When the Nationals revealed Jayson Werth would bat second this season, Werth used the occasion to espouse what he saw as one an important offensive key. He thought he and the rest of the Nationals could maximize the team’s output by taking pitches, grinding down the opposing pitcher and drawing walks.
Whether or not Werth has been a main influence, the Nationals have become a more patient team at the plate this year, or at least they’ve indicated they could be in the first 15 games. The Nationals have drawn 62 walks, tied for second in the majors, while seeing 3.91 pitches per plate appearance, which ranks sixth. Last year, the Nats ranked 19th in walks and 13th in pitches per plate appearance.
Werth leads the Nationals in walks with eight (tied for 31st in the majors) and in pitches per plate appearance with 4.41 (ninth). Adam LaRoche, another newcomer, is right behind Werth, having seen 4.32 pitches/plate appearance, 18th in the majors.
The walks have propped up an offense that got off to a slow start. The Nationals rank 27th in both average and slugging, but their penchant for walks has created enough base runners for them to have scored 62 runs, tied for 16th in the majors, in the middle of the pack.
Their improved patience has also helped drive starting pitchers out of the game. The opposing starter has thrown more than six innings four times against the Nationals in 15 games, two of those Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee.
“It allows us to get in the bullpen a little early,” said second baseman Danny Espinosa, who has seen 3.96 pitches per plate appearance. “You get in a bullpen early in a series, and you’re probably going to be better off as the series continues.”
Of those 62 runs, the Nationals have scored 24 in the seventh inning or later, tied for sixth in the league. It may be a leap, especially this early in the year, to tie their proclivity for scoring more later rather than earlier to any one cause. Surely, driving up a starter’s pitch count and getting into the soft underbelly of the opposing bullpen can’t hurt.
Werth, by the way, will definitely play tomorrow after he missed Game 2 of Sunday’s doubleheader with “some general aches and pains,” Manager Jim Riggleman said. Werth’s off day was simply a standard day off.