On February 28, the Nats opened their 2021 Spring Training with a game against the St. Louis Cardinals. Calling the game on KMOX was former Cardinals’ centerfielder Jim Edmonds. He was particularly critical of Josh Bell‘s swing which he said was a long swing and pointed to the holes in his swing. Seconds later, Bell shot a single away from the shift into leftfield against starting pitcher Jack Flaherty. Of course Edmonds downplayed the single with the luck factor that Bell swung late, giving no credit. Since that point, Bell has been en fuego and is now batting .385 with a 1.354 OPS.
Of course, Ryan Zimmerman is at the top of the charts with a .474 BA and an 1.892 OPS, however Zim does not qualify for the league leaders because he does not meet the 1.86 PAs per game minimum. They are part of the bright spots for this Nats team and you can see Kyle Schwarber highlighted at 9th in MLB in OPS.
While we constantly say that Spring Training stats mean very little, you just hope that Bell, Schwarber and Zimmerman can keep bashing baseballs, and their stats mean something. Certainly add Victor Robles on that list as he is having a good Spring Training in the lead-off spot with a .354 OBP and a lot of power giving him a .585 slug.
Both Bell and Schwarber went through mechanics changes with hitting coach Kevin Long in the offseason. Bell felt he was too much on his front foot and did not have good balance last year, and Long got Schwarber with more knee bend or as Schwarber called it “squatty”.
“He just showed up,” Schwarber said about meeting up with Long near his home in Tampa. “It was great, and he came with a lot of good things for me. And the best thing is that the hitting stance, everyone wants to kind of think it’s a new thing. It’s really not.”
With Zim, just go back to the article on how Zim plays so much better with a rest day in between that DonH and I collaborated on Days of Rest – Why Only for Pitchers? Could the Howie system work for Zim? And the more recent article Point-CounterPoint: Who Is the Backup First Baseman? Maybe this trio is set to have great seasons. Maybe. We hope.
For the players who are struggling, they want to throw out these Spring Training stats. You have Brad Hand, Trea Turner, and Juan Soto. To that, general manager Mike Rizzo talks about the back of the baseball card as the standard that players get back to.
“… You’re not going to get to the back of the baseball card in one game or one at-bat. This is a process. You have to take it slow and incareful increments in trying to get better to kind of gauge yourself and judge yourself in a different way in a very micro-type of evaluation process,” Rizzo said years ago.
For the struggling Carter Kieboom, his baseball card is still made up of small sample sizes. The crazy thing is Kieboom is ahead of Soto in terms of OPS. The young Soto has no extra base hits and only has four Spring Training games remaining to get his “A” swing going.