LAS VEGAS - If Davey Martinez was going to create a motto for the 2019 Nationals, it would be rather simple while also driving home the main point he wants to convey to his players.
“Just one more,” the manager said Tuesday during his media session at the Winter Meetings. “One more. One more of everything. One more strikeout. One more stolen base. One more walk. Things like that. If we can do that consistently, we’re going to win a lot of ballgames.”
Martinez has already mentioned on several occasions since season’s end his intention to focus more on fundamentals and “the little things” next spring. He knows his team went 18-24 in one-run games, 4-10 in extra innings.
He also knows his lineup has the potential to look awfully different if Bryce Harper and Daniel Murphy are playing somewhere else in 2019. Rather than a vain attempt to make up for all that lost power, Martinez wants his lineup to think more in terms of scoring runs via better situational hitting.
“For me, right now we’re getting more athletic,” the manager said. “So we’re going to do different things, whether it’s hitting and running, bunting a little bit more. But we’re fundamentally going to learn to play the game, and play it right. I’m looking forward to it. I think we have the players that are able to hit the ball out of the park, and hit doubles and bunt.”
Martinez noted the two batters he most trusted this season to hit with two strikes were Anthony Rendon, an accomplished and experienced player who has built a longstanding reputation for quality at-bats, and Juan Soto, a 19-year-old who exhibited a two-strike approach as advanced as Martinez had ever seen from such a young player.
Now it’s a matter of trying to get others in the lineup to pick things up from Rendon and Soto.
“We kind of used them as an example towards the end of the year,” Martinez said. “One was Anthony Rendon, who with two strikes used the middle of the field. And the other guy was a 19-year-old, Soto. Soto got to two strikes and spread his legs out, and all he wanted to do was make contact. He was just trying to put the ball in play. And we told some of our other players: Just watch what they do. And they started doing it and started getting better at it.”
Improvement in those kinds of situations at the plate, on the bases (where the Nationals rated poorly) and in the field (where they also rated poorly) might just make a significant difference in the won-loss column.
“It will lead to more wins,” Martinez said. “If you look to see what we’re doing, we’re trying to get more athletic. We’ve got younger players coming up. ... We talked a lot about going into spring training and really hone in on fundamentals. We lost a lot of games last year with one run. Giving teams 28, 29, 30 outs, I think that’s the difference. We’ve got to get better at it.”