One of the top reasons Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo had his eyes on center fielder Denard Span while he was with the Minnesota Twins was his ability to not only get on base, but while he was on base, steal some, and get in a spot where his team can get him home.
Recently, Span has been able to take an extra base and force the defense to make a play. In the last series for the Nationals, Span scored from first base thanks to a bad throw to third base.
On Sunday Span swiped his eighth base of the season in the Rangers' 2-0 series salvaging win over the Nationals.
Span has stolen 118 bases in his career. His high water mark was with the Twins in 2010 when he swiped 26 bases. He stole 20 bases in 153 games last season with the Nationals.
He said on Sunday that he would love to add to his stolen base totals because he knows that would open the potential to generate a lot more offense for the Nationals at the top of the order.
"I want to, yeah," Span said. "That is something I have been trying to do my whole career, to be honest with you. I've never gotten 30. So that is something that's a goal for me. It is part of my game. I got to be aggressive, I got to be smart about it."
Span knows that by leading off picking up the type of hits he gets, his base running decisions and timing can be a wild card facet that other teams must account for which can force defensive mistakes because of extra throws.
"I realize that's one of my attributes that I have to maximize," Span said. " ... I obviously don't hit home runs so I have to find a way to get in scoring position and help the team score runs."
The Nationals have 27 stolen bases as a team in 55 games this season, Span has 30 percent of that total (eight). In 2013, the Nationals swiped 88 bases, Span had 20 steals, or 23 percent of the total. Before Span arrived, specifically 2012, the Nationals totaled 105 stolen bases, and Ian Desmond was the team leader with 21 steals.
So last season was a considerable drop off with 17 fewer stolen bases than 2012. If Span can reach his single-season career goal of 30 steals this season, that would certainly help the overall offense with more runners in scoring position opportunities.
To reach that goal, Span needs 22 stolen bases in the team's final 107 games, which would be two more than he stole the entire season in 2013 for the Nationals.
Manager Matt Williams has preached a more aggressive style on the base paths for the Nationals this season. Even though the offense has struggled at times to start the season for various reasons, Span's up tempo aggressiveness on the base paths will play a crucial part for the offense to create more run scoring chances without the benefit of home runs.
Span is all in. Now he needs to average a stolen base every four or five games for the rest of the season. No problem, right?