Matt Williams: pro-stats, pro-eyes, pro-everything

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LAKE BUENA VISTA — I’ll post some pictures and random thoughts about the Braves’ complex a little later, but for now let’s talk about Matt Williams.

Williams was a bit of an unknown quantity to most fans when he was hired as the Nats’ manager. One obviously knows of his playing career and one knows he coached in Arizona, but it was harder to get a read on his preferences and dispositions as a manager. Is he going to be one of the new breed of cerebral managers who puts a lot of stock in advanced metrics? Is he going to kick it old school? Inquiring minds want to know.

This morning during his media availability Williams was asked a lot about that. What are his go-to stats. How he feels about taking extra bases. Defensive shifts. That sort of stuff. His answers suggested that he is going to take every single piece of data, be it from the analytics department or his own gut, into account. He’ll leave nothing off the table.

For stats, he said that it depends largely on who the hitter is. He’ll look to on-base percentage for his leadoff hitters like Denard Span. For someone like Wilson Ramos batting average with runners in scoring position will matter more. For guys like Bryce Harper who, Williams says does everything well and “can take over a game,” it all matters but it’ll all probably take care of itself. For pitchers. he wants to see his strikeout guys striking guys out and guys who strike fewer batter out, normally speaking, to just get early outs. “Stats are good,” Williams said. “But feel is also good.”

I asked him about defensive shifts, and Williams said that there are “reams” of data out there and that it’s impossible to take it all in. That said, he’s going to do his best to try, and expects that he’ll have the Nats shifting more on defense this year than we’ve seen in the past while having his hitters do their best to take advantage of open holes presented by opponents’ shifts. But again, there are no absolutes. Not all pitchers can hit the spots necessary to force hitters to hit into the teeth of an extreme shift. Not all hitters have the bat control to poke it through the opposite side. Williams went back, again and again, to making sure that guys aren’t asked or expected to do things beyond their capabilities. That seems to be the common denominator for him.

So no, Williams is no extremist. No hardcore stathead but no old school curmudgeon either. Not that most managers are extremists about such things in comments during spring training. It’ll be interesting to watch his tendencies once the games start to matter, however. I can’t get any real read on what his predispositions will be once the enemy has been met and the battle plans are made obsolete.

Video: With friends and family present, Brandon Nimmo hits inside-the-park homer at Coors Field

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The Mets opened up a four-game series against the Rockies at Coors Field on Monday night, the last leg of their 10-game road trip. Outfielder Brandon Nimmo, who grew up in nearby Wyoming, got his first start in Colorado, so he bought about 75 tickets for friends and family for the series, MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo reports.

Batting leadoff, Nimmo fittingly led off the game by hitting an inside-the-park home run, drilling an 0-2 cutter from Tyler Anderson to right-center field. The ball didn’t take the carom that right fielder Carlos Gonzalez expected, so Nimmo circled the bases easily to complete his 11th home run of the season.

The 25-year-old Nimmo has proven to be a spark plug for the underachieving Mets. Entering play Monday, he was batting .274/.402/.565 in 204 plate appearances. Nimmo hit a go-ahead two-run home run in the top of the ninth inning on Sunday, helping the Mets overcome the Diamondbacks.