Not to turn this into Denard Span Taking Pitches Journal, but there is one more nugget to follow up on from the Morning Brushback post about how Span uses patience at the top of the lineup.
Pay special attention to the very first at-bat Span takes each night. In the first seven games, which of course is not much of a sample size, Span has seen an average of 5.4 pitches. In all his other at-bats, he has seen 3.96 per plate appearance.
This is not a mistake. Span consciously tries to work the opposing starter more during his first look in order to learn about what he’s throwing, for both himself and his teammates.
“I try to be a little bit more passive, or a little bit more patient, my first at-bat,” Span said before tonight’s game. “It doesn’t always work out that way. If the pitcher is around the plate, I might only see two pitches my first at-bat. But if he’s kind of erratic, I’m looking to be more selective my first at-bat as opposed to later on.
“You can look at video, but the pitcher may not be doing the same thing as he was doing his last start. I like to try to, if it’s possible, see as many pitches so I can tell people, maybe the ball is doing this or doing that.”
Last night against Jake Peavy, Span worked an eight-pitch at-bat before he flied out to center. It turned out to be the plate appearance that did not end with him on base. After a single in his next at-bat, Span settled on first and White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko said to him, “Some things just don’t change.”
Span, of course, came to the Nationals from the American League Central. It just so happened that the scheduled dictated the Nationals have faced the same number of opponents from the AL Central as the National League East so far. That will change this weekend when the Atlanta Braves visit Nationals Park. And it helps that, in his career against the White Sox, Span has a .328/.396/.445 slash line.
“It’s fun facing familiar guys,” Span said. “I know pretty much after this, I’m going to be facing guys I haven’t faced.”