Nationals shortstop Ian Desmond is creating havoc for opposing pitchers on the base paths. Despite a left quad injury that sidelined him Saturday, Desmond has stolen 13 bases, tied for the top spot in the National League.
Third base coach Bo Porter, who stole 236 bases in the minor leagues and was an All-Big 10 defensive back for the Iowa Hawkeyes, says Desmond is good because he has speed but he is also paying attention to the pitcher and the game situation while on base.
"He is very aggressive," Porter said. "He has been picking his spots. We talked about it in spring training, about running with a purpose and understanding of all the things leading up to (that moment) in the game: the pitcher, his move, what keys to read with his move, (when discussing) pitch selection, how they are pitching the guys coming up behind you?
"One of the biggest things is not having fear. He is aggressive to the point where there is no hesitation when he makes up his mind that he is going to get the bag, he is convinced he is going to get it. He is not only running with a purpose, he is stealing bases even when the other team knows he is going to steal."
Desmond says it is all about his mindset. You can't be afraid.
"I don't worry about getting caught," Desmond said. "I just want to go. Once I go, I want to be 100 percent committed to going. I am not going to question myself."
And with Desmond getting the attention away from the batter, the pitcher now has several things to think about.
"The main thing for me is to put pressure on the other team," Desmond said. "I might be out this time, but the next time I get on first base they are going to be thinking about me running again. The pitcher doesn't want to bounce the ball. The next guy gets a hanging slider. Just because you are out or safe, doesn't mean you aren't effective."
Nationals manager Jim Riggleman says Desmond reminds him of another base stealer he worked with in the '80s while with St. Louis as their minor league coordinator.
"I think he the reason he is doing well in that area is he is aggressive," Riggleman said. "He gets on and goes. (Desi) is fast, but he is not blazing fast. Back in the day, when I was around the Cardinals, I remember Vince Coleman was always the leading base stealer. But he wasn't the fastest Cardinal, he was probably the third fastest. It was the mind set that he had. It was just amazing, he was fearless."
Coleman led the National League in stolen bases for six consecutive seasons (1985-1990). From 1985 through 1987, Coleman stole 326 bases.
Already in 2011, Desmond is just four off his career high of 17 stolen bases from last year. I am sure the Nationals would be more than happy to see Desmond lead the senior circuit for awhile in that category, because as Desmond said, that would mean his on-base percentage would rise too.