DENVER -- The Rockies' biggest acquisition this offseason, in financial terms, was Ian Desmond, who signed a five-year, $70 million contract to play first base. The hope for general manager Jeff Bridich and the club's front office was that Desmond's defensive versatility and strong offensive season in 2016 would translate
DENVER -- The Rockies' biggest acquisition this offseason, in financial terms, was Ian Desmond, who signed a five-year, $70 million contract to play first base. The hope for general manager Jeff Bridich and the club's front office was that Desmond's defensive versatility and strong offensive season in 2016 would translate into a significant boost in 2017 and beyond.
But things haven't worked out that way. Desmond, who turns 32 on Wednesday, has been on the disabled list three times and is slashing .274/.321/.370 with five home runs and a 70 OPS+ in 81 games.
While abbreviated due to injury, this has been one of Desmond's worst seasons at the plate during a nine-year Major League career. One of the primary reasons is that his ground-ball rate in 2017, at 63.6 percent entering Saturday's game against the Padres, is the highest in MLB among players with at least 250 at-bats.
Desmond's ground-ball rate is also 10.2 percent higher than it was last season with the Rangers, an All-Star campaign in which he hit .285/.335/.446 with 22 homers and a 104 OPS+ despite slumping in the second half.
"I think we all kind of assess ourselves; at this level you have to give yourself an honest evaluation," Desmond said. "Not to be like, 'poor me,' but what I've gone through this year, being on the DL three times, on again, off again, and on again, off again, looking at my numbers, I'm not mad at them. Is there room in there for improvement? Of course, 100 percent there's room in there for improvement."
Desmond said the trips to the DL, the first of which was at the beginning of the season after being hit by a pitch during Spring Training, have disrupted his timing at the plate. Desmond's other two stints on the DL came in July and August, each due to a right calf strain.
In total, Desmond has missed 62 games due to injury. When he has been in the lineup, he hasn't been hitting the ball as hard as in 2016. Per Statcast™, Desmond's average exit velocity on batted balls this season is 87.4 mph. It was 90.5 mph last year.
"Line drives and hard contact. For me, that's my game," Desmond said. "I've got to utilize my speed, and I think there's complete validity in hitting the ball in the air and launch angle and all that stuff, but at the same time, my swing and the results I've been able to produce over the years is plenty for me. And I think that game plays anywhere. The thing is just a matter of getting the swings off and timing."
Much like they've seen recently with Carlos Gonzalez, the Rockies are hoping for a sudden surge from Desmond in their pursuit of a National League Wild Card spot.
Unlike Desmond, Gonzalez has been healthy most of the season, with more opportunities to get his timing and rhythm down in the batter's box. Desmond said he doesn't need any extra motivation in witnessing Gonzalez's revival at the plate.
"I've been through the ups and downs. I know that the rain always brings sun," Desmond said.
Bettis' next start pushed back
Manager Bud Black said right-hander Tyler Chatwood, who tossed 5 2/3 innings and gave up one run against the Padres on Friday night, will start against the Giants in San Francisco on Wednesday. Right-hander Chad Bettis' next turn in the rotation will be pushed back to next Saturday at San Diego.
"His last couple of outings have been, I would say, not Chad Bettis-like," Black said. "So we're going to take a step back with Chad. He's going to work on a couple things in the 'pen; he worked on some things today in a little side session with our pitching coaches. And we'll see where we are in three or four days with our rotation."
Bettis lasted just one-third of an inning in his last start, on Thursday in Arizona. He surrendered five runs on three hits, walking three on 34 pitches. Since giving up three earned runs in 14 innings (1.93 ERA) over his first two starts following a battle with testicular cancer, Bettis' ERA is 9.14 over five starts.
Manny Randhawa is a reporter for MLB.com based in Denver. Follow him on Twitter at @MannyOnMLB.