Thursday, July 8, 2010

Re-evaluating Desmond

So, I've gotten more comments (both on and off the blog) about this week's Ian Desmond posting than I expected, and I thought I should re-evaluate the question. So here we go. Should the Nats bench Ian Desmond?

I acknowledge that I was inordinately harsh on Desi this week. (Especially since my fiancee swoons over him.) I simply expect better of MLB players than throwing balls away. A booted ball happens from time to time, especially with shortstops that tend to field more balls than any other infielder, but throwing the ball away on an impossible double play is inexcusable.

To reiterate my point: In the 2009 season, no shortstop had more than 25 errors. The entire year. Nats 2009 starting shortstop Cristian Guzman had 20 all season. Desmond has 21 before the All-Star break this season.

That said, I often forget that Ian Desmond is an official MLB rookie playing as a starter in one of the hardest fielding positions in baseball. He is working through his errors by making more deliberate decisions games after he commits errors.

I also must say that, upon further research, undersold his hitting ability in my last post. Among National League shortstops this season, Desmond is top 5 in batting average, slugging percentage, and home runs. If you consider his stats against both AL and NL shortstops, he remains is in the top 10 in the same 3 categories.

I want to acknowledge a few different people, like the anonymous "Nats Fan" yesterday, bdrube and the notorious Mac today, and others that I've spoken with, that piqued my interested and pushed me to re-evaluate my feelings on Ian. It turns out, I was wrong. You all were right.

Ian Desmond should remain a starter for the rest of the season barring a major implosion. It is possible to make an argument that at least 21 errors at the All-Star break is an implosion, I did it yesterday. But it wouldn't be fair to a young man who is learning and trying to become a premier MLB shortstop. And his offensive stats clearly indicate that he has the ability to be just that.

So to everyone, please remember: I become a better writer, one who write less off the cuff posts about my daily frustrations, when I get comments from people like you. So please keep commenting. It makes the posts more enjoyable for everyone.


  1. I see a lot of young Zim in Desi. Zim has just learned that sometimes after making a ridiculous play in the field that it can be better just to hold it instead of rushing a throw, and he has been in the league for 5 years! Desi has run into that problem several times, he gets to balls that he shouldn't and then forces the throw and it goes horribly awry.

  2. S'all right. It is much better to admit you were wrong rather than dig in on an untenable position. :)

  3. Gutsy post. It is way, way too much of blogosphere culture to post something reactionary then, when faced with criticism of that reaction to dig in and argue that your initial reaction was correct. Kudos for actually taking the time to look more closely.

    Desmond is a frustrating rookie - he shows flashes of real ability and value (having an SS who can hit for 15 HRs/30 2b's is real value), but then makes atrocious, glaring errors. I think part of it is he does seem to try to do too much. He'll make a great diving stop and then throw it away when he should just eat it. He'll go for the highlight reel DP when he should just take the sure out at first. There's a reason they call stuff like that "rookie mistakes."

    That said, his defense is the right thing to watch - he needs to show improvement over the second half, or he's at risk of playing himself off the position. Also, as long as you're looking at that, you should think about taking some time to look at the more advanced defensive stats - Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) and Dewan's Plus Minus are two good places to start. If you do that, you'll see that Desmond's defense isn't quite as bad as his 21 errors would suggest - though it has suffered some lately.

    Anyway, good post.