It may be hard to remember this, but as far back as March of this year, Ian Desmond was a light hitting shortstop who was acceptable because of his glove. If his glove wanted to cooperate. Flash forward 6 months and he’s the best hitting shortstop in the league. No, seriously, he’s hitting .295/.331/.522 right now, give him the highest OPS (.854) of any qualified SS. By a good amount. Derek Jeter is sitting at #2 with an .813, and if you count Jed Lowrie and his .800 OPS with only 332 PAs, he’s way ahead of the #3 overall/#2 NL guy. If not, you have to go to Hanley Ramirez next at .770.
It’s not just good for this year, it’s pretty damn good for, let’s say, the last decade. Here’s where he ranks among all MLB SS seasons over the last 5 years
Hanley Ramirez – .954 (2009)
Troy Tulowitzki – .949 (2010)
Hanley Ramirez – .940 (2008)
Troy Tulowitzki – .930 (2009)
Troy Tulowitzki – .916 (2011)
Jason Bartlett – .879 (2009)
Jose Reyes – .877 (2011)
Derek Jeter – 871 (2009)
Ian Desmond – .854 (2012)
That’s a pretty interesting list right there. It shows us that Ian Desmond might not be having the absolute best season among all Major League shortstops over the 5 years, but judging by OPS its certainly one of the very best. And Tulo is in there three times, Hanely twice, Jeter and Reyes once each – those guys are perennial All Stars. The only exception to the supreme talent of this group is Bartlett, and his 2009 was incredible. He set the Rays batting average record and made the All Star team. So he was no slouch that season.
There are some similarities between Bartlett and Desmond on the surface. Here are their OPS+numbers (Desmond’s season of course not over):
That’s not too encouraging, right? Because Bartlett’s “breakout” year wasn’t a breakout year. He followed that up with OPS+ number of 89 and 77. I mean if Desi’s season is just a fluke… But no, there is one big difference. Take a look at that again, with ages and BAbip put in there:
That should make you feel better if you took exception to the first list and thought that Desi might be another Bartlett. Between his age and his not having a much higher BAbip (and it’s a little higher, but again, not a ton), it’s pretty clear that Desi might not be having a real flukey season and may be this good, or at least nearly this good.
Back to the original point though, Ian Desmond is not just having a spectacular season. In terms of his position, and recent history, he is having an offensive season that has only been surpassed by the true stars of the game, barring one exception. And even they haven’t surpassed it that often. So maybe, when we look back at this list again, he’ll be on it more, and he’ll also be considered one of the true stars in the game.