Holding Court: Is Ian Desmond Cooked? Or Will Twitter Save Him?

@IDesmond20

Ian Desmond has two weeks to resemble some form has his recent self. By then Anthony Rendon *should* be back. So should Jayson Werth. Maybe even Ryan Zimmerman. The trading deadline of July 31st is also in two weeks. Convenient. If the Nats had a big division lead they would have the luxury to let Desmond play his way out of whatever it is this is. But they don’t.
The top priority for this team is getting @ouij a new hat winning the World Series, not Ian Desmond’s next contract.
He’s had 350 plate appearances in 85 games (prior to Saturday’s games) and with 14 games left in July, he’ll have about 400 PAs by the end of the month. The next 50 or so at-bats won’t change his terrible numbers (.209/.254./.332, -0.9 WAR) much but they can at least be an indication of progress. What does progress look like? Fangraphs has a great article breaking down his troubles – swinging and missing high fastballs, a past sweet spot  – so progress would be less Ks and more extra-base hits. If he can show any sort of progress in those two areas, his experience and leadership make it worth the gamble to let him try to improve by the playoffs.
But if not, it’s time to bench him. Danny Espinosa has put up the numbers Ian Desmond was supposed to (.255/.331/.433, 2.2 WAR) so he’s the one that should keep playing. Yunel Escobar has put up the numbers expected of him (.325/.372/.423, 1.4 WAR) so he should keep playing. Once Rendon and Zimmerman come back, someone will have to sit.
If Desmond doesn’t show some kind of turn around, and maybe even if he does, I think the better bet would be to let Zim and Rendon play their way back into shape than to sacrifice ABs from them to give to Desmond. At some point he is what he is. Maybe next year will be different. But the priority must be this year. And this year he’s been terrible.
The falloff in his play happened after he left Twitter. Now he’s back. If it’s not Twitter, then it’s because he’s slowing down. Let’s hope it’s Twitter. 

Get To Know Some Nats: Infielders

Every year, we put together player profiles for the Nationals players likely to make the 25 man roster. This way you’ll have a better idea of just who is taking the field. Except for a few notable exceptions, the Washington Nationals of 2015 will be the same team you’ve been watching for a few years. So we’re going to forego lengthy profiles of stuff you already know, and focus on capsules for a few players at a time. A quicker, more forward focused view for the savvy fan.

You can read our outfielder preview here, and our starting pitcher preview here.

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Ian Desmond, SS

Fangraphs | 2014 Preview

On a team when every infielder has a story going into 2015, Desmond’s demands the most attention. Lo beware the shortstop who can hit, for they shall be in demand and cost lots and lots of money: And Desmond can hit. The list of shortstop with three 20 HR / 20 SB seasons is very short: Alex Rodriguez, Hanley Ramierez and Ian Desmond. (Seriously, buy Baseball Prospectus).

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Nats Spring Training Question #5: Is the 25 Man Roster Already Set?

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As far as I can figure, the 2015 Nationals will head into Spring Training with at least 23 of their 25 slots filled and ready to go. A luxury to be sure, and not one that will repeat itself anytime soon. Over the next few seasons, at least a handful of free agents will be leaving each year, many from key positions. For example, the 2016 Nationals could be starting the season without Jordan Zimmermann, Doug Fister, Ian Desmond and Denard Span: And that’s just me thinking of starters off the top of my head. Each year after next, similar names may be on the way out the door, each requiring a spring training for new players to become acquainted with the team, young players trying to play their way on, and a parade of healthy competition for starting spots.
But the future is the future, and today is today: And today, the Nats won’t have to think too hard about a lot of the spots on the team. Each MLB club is allotted a 25 man roster to play day-to-day with, and an expanded 40 man roster where the additional 15 players are in the minor leagues, but available for call up at a moment’s notice.
Seriously, I just went through the roster and I’m not sure there is anywhere for anyone to break into the top 25. There, legitimately, may be no camp battles in 2015. So let’s count them up.

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Get To Know Neurofibromatosis

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As you’ve likely seen already, May is Neurofibromatosis (NF) Awareness Month. Lots of Nats-tweeters have changed their profile pictures (to the picture above), and are using the hashtag #EndNF. Ian Desmond is raising money for research via Indegogo to be donated the Children’s Tumor Foundation (CTF). It’s going to be big deal this month, and we here at Nats101 are chipping in.

Throughout the month, we (along with fellow bloggers at Federal Baseball, District Sports Page and The Nats Blog) will be writing about the disease, Ian Desmond’s involvement in the charity, and how you can get involved. We’ll be keeping you linked up to their pages, and probably finding a few other things to do with it around here. (You can thank Nats Archivist Allan for getting us involved by the way).

Since we fancy ourselves to be, at times, a baseball basics blog, I thought we could get things rolling with a discussion about just what NF is. In the spirit of our Get to Know a Nat and Stat blog posts, let’s get to know NF.

Okay, so what is NF?

(For the record, I’m using several resources for this, but most of it is coming right from the wonderful CTF web faq.)

Neurofibromatosis is any of a number of genetic disorders that cause tumors to grow along various types of nerves. As you probably know, nerves are just about everywhere in your body meaning that NF can cause tumors (neurofibromas) just about anywhere in your body. Even non-nervous tissue, such as bones and skin, can develop NF tumors.

Any number of genetic disorders?

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Talking Points #5: #Wedgegate, Four Outta Six and Improved Depth.

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Don’t like baseball? Don’t feel like you know very much about it? Don’t think that should stop you from sounding like you do? Nats101 presents Talking Points, a weekly series designed to take advantage of the BSing nature of Washington D.C., and make you sound like a seamhead on your very first try. (And maybe learn ya some baseball while we’re at it).

Look – I hated that call, but Justin Upton wasn’t being lazy, he was playing a gamble that paid off. If you want to be mad at anyone, be mad at the Umpires. 

  • Hopefully you made it to Opening Day and had some fun despite the 2-1 loss to the Braves. The play of the day was Ian Desmond’s inside the park home run turned ground rule double that had to do with the picture above. It drew great ire from the home crowd, as it should have. Still why just sound like everyone else?
  • Federal Baseball did a great write-up of what happened and how the rule 7.05(f) affected the play. Credit where credit is due, you should read their article.
  • Upton, as an MLB outfielder, knows that if a ball is “lodged” he can raise his hands and the play is dead. He had nothing to lose as Desmond is a fast runner and this hit was at least a triple. If he indicates he can’t get the ball he’s going to put it into the mind of the umpires that the play should be ended. It paid off
  • The problem, of course, is that the ball was easily picked up and tossed in after Upton indicated the ball was lodged. In the picture above you can see is not lodged under the padding. it must have rolled forward enough that it wasn’t “under” the padding.
  • As such, in your talking points, you can take pains to say that Justin Upton made a smart, if dirty, play. The history of baseball is built upon plays like that. Save your ire for the umpires who didn’t make a quick call on the field nor got it right in review.

Forget how they got there, if I told you on March 30 the Nats would be 4-2 after 6 games you’d be pretty happy about it. 

  • The common wisdom in baseball is to “win the series at home and split on the road.” Given the usual three game structure of a series, winning 2 and losing one at home is okay. If you have two road series (6 games) winning 3 of those 6 is really good.
  • Expectations can get a little pumped up after a 3 games sweep of the lowly Mets. It’s also pretty easy to get deflated after the Nats drop two out of three to the not so lowly Atlanta Braves at home.
  • But that’s baseball. It doesn’t come in actual neat little 3 game packages. Yes, 3-0 is great opportunity to shoot for 5-1 with a home series, but if you fall short that’s what the extra win in New York gets you. Winning two-thirds of your games will get you 108 games. (That’s a ton of wins).
  • The Nats will play 15 more games against the Braves and Mets each. They won’t lose each series to the Braves, and I’d be surprised if they won each series against the Mets. Going 12-6 against either team ought to be considered the outer limits of “great job.” Anything less than that can still be really good, including 10-8 or even 9-9 against the Braves.

The Nationals need some of the guys to come back healthy, but at least they are in a much better position than last year to absorb some of the injuries. 

  • Sunday featured the sixth different line-up in six games for the Washington Nationals. While some of that is juggling by Matt Williams, a chunk of that is injury. The big blow was to Wilson Ramos in game one who’ll be out 5 weeks. After that though, the Nats have had a series of smaller injuries take their toll.
  • Ryan Zimmerman has a sore shoulder (though no structural damage). Scott Hairston hurt himself in batting practice and is on the 15-day DL. Oh and Doug Fister, of course, hasn’t started the season yet.
  • The good news is flash forward to Sunday: On top of no Hairston, Ramos and  Zimmerman, the Nats gave Denard Span and Bryce Harper the day off. Instead of Kurt Suzuki, Chad Tracey, Roger Bernadina, Steve Lombardozzi and… gosh…I don’t even know, Tyler Moore?, the Nats have a solidly deep bench that didn’t really flinch on Sunday. Sure, Danny Espinosa, Jose Lobaton, Nate McLouth, Kevin Frandsen and… well….okay, still Tyler Moore is a serious step up.
  • Sunday’s lineup isn’t built to win a lot of games, but they are built to be competent in games occasionally (and even more effective when all five of them are not in at once). With the news that some of these injuries are already looking better (and that some guys were just pulled for rest), the Nats ought to be in a much better position to weather short term injury bugs.
  • Particularly if Zim misses a few days. His bat is a big loss, but the flexibility to move Rendon to third and put Espinosa at second is a huge help…as long as that stays short term for now.

 Did you read David Huzzard’s piece on MASN? I mean, I usually read him on Citizens of Natstown too, but his post on the myth of the 25 man roster was very insightful. 

  • Dave Huzzard is a smart damned baseball dude. The only thing new followers need to be aware of is that sometimes he’s sarcastic with no remorse…as in he won’t clue you in that he’s being sarcastic, he’ll just let you hang there. (I can almost see his “I am never sarcastic” tweet right now).
  • He writes for the Citizens of Natstown blog, a network that we are happy to say we got our start under three years ago. He’s such a good blogger though that he also writes for MASN-the official TV Network for the Washington Nationals.
  • He wrote a very clever piece outlining the myth that who makes the 25 man roster out of spring training is particularly important in the long run of a full season. You should read the article, and you should follow Dave if you’re not already.

Holding Court: 5 Extensions I’d do before Desmond and Zimmermann

The two two-year deals the Nats handed out to Ian Desmond and Jordan Zimmermann effectively ended the negotiations for a longer term deal – at least for this offseason. Neither of those deals was really an extension because both players are under team control for 2015, nor were they “backloaded”. They simply settled next year’s arbitration cases early, thus the salary escalates in the second year because that’s what was going to happen anyway. However, both deals did save the Nats $3.4M compared to MLBTR’s predictions for the 2014 season. I think both of these guys are worth extending into their free agent years but they are not without risks.

Desmond will turn 29 by the end of the season so extending him past his current contract would cover his 30’s – and the beginning of a player’s typical decline. Zimmermann turns 28 in May, so like Desi, is wrapping up his ‘prime’ years. Plus both players have checkered injury historys to boot. Extending players before they hit free agency is done to save the club some money in exchange for the player’s security with guaranteed money. Thus, if you can’t get a discount and will have to pay market value, then there’s little reason for the club to take the risk of guaranteeing year.

With that in mind, here are 5 other players that I would extend this spring while waiting another offseason to revisit Zimmermann and Desmond.

5. Wilson Ramos (age 26)

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Get To Know A Nat: Ian Desmond

Ian Desmond

Welcome to “Get To Know a Nat.” There are currently 39 men on the 40 man roster, and we’re going to give you the straight scoop on all of them!  Not sure where to start with player and season previews?  Not ready to jump into heavy metrics?  Just want to get to know the players, what they do, and what to expect from them in 2013?  Then you’ve come to the right place!

Name: Ian M. Desmond
Nickname(s): Desi (I call him Superman sometimes)
DOB: September 20, 1985 (Age 27)
Twitter?: @IanDesmond20
From: Sarasota, FL
Position: Shortstop  Batting Order:  Last year was 6th
Hand: Righty
With the Nats Since: Drafted in 2004 by the Expos(!), Debuted in 2009

Last Spring, you couldn’t swing a cat without hitting at least two people who were fed up with Ian Desmond.  As I chronicled a bit in the Danny Espinosa post, every amateur-GM in Natstown was ready to ship Desi out and moving Espi to short.  Sure, in 2011, Ian had cut down on his errors in the field from 2010, but his bat didn’t improve at all. In fact, it got a bit worse.

So with the pressure of needing to perform pushing down on his shoulders, Ian Desmond put together more than just a breakout year-barring injury, Ian Desmond would have been a serious MVP candidate.  He finished 16th as it was-and he missed a month of the season.  Now, with even more at stake than last year, Desmond will look to repeat (and even exceed) his performance from 2012.

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