opportunities should not be running 25 times. Either Morgan has been very unlucky, or he’s picking poor spots to run. He also appears to have a serious problem with pickoffs, as he was picked off a whopping nine times in 2009, making his 42:17 SB:CS ratio much less impressive.

This doubly hurts the Nationals, as Morgan is fantastic at taking the extra base. This season, he’s been worth roughly +.6 runs on the non-SB components of EQBRR, BPro’s overarching baserunning metric. Last season, he was roughly +2.5 runs.

Morgan’s excellent speed is not debatable, but right now he’s not using it optimally on the bases. If he can’t find a way to be more successful in his steal attempts, he and the Nationals must reduce his number of attempts. If they don’t, and Morgan keeps running into outs, it will simply be a waste of a large asset on offense.



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keegs
Member
keegs
6 years 2 months ago

I’d like to congratulate you on writing the day’s only non-Strasburg/non-Harper article about the Nationals anywhere in the world

scatterbrian
Guest
scatterbrian
6 years 2 months ago

Nine times?!

Wake up and smell the coffee, Mr. Riggleman. It’s a fool’s paradise. He is just leading you down the primrose path.

InClementeWthr
Member
6 years 2 months ago

One of Nyjer’s other problems is that he has a tendency to over-slide the base in his steal attempts and be tagged out, even when he beats the throw.

Jack Moore
Guest
6 years 2 months ago

Interesting… is that still called a SB, and then a pickoff? Or what?

element1286
Guest
element1286
6 years 2 months ago

Nyjer has always been a poor baserunner. He is extremely fast, but his instincts are below average on the bases. Same goes with the OF, he takes below average routes to balls, but makes up for it with his speed.

JRoth
Guest
JRoth
6 years 2 months ago

On the defense, that was much more true in 2008 than in 2009. Jesse Owens wasn’t fast enough to post a +27 in 4 months with bad routes (OK, you said “below average”, not “bad”. But still, I’d say “suboptimal” – they’re not perfect routes, but they’re good enough to get him to more balls than most OFs. What do you expect, perfection?).

Matthew Bultitude
Guest
Matthew Bultitude
6 years 2 months ago

I read an article earlier in the season in which Nyjer blamed his feet-first sliding for his CS problems. Apparently the Nationals asked him to switch from his usual head-first sliding after his season-ending injury last season. I don’t get to watch any Nationals games, but is there any anecdotal evidence to support that he is just no good at sliding?

JRoth
Guest
JRoth
6 years 2 months ago

Oh, he was awful oversliding as a Pirate last year. Usually headfirst, IIRC. It became a running joke, because it was impossible to believe that he’d do it so consistently. I would guess that a third of his CS are overslides – no joke.

Bobby
Guest
Bobby
6 years 2 months ago

He’s the NL Elvis Andrus.

josh01632
Member
josh01632
6 years 2 months ago

It should be noted that Riggleman has switched Guzman and Morgan in the batting order in the last couple weeks. Obviously being on first with Zimmerman up is a lot different than being on first with Guzman up so you would expect less stolen base attempts and more opportunities to take the extra base.

Scott
Guest
Scott
6 years 2 months ago

Yes, as a Nats fan, I can confirm that they told him to slide feet-first because he overslid the bag so frequently last year. Apparently he just can’t get the whole sliding-feet first thing down because it shouldn’t make this much of a difference.

A DC Wonk
Guest
A DC Wonk
6 years 2 months ago

Ditto . . . but let me add that I saw a couple of head firsts in the past week or so. Has he switched back? Permanently? Temporarily? With or without orders?

nolan
Guest
nolan
6 years 2 months ago

How hard is it to learn how to slide into second base? The lack of fundamentals at this level of play is unacceptable. Why isn’t he working with a running coach? Why would they consider a foot-first slide preferable to teaching him how to slide properly?

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