30 Players in 30 Days: Michael Morse
Note: This marks the second day in a row that we are writing about a Michael on the team. And the second day in a row we are writing about a player who came to the Washington Nationals directly from the Seattle Mariners. Coincidence… I think not.
Doubters, listen up: Michael Morse can be an everyday player.
That’s exactly what he proved the last month and a half of the season, when Josh Willingham’s season ended with knee surgery and a permanent spot opened up in the outfield. During that time, Morse led the team with a .929 OPS (On-base percentage plus slugging percentage). He also finished the season with a .289 batting average that trailed only Ryan Zimmerman and collected 41 RBI and 15 home runs in just 266 at bats. For a little comparison, Zimmerman tallied 25 home runs on 525 at bats and Willingham recorded 16 home runs in 370 at bats. It almost sounds like he belongs in the middle of the lineup with the rest of the power hitters–at times in September, he looked like the most consistent player at the plate.
Defensively, he has yet to dazzle at any position but his strength lies in his versatility. He came to the Majors as a shortstop, but has since played every other infield position, and all three positions in the outfield. If he can get consistent playing time at a single position, he may be able to grow into an average or even an above-average fielder.
“You get opportunities, like Mike had been getting, and you take advantage of it,” Manager Jim Riggleman said of Morse’s late-season performance. “It’s a beautiful thing. That’s why he was out there. He has a lot of tools. The ball jumps off his bat, and he is driving in runs. He is really taking his game up [a notch], taking advantage of the opportunities he has received.”
Morse never doubted his own ability to play every day, despite spending time in the Minors five of the six years since making his Major League debut in 2005. “I feel like I’ve settled in, especially in the field,” he said. “I feel like I do belong as an everyday player.”
If Morse’s bat continues to pop and the balls continue to fly, Riggleman will find a way to ensure his name is on that lineup card day in and day out come springtime.