Making his first start in the leadoff spot this season during yesterday’s win over the Orioles, Nationals second baseman Danny Espinosa went 2-for-5 with a two-run home run, a double and two runs scored.
For the most part, it was a successful day for Espinosa, whose low offensive numbers have been a hot topic so far this season. But manager Davey Johnson saw something in Espinosa’s performance he still didn’t like: the 25-year-old recorded two more strikeouts.
That gives Espinosa 50 Ks on the season, second-most in the National League. That’s a total which doesn’t sit well with his skipper.
“He needs to cut those down,” Johnson said. “He’s on a horrendous pace. He’s a lot better hitter than that. He’s on pace for close to 200.”
As of today, the season projection is actually 197.5, to be exact. That number would worry most players, but Espinosa doesn’t seem to be concerned with the pace he’s on.
“Everyone can say what they want about the strikeouts, but it’s going to be one of those things. I’m still learning, I’m still adjusting,” Espinosa said. “If I’m producing the way I want to, then strikeouts don’t worry (me). If I’m striking out with nobody on, it’s not that big a deal. Now, if I’m striking out with guys in scoring position, then that’s a little bit of a bigger difference.
“But most of the time, when I’m striking out I feel like I have nobody on. I don’t feel like I’m striking out where there’s runners in scoring position. I’m at least putting the ball in play.”
Going to the numbers, when he’s batted with the bases empty, Espinosa has struck out in 33 percent of his at-bats (33 strikeouts in 100 plate appearances). When he’s come to the plate with at least one runner on, Espinosa’s strikeout rate drops to 26 percent (17 Ks in 65 plate appearances).
The percentage jumps back up when there’s a runner in scoring position, however, with Espinosa striking out 32 percent of the time (nine times in 28 plate appearances) in those situations.
This comes after a 2011 season in which Espinosa struck out 166 times, including 29 percent of plate appearances when runners were in scoring position.
Espinosa’s right in that the strikeout numbers would be easier to overlook if his overall offensive numbers were better. But when he has a slash line of .214/.294/.338, the Ks pop out at you.
“People just get caught up in strikeouts,” Espinosa said. “Whatever. If you want to get caught up in strikeouts, that’s one of the things. I know stat people, they’re worried about that. ... Well, strikeouts happen. This isn’t 1920 anymore. It’s tough.
“We face guys up there that are throwing 95, 96, 97 (mph). It’s not the easiest thing to go out there. When you’re struggling, guess what? It gets harder. To me, the biggest time is when you have runners in scoring position. You have time to do stuff, you want to put the ball in play the best you can to at least push across a run on an error or something.”