Nationals pitchers Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, and Jordan Zimmermann have all spoken before about their intent to pitch to contact. Although they may strike a lot of guys out, particularly Strasburg and Gonzalez, the goal is always to get out of an inning on as few pitches as possible.
The pitchers themselves may have already made it clear, but team pitching coach Steve McCatty has a new word to describe getting an opponent to swing and miss:
"Strikeouts are bull," he told Les Carpenter of Yahoo! Sports. He said it's the easiest way to burn up pitches and that pitch counts will multiply fast.
Carpenter notes the glaring fact about McCatty's comment, that Nationals' pitchers still strike out more than most despite their pitching coach's wish. Strasburg is tied for first in the MLB with 128 strikeouts and Gonzalez ranks seventh with 118. They have the two highest strikeout per nine innings rates in the National League with Strasburg at 11.64 and Gonzalez at 10.45.
By McCatty's comments it would seem Jordan Zimmermann is his most prized pupil. The National's number three starter is tenth in the majors with a 2.61 ERA despite striking out only 74 batters in 110.1 innings. That is the second fewest strikeouts among pitchers in the top ten of ERA. Zimmermann gets players out without having to get three strikes and as a result has lasted at least six innings in each of his 17 starts this year.
Whatever the Nationals are doing as a team, however, is working as they hold the league's best overall ERA of 3.20 at the All-Star break. Maybe McCatty is trying to be creative to find something his players can improve on.
For more on McCatty's comments and a nice breakdown of the strikeout's worth, read Carpenter's piece here.