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Wednesday, April 24, 2013

SoE: Megdal: National Treasure

Megdal. Ian Desmond. Go.

Quick: name the shortstop who led the major leagues in home runs last year. I’ll give you a hint: he also led in OPS+, posted an above-average defensive season per Ultimate Zone Rating, and held down the position for the team with the National League’s best record. And he’s only 27, suggesting his best days are just ahead of him.

Hopefully, you know I’m referring to Ian Desmond, shortstop for the Washington Nationals. But while serious baseball fans have heard of Desmond, many casual ones still haven’t. And it’s kind of shocking that what was just recently baseball’s glamor position, home to Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez and Nomar Garciaparra, somehow has failed to generate the same kind of national enthusiasm for Desmond’s work.

Desmond is the power-hitting shortstop for what most people expect will be the National League’s best team in 2013, playing in an awfully large media market. So why is he failing to get the kind of recognition of, for instance, Rey Ordonez, Alex Gonzalez and Edgar Renteria?

...At first, Desmond appeared to dispel those doubts with a strong September debut, hitting 280/.318/.561 in 89 plate appearances. However, pitchers stopped throwing him strikes, and Desmond, intent upon improving his plate discipline, he says, instead failed to hit or walk, dropping to an 89 OPS+ in 2010 and then just 80 in 2011. On a .500 team, that was good for worst OPS+ of anyone in the everyday lineup.

So 2012 represented quite a jump for Desmond, whose 127 OPS+ was second only to Adam LaRoche’s 129 among the Nationals’ everyday players. He was more aggressive in his approach, and it paid off. He was named to the All Star team, his first, but an oblique injury kept him from playing in the game, and revealing his talent to a national audience. It’s as if he suddenly developed into a star, hidden in plain sight.

Repoz Posted: April 24, 2013 at 10:30 AM | 9 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: nats

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   1. valuearbitrageur Posted: April 24, 2013 at 12:27 PM (#4424472)
Ian wasn't even in top 10 in MLB home runs.
   2. vagab0nd is still a champion Posted: April 24, 2013 at 01:00 PM (#4424523)
Ian wasn't even in top 10 in MLB home runs.


Slightly poor wording on Megdal's part - Ian lead all SS in HR's last year.
   3. HowardMegdal Posted: April 24, 2013 at 01:44 PM (#4424592)
Agreed- that is confusing.

Or is Desmond flying so under the radar that you didn't even KNOW he led the league in HR?

No, it's confusing.
   4. Danny Posted: April 24, 2013 at 01:49 PM (#4424599)
However, pitchers stopped throwing him strikes, and Desmond, intent upon improving his plate discipline, he says, instead failed to hit or walk, dropping to an 89 OPS+ in 2010 and then just 80 in 2011.

What?
   5. Mike Emeigh Posted: April 24, 2013 at 02:53 PM (#4424727)
However, pitchers stopped throwing him strikes, and Desmond, intent upon improving his plate discipline, he says, instead failed to hit or walk, dropping to an 89 OPS+ in 2010 and then just 80 in 2011.

What?


1. Pitchers stopped throwing him strikes.
2. Desmond started taking more pitches in an effort to "improve his plate discipline".
3. Pitchers, realizing that Desmond was taking more pitches, started throwing him strikes again.
4. Desmond didn't counter adjust, and found himself in worse hitting situations.
5. Desmond's OPS+ declined as a result.

-- MWE

   6. Danny Posted: April 24, 2013 at 03:16 PM (#4424760)
Thanks, though that narrative doesn't appear to be supported by the PitchF/X stats at Fangraphs. They say that 49.8% of pitches to Desmond were in the strike zone in both 2009 and 2010, and that he swung at a higher percentage of pitches (both inside and outside of the zone) in 2010 than he did in 2009.
   7. HowardMegdal Posted: April 24, 2013 at 05:21 PM (#4425009)
6. Exactly- that's what he credits the change to (hence the "he says"). Exactly why it is happening is potentially different. It looks more like what Duke said to me, which is that he's learned how to drive more pitches on and off the plate.
   8. valuearbitrageur Posted: April 25, 2013 at 12:20 PM (#4425573)
BTW:I apologize for my snarky post. My enjoyment of the piece far outweighed my dislike of that sentence. I never realized just how good Ian's season was last year, and there is nothing I love to read more than discovering hitherto un-acknowledged talent breaking through (and ex-Expos still making an impact on the league).

Thanks Howard.
   9. HowardMegdal Posted: April 25, 2013 at 08:37 PM (#4425979)
Oh, no need to apologize at all. You were right. And thank you for the kind words.

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