Oct 7, 2012; St. Louis, MO, USA; Washington Nationals second baseman Danny Espinosa (8) fields a ground ball hit by St. Louis Cardinals right fielder Carlos Beltran (not pictured) during the first inning of the 2012 NLDS at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-US PRESSWIRE
Danny Espinosa’s season in 2012 looked an awful lot like the second half of his 2011 season. He was often steady to spectacular playing second base, but struggled at the plate. He would give brief glimpses of what he is capable of as a hitter, then regress into a string of 0-for games. He had to deal with a late season shoulder injury that required a cortisone shot.
2012 Prediction (ZiPS): .229/.309/.400, 20 HR, 71 RBI, SB 17, SO 177, 156 games, 582 AB
2012 Actual (with Nats): .247/.315/.402, 17 HR, 56 RBI, SB 20, SO 189, 160 games, 594 AB
Espinosa continues to provide highlight reel second base play for the Nationals. It is obvious that he and Ian Desmond have played together long enough that they understand where the other will be positioned on certain plays. They turned some pretty spectacular double plays for the Nats this year. If a ball got past Danny it was clearly a hit. He only committed six errors all year playing second, for a fielding percentage of .989. When Desmond had to take nearly a month off with an oblique injury, Danny filled in ably at shortstop for Ian, with Steve Lombardozzi taking over at second base until Desmond was ready to return to the lineup.
Unfortunately, Espinosa did not have a whole lot of highlight reel plate appearances. He may appear to have an adequate average, but his batting average does not tell the whole story. Espinosa bats as a switch hitter. There is a wide gulf in his splits from left side vs. right side in batting average and strike outs. Danny hit .233 batting left handed and .282 batting right handed. That’s a fifty point difference in his batting average left vs. right. Danny strikes out at a higher rate from left side (every 2.95 plate appearances) than from the right side (every 3.7 plate appearance).
It was apparent from early in the season that Espinosa had a big hole in his swing batting as a lefty. He could not hit or lay off of the inside breaking ball. Once right handed pitchers in the league looked at about two weeks worth of film, and saw the problem, they exploited this weakness the entire season. Espinosa never adjusted to what pitchers were doing to him, and he continued to chase that pitch all year.
As a result, Espinosa has the dubious honor to be the National League strike out leader for the 2012 season, fanning 189 times. Adam Dunn was the American League strike out leader with 222 whiffs for the season, but Dunn also drew a league leading 105 walks and hit 41 home runs.
In fact, Danny Espinosa had the embarrassing distinction of becoming the second baseman with the most strikeouts in a season in Major League Baseball history.
Season Highlight: On August 4th against the Marlins at Nationals Park, Espinosa was playing shortstop because Desmond was on the DL. He committed two errors at short, Jordan Zimmerman did not pitch well and the Nats found themselves behind the Marlins 6-4 in the bottom of the eighth inning. After Tyler Moore tied the game with a pinch hit single, Espinosa atoned for his earlier errors in that eighth inning at the plate, cranking a game winning three run homer off reliever Mike Dunn which put the Nats ahead for good. The Nats went on to win the game 10-7, picking up a game on the Braves in the NL East race because the Braves dropped a game to the Astros that night.
Chien Ming Wang