Matt of Matt’s Bats: Has Desmond put rocky start in rear-view mirror?

Ian Desmond started the season off rocky. By rocky, I mean nine errors and 23 strikeouts in April. But Desmond, who some could argue is the best shortstop in baseball, has started to turn it on and is playing more like the Desmond we knew in past years. As showcased in the Nationals’ series against the Yankees and Phillies last week, Desmond still has some pop in his bat. He hit two home runs, just missed a third and is on a 10-game hit streak. While he wasn’t as productive to start the season, he has started to show the world again that he is a great player.

Desmond played 154 out of 162 games last year, making him one of the most valuable everyday players on the Nats. He hit 24 home runs and had 24 stolen bases, his third straight 20-20 year. Achieving the 20-20 mark means that you are capable of hitting for power and speed on the basepaths. Power hitters today like Miguel Cabrera, Pablo Sandoval, Nelson Cruz and Albert Pujols come up with big hits from time to time, but don’t have speed to take extra bases. Speedy guys like Dee Gordon, Ben Revere and Eric Young Jr. don’t have the power to rack up big hits. Desmond has both qualities.

Comparing him to other shortstops in baseball, Desmond may be the best. The Rockies’ Troy Tulowitzki is very injury-prone and isn’t able to play 154 games in a year like Desmond. Younger guys like Andrelton Simmons of the Braves and Adeiny Hechavarria of the Marlins are very similar, as their defense is absolutely fantastic, but they don’t have Desmond’s bat. It’s the complete opposite for players like Jhonny Peralta of the Cardinals and Jimmy Rollins of the Dodgers - they can hit, but are near the end of their careers and don’t have Desmond’s speed or defensive range. Having a short stop like Desmond on your team is something really valuable.

Even though he has gotten only four home runs and one stolen base so far this season, he has shown signs of heating up. I’m really impressed at the way Desmond bounced back from his many errors in the beginning of the year. Fans are wondering what caused his sudden turnaround. Who knows? It looks to me like he’s changed his swing a little, maybe taking a shorter step into the ball. Another speculation is that he has gone back to chewing tobacco. Last year, Desmond swore off his bad habit as a good health move, but lately I think I’ve noticed the round tin in his back pocket. He also seems to be using a different-colored glove in the field, so maybe that’s it. Or maybe he just needed some time.

Whatever it is, he has started to show a little more of his power. He hit home runs in back-to-back games against the Yankees. He is on a 10-game hitting streak and now has 14 RBIs on the season, with nine of those coming in May. He made an error on Saturday against the Phillies and two in one game two weeks ago in Arizona, but before that, he didn’t make one in several weeks.

I have always been a fan of Desmond and I am hoping that his play keeps getting better as the season goes on. I am also hoping the Nationals re-sign him, otherwise he seems destined to leave the team in free agency at the end of the season. There’s also been talk of a trade, including renewed discussion of bringing Ben Zobrist on board. Whichever team lands a talent like Desmond is lucky. The way he is on and off the field, he will be a fan favorite in whatever city he goes to.

Ten-year-old Matt blogs about the Nationals at Matt’s Bats. Follow him on Twitter: @MattsBats. He shares his views weekly as part of MASNsports.com’s initiative of welcoming guest bloggers to our little corner of cyberspace. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by MASNsports.com but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.

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