WASHINGTON -- Entering Monday's action against the Braves, the Nationals were fifth in the National League with a .258 team batting average. That's a vast improvement from the previous two years, when they finished in the bottom five in this category.
What the difference this year? The team has a new philosophy about hitting compared to when Jim Riggleman was the manager. According to Johnson, there were too many hitters trying to hit the ball to the opposite field, and it made the players vulnerable on inside pitches. Johnson made it clear that hitting coach Rick Eckstein did not have this philosophy. Eckstein, who was not available for comment, was often overruled by the previous regime.
Like Johnson, Eckstein wanted the players to hit the ball where it is pitched, which they are doing. Players such as Ian Desmond and Jayson Werth have been consistent with the bat all year, while Danny Espinosa is having a great second half of the season, hitting .303 since the All-Star break entering Monday's action.
"To a man, we got a little too much concerned about hitting the ball the other way," Johnson said. "I think the regime before liked everybody to go the other way. We really couldn't handle fastballs [inside]. We didn't hit the ball where it was pitched. We have the talent to hit the ball where it was pitched, but we were a little defensive. ... We had the book on us. ... 'Pound them in with hard stuff,' and we weren't able to do much.
"Rick Eckstein has done a great job and got them to stay inside, hit the ball where it was pitched. They don't have to cheat to get to the fastball. Just become better hitters. We are not 100 percent where we need to be. We still have certain hitters who still have lapses going back. I call it a defensive swing, a longer swing, when we face a really good pitcher. Unless we are in that attack mode, we can be pitched to."