MIAMI - There have been very few times early in Matt Williams’ managerial career when we’ve seen or heard him legitimately frustrated about something.
Last night, after watching his team drop a ballgame 11-2 to the Marlins, Williams sure sounded frustrated when discussing the Nationals’ defensive play to begin the season.
The Nats made two more errors last night, giving them 15 errors through 14 games this season, the most in the majors. Williams’ team also has the major leagues’ worst fielding percentage, as well.
Given that Williams stressed the importance of playing sound defense this spring and the emphasis his staff put on defensive drills down in Viera, the rising error total has to be eating at the Nats skipper.
“It’s important that we play well. Still didn’t play well tonight,” Williams said. “So that’s troubling, troubling with kicking the ball around again.”
Williams said the other day that he isn’t concerned about the Nats’ defensive miscues so far, because he doesn’t feel the errors are a result of poor positioning or a lack of preparation. The plays just aren’t being made as frequently as the Nats would like right now.
“You’re going to have a lot of chances throughout the course of the year,” Ian Desmond said. “Right now, it’s kinda magnified because we’ve only played (14) games. Throughout the course of the year, in August, you’ll look back and the numbers will be what they be. I don’t think it’s something that is a huge deal right now.”
One other area of issue through the first 14 games has been the Nationals’ starting pitching.
Nats starters have a combined 5.06 ERA thus far, fifth worst among big league staffs. The Nats are falling behind in games early (they’ve been outscored 33-12 through the first two innings of games), and their starters are lasting an average of just 5 1/3 innings per start, leaving a lot of outs for the bullpen to take care of.
This is a starting staff that is loaded with talent (especially when Doug Fister is healthy), but thus far, the consistency that the Nats expect from that group has been lacking.
“I think it’s important for us to be able to pitch the first inning and be ready to compete in the first inning,” Williams said. “The struggles with the starters have been early. So once they’ve gotten into games, generally, they’ve been able to settle down and pitch. It’s been early issues. So it’s important for us to be ready.”
Stephen Strasburg allowed just a run over 6 2/3 innings with 12 strikeouts against the Marlins last Thursday. Last night, he surrendered six runs in the first two innings and made it just four frames before Williams went to his bullpen.
“We’ve had some dominant years in the past, and teams are constantly trying to adjust on us,” Strasburg said. “It’s our turn to adjust on them. Everybody’s stepping up their game to face us. It’s our job to get to work and get back on track.
“I’m not really worried about it. We’re swinging the bats really well, consistently here. As long as we can minimize the damage a little bit, we’ll be OK.”