Denard Span dug into the batter’s box last night for the first plate appearance of the night, the start of a game plan, the first link in the chain. Span’s arrival, particularly in tandem with Jayson Werth hitting behind him, has given the Nationals a new kind of offensive identity. They aim to wear down starting pitchers and attack the soft underbelly of bullpens by forcing as many pitches as possible.
Span has made his impact felt in an obvious way so far, reaching base in 15 of 30 plate appearances after he went 2 for 3 with a walk in Tuesday night’s 8-7 victory by the Nationals. Just as important, though, has been the manner in which he has made the opposing starter expire. Last night provided a perfect template of how Span’s addition could change the Nationals.
In his first at-bat, Span saw eight pitches against Jake Peavy before he flied out to center. He would see 19 pitches over his four plate appearances, including 14 of the 100 that Peavy threw over 5 1/3 innings. On the season, Span has seen 4.29 pitches per plate appearance. Behind him is Werth, who has seen 4.4 pitches per plate over his career, making him one of the active leaders. It all starts with Span, siphoning drops of water and waiting for the dam to break.
“It’s a combination of the pitches seen and the on-base percentage,” Werth said. “It really sets a tone for the offense. You get a guy like that up top, he’s seeing all those pitches, he’s making the pitcher work. So not only are guys behind him getting a chance to see what the pitcher has got, but he’s taxing the pitcher. He gets more at-bats than anybody else. As the game goes on, you go through a lineup, you’re going to have to, as a pitcher, have to get through the lineup. It’s going to be tougher for him. He’s throwing more pitches. He’s got to throw more pitches that mean more. It’s not, flip something up there and get a first-pitch out. He’s got to work to get through the lineup.
“Over the course of the game, by the time you get to the third time through, the guy’s throwing a lot of meaningful pitches. Hopefully, his pitch count is up. You got a chance of seeing that sixth-inning [reliever], that seventh-inning guy. Over the course of a season, you see a sixth-inning guy in the bullpen, you see him more times than not, you’re giving your team a chance to win a higher percentage than not. Usually, the sixth-inning guy in a bullpen – not necessarily in our case – but for most teams, that guy is the guy you want to see.”
Denard Span, Jayson Werth and the effect of seeing pitches
Washington Post | Apr 10