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Posted at 1:05 PM ET, 03/10/2011

Long toss: Desmond's defense

By Washington Post editors

Adam Kilgore joined Tracee Hamilton for her online chat today. One of the chatters asked about shortstop Ian Desmond's defense during spring training.

Adam--thoughts on whether Desmond will ever turn his error trend around? Rizzo has to know he can move Espinosa to SS and use Hairston, et all at 2B for this year since we have a few other 2B's in the minors. To me, Desmond is a good trade piece with Marquis.

Adam answered:

I think Desmond's errors will decrease this year, but I also think he's a player who will always make plenty. One, that's what his minor league track record suggests. Two, and more happily for the Nats, he's going to make a lot of errors because his range allows him to get to so many balls. For him, errors are part of the deal. He'll give a team great value with his range, but his error total will detract somewhat. In the end, I think the good will outweigh the bad enough that he'll be at least an average major league defensive shortstop. If that doesn't sound like a compliment, it actually is.

I'd be stunned if the Nats traded Desmond. They see him as their shortstop for the next decade. Marquis, though, makes sense as a trade chip. If he can prove he's healthy and effective, the Nats have the depth -- and would have the incentive, since Marquis's contract ($7.5 million this year) is up at the end of 2011 -- to move him around the all-star break.

What do you think? Is Desmond's range worth the errors?

By Washington Post editors  | March 10, 2011; 1:05 PM ET
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The problem with this "long toss' is Kilgore's premise and analysis. Its not entirely correct.

The errors Desmond makes the most highlighted in ST 2011 are those errors that are related to basic fundamentals and not "range related". He acts skittish and backs up on balls. He is still trying to throw on the run without his feet and hips planted properly and the ball ends up in the dugout. You don't see these errors when Espinosa plays the position and you still see more than adequate range and a bazooka arm. Not to mention a potentially potent bat.

This may not be Desmond's fault entirely. Most of his minor league career was spent in the worst organization in baseball bereft of both talent and good coaching under JimBo the Leather "PANTS" Segway Rider. His "muscle memory" probably wasn't properly honed, and his technique not refined.

Desmond belongs at the more forgiving position in the infield of second base. There he might flourish with less pressure on his dearth of fielding ability.

Posted by: periculum | March 10, 2011 1:17 PM | Report abuse

Can't fully agree peric. To a (limited) extent, Desmond's errors remind me of those made by another great range player--Ryan Zimmerman. Zim's errors have gone down in the last 2 years, but the ones he makes are generally ones on more routine plays. I don't know why this is so, but it may be that those with great speed and range let down a little on more routine plays. Regardless, I think Desi's routine errors were fewer at the end of last year, and I think they will be down this year too. That said, it looks to me like he may just be a guy who makes more errors than we'd like but will save a lot by keeping the ball in the infield on plays most SS would not reach. Worth it, IMO.

Posted by: NatsFly | March 10, 2011 1:39 PM | Report abuse

With deference to periculum, who is often thoughtfully right on the mark, I suggest that a single year of MLB experience is not enough for a trend. I think having Adam LaRoche at 1b will know some errors off both Desmond and Zimmerman's ledgers, but there are examples folks have given enough of players having bad years followed by maturation and improvement. I am sure they made a ton of errors in the minors, too.

To answer the question, though, I believe Desmond will cut the errors in half in a year or two (with a strong first baseman to take some off), but he will never win a Gold Glove.


Posted by: kevincostello | March 10, 2011 1:42 PM | Report abuse

Weird- what did my fingers mean by "know some errors off their ledger"? I must have meant "knock".


Posted by: kevincostello | March 10, 2011 1:43 PM | Report abuse

Desmond will continue to make errors and have great range. That's fine if he can hit .270 +, have an OBP in the mid .300's and hit for power. He's got to become an offensive threat to make up for the errors.


Posted by: arlingtontwb | March 10, 2011 1:48 PM | Report abuse

Agree with the basic notion of peric's post. Desmond's errors, and Desmond's range, have little to do with each other. Desmonds makes errors on simple plays. Both of his errors this spring were on balls he waited for when he could easily have come to them, and got himself in a naturally better throwing position.
This is the main reason he has a high error rate, it has nothing to do with his range.

That said, it seems that Rizzo loves his intanglibles and his potential. It does make sense that he would be a trade chip, but I doubt it happens this year.

Posted by: Sunderland | March 10, 2011 1:54 PM | Report abuse

I'd much rather see Desi at second. After all, what's the difference between a clean single and a ball that Desi reaches and then throws away? Even fantastic offensive production shouldn't keep him in that position-look what happened to Dunn. Desi made a LOT of throwing errors in his minor league career, and is making a bunch in the majors so far. He needs to be playing where he can best help the team, not where he'd like to play.

Posted by: nobleman1 | March 10, 2011 1:56 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, I don't think Desmond makes a lot of errors because he has great range... the point I think that needs to be made is that his fantastic range and powerful arm allow him to make plays that a lot of other ML SSs couldn't... he makes outs on plays that other SSs wouldn't... and that ability mitigates the damage done by his error total.

That being said... there is no doubt about it, he needs to cut that error total down by around 10 this year to really feel good about him as our SS.

I couldn't find the data on this... but, I was interested to look at his month-to-month error totals from 2010. I was under the impression that his number of errors dropped considerably after the all star break last year... but, like I said, I couldn't (easily) find the data to back that up.

Posted by: Ghost7 | March 10, 2011 2:02 PM | Report abuse

Agree that many of Desmond's errors are not range related. He seems to be better at moving to the ball to catch it rather than watching it into the glove. He, or his hands, seem nervous if he has too much time. Later in the season last year he did cut down on the wild throws after making a great stab, plays where he had no chance to throw out the runner. Maybe he can settle down. After watching the statuesque Guzman the past few years it's nice too see a SS with both hroizontal and vertical range.

Posted by: Natmeister | March 10, 2011 2:13 PM | Report abuse

To me a move to second base would not make Desmond any less likely to wait for the wrong hop then throw off balance to first. We just have to hope he'll learn to break that habit. That or teach him left field. You can't trade him when the whole league knows about his fielding.

What surprises me, though, is that the team considers him to be a leader. We could use more of that quality, so I hope for the best.

Posted by: poncedeleroy | March 10, 2011 2:16 PM | Report abuse

Wait and see. I do not expect Desmond to have fewer than 25 errors. If he gets below 20, the trade off of range v. miscues is worth it defensively, especially if he can cut his K rate and learn to walk. I do not expect him to have an OBP of > .330.

I think by the end of the year it will be apparent that Danny Espinosa is the more sure handed middle infielder, hits for a slightly worse average, walks more, has a highewr OBP, is a superior base runner, has an equal arm, and only slightly inferior range. That said, I expect it will be Espinosa, not Desmond, traded. If he is not buried offensively by swinging and missing, Espinosa would be too valuable to some team not to want to try him at SS.

Posted by: jca-CrystalCity | March 10, 2011 2:41 PM | Report abuse

Recently the MLB Network did its program on the Top 10 Shortstops Right Now. Desmond was not in the Top 10, but he was one of the five guys they named who just missed out on being included. So that puts him in the top 15, which is the upper half of shortstops in all of MLB - at least according to the wise people at MLB Network. But what the hell do they know?

Posted by: FeelWood | March 10, 2011 3:16 PM | Report abuse

I agree with most comments here. Desmond’s errors are either fundamentals (not setting his feet before a throw) or trying to make a spectacular play and making a throw when he should "eat it".
The good news is both can be fixed with good coaching and maturity.

Posted by: brianbu | March 10, 2011 3:33 PM | Report abuse

Just to reinforce the point: yet another spring training error by Desmond. At this rate he could have up to 10 or more before the end of spring training. Its time to look at Espinosa at shortstop. Way past time.

Posted by: periculum | March 10, 2011 3:58 PM | Report abuse

Ian's Error are not based on his range.....How Kilgore got this job is a mystery....Desmond's error's are almost always on balls directly hit right to him....easy 4 hoppers that he does not charge and then throws flat footed.....WPOST get a real baseball reporter please!

Posted by: JayBeee | March 10, 2011 4:25 PM | Report abuse

Sigh ... never mind knowing that we're on Giggleman's Isle I know it will be Cora, the hitless over-the-hill veteran, replacing Desmond if he falters ... not Espinosa. Pudge has lost his bat hard to see how Ramos doesn't get most of the reps at catcher ... again here on Giggleman's Isle. So, join us here each day my friends you're sure to get a smile from 25 stranded cast-aways here on Giggleman's Isle!

Posted by: periculum | March 10, 2011 4:33 PM | Report abuse

If Desmond makes few errors on routine plays and gets the bulk of them on tough plays because of his range, he is worth it. But any shortstop the blows routine plays is not worth it.

Posted by: cabraman | March 10, 2011 4:55 PM | Report abuse

Say what you will but i'm a little worried about Storen; yeah i know it's early but i don't like what i'm seeing so far. The Desmond situation at short should have time to play itself out(within reason!) i think LaRoche will help him out in a big way(Zimm too)the key for this infield is confidence and continuity.

Posted by: dargregmag | March 10, 2011 4:58 PM | Report abuse

At the major league level [or ANY LEVEL] ALL you ask of your shortstop is to make "the routine play". ALWAYS. This clown Desmond will never be Belanger for sure. I think he blows and should be @ 2b and hit 8th. I have zero idea what Giggs or Rizz see in this dude. Desi should be the pitchman for Ginsu Knives. Absolutely awful. ......Did I mention he stinks as a hitter? Other than that, he's a fine likeable dude.

Posted by: rdondero123 | March 10, 2011 5:17 PM | Report abuse

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