WASHINGTON — Grant Paulsen and Danny Rouhier refuse, no many how many of their listeners complain, to give up their long-standing assault against Dusty Baker’s lineup decisions.
Both 106.7 The Fan hosts have railed, repeatedly, over the airwaves and on Twitter, against the Nationals manager for not hitting Anthony Rendon somewhere higher in the lineup, like, say, in the two-spot.
Several weeks back, The Sports Junkies even asked Rouhier, with their proximity to Nationals Park — only two blocks away — why he doesn’t simply get credentialed for a game and ask Baker about his lineup decisions in person. Which, in theory, either Rouhier or Paulsen could easily do.
This is their Everest, and they’re not coming down until Rendon is hitting second daily.
On Monday, one caller into their program, Jack in D.C., made a valiant attempt to call them down from base camp. The Nationals, as a reminder, have the third-most wins in baseball and a cozy 12-game division lead.
“So, guys, I’ve been tweeting at you for about two months now, mainly related to the fact that you guys will not get off this Dusty stuff,” said Jack. “And it drives me up the wall, out of the house, into street where a bus hits me. That’s where it drives me.”
“What would you like us to do differently?” Paulsen returned.
“I would like you to just think about maybe more outside the box,” Jack said. “Like, Dusty’s actually doing a great job resting starting guys, putting dudes in there that we might need in October, getting them meaningful at-bats, and rotating the lineup in a way that…”
“You can get them meaningful at-bats at the bottom of the lineup,” Paulsen volleyed back.
“Our two-hitter is the third-best in the league, every night,” Jack said. “I just checked the stat last night. But whoever hits second for the Nats is the third-best two-hitter in the league.”
“I haven’t looked at that — I’d have to take your word for it — but it doesn’t change the fact that he could be the first-best in the league,” Paulsen said. “He has a much better hitter, Anthony Rendon, hitting sixth, who has probably 45 less at-bats right now than he would have this season if he hit four spots higher in the order.
“At least, by the way. It might be more than that. Twice in the last three games he’s had fewer at-bats than Chris Heisey and Wilmer Difo.”
“There’s enough protection around the two-hitter,” Jack said. “It makes more sense to keep Rendon down at six, because, otherwise, those guys would be a drop-off, because [Matt] Wieters can’t hit. It’s pretty obvious. He’s kind of a bust.”
“He actually hits above-average for a catcher,” Paulsen said. “So I disagree with that, but okay.”
“I’ll give him, he gets big hits. He’s not someone I want to have to carry the bottom of my order, though,” Jack said. “Mainly, I like the fact that Rendon’s there, because there’s ducks on the pond for him every single at-bat. He drives guys in constantly.
“You have to pitch to the first or second guy every single time because you have a murderer’s row coming up after that. So I would rather fluff it up a little bit one and two, and then keep six heavy with Rendon.”
“You’re on Team Dusty,” Paulsen said. “Which is fine, it’s just incorrect. Again, it’s simple math. The higher you hit in the order, the more at-bats you get. So there’s no reason to complicate it. Your best hitters should hit the highest in the order, and people in baseball will tell you that your five best hitters need to hit in the top five spots. Period. I would say your four best in the top four; not everyone completely agrees with that.”
“He’s one of the five best hitters in the National League,” Paulsen continued. “He hits sixth in their lineup and there’s no excuse for it. Like, it’s not even a conversation to have, is the point.
“If you care just about the result today… by the way, Matt Grace pitched better than Stephen Strasburg yesterday. By your logic then, why don’t we just take Stephen Strasburg out after two innings and let Matt Grace go three innings every single time? Because he pitched so well from the third to the fifth [inning]. This is not about the result, it’s about the process. You do what’s right as much as possible and you benefit from it.”
“Tanner Roark had an RBI single against Cincinnati. He’ll hit second tomorrow, I’m sure,” Rouhier added. “C’mon, man. Let’s go.”
Dan in Rockville was the next caller to make his plea: “Can we get off this two-hole dead horse?”
“No,” Rouhier said.
“Really? It’s old,” Dan said. “It’s so old.”
“It’s not. It goes every night. It happens every day,” Rouhier said. “I will not get over it, because there are people that apologize for it. I get a dozen tweets a day from people that are cranky about it, these flat-earth, weird-lineup defenders that are stuck in the 1950s, that haven’t updated their thinking, will not let it go. That’s why. Otherwise I wouldn’t harp on it. I wouldn’t care, except we’ve got people that continue to yell at me. I’m sorry I cut you off. Please, go ahead. You have the floor.”
Dan then asked how much the Nats could improve, specifically by how many runs and wins, with a fully optimized lineup.
“There’s a great debate about that,” Paulsen said. “I don’t think there’s an answer to that.”
“I think FanGraphs said about 10 runs a year,” Dan added.
“I’ve seen that too,” Paulsen said. “Let’s say 10, because I’ve seen more than that, I’ve seen less than that. But my point is, there’s no answer. But let’s say it’s 10.”
“Well, here’s the other thing,” Dan said. “And Dusty has touched on this, and this is what Dusty said the other day, is that some guys like to see the number of pitches, see what the pitcher is throwing, see what he’s got, how hard he’s throwing, his selection, his sequencing, etc.
“Rendon has even said he likes hitting lower in the lineup. So you say process over results. If you get Rendon, you move him up to the two-hole and he hits .240 and they go 10-14, so process over results.”
“He’s not going to hit .240,” Paulsen said. “Why would moving a .314 hitter, from six, up to two, lead to him hitting .240? Realize that he’s getting better protection at two.”
“Generally, he’s got speedier guys creating havoc in front of him,” he said.
“He’s seeing more fastballs, he’s got Bryce Harper, Daniel Murphy, Ryan Zimmerman in some order behind him, rather than right now, hitting sixth, where the guys behind him are some shortstop you’ve never heard of until two weeks ago, yesterday, with Jose Lobaton in a pitcher’s spot.That’s who’s hitting behind him in the order yesterday, okay?”