What’s Plaguing Ian Desmond?

Desmond.jpgI’m sorry Ian Desmond. You are just an innocent pawn in the macabre scene that is unfolding for all of my fantasy baseball hitters. I’m sure this is of little solace, given your .217 batting average, but you are at least playing better than Hanley Ramirez, the cornerstone of my once glorious empire.

Yesterday was not a particularly sterling day for the Nationals, as they got shut out 8-0 going for the sweep of the Marlins. So rather than punish myself recapping those good times, I figured new and more targeted ways to extract a pound of spirit from my soul: Analyze the woes of Ian Desmond.

Coming into today, Desmond sports a ritzy .217/.250/.633 line, which would be good if Blinky the Fish was playing shortstop for the Nationals. Hmmmm…given Desmond’s whiff rate, it is tempting to think of the upside possibilities emerging from a mutated third eye. Oh Jim, what’s the big deal? I bet before the Washington Post blew this out of proportion, you didn’t even know how many eyes a shortstop had.

Well then, back to Desmond and his two eyes shall we? Looking at the raw counting stats, it is not all bad for Desmond. Along with his .217 average, Desmond has 3 home runs, 12 RBIs, 16 runs scored and an impressive 10 stolen bases. But those numbers belie the poor play of Desmond, which is better illustrated by his awful triple slash line and the deeper numbers that tell the tale of Desmond’s struggles.

Looking beneath the surface at the indispensable FanGraphs website, it becomes quickly apparent why Desmond is struggling. His strikeout rate has soared from 20.8% last season to 27% this season while his walk rate has fallen from 4.9% to 4%. Desmond’s batting average on balls in play has also tumbled from .317 (a bit inflated last year) to .262 this season (a touch unlucky). The mix of more strikeouts, less walks, and less luck with balls falling for hits has wrecked his batting average and on base percentage.

The strange thing about Desmond is that he is actually making more contact this year (79.6% contact rate vs. 78.5%). He O-Swing %, which measures the percentage of pitches swung at outside the strike zone, has actually significantly improved as well, falling from 33.2% to 26.4%. So what’s plaguing Ian Desmond?

Interestingly, it appears the culprit is a combination of Desmond perhaps becoming too passive at the plate, as he is swinging at less pitches in the strike zone this season (60.1% as opposed to 66.5%), and he is simply hitting more fly balls (39.5% vs. 31.6%), which are less likely to fall for a hit. Given that Desmond’s isolated power is up this season (he already has three homers, six doubles and two triples), it is not shocking to learn that he may be trying to elevate the ball in an attempt to clear the fences. Unfortunately, this deal with the devil suggests that Desmond is not really getting unlucky with his batting average on balls in play, as one would expect that to dip with an increase in fly balls.

Going forward, it appears as though Desmond has to become more aggressive with pitches in the strike zone and find a way to cut back on the empty fly outs. The uptick in power is nice, but not at the expense of an atrocious batting average and on base percentage that swamp any benefits from the extra home run or two that may be gained. Barring those changes, he should schedule a tour of the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant.

Current Record: 16-18

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s