Matt Williams' Player Rest Strategy Could Do Wonders for Washington Nationals

By Nick Comando
David Manning-USA TODAY Sports

For the most part, the Washington Nationals have been relatively quiet through the early parts of the Winter Meetings. Of course, rumors have been flying regarding players the Nationals could sign and players they could trade. The chances are incredibly slim the team parts with relievers Drew Storen and Tyler Clippard or second baseman and now utilityman Danny Espinosa, but there is still a strong possibility that Washington leaves the meetings with a left handed reliever or two and perhaps a backup catcher.

In his meeting with the media, new Manager Matt Williams addressed a myriad of topics from players he has contacted to the health of said players. Williams has weighed in on Washington’s search for left handed relief, stating that ideally he would like two lefties — one who can be a long reliever and another who can be a set up guy, get lefties out, and pitch a full inning rather than playing matchups. If that is the case, then chances are that Ross Detwiler will probably be in the bullpen and the fifth starter spot will be a wide open competition.

Something that caught my eye is that Williams wants to use all 25 players on his roster. If that is the case, then that probably means that Williams is going to rest players a whole lot more than his predecessor, Davey Johnson, did, and also means that Williams’ bench is going to be used very differently. Where Johnson used the bench to stockpile players who could come up in a big spot and hit a home run, it seems like Williams is going to use players on his bench in the lineup two or three times a week and give his starters days off. That could really work well with many of Washington’s players.

One thing that Johnson did a lot was ride out players in slumps. Johnson believed that benching a slumping player would hurt their confidence, sting their ego, and make the slump worse. This caused Washington to be slow to react to problems, such as the aforementioned Espinosa being demoted, which then caused there to be a delay in the calling up of Anthony Rendon. Williams’ strategy seems to be markedly different, perhaps with the idea that resting his players regularly could counteract bad habits that could develop as well as light a fire under players who do not want to be given days off more consistently than another player.

Of course, that logic is complete speculation as Williams could just believe that consistent days off will keep his players fresher and could combat the grind of a 162 game season. Regardless, one of the flaws of Johnson was he believed much more in riding out players regardless of their offensive production. If Williams is going to sit players more, for their own good, then things could be much more fun in 2014 than they were in 2013.

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