Washington Nationals' skipper Matt Williams and Nats' pitchers and catchers held their first official workout in Viera, Florida on Saturday. After the workout, Williams, who led the Nationals to 96 wins, the NL East crown and a quick, four-game exit from the NLDS last season, talked to reporters about getting started on his second season at the helm in the nation's capital. So what's different the second time around?
"I just think I know the players better," Williams said. "So that's easier. It doesn't change. We have the same objectives. We have a lot of work to do and a lot of preparing that goes into these six weeks, but at least I know the guys, and so I can have that comfort level with them."
Williams and his coaches started his first season as a major league manager with a detailed plan for every day, hour and minute of Spring Training. He said this time some things would be done differently, but overall things will be the same as they were last year.
"There [are] some changes," he explained. "They're not drastic changes, but of course you have to freshen it up a touch so it doesn't get monotonous for these guys, especially during pitcher/catcher camp because that's all they're doing. They're throwing their bullpens, they're doing their PFPs, so we try to switch that up a little bit to give them a chance to have a little bit of fun at the same time keeping the importance of getting their work done.
"The schedule is the same as it was last year. It's mapped out. We'll make minor changes within it, but it's mapped out from today until the last day that we go to Tampa before we leave."
Williams was asked today what the defending NL East champions would be focused on as they prepare for the defensive of their second division title in the last three years? He talked about offensive and defensive efficiency being two things that he plans to focus on.
"That is always a focus where we can get better," Williams said of defensive efficiency.
"Our offensive efficiency, we can get better at," he continued. "Every team can. But what we want to accomplish, what we want to concentrate on is maintaining the fact that we were good in a couple of areas, continue to work on those and improve on the others and make sure that we're giving ourselves the best chance every day.
"We want to give ourselves, from Game 1 through 162, [give] ourselves the best chance to win every day and that's by, first and foremost, try not to make mistakes, catch the baseball. It's been well-documented that everybody is talking about our pitching and if we can play good defense behind them then we can give them a chance every day."
In addition to the defense behind his pitchers, the Nationals need run-support, of course, and Williams explained what he meant in terms of improving offensive efficiency.
"We want to pick up the RBIs that are given to us," he said. "As an example: We want to be really good [with] a man on third and less than two outs. We want to be really good at getting that guy over from second base to create that opportunity for us. The offensive efficiency in that regard is what I mean.
"We want to give ourselves more oppportunities to score more runs on any given night. So those little things add up. There are going to be times when our guys slug the ball over the fence too, but on an everyday basis for 162, if you do the little things, you give yourself a chance."
While there is, of course, room for improvement, the Nationals' offense was fairly successful in Williams' first year on the bench.
"We were [third] in the league in runs last year," Williams said, "so it's good, but we can always get better, we can always look to improve. We can always make it a priority to improve and work hard at doing that, so that's our objective."
So how do you go about working on and improving offensive efficiency?
"It's situational hitting, it's understanding themselves, first and foremost," he explained. "'What do I do best and what do I [not do well]?' Understanding the opposition. What are they going to try to do to our guys with a man on third base and less than two outs?
"If we understand what they are going to try to accomplish and we can combat that, then we may be able to get better."