Hitting coach Rick Schu. (Photo by John McDonnell/The Washington Post) Hitting coach Rick Schu. (Photo by John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

One of the biggest areas of improvement for the Nationals’ offense entering this season was efficiency, a point that General Manager Mike Rizzo made late last season and over the offseason. So far this season, the offense is much improved over last season. They have scored the eighth most runs in baseball (126) in the first month and the team’s OPS (.743) is fifth best in the majors.

As a whole, they have created far more opportunities than before. They are slowly improving of late, but they still have struggled to convert many of their multitude of scoring chances into more runs. With runners in scoring position, the Nationals are 20th in the majors with a .695 OPS. They have also stranded the fourth-most base runners in baseball (216). 

“I think we’re better than that” in terms of runs scored, hitting coach Rick Schu said earlier this week. “I think it’s pretty amazing to put up the numbers we have especially with all of our injuries and guys stepping in and kind of playing every day. As long as we get more than the other team, I’m happy. The production has been good. We have to continue to do the little things. We’re always going to be able to hit the ball out of the park but we’ve got to do a better job of moving runners over and getting the runner in from third.”

“At times we’ve been really good,” right fielder Jayson Werth added earlier this week. “Our come-from-behind wins have been late in games off closers and guys that are pretty nasty. Other times, like that game the other day where we left all those runners on base. You can’t figure these things out sometimes. I think overall I like where we’re at. I like the way we’ve been playing, especially in April. You look to kind of grab onto things you can kind of build on. We’ve got tons of things we can build on.”

>>> In Friday’s paper, we have a story on Adam LaRoche’s uncharacteristically hot start to the season. Also on Friday, his hometown paper, the Fort Scott (Kan.) Tribune, wrote about LaRoche’s efforts to have a state-of-the-art baseball complex built in the town. Construction on the $2-million, 500-seat facility could begin this summer. According to the story, LaRoche is fronting the $2-million costs but local officials hope to raise money, too.

LaRoche told the newspaper that he hoped the new stadium complex would alleviate burdens on Fort Scott High, his alma mater, and Fort Scott Community College, which share a facility now. He also hopes others will use it.

“It’s not just for the high school to use,” LaRoche told the Tribune. “During the summer, we would like to eventually host some big tournaments there and give the town a chance to draw in some more people there as far as filling up the hotels and restaurants, trying to boost the economy.”

>>> Doug Fister is slated to make his second and final minor league rehab start with Class AA Harrisburg in Reading, Pa., on Friday night, about an hour west of Philadelphia where the Nationals will be playing. Fister (lat strain) is expected to make his longest start of the season — five innings — and can then rejoin the Nationals. I will be in Reading to see Fister.

If he completes his start without any issues, Fister is slated to make his season and Nationals debut on Wednesday at home against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Two other injured Nationals are nearing returns. Outfielder Scott Hairston began his minor league rehab assignment on Thursday with Class AAA Syracuse. Catcher Wilson Ramos, who is in extended spring training in Florida, is expected to begin his minor league rehab assignment this weekend, barring any setbacks. Ramos will not be with Harrisburg on Friday but could join them on Saturday and Sunday before returning to the Nationals on Monday.

From The Bog:

Denard Span completed his tour of MLB ballparks in Houston

In Houston, Anthony Rendon is bigger than the Astros

From Fancy Stats:

Don’t expect Adam LaRoche’s hot start to last