Memo to Nats Coaches in 2023: Stay in Your Running Lane

For many Nationals fans, nothing is more infuriating than seeing Nats players running into outs on the basepaths.  Two recent spring training plays re-ignited that all too familiar feeling. 

During a 4-2 loss to the New York Yankees on March 1, Joey Meneses hit into a fielder’s choice 6-5-4-6 double play. Alex Call scored to tie the game at two.  But Luis Garcia was out at third base and Meneses out at second. End of inning. End of potential rally.  The Yanks walked off with a 4-2 win in the bottom of the ninth.

Earlier this week, Nationals beat writer Jesse Dougherty of the Washington Post reported that the Nationals made three outs on the base paths in one game. Back-picked at first base were Dominic Smith and Victor Robles. Jeimer Candelario got thrown out at second.

How has the Nats baserunning compared to the rest of the league since their relocation from Montreal in 2005? Thanks to, I dug into the numbers a little. The table below contains running into outs at first, second, third, and home since 2005 and compares the Nationals to the league average for each year.

(DISCLAIMER: If this table contains errors, they are my own).

How to read the table

An “out on base” describes a runner put out during a baserunning play. What are some examples of “outs on base?”

  • trying to advance on a fly ball
  • attempting to reach another base on a hit
  • getting doubled off on a line drive
  • running into an out after a wild pitch or passed ball
  • the table does not include pickoffs, caught stealing, and force plays.

Looking at the table below, in only one season (2006), have the Nats made less outs on all bases than the MLB average. Over the years, Nationals’ baserunning worsened, especially since the Nats moved into Nats Park and started playing better baseball. Red cells denote higher than league average, green cells equate to below league average.


Key Takeaways

Some of the other data points that stood out to me:

  1. After making the playoffs for the first time in 2012, the Nats proceeded to make outs at a rate higher than the MLB average at first, second, and third base in 2013. Washington failed to make the playoffs.
  2. On their way to winning the NL East again in 2014, the Nats only exceeded the league average in outs at one category, third base.
  3. One year later in 2015, the Nats rated higher than the league average in outs made at third and home.
  4. During two consecutive years of postseason play in 2016-17, the Nats exceeded the league average in outs made in one or two base categories. But in missing the playoffs in 2018, the Nationals exceeded the MLB average in outs made at three different bases: first, second, and third.
  5. During the World Series championship season in 2019, the Nats cut that disadvantage down to two bases, first and home. But not the scoring positions of second and third base.

I think most managers like to be aggressive on the basepaths – or at least announce that intention to the rest of the league.  The aggressive running strategy is consistent with playing hard, hustling baseball. But are the Nats playing smart baseball when they do this?  And is this approach worth it for a rebuilding team that could learn a lot from extending rallies in tight games? I vote no.

Baserunning and Coaches

Jesse Dougherty also reported recently that the Nationals hired Ricky Gutiérrez, a former Cubs teammate of manager Davey Martinez in 2000, to be their run prevention coordinator. Gutiérrez’ job will be to preach infield fundamentals and in-game positioning.

Already on the Nats player development staff are Bill Mueller, Quality Control Coordinator, and Gary Thurman, Outfield/Baserunning Coordinator.  According to, Thurman was 65 for 83 for a success rate of 78% when stealing during his nine-year MLB career, mostly with the Kansas City Royals. Given the roughly 70-75% league success rate attempting to steal, it seems the Nats are in good hands.

But to the baseball savvy Nats fans, and there are many, outs on the bases are devastating.  I think running into outs is the equivalent of a turnover in the NFL.  Drive killer, meet rally killer.  Wouldn’t it make sense then for the Nats to add a “runner preservation coordinator”?  I vote yes.

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Dominic Toto

Blogging about the Nats since 2022. Nats nut since 2004. Once hit a batting practice ball that cleared the infield dirt at Nationals Park. On a fly.

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