There was a time this season when the Nats middle of the order was very soft. There was no Michael Morse, Ryan Zimmerman had yet to get a cortisone shot, and Jayson Werth had just broken his wrist. During that time much of the offensive responsibility fell to Adam LaRoche and he has had a great season, but no one player can handle that type of load by himself.
In the 50 games before Michael Morse returned on June 2 the Nats averaged 3.84 runs a game, and since his return they are scoring 4.81 runs a game. That all can’t be credited to Michael Morse, but having a bat in the middle of the line-up that can hit .296/.318/.473 would help most line-ups. The OBP isn’t where one would like it but it is the ISO of .177 that the Nats have found most useful.
Before Michael Morse returned the Nats had the likes of Xavier Nady and Mark DeRosa patrolling the outfield. Even Roger Bernadina, who has found himself as a fourth outfielder, was hitting .230/.320/.379 before Morse returned. After Morse’s return, Bernadina has hit .341/.423/.396 in limited time. Being used in situations that benefit him the most has been very helpful for Bernadina, and that is not possible if Morse is out.
The amount of impact one player can have on a team is arguable, but Morse’s impact has been felt up and down the line-up. With Adam LaRoche as the clean-up hitter the Nationals struggled to score runs and with him they haven’t. Morse could be the pebble in the stream with ripples being felt throughout the Nats line-up and on the bench. One other big impact player to the Nationals offensive surge is Ryan Zimmerman, but a cortisone shot can’t explain entirely how much Zimmerman improved, but neither does the presence of Morse in the line-up. The combination of the two might explain how Zimmerman went from hitting .246/.329/.352 before Morse returned to .295/.358/.528 since.
After Werth went down with a wrist injury the Nats line-up the next day had both Roger Bernadina and Rick Ankiel in the outfield. The Nats outfield has hit 38 homers. The average MLB team has received 43.5 homers from their outfield. Even with missing the first two months of the season Michael Morse has more than a quarter of the homeruns hit by Nationals outfielders.
It is hard to state exactly what impact Morse has had on the Nationals, but they are a much more dynamic offense with him than they were without him. A swing of nearly one run a game is nothing short of a spectacular change. Morse does not deserve all of the credit for that but an extra run a game on offense is worth nearly 16 wins over the course of a major league season.
In the same way as Morse doesn’t deserve all the credit for the improved offense he also doesn’t deserve all the credit to the improvements made by Roger Bernadina and Ryan Zimmerman, but he does deserve some credit. The presence Morse has in the middle of the Nats line-up has made a difference, and the Nationals offense has been a beauty now that it has its beast.