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Rizzo confident Desmond can turn season around

Jul 15, 2015, 3:37 PM EST

USA Today

With a full four days off in between games due to the 2015 MLB All-Star break, most of the Nationals roster will get a nice rest before they get back going against the Dodgers on Friday night. The second half of the season is about to begin and, though the Nats are currently in first place, many players on the team will hope to improve as the season goes on.

Of course, a good group of Nats players will hope to get healthy and back on the field. But several guys who have been playing all year will simply aim for better results.

Perhaps no player fits that description better on the Nationals than Ian Desmond. A three-time Silver Slugger at shortstop, Desmond has struggled mightily this year both at the plate and on defense. Desmond has been in the lineup all season, which is more than many of his teammates can say, but the results have not been ideal.

Through 84 games this year, Desmond is batting just .211/..255/.334 with seven home runs and 24 RBI. He has committed a whopping 20 errors already, just four away from the 24 he had in 154 games last season. Only one MLB player – Oakland’s Marcus Semien – has committed more.

Despite all that, however, Nats general manager Mike Rizzo is confident Desmond can turn his season around. He says there are no plans to make a change at shortstop, even with Desmond’s uncertainty as a pending free agent.

“I expect him to be Ian Desmond [in the second half]. He’s our shortstop, he’s gonna be our shortstop,” Rizzo explained. “He’s a leader of the ballclub. He’s a three-time Silver Slugger that we think he’s going to be Ian Desmond in the second half. He’s got a great attitude, a great work ethic.”

Extension talks between Desmond and the team during the offseason didn’t get anywhere and the seven-year veteran is facing the prospect of leaving the only MLB organization he’s ever known. Put that into the context of his poor on-field performance, and you can imagine it’s been a tough year for Desmond.

Rizzo, though, lauds Desmond for the way he has handled himself this season, given all that has occurred.

“For a guy who has struggled like he has, he still comes to the ballpark with a smile every day and a bounce in his step. The one thing that he gives, not only Matt Williams but me, is that he plays every day. We know who our shortstop is every given day and that’s an important component to his skillset,” Rizzo said.

Rizzo and the Nationals have shown a willingness to be patient with players if they have a track record in the majors. He is using the same approach with Desmond and is hopeful the team will see better results as the season continues.

Desmond does have a history of hitting better after the All-Star break. His career splits show a .250/.293/.415 slash in the first half and a .285/.337/.432 mark in the second.

“He’s a proven player. You know, I always look at the back of the baseball cards and figure out what kind of player they’re going to be. I think that you see what Desi’s numbers are now, what they should be and I see him ascending to reach those numbers in the second half,” he said.

  1. scnatsfan - Jul 15, 2015 at 3:48 PM

    “Nats general manager Mike Rizzo is confident Desmond can turn his season around”

    Good, between Rizzo and I that makes one of us. Me, I use the word hopeful.

    • npb99 - Jul 15, 2015 at 3:51 PM

      Ha! Yes, a bit of a funny story. What in the world would Rizzo otherwise say? “Rizzo just about given up on Desmond.” Or “Rizzo fed up with Desmond’s poor play.”

      • masterfishkeeper - Jul 15, 2015 at 3:54 PM

        Well, if Amaro was the GM, he’d say something like that.

      • jd - Jul 15, 2015 at 4:04 PM

        Well exactly. But Rizzo isn’t stupid and I’m sure he’s well aware of Desmond’s 4 year steady regression culminating in this year’s fall off the cliff. If Desmond was the SS he wouldn’t have acquired the SS of the near future in Trae Turner. The interesting story will be what to do if/when Rendon comes back and is ready to play. You can’t sit sit Espinosa and his 2.1 WAR can you?

    • lphboston - Jul 15, 2015 at 8:25 PM

      Yep, and Rizzo gave zero reasons WHY he said he thinks Desmond will improve. Pressure will only mount on Desmond in the second half. Guy lost me late in a game in June when we had a runner on second and no outs in a tight game, and Desmond wouldn’t even try to give himself up to get the runner over. He turned down a lot of money, which is his right. But . . . you reap what you sow.

  2. Hiram Hover - Jul 15, 2015 at 4:06 PM

    What to do on a slow day after the ASG and before real baseball resumes?

    Why, you tee up Desi, of course.

    Swing away, insiders!

    • homeparkdc - Jul 15, 2015 at 4:19 PM

      Rizzo started it, Mark followed along and, as you said, there’s no game today. We could talk about trades.
      How much can we get for Desi? LOL

      • davebinmd - Jul 16, 2015 at 11:57 AM

        Haha, well said homeparkdc.

        Here’s a trade we can discuss that hope doesn’t happen: Mark’s former coworker back at the Wash Times, Thom Loverro, thinks the Nats should trade Trea Turner to the Reds to get Chapman, or if not Turner, then Joe Ross.

        Giving-up a young blue-chip shortstop, for the near and long term future, right when we need a shortstop, for any relief pitcher, is IMO, is insane.

        With regard to Ross: With JZ, Fister and Stras, the Nats figure to lose 3 of their 5 starting pitchers by the end of 2016. They’ll need two guys next year, if they fill from within, they’ve got Roark, Cole and Ross to battle it out for those two spots, and Giolito will hopefully be ready to replace Stras. I wouldn’t trade Ross either.

  3. Soul Possession, My Sofa - Jul 15, 2015 at 4:21 PM

    I suppose I should go back and look, but I don’t remember Vinny getting this kind of flak at the end of 2005, when they brought up Zimmerman. Cristian Guzman took most of it, that season. They kept saying the same kind of stuff. “There is no way Cristian Guzman goes a whole season hitting .195.” And he didn’t. But by the time he turned it around, the trees were turning colors.

  4. Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 15, 2015 at 4:33 PM

    Quotes from Mike Rizzo this time of year can have many meanings. Near the trade deadline last year he said “I like the team we have” and the next day he traded for Asdrubal Cabrera.

    I’m hoping Desi can turn his season around but he would have to go en fuego for weeks to get his numbers to where he’s been. It’s possible and I hope Rizzo is correct.

  5. philipd763 - Jul 15, 2015 at 4:37 PM

    Desmond will never turn it around until he stops swinging for the fences. He needs to become a contact hitter. Espinosa did it but Demond seems consumed with hitting home runs.

    • virginiascopist - Jul 15, 2015 at 4:46 PM

      You know, I thought this swinging from his heels was a relatively new thing for Desi, but I just watched the end of a Nationals Classic from 2011, and there he was, bases loaded, swinging for the fences — hey, at least it wasn’t on a pitch outside the zone. To be fair, he did end up with a bloop single in the at-bat.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 15, 2015 at 5:13 PM

        Exactly, people think this is a different Desi. He’s always swung that way but look how he had a steady head and on the ball. You can’t hit what don’t see and that’s a big part of his problem with his struggles. The other part is recognizing balls in the zone.

        Since 2012 it has gotten progressively worse.

    • manassasnatsfan - Jul 15, 2015 at 7:49 PM

      Correct. Swinging way to hard

  6. BigHairyChestedGuy - Jul 15, 2015 at 4:40 PM

    “We know who our shortstop is every given day and that’s an important component to his skillset,”

    This is literally the same thing as saying “the only reason he’s in the lineup is his stubborn knack for avoiding trivial injury so I can hide him on the DL.”

    I may start using this tactic in my employees’ annual reviews. “He didn’t get hit by a bus on the way to work this morning, and that’s an important component to his skillset.”

  7. Danny - Jul 15, 2015 at 4:50 PM

    Detwiler released after rejecting a minor league designation. Oh my.

    • Dave - Jul 15, 2015 at 4:54 PM

      Yep, very sad about old National Det.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 15, 2015 at 5:15 PM

        He was DFA’d last week. Nobody claimed him or maybe they did and they couldn’t work out a trade.

        Now he’s a Free Agent.

      • Dave - Jul 15, 2015 at 7:24 PM

        Yeah, I knew about the DFA. I hope he lands well somewhere.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 15, 2015 at 7:27 PM

        Det has 9 lives

      • Eugene in Oregon - Jul 15, 2015 at 6:02 PM

        If someone had claimed him, wouldn’t they either now have him or the Rangers would have had to pull him back?

      • masterfishkeeper - Jul 15, 2015 at 8:45 PM

        Yes, but someone would have to take on his salary. So they let him go.

        I expect he’ll get a minor league contract somewhere. Don’t think the Nats will be interested after last year.

  8. veejh - Jul 15, 2015 at 5:25 PM

    Let’s assume Dez turns it around. Even if he does, I just don’t see any discipline during the playoffs when it really counts. He’s now a dead weight bat. Ugh.

    • therealjohnc - Jul 15, 2015 at 8:33 PM

      Wait – isn’t Detwiler the one who saved the postseason (for a day) with his amazing start in 2012? Since we’ve written off so many Nats for struggling in just one postseason, why isn’t Detwiler considered disciplined and focused when the lights are brightest?

      • npb99 - Jul 15, 2015 at 9:45 PM

        Yes, he’s on my short list of guys who came through when it mattered in the playoffs. Unfortunately, outside that day, it’s pretty unimpressive overall.

      • Soul Possession, My Sofa - Jul 15, 2015 at 10:33 PM

        Well, he only got the start Strasburg would have won the World Series with.

  9. Ghost of Steve M. - Jul 15, 2015 at 5:26 PM

    The Dodgers’ starting pitchers in Washington this weekend will be Kershaw (Friday), Bolsinger (Saturday) and Greinke (Sunday).

    • jd - Jul 15, 2015 at 5:31 PM

      And for us I guess it’s Scherzer, Zim and Gio?

      • manassasnatsfan - Jul 15, 2015 at 7:52 PM

        That seems logical but Zim has been off so long I wouldn’t be surprised if Zim/Scherzer/gio

  10. 3on2out - Jul 15, 2015 at 5:38 PM

    Therealjohnc has pointed out recently our vitriol for Desmond is remarkably similar as that for Espinosa last year. I am as guilty as anyone and have been exasperated by Desi’s approach. But the National brain trust proved us wrong about Danny. Perhaps we should trust Rizzo that a turnaround for Ian is in the offing. Likely even. Damn, I hope so.

    • jd - Jul 15, 2015 at 5:53 PM

      except that Desi doesn’t have 2 years to turn it around at least not with the Nats. Espi would also have been long gone had Rizzo been able to get something of value for him. When he acquired Cabrerra last year and Escobar for this year he pretty much told you that he doesn’t consider Espi to be an every day player any more.

      Lucky for Espi that injuries forced him into the lineup and good for Espi that he was able to take full advantage of his opportunity.

      Desi is gone after this year at the latest in any event.

    • mauimo22 - Jul 15, 2015 at 5:59 PM

      I don’t see why we have a hitting coach if he can’t help stuggling players watch film, shorten their stroke after 2 strikes and progress. Just look at TyMo and what he does after 2 strikes.
      Is Ian unwilling to learn or are they unwilling to teach him?

      • letswin3 - Jul 15, 2015 at 7:48 PM

        You can lead a horse to water, but ……………….

      • manassasnatsfan - Jul 15, 2015 at 7:54 PM

        That has been a complaint for me forever.

        Why have a coach if he isn’t going to coach.

      • Nats Fan Zee - Jul 15, 2015 at 8:56 PM

        Posted here a few weeks ago:

        “Desmond said he has no plans to overhaul his swing, as it did win him those three Silver Sluggers. He may, however, make minor tweaks with the help of hitting coach Rick Schu.

        “I’m married to my swing, it’s not gonna change. My swing is my swing. I’ll make small adjustments, but five, ten years ago I would’ve overhauled my swing. Those are the mistakes I made back then. I’m not gonna venture down that road again. I believe in what I’ve done,” he said.”

        http://natsinsider.com/2015/06/23/desmond-in-depth-on-his-struggles/

        He is not going to change …

  11. kirbs3256 - Jul 15, 2015 at 7:08 PM

    I really want Dezi to turn it around….but yeah……

    Anyways, Remember that time he turned down the 100+ Million contract?

  12. manassasnatsfan - Jul 15, 2015 at 7:47 PM

    If Desi goes back to a .285 second half it will be like we traded for a new player.

  13. texnat1 - Jul 15, 2015 at 8:33 PM

    I hope he improves for everyone’s sake. At this rate the Nats won’t even be able to make him a QO because he will take it.

    • scnatsfan - Jul 15, 2015 at 9:28 PM

      No way. Someone throws mad money at him. We offer and he refuses.

      • texnat1 - Jul 15, 2015 at 10:02 PM

        Not if he continues at this level, which would likely result in him getting benched.

  14. Nats Fan Zee - Jul 15, 2015 at 8:45 PM

    This story reminds me of a relief pitcher we had who was quite entertaining …

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/nationals-journal/post/davey-johnson-still-confident-in-henry-rodriguez-after-sean-burnett-bails-him-out/2012/05/15/gIQAgFDGQU_blog.html

  15. RoadApples - Jul 15, 2015 at 8:47 PM

    #20: consummate baseball player. Keep swinging hard;
    mix back in better pitch selection and plate discipline.
    Don’t allow these punk pitchers to dictate to you.

  16. ehay2k - Jul 15, 2015 at 8:48 PM

    Desi is struggling, and it seems to me that the more he struggles, the more he tries harder to get out of it, and the worse he does. The decline over the last 3 years clear and is no SSS either, so his bounce-back potential has a pretty low ceiling, in my view.

    Can he pull out of it? I hope to some degree, at least for the second half of the season. But the odds are good that he won’t come all the way back, and also that he is going to wearing a different uniform next year. As much as I like him as a leader and good guy in the community, it seems like a change of scenery may be the best thing for all parties involved.

  17. Theophilus T.S. - Jul 15, 2015 at 8:53 PM

    Boswell’s piece on Desmond a couple of days ago was the stoopidest article I’ve ever seen him write: Desmond will turn things around without changing anything he does at the plate just because he’s Desmond. Kilgore’s column today was nearly as bad: Nats fans should gather and wave their hats as Desmond rides into the sunset because he’s given four years+ of honest service, etc., etc., and reasonably declined the Nats’ parsimonious offer. Both articles ignore/gloss over that there are things Desmond could have done, and demonstrably failed to do — less free swinging, more pitch selectivity — that might have stemmed a decline in his physical skills. I could care less that he declined $100MM (plus/minus). The only comparison w/ Espinosa is what I asked/expected from both: that they deploy their physical skills to the best of their abilities and in the best interests of the team. Espinosa has done that — this year — and Desmond hasn’t.

    We are stuck w/ Desmond, even if he doesn’t turn things around, at least until Game 1 of the WS when circumstances may force Williams to make a Mayo Smith-like substitution at SS. I hope it doesn’t come to that.

    • kirbs3256 - Jul 15, 2015 at 10:09 PM

      If it’s in the World Series, I’ll take it.

    • adcwonk - Jul 15, 2015 at 11:32 PM

      Nats fans should gather and wave their hats as Desmond rides into the sunset because he’s given four years+ of honest service, etc., etc., and reasonably declined the Nats’ parsimonious offer.

      Hey, Nats fans _should_ applaud that he rejected the offer!!

      That’s why Rizzo went out and got Trea Turner, no?

    • masterfishkeeper - Jul 16, 2015 at 5:44 AM

      Michael Taylor’s going back to SS for the World Series?

  18. trom1 - Jul 15, 2015 at 10:30 PM

    I think this forum has jumped the shark with respect to Desmond criticism.
    1. The Nats are better off with Desmond on the bench. Back in May when the team was relatively healthy, Desmond was producing well, about .260 avg. Now he is slumping and the team is having trouble finding warm bodies on the infield on a daily basis. Per fan graphs I calculated an average of Zips, steamer and Depth Charts. Projections for the rest of 2015 go something like this: Desi > Tony > Esco > Danny. Even if you don’t believe the projections it’s hard to understand how you bench Desi until the rest of the infield is healthy.
    2. Desmond is not patient enough, too stubborn, etc… Desmond has always been a mistake hitter. That’s how he won the 3 SS. Desmond quotes about not drawing 100 walks in a season and not changing his swing from the heels approach are a sign of a player who knows who he is and what works for him. Fan quotes about how he needs to change into a slap hitter reflect ignorance about Desmond’s skill set and what he has brought to the team historically.
    3. Fire the Hitting coach. Not sure how you can fire the guy who is responsible for Bryce growing into the most feared hitter in the NL, Espy radically improving his offensive game, and the bench as a whole is hitting like crazy.
    4. Desmond will accept the QO:
    Desmond won’t accept the QO because he will still be projected as worth more than 15mil in 2016 – no matter how badly he plays form here on out. If somehow he does sign the QO it’s actually a win for the nats.

    • tcostant - Jul 16, 2015 at 8:03 AM

      I was hoping Desi would go see Davey Johnson in FL during the break. He still works for the team, and he always knew how to get the best out of him.

      • natsnatsnatswoo - Jul 16, 2015 at 9:00 AM

        Davey no longer works for the team. He signed a three year consultant/manager deal after the 2011 season. That’s over as of the end of the 2014 season. Check the Nats masthead on their website. Davey is nowhere to be found there, while other consultants like Rizzo’s father still are.

  19. Doc - Jul 15, 2015 at 11:17 PM

    Biggiest reason that Desis won’t change is that Desi doesn’t want to change

  20. npb99 - Jul 16, 2015 at 12:11 AM

    Please give us another post to chew over, Mark. The Desi situation is driving everyone crazy….
    Some story ideas: why the heck is young Mr. Rendon injured so much this year? How about that Esco guy! who is the best young bullpen gun? How about that guy Clint! Trends in Nats facial hair. Etc.
    Keep ’em coming.

    • scmargenau - Jul 16, 2015 at 12:35 AM

      +100

      He Should hire u

      • scmargenau - Jul 16, 2015 at 12:36 AM

        Oh. Add

        “The future of Ryan Zim with the Nats? Can he be productive again?

      • natsjackinfl - Jul 16, 2015 at 5:33 AM

        Actually, I think it’s “the future of Ryan Zimmerman, can he be healthy again?”

      • Hiram Hover - Jul 16, 2015 at 7:39 AM

        The Ryan Z. discussion is pretty well done to death too. Its important but depends on things we don’t and can’t know. And the endless speculation is tiresome.

  21. Guapo - Jul 16, 2015 at 1:39 PM

    Good news is that his second half can’t be worse than the first.

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