Washington Nationals Need To Get More From Denard Span

By Thom Tsang
Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

It goes without saying that at 28-29, the 2013 season hasn’t gone quite the way that the Washington Nationals thought it would have thus far.

There’s plenty of blame to go around for that, of course, though it’s difficult to say that at just 197 runs scored on the season, the team’s 27th-ranked offense isn’t the main culprit of the preseason powerhouse’s problems. Exacerbating the problem is the injury to the now-DL’d Bryce Harper, the team’s middle-of-the-order spark plug.

But wait, what about the guy that the brought in to lead the lineup just for that purpose?

The Nationals didn’t trade for Denard Span to be doing what he’s doing, that’s for sure. For a guy who the team had coveted over a couple of seasons to solve their problem of needing a consistent leadoff man to get on base and set the table, Span is not really doing a whole lot of it.

Including Sunday’s 0-for-4 performance, Span finds himself still hitless in June at 0-for-9, and is carrying a disappointing .264/.318/.356 triple-slash over .233 PA.

Now, the power is not exactly his forte, so I think it’d be fair to throw that out of the window here. No, what’s been alarming for Span is his currently career-low OBP, thanks mainly to the fact that the 29-year old seems to have forgotten how to draw walks.

To put it in perspective: after coaxing a reasonable 11 walks in April (good for a decent enough 10.1 percent rate), Span received just five free passes in May at a disappointing 4.3 percent walk rate. In fact, that number sits at a miserable zero percent over the last 14 games — which is to say that, yes, he hasn’t managed to walk over the last two weeks.

That, combined with a five-year high strikeout rate of 13.7 percent, and you start to get an idea of why Span is only on pace for a 68-run season despite sitting at the top of what had been expected to be  fantastic offense.

No, he’s not the only one to point fingers at (someone has to drive him in even if he gets on, after all), but as a player with essentially only the lone role to get on base an run, taking away one of the ways he can accomplish the task has meant that the Nats are currently left with a slap hitter with speed, and little more.

If the team’s offense is to turn around, it’s going to have to start at the top — which is to say all eyes will be on the guy who gets the most opportunities per game to become a potential run, and Span has to start taking advantage of those opportunities.

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