Danny Espinosa’s struggles this year at the plate this year are well known and well documented. He leads the team in strikeouts with 51. His batting average of .221 is worst among regular Nationals starters. He gets fooled with the inside breaking ball on a regular basis. What has not been discussed as often is his base running issues this season.
Espinosa has stolen five bases this year. He has been caught stealing three times. One of his successful steals was of third, which means that he is four for four in trying to steal second. Rick Ankiel has a worse percentage (he’s one for four), but that’s the only player on the team with a worse percentage of attempting to steal second. Danny has already hit into five double plays this season in 45 games, when last year he only hit into six all year while playing 158 games. These are indications that his speed is down this year. I don’t know if Danny’s steal attempts have been green lit from the dugout or if he is taking off on his own, but I sure would like to find out.
Even worse for the Nats, Espinosa has been thrown out at the plate at least twice trying to score from second on singles from fellow players. During the May 13th game with the Cincinnati Reds, Espinosa was thrown out at the plate trying to score on a single to left by Flores. Instead of having the bases loaded with two outs, the Nats were out of the inning. At the time, it appeared not to matter that much as the Nats had gone up 4-2 in that inning and eventually scored six total runs. However, by the end of the game the Nats could have used more runs as they lost the game in the bottom of the ninth on a grand slam by Joey Votto. On May 23rd, Espinosa was cut down at the plate during a game with the Phillies trying to score from second on a single to right by Harper. At the time the Nats were down by two runs. The next batter, Zimmerman, hit a single to right that would have scored Espinosa and made the game 2-1. Instead the Nats got nothing out of the inning and went on to lose the game 4-1.
Espinosa appears not to be as fast as the Nationals coaching staff believes him to be. Bo Porter waved Espinosa home both times he was thrown out at the plate. I don’t know whether Espinosa lost that half step during the off season or whether it happened after spring training and before the start of the season, but the Nationals staff needs to get out its collective stop watches and find out. Danny’s actual speed affects whether he should be given the green light to steal, and whether Porter waves him home on what would be a close play at the plate.
Putting a player into a situation where they will fail is not good management of your personnel. Espinosa is having a hard enough time at the plate without compounding his problems. If Espinosa gets on base with a walk or a hit, and then gets thrown out trying to steal or trying to score, you have turned his success in getting on base into a failure. That is not good for Danny Espinosa or for the team. For Danny’s sake, the team needs to focus on his current, accurate speed numbers and adjust accordingly.