DENVER -- Ian Desmond spent the 2018 season hanging onto the number that mattered -- the one in the Rockies' win column. Many of the other numbers weren't kind to him.After a difficult and injury-filled 2017 season, which began his five-year contract worth $70 million, Desmond was healthy enough for
DENVER -- Ian Desmond spent the 2018 season hanging onto the number that mattered -- the one in the Rockies' win column. Many of the other numbers weren't kind to him.
After a difficult and injury-filled 2017 season, which began his five-year contract worth $70 million, Desmond was healthy enough for 160 games in '18. But he batted .236 and wasn't treated kindly by the Wins Above Replacement stat -- minus-0.7, per FanGraphs, and minus-0.6, per Baseball-Reference. As a comparison, Desmond averaged 2.2 and 2.1 WAR, respectively, over his seven full seasons before signing with Colorado.
But with consistent production absent, Desmond at times fulfilled the Rockies' contention that he is a winning player. His 22 home runs, 20 stolen bases, 82 runs and 88 RBIs in 2018 are stats many players would love, and the Rockies will tell you he had a knack for the right, heady play during the team's second-half run.
Hey, it all made him one of baseball's most interesting figures on Twitter; many games began with vitriolic reaction to him being in the lineup, and more than a handful ended with an apology after a late home run. Often fans familiar with his community involvement and interaction jumped to his defense.
"The one thing I can say, I feel like no matter what the situation was, no matter what the numbers said, I feel like I came out and tried to do something to help the team win," Desmond said while clearing out of Coors Field after the Rockies were eliminated from the National League Division Series by the Brewers. "For me, it's hard to say that I can rest easy. It's definitely not a rest-easy situation. I know I have work to do, but as long as I feel I can put myself out there, trying, that's really all I can do."
As fans await the team's actions this offseason, Desmond doubles as a flexible part for the Rockies, and a gift that keeps on fueling some timelines. Over the next three seasons, Desmond is guaranteed $40 million (including a $2 million buyout on a $15 million 2022 option), plus a $1 million payment if traded.
"I don't really care, to be honest," he said. "My job is to care about the people in this room, to try to help win ballgames. I don't care about money. I've never played for the money. It's not my incentive to do the job that I love to do. I just love to play baseball."
Desmond has played first base and left field extensively, and center field and shortstop on occasion, in two years in a Rockies uniform. It means he can shift to accommodate whatever offseason moves the club makes. Two longtime regulars, right fielder Carlos Gonzalez and second baseman DJ LeMahieu, are free agents, plus many of the young players with feet in the Major League door can play multiple positions.
"It's been part of it since he came here -- his athleticism and his ability to play different positions," Rockies general manager Jeff Bridich said. "We'll talk to Desi about it. It's nice to have that ability to be flexible, especially now. It allows you to have an open mind, be creative about how to best put together a team."
Of course, when the Rockies signed him, they envisioned big offensive production as well.
A broken left hand suffered in Spring Training and recurring right calf strains during the season limited Desmond to 95 games in 2017. Last season, an adjustment of lowering his hands while in his stance went out the window when his average dipped into the .150s in late April.
The stats show Desmond needs to improve against the outside fastball, and work ahead in the count
According to Inside Edge, Desmond's 81 percent ground-ball rate on fastballs away over the last two seasons was highest among hitters with at least 484 plate appearances. And his 2018 line-drive rate of 5.6 percent on fastballs away was the lowest in the Majors. But when ahead in the count, his 12 homers in 109 plate appearances were a third-in-MLB 7.6 percent, and his 17 extra-base hits in 29 total hits while ahead in the count gave Desmond a ninth-best 58.6 percent.
"I'm 33 years old and I'm still hungry to be the best player I can be," Desmond said. "I've just got to keep trying. Some years, the adjustments I have made in the offseason have worked out phenomenally. Some years, I've gotten off to a slow start and haven't regrouped. This was one of those years.
"I'll get back to the drawing board at some point and try to make myself the best player I can be in 2019."
Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter and like his Facebook page.