WASHINGTON -- The Astros entered Tuesday with a .399 on-base percentage, which was the third-best mark in the National League. Among the regular starters with high on-base percentages were Jed Lowrie (.429), J.D. Martinez (.409), Jose Altuve (.390) and Jordan Schafer (.383).
Astros hitting coach Mike Barnett worked diligently in Spring Training to make sure the Astros were more selective at the plate. Barnett's drill of placing seven baseballs, numbered one through seven, across the front of the plate and having the players focus on pitches thrown over the middle three has helped improve pitch selection.
"We're trying to keep focused on having the mindset, especially early in the count or after you get two strikes, to stay where their strengths are, and almost everybody's strengths are balls three, four and five, which is the middle of the plate," Barnett said. "You can adjust one way or the other on pitches, having that mindset of trying to stay in that little hole where they want the ball and expecting it to be there every pitch."
The ability to draw more walks is simply a byproduct of the drill, which is really to allow hitters to swing at the pitches they want to hit.
"They're looking for the ball in this area, and if it shows up, they'll go after it," Barnett said. "If they're expecting it to be there, they'll let it go."