Nationals pitchers Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, and Jordan Zimmermann have all spoken before about their intent to pitch to contact. Although they may strike a lot of guys out, particularly Strasburg and Gonzalez, the goal is always to get out of an inning on as few pitches as possible.
The pitchers themselves may have already made it clear, but team pitching coach Steve McCatty has a new word to describe getting an opponent to swing and miss:
"Strikeouts are bull," he told Les Carpenter of Yahoo! Sports. He said it's the easiest way to burn up pitches and that pitch counts will multiply fast.
Carpenter notes the glaring fact about McCatty's comment, that Nationals' pitchers still strike out more than most despite their pitching coach's wish. Strasburg is tied for first in the MLB with 128 strikeouts and Gonzalez ranks seventh with 118. They have the two highest strikeout per nine innings rates in the National League with Strasburg at 11.64 and Gonzalez at 10.45.
By McCatty's comments it would seem Jordan Zimmermann is his most prized pupil. The National's number three starter is tenth in the majors with a 2.61 ERA despite striking out only 74 batters in 110.1 innings. That is the second fewest strikeouts among pitchers in the top ten of ERA. Zimmermann gets players out without having to get three strikes and as a result has lasted at least six innings in each of his 17 starts this year.
Whatever the Nationals are doing as a team, however, is working as they hold the league's best overall ERA of 3.20 at the All-Star break. Maybe McCatty is trying to be creative to find something his players can improve on.
For more on McCatty's comments and a nice breakdown of the strikeout's worth, read Carpenter's piece here.
Bryce Harper struggled by his standards in 2016 and he says he know why it happened last year. While it was rumored last season that he was playing through injuries, Harper never really missed significant time, nor did he really say that his injuries were the reason for his disappointing numbers.
Speaking with the media today at spring training, Harper hinted at his injuries from last season as he said he was just trying to stay in the lineup every day.
Although Harper's statistics dropped off dramatically from his MVP season in 2015, his numbers weren't entirely awful last year. He still hit 24 homers, drove in 86 runs and he had an .814 OPS.
With a full offseason to heal up, Harper will be a prime bounce-back candidate as he looks to help the Nationals win their third NL East title in the last four years.
Related: Sorry D.C. sports fans, Bryce Harper is a Dallas Cowboys fan
The Nationals aren't certain to have ace Max Scherzer ready to pitch for Opening Day. Scherzer, 32, was unable to compete in the World Baseball Classic this summer due to a stress fracture in his right ring finger.
When he spoke to the media today at the first bullpen session of spring training, he said that the fracture has healed but the symptoms continue.
Scherzer also said he'd just started throwing again this week. Manager Dusty Baker confimed that the Nationals don't know whether Scherzer will be ready to start the season.
Any time a team's star pitcher suffers an unusual hand injury, it's cause for concern for the club and fans.
Scherzer won the NL Cy Young Award last season and posted a 20-7 record as a starter. He also led the MLB with 284 strikeouts.
Scherzer is an especially vital part of the Nationals rotation considering the injury history of Stephen Strasburg, who landed on the DL twice last season, once with soreness in the elbow that needed Tommy John surgery in 2010.
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