Over Ian Desmond’s first 20 games played this season, he made a whopping eight errors in just 66 chances.
His fielding percentage three weeks into the season was .879, and Desmond admitted at the time that he was getting frustrated by all the miscues, even saying that stretch was comparable to other “dark places defensively” that he’d been in earlier in his career.
“The errors in the past have made me who I am today,” Desmond said at the time. “These are going to make me a better man, too. Just got to keep fighting through it.”
He’s fought through it, and over his last 47 games played, Desmond has righted the ship defensively.
He’s made just five errors in 203 chances - a .975 fielding percentage - and his confidence has seemingly returned, as he’s letting throws deep in the hole rip, and making aggressive yet smart plays to cut down runners on the basepaths.
Last night, Desmond had a couple of such situations, including a play in the top of the ninth in a one-run game when he got to Matt Dominguez’s ground ball with the tying run on first, and aggressively threw to second, cutting down Marwin Gonzalez.
Gonzalez was quickly bearing down on Danny Espinosa at the second base bag, but Desmond’s on-target throw kept the tying run out of scoring position, and the Nationals held on for the win.
So what’s been the difference in Desmond’s defensive turnaround?
“I don’t know if there’s any difference,” manager Matt Williams said. “There’s no difference. He’s making plays. He went to the hole a couple times. The play in the last inning was key, certainly. He went up the middle for the double play, too. He’s playing well.”
Last season, Desmond went through nearly the same exact defensive issues early in the season.
He made seven errors in his first 18 games of the season, then went 59 games before committing another error. Desmond finished off the season with just 20 errors, and earned a nomination for a Gold Glove for the second straight season.
For whatever reason, Desmond has started quite slowly from a defensive perspective the last two seasons. But he’s found a way to battle through those dark stretches, play to his defensive capabilities and help deliver big plays for his pitchers.
“Ian’s a good shortstop,” Ryan Zimmerman said. “He’ll tell you. He’s gone through some bad times. I think the most impressive thing is how he deals with that, and just continues to work, and just go out early and do his work. You see the plays that he makes tonight, and the last week or so the way he’s been playing, and you realize how special of a player he is. That’s what makes him so fun to watch.
“Even through the bad times, he’s still out there working and trying to get better. He’s the same person whether it’s going good or going bad. He’s a great shortstop, and a lot of fun to watch.”