2015 Washington Nationals Player Review: Ian Desmond

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The 2015 season was supposed to be one last hurrah in D.C. for shortstop Ian Desmond before his contract expired and he hit free agency. What happened instead was nothing short of a monumental disaster, even with his second half comeback. As he donned the Curly W in his final game as a member of the Washington Nationals on October 4th, Desmond left Nats fans with thoughts of what could have been.

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The 30-year old shortstop finished the year hitting .233/.290/.384 with 19 home runs, 62 RBIs, 13 stolen bases, and 187 strikeouts in 156 games. While one of the only position players in the starting lineup to remain healthy all season, Desmond struggled offensively. Particularly in the first half, when he posted a .211/.255/.334 slash line with only seven home runs in 84 games. According to ESPN, His OPS of .589 at the All-Star Break ranked 23rd of 24 shortstops with at least 250 plate appearances.

Unfortunately for the Nats, Desmond’s struggles at the plate translated into a lack of production in the field. According to baseball-reference, he committed 27 errors while putting up a .960 fielding percentage, which were the worst marks he had posted since his 34 errors, .947 fielding percentage season in 2010. Despite being a shortstop his entire career, Desi struggled with routine plays like throwing to first, turning double plays, and transitioning the ball from his glove to his hand.

After the All-Star Break, the three-time NL Silver Slugger mounted a second half comeback, hitting .262/.331/.446. It was not enough, however, to propel the Nats into the playoffs. What was to blame for his walk-year struggles? His 29.2% strikeout rate plus his .307 batting average on balls in play (BABIP) point to a problem with his swing and plate discipline. According to Fangraphs, 56.2% of pitches thrown to Desmond were outside the strike zone, a career high. Desi swung at 35.2% of these pitches, driving up his strikeout rate and reducing his chances of earning walks.

After failing to reach the 20/20 plateau for the first time since 2011, Desi will certainly be failing to earn his fourth consecutive Silver Slugger. If the Nationals were to reach the postseason this year, they would have needed a career year from their franchise shortstop. He wasn’t able to put together a strong season, and the team paid the price. Ex-manager Matt Williams stuck with the struggling shortstop the entire campaign, believing in the clubhouse leader and longtime Nat.

While some argued he no longer deserved a starting role amidst Danny Espinosa and Yunel Escobar’s solid seasons, Desmond’s age and experience led to his continued presence in the everyday lineup. His future now remains just as uncertain, as he is undoubtedly going to make less than the $107 million contract the Nats had offered him in 2013. Regardless of where he ends up, his time in D.C. is likely over. If only he had put together one last good year.

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