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Washington Nationals' "slugger" Denard Span on "old man strength" and work with Rick Schu

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How to explain Denard Span's power display early this season? Is it "old man strength"? Does it have something to do with his beard? Or is it just a few years of hard work with hitting coach Rick Schu paying off in power?

Caylor Arnold-USA TODAY Sports

Through 28 games and 128 plate appearances this season, Denard Span is one homer short his home run total from last season, when he hit five in 147 games and 668 PAs. He's already matched his 2013 total when he hit four in 153 games and 662 PAs and 2012's four in 128 and 562. He also has a .316/.354/.513 line after his 1 for 3 day against the Chicago Cubs in Wrigley Field.

"He's got home run capability. He's been hitting a lot of balls the other way and up the middle, so that doesn't lend to homers, but yeah, he's got some pop to his pull side." -Matt Williams on Denard Span's power, 2014

The leadoff homer off Tsuyoshi Wada in the first at bat of Monday's game was the first the veteran lefty has allowed by a left-handed hitter in 61 career PAs since he made his MLB debut last July... and it bounced off the new scoreboard above the unfinished stands in right field in Wrigley.

Span told reporters, including Washington Post writer Chelsea Janes, that he attributed the early-season power to "old-man strength" that was somehow attributed to his beard... I don't know, that doesn't make much sense, but his home run power continues to surprise.

When he has connected for homers over the last two seasons, Nats' skipper Matt Williams has inevitably been asked about the blasts as if they're unexpected.

After Span took Philadelphia Phillies' right-hander Kyle Kendrick deep last August, Williams talked about Span's power and ability to send them out if he catches them right.

"He swings it good," Wiliams said. "He's got home run capability. He's been hitting a lot of balls the other way and up the middle, so that doesn't lend to homers, but yeah, he's got some pop to his pull side."

"Was short -- to his pull side if he's short he can hit the ball a long way and he's had a few of those so far since he's been back, just short to the baseball on a ball in that he gets elevated." -Matt Williams on Denard Span's blast in Wrigley Field

"He's got power," the second-year skipper assured reporters after Span took Josh Collementer deep for another leadoff homer in Arizona earlier this month. "We know he can hit the ball over the fence.

"Ordinarily he's trying to get on base there to lead the game off and he just got a good one to hit."

Williams talked about Span's home run potential again on Monday afternoon, after the Nationals' 2-1 win over the Cubs.

"He got a fastball to hit," Williams said. "Was short -- to his pull side if he's short he can hit the ball a long way and he's had a few of those so far since he's been back, just short to the baseball on a ball in that he gets elevated."

Span's .197 ISO (Isolated Power = SLG-AVG) through 128 plate appearances this season is up considerably over his career mark of .109. His .513 SLG, is up from .416 in 668 PAs last season and a career .396 SLG.

Fangraphs.com, using data from Baseball Info Solutions, has Span's percentage of Hard contact (Hard%) up from 25.4% over the course of the full season in 2014 and 21.3% in his career to 28.4% early this season and the 31-year-old outfielder's HR/FB% is at 13.8% so far in 2015, up from 3.1% last year and 4.4% in his career.

In an interview with F.P. Santangelo during the series with the D-Backs in Chase Field, Span talked about the work he's done with Nationals' hitting coach Rick Schu paying off in some early-season power.

"It's been a work in progress," Span told the MASN host.

"I've been working with [Schu] for the last couple years and we've just been working on getting in just a good position to hit and I think now we're finally starting to see the result of the hard work."

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