If you watch any Nats games on MASN, you’ll notice that Danny Espinosa has been hot lately. Because every time he’s up, that’s what Carp and FP tell us. But they’re not joking, and they’re not exaggerating. In fact, if anything, they are underselling how good he is doing. To get an idea of how good he’s been, let’s take a look at the numbers.
At the moment, Espinosa ranks 5th on the NL 2B OPS list – behind Aaron Hill, Brandon Phillips, Neil Walker and Daniel Murphy. All of these guys are having strong seasons, but probably the top 3 are the only ones that you’d say are doing great. There is one difference, though. Danny Espinosa started out this season terribly. We’ve done it before, but let’s go through this again.
From the beginning of the season, April 5, to 28 games in, May 8, Danny Espinosa hit .186/.282/.235. He was walking, but other than that he seemed completely lost at the plate. Then on May 9, he started a 9 game stretch where he went a whopping 10 for 34 with 2 HRs, and raised his OPS almost 100 points, to .610. It wasn’t anything spectacular, but it was a good two weeks that showed, hey, maybe he isn’t totally lost.
And that’s how it went for the rest of the season – very good but not unbelievable. He’s had three 10+ game three stretches with an OPS over 1.000. And none of them were significantly above that number, they were really nothing more than strong streaks with a home run in there. But all that has done has given him a strong and steady increase in his OPS over the months. So coming from that .517 mark in early May, he’s gone up to 5th place in the NL with a .737 today.
But that’s still not the whole story. As we parsed out that poor stretch early, let’s take a look at the time after that. From May 9 through today, he is hitting .271/.331/.458, and that OPS of .789 would be good enough for second best in the NL. Keep in mind that this isn’t just a few weeks ago. It is 473 PAs, or 80% of his season so far. In other words, but for the first 20% of the season, he has hit like the second best second baseman in the NL.
This game isn’t easy, not that anyone thinks it is. To start out as bad as Espinosa did, in only his second season, and to recover to have as good of a season as he’s having is commendable. It’s impressive that he didn’t fall into a state of mind that wouldn’t let him recover, and doom him to a minor league assignment. It shows what kind of player he is, and hints at what he could be.
Let’s assume that this April performance was not a simple cold streak, but something else. Something more like a poor approach, early sophomore slump, a bad mental state, whatever. If we can believe that what he’s done after that point is more like what he’ll do going on out, then the Nats likely have an All Star second baseman. Right now, that might not show up in his total numbers. But when Carp or FP points out that he’s been hitting the ball well lately, just remember that, yes, he has, if since early May can be considered “lately.”