Washington Nationals’ New-Look Offense Features Less Strikeouts and More Stolen Bases

Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports /

After acquiring outfielder Ben Revere Friday evening, the Washington Nationals have seemingly shifted their offensive focus to making more contact at the plate and speed on the basepaths.

Last season, the Nats ranked 27th in all of baseball in stolen bases while compiling the third most strikeouts in the league. As the offseason has progressed, President of Baseball Operations Mike Rizzo has developed this offense into a new-look lineup and clubhouse that will promote and practice the ideas of reducing strikeouts and stealing bases.

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In 2015, the two leaders in strikeout percentage on the Nats were Michael Taylor (30.9%) and Ian Desmond (29.2%). Neither player will be trotting out onto the field at Nationals Park come Opening Day. In their place? Ben Revere and Daniel Murphy, who posted 10.1% and 7.1% strikeout rates, respectively.

The hires of manager Dusty Baker and first base coach Davey Lopes, two coaches very familiar with the run game, will be key in bringing out the base stealing mentality in a lot of players who didn’t focus on it as much in 2015.

Not to be forgotten is departed third baseman Yunel Escobar. While Escobar may not have struck out very much (11.8% SO%), he still only stole two bases. He will be replaced by Anthony Rendon in the starting lineup, who will be looking to return to his 2014 form when he stole 17 bases for the Nats.

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The addition of Revere (31 stolen bases in 2015) and Murphy (23 SB in 2013) coupled with the base stealing development of cornerstone Bryce Harper (18 SB in 2012) and utility man Danny Espinosa (20 SB in 2012) will provide Washington with an arsenal of base stealers that can fill the order from top to bottom.

The biggest questions facing the Nats’ offense include health and catcher Wilson Ramos. Rendon, Ryan Zimmerman, and Jayson Werth all missed significant time on the disabled list in 2015. If all three players can stay healthy in 2016, it would go a long way towards the team making a postseason push. Meanwhile, Ramos disappointed in his first full season of his career. It still remains to be seen whether he can live up to the 20 homer potential that many raved about early in his career.

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As their roster currently stands, the Nats’ Opening Day lineup consists of Revere, Rendon, Harper, Zimmerman, Murphy, Werth, Espinosa, and Ramos. There is speed at the top, plenty of power in the middle, and only two players who posted strikeout rates above 21% last season. By the looks of it, Baker and Lopes will have their work cut out for them.