With today's incredibly early Nats game at 12:10, I thought it'd be as good a time as any to talk about the Nationals shortstop, Ian Desmond.
Loyal Capitol Baseball readers are acutely aware that I did not hold back on my criticisms of the young Desmond early this season. Some of those criticisms still stand. He still had 33 errors on the year with a little less than 3 weeks left. That's more than any other shortstop in baseball by 8, and more than any other position player in baseball. Period.
On the other side, Desmond has played in 133 games at shortstop this season, which is the 2nd most in the NL. In those games, he has 199 putouts, which is the most of any NL shortstop. So with the negatives come some real positives in the field: durability and real ability to generate outs. Not to mention he's in the top 5 in range factor per 9 innings for NL shortstops. All of this, as a rookie.
Offensively, Desmond has been clutch and has established himself as a leader. When he is going well offensively, the team wins. I know that seems intuitive, because the better a player hits, the more likely they are to win. Chicken and the egg argument aside, the differences in Desmond's average are staggering. When the Nats win, Desmond is hitting .358; when they lose, he hits just .231. Since Manager Jim Riggleman has moved Desmond to 2nd in the batting horder, he's hitting .327. His BABIP (batting average on balls in play for non-stat nerds) when batting 2nd is way up at .374.
There's no doubt that Desmond's offensive performance has skyrocketted and that his defense has improved. After his ugly 4 strikeout appearance on Monday (and I mean, Derek Lowe struck out everyone that game), he went 2 for 4 on Tuesday with his 10th homerun. He gets angry when he's not performing; he gets excited when he is. He's the kind of young player, along with Danny Espinosa, Roger Bernadina, and Ryan Zimmerman, who can get this team going on the right track again. He's proved that when he's playing well, he can provide a spark for the Nats. And that's just what the Nats need right now.