Originally posted on The Nats Blog old  |  Last updated 12/2/11

In the final installment of the five biggest surprises on the Washington Nationals roster, we take a look at the team's MVP: Michael Morse.

Entering the 2011 season, there was no doubt that NatsTown expected big things out of Morse, who hit .289 with 15 HR and 41 RBI in just 266 at-bats in 2010.  There was no doubt that Morse would get much more playing time in 2011 than in previous seasons, it just wasn't clear where until 1B Adam LaRoche went down for the season with a shoulder injury. 

After a rough April coming off of an outstanding spring training, Morse simply went on a tear for the next two months, batting .337 with an astronomical 1.060 OPS and 14 HRs in May and June.  If it weren't for the month of April, when Morse sported a .211/.253/.268 slash line, he would have been a guaranteed All-Star for the Nationals.

Looking back to do some comparative work, Morse's numbers during his first 5 MLB seasons with the Mariners and Nationals are surprisingly impressive.  He hit .293 with a .764 OPS in 352 at-bats during those 5 years as he went up and down from the majors to the minors.  Despite his above average cumulative numbers, the Nationals somehow traded Morse for Ryan Langerhans, straight up.  Langerhans was older, hitting .234 at the time of the trade, and didn't ever show signs of serious power.  It was a truly confusing trade that Nationals reaped all of the benefits of.

However, one thing that no one could have possibly seen coming was the monstrous offensive power explosion.   In his first 5 seasons in Major League Baseball, Michael Morse had 6 home runs.  Not each year, but cumulatively.  Even with his promising 2010 season, when he put up 15 homers in less than 100 games, it got better yet in 2011.  He more than doubled his home run total from the previous season from 15 to 31.  He more than doubled his RBI total from 41 to 95.  He also joined Ryan Zimmerman (2010), Cristian Guzman (2008), and Dmitri Young (2007) as the only 4 Nationals to have a batting average above the .300 mark on a season.

Morse also became a de facto team leader.  He had a quirky personality, and a funny superstitious pre at-bat routine.  He always looked like he was having a blast in his post-game interviews, and he was the original Beast Mode, wearing t-shirts displaying those words on camera regularly.

Depending on where you look, Morse was either first (Baseball-Reference) or second (FanGraphs) on the team in WAR for position players.  And he got two votes from the BBWAA in National League MVP voting, one seventh place and one tenth place vote.  Impressive from a guy that was a pinch hitting, substitute player just one season prior.

Morse's explosion reminds me of Jose Bautista of the Toronto Blue Jays.  It's certainly not the same, as Bautista had 6 years of MLB experience with much more playing time before he won the AL Home Run Title in 2010.  Still, though, Bautista had just 13 homers in the 2009 campaign before his rocked 54 in that 2010 campaign.  He was an All-Star and a Top 5 AL MVP candidate the last two seasons.  Before that, he never got a single MVP vote.  He never made an All Star Game.  Maybe Morse is on a similar trajectory.  After all, Morse is 29, the exact age Bautista was before he broke out of his shell.  The Nationals and their fans can only hope.

That's it for the Biggest Surprises of 2011 series.  Check out the No. 2, No. 3, No. 4, and No. 5 posts from earlier in the week.  And listen to Episode 2 of Nats Talk On The Go, our new Washington Nationals podcast.

GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Dwight Howard responds to those who think he's washed up

Report: Red Sox interested in Sonny Gray

Jermichael Finley opens up about lasting effects of injury

Lionel Messi has allegedly hid tens of millions of euros through his own charity

John McEnroe: Serena Williams would be No. 700 on men's tour

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Report: Celtics could target Rudy Gay as backup plan

Ex-NFL RB Ahman Green arrested on suspicion of child abuse

Cam Newton throws, will be ‘100 percent’ for training camp

Timberwolves reportedly still trying to trade Ricky Rubio

Jaylen Brown looks like reason Celtics didn’t trade for Jimmy Butler

Myles Turner opens up about Paul George wanting to leave Pacers

The 'Tonight, we settle the Beard vs. Brodie debate' quiz

2016-17 NBA Awards: The 8th Man Award for most overlooked player this year

2016-17 NBA Awards: The Disappearing Act Award for player who came up small

Getaway Day: Welcome back to the world, AL Central

The 10 best sports docs available for streaming

Feeding your roundball addiction through the summer months

Best of Yardbarker: Diana Taurasi makes history

The 'Finest running back from America’s Finest City' quiz

Players who need to turn around their season to save their teams

Sports & Politics Intersect: Washington gets a rare win

Three Up, Three Down: Flouting the written and unwritten rules of baseball

2016-17 NBA Awards: The Billy King Award for worst trade

MLB News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

The 'Tonight, we settle the Beard vs. Brodie debate' quiz

2016-17 NBA Awards: The 8th Man Award for most overlooked player this year

2016-17 NBA Awards: The Disappearing Act Award for player who came up small

Getaway Day: Welcome back to the world, AL Central

The 10 best sports docs available for streaming

Feeding your roundball addiction through the summer months

Best of Yardbarker: Diana Taurasi makes history

The 'Finest running back from America’s Finest City' quiz

2016-17 NBA Awards: The Billy King Award for worst trade

Players who need to turn around their season to save their teams

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker