The Washington Nationals have had a tough go of it lately, losing their last six games after having taken 2 of 3 from the Phillies. They are getting ready to visit the Braves this week before returning home for a series against the Mets. But despite their struggles lately, there have been some positives coming from the Nationals, and one of them has been their leadoff hitter, Ian Desmond.
Earlier this month, Manager Davey Johnson brought Ian Desmond into his office to let Ian know how good he believed his shortstop could be - and for Desmond to have as much confidence in himself as Davey has in him. Johnson compared him to former Reds’ shortstop great Barry Larkin, pointing out how Desmond is quick with a great arm (I don’t know if Larkin committed as many errors at shortstop as Desmond has this year, but if Davey thinks that Ian is good defensively and has lots of potential, then I guess I should trust Davey’s observation).
While the Larkin comparison may be a bit of a hyperbole, Desmond has been turning around his offensive numbers lately. Since moving up to the leadoff spot, Desmond went 16 for 43 in his last 10 games with 1 home run and 3 RBIs.
Part of Desmond’s improvement is due to being more patient at the plate; something that is necessary when batting leadoff. Before the All-Star break, he walked just 17 times in 349 plate appearances - and since then, he’s walked 14 times in 159 plate appearances.
Desmond has also adjusted his swing, now hitting with his arms more extended and swinging earlier. This gives him a more powerful swing and makes him less likely to get jammed. Desmond needs to continue hitting well if he wants to be the Nationals’ long-term shortstop, since they have minor leaguer Stephen Lombardozzi waiting in the wings.
Despite Ian’s many errors at shortstop this season (22 so far), there really is no other place to put him defensively. He’s a good athlete who could handle the outfield, but with the good arms of Jayson Werth, Rick Ankiel and (potentially) Michael Morse, they don’t need to move him out there. Danny Espinosa is playing a very solid second base (he will win a Gold Glove in that position someday – you read it here first!), so there’s no reason to move Ian anywhere else in the infield.
So whether he’s the next Barry Larkin, Ozzie Smith or Omar Vizquel (or not), the Nationals have a bright future with Ian Desmond in their lineup. He can hit, he can steal (21 bases so far this season) and hopefully he can reduce his errors defensively.
About the Author
Written by Marien Hornyak
I was born and raised in Puerto Rico but have lived in the continental US for 22 years. I have a BS in Athletic Training and a MEd in Sport Management, where I did my thesis on "The History of Baseball Litigation." I am a wife, mother of 2, and self-proclaimed "Baseball Nerd." My favorite baseball players include Roberto Clemente, Kirby Puckett, and Iván Rodriguez.