Nationals Baseball: Danny isn't Ian. Ian isn't Danny

Monday, August 22, 2011

Danny isn't Ian. Ian isn't Danny

Danny Espinosa's recent slide (.203 / .264 / .301 post All-Star game) and Ian Desmond's recent return from purgatory (.250 / .315 / .393) has some fans lumping the two guys in the same "young, good field, still need to learn to hit" bucket. Even the team sometimes seems to treat these guys as a team within a team, the MI cornerstones to a playoff run. While I wish that were the case - the reality is still that Danny is likely to be a starter (with some level of success) in this league for years, while Ian is more likely to be a bench player. Let's go over why this year Danny doesn't equate to last year's Ian, despite the similar nice start and late slide.

Danny's a better hitter:

Through 125 games in their rookie season Danny was hitting .231 / .313 / .414. Ian was hitting .279 / .316 / .413. Seems pretty similar right? Except the average offensive player has dropped even further this year. What was a slightly below average year in 2010 is now an average year. To be perfectly clear you'd rather have Ian's 2010 in 2011 than Danny's year. It is more productive but Ian didn't have that line in 2011. He had it in 2010. That matters even though seemingly one year shouldn't make that big a difference.

Danny has the better peripherals with an isoOBP of .082 compared to Ian's .037 (Danny walks, Ian doesn't) and an isoSLG of .183 to Ian's .134 (Danny has more power). A lot of Ian's worth is tied up in singles.

You could argue that Ian was a bit lucky too. His BABIP was .317, which isn't crazy but it was .292 in 2009 and .292 so far this year so it's more likely his "natural" BABIP is going to be just under .300. However, we can't really say if Danny is lucky himself. It doesn't seem that way (BABIP of .274) but that could be exactly where he should be.

All in all Danny has shown himself to be a slightly better hitter so far with a month to pick things up while rookie Ian slides away.

Danny's a better fielder:

This isn't even a question. I can toss out the numbers if you like
2010 Ian : 34 errors, .947 F%, -10 Total Zone rating, -8.8 UZR
2011 Danny : 11, .982, -2, 3.2

but anyone watching this team knows this as fact. This year's Ian has made solid strides, but he's still not the fielder at short that Danny is at second.

Danny had better minor league numbers:

Ian : .259 / .326 / .388 career
Danny : .270 / .365 / .455

I don't expect Danny to be a .270 type hitter in the majors. But with his patience and power, he only needs to hit .250 or so to be a very good offensive 2nd baseman. Ian doesn't have much power and hardly any patience. He NEEDS to hit .280 or so to be that useable at short. .260+ just to be average. Danny doesn't need to be as good as he was in the minors. Ian needs to be better. The latter is a TALL order for someone who should be peaking stat-wise right around now.

Danny is younger.

Half a year younger true but it's half a year.

Where does Ian have Danny beat? He's a better baserunner, though Danny is no slouch there.

The conclusion is obvious. Danny is better. The leash Danny gets needs to be longer because the base skills he has are better. It's fine for the Nats to move on from Ian in about... oh 240 hours or so because his upside isn't that "up" and the data saying he's not going to hit those modest goals is getting to be plentiful. Danny's struggles are his own and the Nats don't need to do anything with these two guys as if they were a pair.

In the Post, Ryan Core-B compares moving Desmond to maaaybe what it would have been like if the Tigers moved Trammel. His case is that the Nats need to give Desmond a whole nother year. He does add a caveat or two (Trammel more highly touted, didn't have as many of atbats if they dealt him after his first year - which is curious why he only goes one year into Trammell's career considering he didn't get good until full year 3, but whatever) but he leaves out two very important things.

(1) Trammell did not regress offensively his second year, like Ian has - he was stable.
(2) Ian Desmond is 25 to be 26 at the end of the season. Alan Trammell was 21. That's a HUGE difference. Trammel had years to get better. Desmond is entering his peak years.

Don't feel bad for Ian, he's had 300+ games in the major leagues as a "tryout". Most guys don't get anything close to that. You have other prospects breathing down your neck, conflicting goals and veteran-loving coaches forcing slightly better 30+ year olds into your position. Ian got a fair chance, which is more than a lot of guys get. It's time to give someone else the same break.


Donald said...

While I'm not ready to write off Ian yet (maybe Davey can talk him into being a better hitter), I agree that it makes sense to bring up Lombardozzi in Sept and see what he can do. If he does poorly, maybe you hold onto Ian for another year and hope Rendon progresses quickly. If Lombardozzi does well, you let he and Ian fight it out in spring training next year.

The real challenge for the Nats, though, is that they have potential 2B's in the minors but not so many potential SS's. So moving Ian means switching Danny to SS. While we know Danny can play SS, if they move him there in 2012, it needs to be permanent. You don't want to have a Desmond / Lombardozzi platoon or a Lombardozzi experiment that fails with Ian stepping back in.

Hoo said...

Boz thinks roster limitations impacts Lombie's chance for a callup. I think there's some room though like dumping Mock and maybe Severino and Slaten.

I'd rather see Peacock or Milone though instead of Lombs.

I'd still like to see Dez/Espi for 75% of games but working in Lombardozzi if there's space. Just like moving Morse to OF and playing Marrero.

I'd like to see the team make a hard run at .500 for the year. Right now only 6 NL teams over .500 and Nats are tied for 7th best record.

Anonymous said...


kick me in the GO NATS said...

Ian's career offensive numbers are better than hall of famer Ozzie Smith at this point in his career (compared to the league averages at the time). I say we give him another year to fix himself. He is a sophomore and many players regress offensively year 2. Moreover, we know Espinosa is an excellent defensive 2B in the majors, but he is unproven at SS, so I am uneasy about switching him. This goes double for switching Lombardozzi. Second and Short stop throw from very different angles and that matters, so they are not easy for each other to play. Lastly, Ian is not so bad that he is a liability. He is positive in his fWAR, not much but still he is better than replacement this season.

Nate said...

Finkle is Einhorn, though, right?

Ian's athletic enough to have a nice career as a utility guy (Bixler Plus, if you will). And who knows, maybe one day he'll wake up, embrace a shorter swing, and be enshrined in the Hall of Scrappy Infielders.

Donald said...

On another topic, what's your opinion on Wang and Detwiler? If we assume Strasburg, Zimmermann and Lannan in the 2012 rotation, do Wang and Detwiler fill out the list? Who's low man on the totem pole if Peacock or Milone are ready? Do the Nats just not try to sign Wang after all this work?

Ollie said...

Seems like a situation where you trade him if you get a decent deal or hold onto him in the hopes that you can turn him into a solid utility player.

I'm not sure if there's room for him eventually if Lombardozzi AND Rendon both play middle infield, but that's getting ahead of ourselves I guess.

Harper said...

Donald - I think we put too much stock in position permanence, letting players use that as an out if they don't perform well. Look at Soriano - HATED the idea of moving to the OF, to the point of almost sitting out - moved and performed great. Still for the sake of the fan and media outrage a consistent move is necessary.

On the last point... I guess they wait and see if someone gets dealt for a CF. If they make it to Spring, I say they let Wang walk. Older - more money - not dominant yet. But I'm still thinking a trade will happen to clear this all up

Hoo - Hate to see holding onto a never-will be long reliever keeping Steve from getting his shot. I think the argument is easier for bringing up Lombardozzi than Peacock or Millone but they are all right about there. No point in bringing them up not to play though.

Anon - yeah.

GO NATS - you gotta get off this Ozzie kick. That's like telling Harvard they have to take this 3rd grader failing math because Einstein failed it (probably not true but I hope you see the point). Everything else you say is fair. Desmond would probably rebound a bit to a slightly below average not hurting the team type of plateau, but is that what you want or do you see if you got something special with this other guy?

Nate - great. Way to spoil the movie for me. I thought Courtney Cox was Finkle.

I don't like Ian's chances at eternal scrappiness. He lacks a certain pigmential ability that the media tends to favor in their scrappy heros. Jamey Carroll knows what I'm talking about. (though seriously how does a guy become average at age 36? Ok I'm totally off track now)

Hoo said...

Right now 2012 looks like: Znn, Stras, FA, Lannan, Wang or Det. Livo maybe to a minor league deal.

If Wang gives Nats a good deal, they should sign him. Det can pitch himself into contention for a valuable trade piece. Still not sure I see him in the April rotation right now (but maybe the long BP role since I'd guess Gorzo is gone).

Donald said...

@Hoo -- I'm starting to wonder the value in pursuing an FA pitcher in the off season. If they could get a true #1 or #2 then I'd go for it, but I'm not sure that's out there. If they are getting the equivalent of Gorzelanny, Marquis, etc. then why bother. I'd rather give Peacock or Milone a shot and hope that in 2013 we either get a much better FA or one of the prospects turns into gold.

Hoo said...

I'd hope for slightly better FA than Marquis. But if signing a Marquis type gives you more options. Milone/Peacock may or may not be ready but a FA starter gives you more leash. I don't want to return to the days where you depend on the Syracuse crowd to fill in at the back end of rotation (like '08 and '09). Peacock seems better than the Martis-Chico-Martin but Nats would be in trouble if Peacock isn't ready next spring. If you want to look at how Nats have grown compare the potential callups to the '07-'09 crowd.

Team has $$$ to spend and I'd like to see it on a front end starter and CF (and maybe first as well).

I see no reason not to add a FA. Depending on Wang, Livo, Dett plus the callups is asking for trouble and sabotaging your shot at .500+ before season starts.

Athan said...

I agree. Long term, the Nats are better off with Danny at SS with Rendon or Lombardozzi at 2nd.

Harper said...

Ollie - At this point I wouldn't even deal Desmond until I got a look at Lombardozzi. You have the time and the ability. Let him float like Hoo said for both Desmond and Espinosa so it doesn't make it look like Ian is being replaced. It'd be a waste not to because if you mean to trade in the offseason these are going to be the names brought up.

Hoo - so no Milone or Peacock? I get the arguement against Brad getting a shot (he could use a full AAA year to get that control under... control) but can you expect any better from Milone?

Donald / Hoo - It's an issue. I'm having trouble seeing what you consider Wang. If you see him as a FA signing then I'm all for a FA signing. a 4th dependable arm in that rotation with the 5th spot their for auditions would be great. If someone else pitches well enough to demand a spot, it'll open up. ALways does one way or another. If you're thinking Wang AND another FA then I can't get behind that. Then there is no "audition" spot. What do you do - stick Detwiler, Milone, Peacock and anyone else in AAA and wait for an injury? Give them 5-10 starts at season's end and hope they are good to go in 2013? I just don't think that's the best way.

Athan - probably but there's a lot of ?s still out there. Time to start taking a look though.

Anonymous said...

And Danny has been robbed of hits countless times.