Davey Martinez answered questions for 18+ minutes on Sunday morning, before the series finale with the New York Mets in Citi Field, so we collected a lot of what he talked about in a quick, easily-digestible way here to keep you up to date on all things Washington Nationals.
Davey Martinez refers to Yadiel Hernández, 33, in his second season in the majors following a career in Cuba and a few years working his way up, as “The Kid.”
“‘The Kid’, yeah, I call him ‘The Kid.’ I always call him, ‘The Kid.’ He likes it,” the manager explained before the finale of the Nationals’ three-game set with the Mets on Sunday.
Martinez has been giving “The Kid” regular ABs this weekend, trying to get his bat in the lineup with Juan Soto on the 10-Day IL with a left shoulder strain.
“He’s been great,” Martinez said on Sunday morning. “He’s passionate about the game, he loves the game, he plays as hard as he can possibly play, and he takes passion in hitting.
“He loves to hit. You look at his numbers throughout his whole career and the numbers he put up, it’s been really good.
“He’s getting an opportunity now to play, and the guys love him. He’s fun to be around. He enjoys being around the guys, he enjoys being in the clubhouse, but he goes out there and he does everything he can to help us win.”
The manager’s fondness for his outfielder is genuine, and at least in part a matter of respect for what it took for Hernández, (who put up a .324/.449/.487 over six seasons in the Cuban National Series before defecting in 2015 and signing with the Nationals in 2016), to get here.
“Absolutely, here’s a guy that comes over, has to go through Mexico to get to the United States, which is always tough, new culture, just a different thing for him, and for what he’s done, what he was able to do for his family, you know that in his heart he wants to do the best he can and like I told him, the opportunities are endless for you right now, so just go out there and have fun and do what you love to do.
“‘The Kid’, you always see him, he’s always smiling, just enjoying not only baseball, but enjoying life.”
Where in the World is Ryan Zimmerman?:
Davey Martinez keeps saying he’s fine, but going into Sunday’s game, Ryan Zimmerman hadn’t played in a game since April 18th against the Arizona Diamondbacks in the nation’s capital. So where has he been?
“Yeah you know we tried to give him an at bat yesterday, it didn’t work out. But he’s working hard. He takes a lot of swings,” Martinez said.
Zimmerman knew he was returning to come off the bench this season, after opting out of the 60-game COVID campaign last summer, but you still have to keep him sharp, right?
“He’s keeping himself ready to go at all times, but he gets it. I talk to him almost every day, he understands his role, but he said he’ll be ready,” Martinez continued.
“Hopefully we get him in the game today to get an at bat or so, but when we get to
Toronto (Dunedin, FL), he’ll — either he’ll be DHing or Josh Bell will be DHing, one will be DHing, but he’ll be in the lineup.”
[ed. note - “Zimmerman did end up getting a pinch hit opportunity late in Sunday’s game. He K’d looking on low-ish fastball.”]
Just a Little Patience, Yeah, Yeah:
Yes, the Nationals have played fewer games than most teams after a COVID crisis wiped out the planned season opening series, but they also are not, at this point, taking a whole lot of walks, comparatively.
Heading into Sunday’s game, their 48 total walks as a team were ranked 28th among major league teams, tied with the Baltimore Orioles, and ahead of only Colorado’s Rockies (46).
Their 7.4% BB% was ranked 25th. It’s kind of un-Nationals-like.
So what’s going on? Where’s the patience at the plate?
“We talked about this,” Martinez said.
“Up until yesterday the biggest thing is our chase rate, you know, and we got to get balls back in the zone. Like I said before, you’re up there to hit first, walk second, so I think our walks will come.”
Their O-swing% (swings at pitches outside the zone/pitches outside the zone) heading into Sunday’s game (29.8%) was 21st in the majors. Their Chase% (26.9) as a team was 16th and their 54% Chase Contact% was 15th.
“We’ve got a lot of guys that have good eyes, a lot of guys that have walked in the past,” the manager added.
“Sometimes when you’re not swinging the bat the way you feel like you’re capable of swinging, you start chasing more, because you want to swing more.
“And it’s vice versa for me, swing less, get a pitch you can handle and try to hit that pitch, so I do believe that these guys will start — as they start locking in, and their timing starts getting better, they’ll start taking their walks, but our chase rate has been quite high, and we got to get the ball back in the zone.”
Is the high chase rate a sign that the Nationals are pressing and extending their zones to try to make things happen as they’re struggling out of the gate?
“Absolutely. Yeah, absolutely,” Martinez said. “As a hitter, when you start struggling you tend to just get up there and try to swing a little more, try to be more aggressive, and as I got older I learned that that’s not the case, you got to be a little more patient, and try to get the ball in the zone.”