DENVER — Ian Desmond will be the first person to admit that this has not been the way he envisioned his sophomore season going offensively. After a rookie campaign where he hit .269 with 10 home runs, Desmond’s batting average has seen a number above .250 only once — on April 7 — and he’s spent much more time in the .220 range than he ever anticipated.
But it could very well end up being a tale of two seasons for Desmond, who would rarely appear visibly frustrated but showed occasional moments of weakness where it was clear his offense was weighing on him. Since the All-Star break, the shortstop is hitting .300 with a .386 on-base percentage and .450 slugging. Friday night, he was 4-for-4 and while both he and Nationals manager Davey Johnson pointed to a pre-game batting practice adjustment, Desmond declined at the time to go into detail about what it was.
Johnson had no problem addressing the topic Saturday, though, pointing immediately to Desmond’s stance at the plate which, for much of the season, has been more upright than in the past.
“I really hadn’t liked his approach and his stance wasn’t really an athletic position,” Johnson said. “He was kind of upright and he’s an athlete. He’s a gifted athlete. In early BP He made some adjustments where he got a little closer to the plate, got in to a more athletic position and we talked about it. Lower down, not standing straight up and not, kind of, diving in as much.
“He was in a more athletic position and I really like the fact that that seemed to free up his timing. He seemed ot have a better, solid foundation. And I told him, ‘I love that.’ He can handle that bat. And he went out and smoked the ball.”
Desmond has also been moved up, out of the eighth hole, for the last nine games and his numbers since the switch have been even better than his second half totals. Since moving, Desmond is hitting .355 with a .400 on-base percentage and .581 slugging percentage and looking more and more like the type of hitter the Nationals had hoped for.
It has taken an awful lot of patience for Desmond and the Nationals to get to this point. Their offense, as a whole, has struggled to find it’s rhythm for most of the season. Even now, after doing so well since the break, his average is just .235 and his OBP and SLG just .285 and .331, respectively.
“We’re getting close,” Johnson said. “The guys are starting to swing the bats up and down the lineup. That’s real fun. By and large I like the way our offense is progressing.”