Nov 5, 2013, 6:00 AM EDT
There is much we already know about Matt Williams. We know he was an intense competitor during his 17 big-league seasons. We know he is an excellent communicator based on his post-playing career as a broadcaster and coach. And we know he believes in the importance of defense based on his own track record (four Gold Glove Awards) and his decision to add defensive “coordinator” Mark Weidemaier to the Nationals’ coaching staff.
We don’t, however, really know what kind of in-game manager Williams will be, because there’s no real track record to examine. (Sorry, but guys don’t really manage in the Arizona Fall League the same way they do in the major leagues.)
Williams was asked several times in several different ways to describe his style of managing during Friday’s introduction at Nationals Park. The word he kept using was “fluid,” suggesting he won’t entirely know himself until he gets a chance to do it.
But one other word Williams used many times does offer a window into his philosophy: “aggressive.” He’s a take-charge guy, and he expects his teams to play that way. Especially on the bases.
“I think it’s aggressive, in every aspect,” he said. “We’re going to try to take advantage of the situation that presents itself to us. … If a guy’s slow to the plate, we’re going to run. We want to put guys in motion and hit-and-run. We want to do some things that are maybe outside the box in getting a guy in from third base. Certainly, that’s a process. But that’s what I think.
“You can’t score unless you touch the plate, so we’ve got to go. And we’ve got to defend that plate with everything we’ve got as well.”
Williams’ track record as Diamondbacks third base coach the last three seasons does support his aggressive reputation. He was never afraid to wave a runner home, even if it meant ultimately getting thrown out.
“A couple of years ago, I led the league in getting guys thrown out at the plate,” Williams said. “Which is good, I think. I think it’s good. Now, the fans of Arizona may think differently, and I’ve heard those fans from time to time. But I think that if you apply pressure, you have the advantage.”
The Nationals actually were fairly aggressive on the bases this season. They took an extra base 42 percent of the time when presented the opportunity, the fifth-highest rate in the NL according to baseball-reference.com.
There are other ways to be aggressive, though, and Williams suggested he wants the Nationals to do some different things at the plate, including more hit-and-runs and squeeze bunts.
“We’re going to look at that very hard and see where we can take advantage of that and see how we can get a guy to third with less than two outs,” he said. “I believe in the safety squeeze, man. I really believe in it. We’ve got a pitching staff that handles the bat. Can we hit-and-run with them? Maybe, given the right opportunity.
“So the plan’s fluid and will present itself every day differently. All of those things lend themselves to being aggressive.”
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