Ian Desmond grounded into double plays twice on Thursday — two more frustrating sequences in a season full of them for the player who this winter inked a five-year $70 million deal to come to Colorado.
At Desmond’s introductory press conference in December, most of the questions that came his way had to do with defense. How would he adjust at first base, a position he’d never played before? Maybe looking back, we should’ve been more concerned with Desmond’s offense.
The 31-year-old is having a nightmare season at the plate. Desmond has been a reliable source of power in the past, hitting between 19 and 25 home runs every season from 2012 to 2016. But this year, he’s hit just five while posting the second-worst slugging percentage (.370) of his career.
Every time you look up, Desmond’s hitting a ball into the dirt. His 63.9 ground-ball percentage is the highest in baseball by a comfortable margin among players with 300-plus plate appearances. Desmond is on pace to post the worst ground-ball percentage (min. 300 PA) since Everth Carbrera recorded a 66.9 percent ground-ball rate in 2014.
The frustration is starting to show, even if it is only revealed in moments such as the one Thursday when Desmond ripped off his ankle protector and slammed it to the ground after his inning-ending double play in the fifth. Desmond has just five more extra-base hits this season (17) than double plays grounded into (12).
Desmond’s earning $8 million this season according to Spotrac, but he’s essentially been reduced to a role player. He’ll fill in in the outfield when Gerardo Parra or Carlos Gonzalez gets a day off. He’ll play first base when Mark Reynolds sits. He’s even started at shortstop once in place of Trevor Story, whose OPS (.748) is .056 points higher than Desmond’s (.692).
To be fair, injuries have played a large part in Desmond’s struggles. He broke his left hand in spring training after getting hit by a pitch, which caused him to miss the first month of the season. He’s also been placed on the disabled list two separate times after dealing with a persistent calf strain. Prior to this year, Desmond had never been on the disabled list.
There are also the intangibles. Desmond is a leader in the Rockies’ clubhouse. His teammates respect him, and he helps the Colorado’s young players navigate big-league life. The value he brings there is difficult to quantify.
Still, the Rockies need more from him on the field. They don’t need him to set the world on fire the rest of this year. But out-slugging Francisco Cervelli from here on out sure would be nice.
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