Davey Martinez does not like strikeouts. “Striking out doesn’t do anybody any good,” he told reporters earlier this week, during the Nationals’ series with the Rockies in Coors Field. With the 4th lowest K% in the majors this season (21.2%), the club reflects the manager’s feelings, and he said one of the offense’s best traits, as a group, is their ability to make contact and avoid striking out.
“Absolutely,” Martinez said. “You see guys — like [Alcides] Escobar — who has been really good at moving the baseball, with two strikes as well, but even early in the counts. He’s a guy that you don’t see him hit into very many double plays, but he understands what ball he’s good at hitting, and he kind of hunts for those balls, especially when there’s a guy on first base.”
Martinez mentioned double plays, because the previous question in his pregame Zoom call was about whether or not hitting into them, which the Nationals have an MLB-leading 157 times this season, is something you have to accept as a by-product of putting balls in play as often as his club does.
Striking out infrequently as his team does is at odds with trends around the league, so why is it that the Nats’ brass is less tolerant of strikeouts, as a group, than other teams around the majors?
“I think overall — I mean, look the value is for a lot of teams home runs and walks, right?” he asked rhetorically. “And believe me, don’t get me wrong, I love home runs, and I love walks. But there’s also value in just moving the baseball, and we’ve done that. We’ve scored five or six runs a game just because we’re able to put the ball in play and we don’t accept strikeouts. And the team, you could go around and tell you, hey nobody wants to strike out. It’s a thing, they know they want to put the ball in play. And I like that, because they get to the next pitch.”
Overall on the year, the Nationals’ .259 AVG is the NL’s best, and it’s the fourth-highest in the majors. They have the NL’s highest OBP, .337, which is second-highest in the majors, behind only the Astros’ .338 OBP. The club has a .259/.348/.414 line since the trade deadline, which is good for 7th/1st/16th across the line in the majors. Martinez likes what he’s seen in recent games, including a couple bases-loaded walks on the final road trip of the year.
“You saw some good at-bats yesterday,” he said before Sunday’s series finale with the Rockies.
“One with Lane [Thomas] working a walk with the bases loaded, you saw another one with Keibert [Ruiz], who’s young.
“If we can get these guys to believe in that and understand what balls we hit hard, what balls they can drive, now all of a sudden when you get to those counts, those 1-0 counts, those 2-1 counts, 3-1 counts, they’ll get those balls and they’ll start driving those balls a lot better, so I have a lot of value and I appreciate K-Long [Hitting Coach Kevin Long] and Six [Assistant Hitting Coach Pat Roessler] really understanding what the value is of moving the baseball, and they preach it all the time.
“Now, with that being said, yeah, we’ll pick spots where we tell a guy, ‘This is a good time for you to try to drive the ball.’ And especially with multiple guys on, but when you get to two strikes, we put a lot of value in just moving the baseball.”
HERE’S THE UPDATED NATS’ LINEUP FOR THE OPENER WITH THE RED SOX:
Updated Lineup:— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) October 1, 2021