Washington Nationals shortstop Ian Desmond is off to one of the worst starts of his career in 2014. He is hitting .200 through 23 games, well below his .271 career average. More concerning, however, is that Desmond leads the majors with 9 errors committed.
Desmond is one of the Nationals’ team leaders, and is someone almost everyone believes will get back on track eventually. The question is, how long will it take Desmond to snap out of his slump, and in what position will the Nationals be when he improves both his average and defense? The Nationals have already fallen 3 games behind the Atlanta Braves to start the season, and improvement from Desmond is crucial towards the Nationals’ chances of making the postseason.
At the plate, Desmond is overswinging. He does not reduce his swing in two-strike counts, leading to more strikeouts than the Nationals would like. Desmond has also struggled keeping his head on the ball, pulling his eyes off of the ball due to his overswings. As color commentator F.P. Santangelo says, “you can’t hit what you can’t see”.
Defensively, Desmond has had a tendency to go through both hot and cold spells throughout his career. Though Desmond’s errors have hurt the Nationals’ defensive confidence, I believe Desmond will be able to limit these errors as the season goes on. When the media and fans continue to make note of a player’s mistakes, it often negatively affects their play as their confidence and mental fortitude can be adversely affected. I believe this is currently going on with Desmond.
It would be insane for the Nationals to look for a replacement shortstop, as Desmond has always been a streaky defender and was a National League Silver Slugger in 2012 and 2013. Hitting Coach Rick Schu needs to work with Desmond on his current approach at the plate, and allow him to relax. Simply, Desmond needs to keep his eye on the ball. Once Desmond heats up, the Nationals offense will be able to drive in more runs with runners in scoring position, and he will provide better protection for the hitters hitting before him in the lineup.