Yesterday morning, every Nationals position player gathered in the infield of Space Coast Stadium around Bo Porter, their new third base coach, and listened to another lesson on baserunning. The latest talk centered on the importance of hustling out of the box on a single with a man on first, in order to reach second on a throw from the outfield to third base if the runner tries to take
an extra base.
Porter has preached aggression all spring, and the results have been clear to see. Nationals baserunners have routinely gone from first to third on singles, and Porter has waived home almost every runner trying to score from second on a single. For the Nationals, this is no small thing.
Last year, the Nationals were one of the worst teams in the league at taking an extra base. Nationals base runners advanced either two bases on a single or three bases on a double 36 percent of the time, which ranked 28th out of 30 major league teams, ahead of only the Royals and Diamondbacks. The Reds led the league at 46 percent, and the league average was 40 percent.
There were 186 times last year when the Nationals had a man on second and hit a single. The runner scored 105 times, or 56 percent. On average across the league, runners on second scored 58 percent of the time on a single.
The Nationals main deficiency was going first to third. On 292 occasions, the Nationals hit a single with a man on first. The runner went to third 63 times, or 22 percent of the time. Across the league, runners went from first to third on a single 28 percent of the time.
What does that mean? Well, if the Nationals were simply at a league average rate, they would have went first to third on a single 82 times and scored from second on a single 108 times, about 22 more bases.
Over the course of 162 games, that is not a major difference. But a more aggressive style of baserunning, the Nationals believe, will make a difference. Running with more aggression has the potential to force outfielders to rush plays or peak at the base paths while fielding a hit. The idea is to put pressure on the defense.
Those stats about advancing an extra base are not kept during spring training. Anecdotally, though, it is obvious the Nationals have taken the extra base with greater frequency this year.
Manager Jim Riggleman has often repeated that every team in the majors, in March, tells its players to hustle and be aggressive taking an extra base. The key is maintaining that approach into the season.
Baserunning, surely, was not as significant of a deficiency for the Nationals as simply reaching base. But for a team that ranked 25th in the majors in runs last year, every little bit helps.
FROM THE POST
Boz says the Nationals are owed some luck on potential breakout players.
And he also chatted yesterday.