A few of you have asked in the last few days about all the called strikes the Nationals have taken, and whether games like last night's and the ninth-inning loss to the Phillies on Aprl 13, which both ended in called third strikes, are indicative of a larger trend.
I can't say for sure whether it's part of a flaw in the Nationals' hitting approach, but one thing's certain: The team's hitters sure aren't swinging much.
According to Fangraphs, the Nationals have only swung at 42.5 percent of the pitches they've seen. Only the Indians and Yankees have taken pitches more frequently - and both of those teams are in first place in their divisions with offenses that are humming.
The Indians have had better luck than the Nationals on the times they've put the ball in play (they have a .303 average on balls in play, eighth-best in the game, while the Nationals have a .263 BABIP). The Yankees have the same BABIP, but they're also hitting far fewer balls on the ground, and as a result, they lead the majors in homers and slugging percentage.
The good news for the Nationals is, they're not missing many pitches - their swing-and-miss rate of 7.4 percent is tied for fifth-lowest in the game, and they're making contact on 88.7 percent of their swings at pitches in the strike zone. They've got plenty of veteran hitters - Jayson Werth, Ryan Zimmerman (when he's healthy), Rick Ankiel and Adam LaRoche among them - who know how to work counts and take piches, and several of those hitters seem to have a solid knowledge of the strike zone. But they also might not have a deep enough lineup to work so many pitches at the plate. We saw what happend when they did that against Halladay; he quickly got two strikes on Nationals hitters, and got them guessing at his deep complement of pitches after that.
I'm hoping to look into this more during the week, and will hopefully have a greater understanding of what might be driving all the called strikes. But those of you who've felt like it's happened quite frequently certainly are on the right track.