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Espinosa on slump: It’s the batter’s eye

Mar 31, 2012, 11:00 AM EDT

US Presswire photo
The dark hitter's backdrop at Space Coast Stadium doesn't extend enough to the left.

VIERA, Fla. — For everyone worried about his struggles at the plate this spring, Danny Espinosa has a simple explanation: The batter's eye at Space Coast Stadium is too small.

No, really. That's his story, and he's sticking to it.

"There's just no backdrop," the Nationals second baseman said last night after striking out in his first three plate appearance, giving him 23 strikeouts in only 63 at-bats this spring.

Espinosa isn't the first member of the Nationals roster to mention the poor visibility left-handed hitters face when stepping into the box at Space Coast Stadium. Though there is a seemingly large enough, dark green backdrop behind the center-field fence, it comes to an abrupt end on the left-hand side and makes it appear as though pitches fromRead more »

  1. Cwj - Mar 31, 2012 at 11:12 AM

    I'm not going to worry about Espinosa just yet.When May roles around and if he's still striking out every 3 ABs, that's when I'll worry.The Nats very much need his 20+ homers and something around a .250 AVG.

  2. Gonat - Mar 31, 2012 at 11:30 AM

    Glad the questions were posed to Danny Espinosa but not so fast. The road numbers are better however a much much smaller sample size as he has only played in 8 road games. Still has a 29% K Rate in the past 5 road games which is still bad and if you remove the Baltimore road game 36%.Still amazing that a couple of people yesterday that he may be sent to AAA.

  3. NatsLady - Mar 31, 2012 at 11:43 AM

    Good photo. Understand there is a similar problem at the new Marlins Park with the homerun decoration (well, what would you call it?). So this will be a good chance for Danny to adjust. I say, don't fix the problem at Space Coast, since the Marlins ain't likely to fix it unless it affects their hitters.

  4. Rabbit - Mar 31, 2012 at 11:48 AM

    I'd rather him think it's the batters eye at the stadium than the batter's hamstring. Espi, we'll find out after heading north. I'm so happy Desmond is putting wood on the ball. Good things happen. Now, if only Werth can find out how to do that. GO NATIONALS. Good things are going to happen this year, FINALLY!!!!!

  5. fast eddie - Mar 31, 2012 at 12:00 PM

    How do Espi's numbers compare to all other left-handed hitters at Space Coast? If this is really a problem, all lefties should have similar results.I assume this has never been mentioned in prior years, otherwise the backdrop would have been extended by now.

  6. sjm308 - Mar 31, 2012 at 12:05 PM

    I mentioned this in part on the last post but had to put it up here as well. I woke up thinking, how great is it that we beat the Marlins! I realize its spring training but that was their best pitcher and pretty much their starting line-up and to strike out Reyes to end the game is icing on the cake. Davey said things would change and we are 6-1 since then. Have to be excited!!Go Nats(there is other stuff there about pitching and places to drink beer so you probably want to skip that)

  7. Gonat - Mar 31, 2012 at 12:11 PM

    SteveJM, I agree with you. Had the same thoughts for 2 days in a row. The Nats 2nd team + a AAA pitcher beat the Tigers 1st team and the Nats best 22 men + the #6 pitcher beat their #1 pitcher and #1 lineup and that was with Danny E not being able to see.

  8. Anonymous - Mar 31, 2012 at 12:16 PM

    LaRoche managed to lace a solid liner right up the middle using the same batter's eye as Spinner, off the same pitcher. Six Ks in 23 ABs on the road translates to about 1 K every game (Danny doesn't walk). The 2 slot is just not the place in the order to hit a guy with that problem, and it is a problem. The batter's eye compounds it, and makes it glaringly, painfully obvious, but the root cause lies elsewhere.It's not as if Spinner does not have a history of this. He does. The pitchers are not throwing him any strikes. If they do, it's probably by accident. He swings away, anyway, often missing by embarrassingly large margins.He should be hitting 8th, or 7th, at best, where he won't do so much to disrupt the offense. If Lombo does not take his job this year, then Rendon, the consummate contact hitter, with a superb batting eye, will, maybe as soon as next year. Surely Danny knows that, and the pressure to perform has something to do with the problem. Having him hit 2nd just adds to the pressure, as does Davey's recently mentioning that he sees Lombo as a future "everyday second baseman." Some guys respond well to that kind of pressure, others do not, and Davey admits to playing that kind of mind game with La Roche. He is doing it to Danny, too.I thought Desi would be the guy, but it appears to be Spinner who is letting it affect his game.Laddie_Blah_Blah

  9. Andrew - Mar 31, 2012 at 12:24 PM

    From Braves GM Frank Wren, “We made it clear to Livan that he was not in competition for the fifth-starter spot at this point that he would be a long man and maybe an occasional spot starter, where you don’t want to run to Triple-A to get a guy for one start. And we also have some flexibility now with Cristhian Martinez.”

  10. Anonymous - Mar 31, 2012 at 12:26 PM

    NatsLady said… Marlins Park with the homerun decoration (well, what would you call it?).It is a Dinger Machine.

  11. Gonat - Mar 31, 2012 at 12:28 PM

    Laddie_Blah_Blah, I mostly agree with you except it won't matter as Davey will make the call and give Espi time to work it out when the team goes North.Danny was biting hard on the breaking pitches and missing badly.

  12. Gonat - Mar 31, 2012 at 12:30 PM

    Anonymous said… NatsLady said… Marlins Park with the homerun decoration (well, what would you call it?).It is a Dinger Machine. March 31, 2012 8:26 AM ___________________________Uh, more like a dingleberry machine. Reminds me of one of those Brazilian parades in Rio.

  13. Gonat - Mar 31, 2012 at 12:33 PM

    Andrew said… From Braves GM Frank Wren, “We made it clear to Livan that he was not in competition for the fifth-starter spot at this point that he would be a long man and maybe an occasional spot starter, where you don’t want to run to Triple-A to get a guy for one start. And we also have some flexibility now with Cristhian Martinez.” March 31, 2012 8:24 AM ___________________________Some posters on here have said Livo could never work out of the bullpen because of his long warm-up routine! I guess the Braves don't agree with that opinion.

  14. Gonat - Mar 31, 2012 at 12:40 PM

    Espi starting today at Shortstop and Tracy at 3rd base. Bernadina back in CF

  15. NatsBrat - Mar 31, 2012 at 12:41 PM

    ST is almost over, but Espi should have hired a couple of carpenters and a painter to fix the problem.

  16. natsfan1a - Mar 31, 2012 at 1:03 PM

    Regardless of splits and stats, I'm pretty sure the theory below works in reverse, too. Agree with NatsLady on the picture."If you believe you're playing well because you're getting [happy time], or because you're not getting [happy time], or because you wear women's underwear, then you *are*! And you should know that!"I'd rather him think it's the batters eye at the stadium than the batter's hamstring.

  17. Anonymous - Mar 31, 2012 at 1:08 PM

    Gonat,"Danny was biting hard on the breaking pitches and missing badly."Yeah. I was embarrassed for him. It's instructive to observe DeRosa's approach at the plate with Danny's. Somehow, DeRosa seems to recognize those breaking balls that will break away and down, and he simply lays off. Danny should have had 4 walks yesterday, as he saw only 3 or 4 actual strikes from the Marlins pitchers all game long. DeRosa would have had 4 walks if they had thrown him the same stuff as Danny saw. Even if Danny saw those pitches perfectly, he could not have hit them with any authority. He is making himself into an easy out.I don't have any idea how DeRosa does it, but he does – 11 walks now vs. only 1 K all ST. Danny, by comparison, has a higher K to walk ratio than Strassburg. When a hitter makes every pitcher he faces look like another SS, there is a problem. The Nats sent Lannen down a couple of years ago to straighten out his delivery. It worked. They have sent the Shark down more times than I can count, with limited success. If someone can teach pitch recognition down there, Danny needs a crash course. He is easy pickings for ML caliber pitchers as things stand. The game has a large component of psychology to it, and Danny's head must be spinning right now.Laddie_Blah_Blah

  18. Gonat - Mar 31, 2012 at 1:16 PM

    NatsBrat, good one! It took me a few seconds to catch on to your carpenters/painter solution. I think this batter's eye may be a contributing factor but the bigger issue is Espi is a horrible swing & miss guy and led the Nats in 2011 in swing & miss and had the 10th worse K rate in the majors in 2011 at 25.2%From the left side he has to bat in the 7 hole. Not sure what Davey is thinking. He's supposed to be a math guy. The stats are there for a reason. Maybe he bought the hamate bone being the issue. I have seen a player that just can't pick up the rotation on the ball from the left-side.

  19. Les in NC - Mar 31, 2012 at 1:16 PM

    Laddie,ALR also struck out twice, so he may have just got lucky with that hit. Yes, it was solid contact, but it he may still have been guessing.I'm going to give Espinosa a pass for the time being…

  20. gonatsgo - Mar 31, 2012 at 1:17 PM

    We need to get that boy back home to Nats Park! — I also think DeRosa is eventually going to be a good influence on him.

  21. Gonat - Mar 31, 2012 at 1:20 PM

    Bryce Harper is now blaming his K's on the batter's eye!I find it interesting that the 3 beat writer's think "asked and answered" without considering at all Espi's 2011 track record.

  22. MicheleS - Mar 31, 2012 at 1:23 PM

    Feel Wood,thanks for the link in the previous thread about the developments on Half Street. Good stuff and can only help with the pre/post game experience and more importantly, help the neighborhood.

  23. Anonymous - Mar 31, 2012 at 1:25 PM

    Gonat, hows about the small sample size of road games. 23 ABs total

  24. #4 - Mar 31, 2012 at 1:29 PM

    There is no doubt that Espi strikes out a lot, regardless of the batter's eye. Nonetheless, I'm inclined to believe him here. He looked last night like a guy who couldn't see the ball. He was more lost than at any other point I can remember last year. I'm not suggesting that he's going to turn into a .300 hitter when he gets back up north, but I'm inclined to think he'll be a .265 with 20 bombs type of guy. I'm also not sure that is what this team wants in the 2 hole, but I don't see many alternatives. I have to admit that, after initial skepticism, Lombo is growing on me. He might be the answer for either lead off or #2, but they're still short one. Espi and Desi probably ought to be batting 7th and 8th, after Ramos. Worth is the only possibility given his reasonable OBA, but Davey appears to favor batting him 5th.

  25. Anonymous - Mar 31, 2012 at 1:30 PM

    Gonat postedUh, more like a dingleberry machine. Reminds me of one of those Brazilian parades in Rio. March 31, 2012 8:30 AM ______________________________You, sir, are no True Baseball Fan. All must worship at the altar of the mighty Dinger Machine!

  26. Anonymous - Mar 31, 2012 at 1:35 PM

    #4, seriously, I remember many games last year that Espi looked that bad from the left side. First it was blamed on his hamate bone and now the batter's eye.As a fan of the guy, I hope its the case Zips pre-season projection is for Espi's K rate to worsen in 2012.

  27. natsfan1a - Mar 31, 2012 at 1:36 PM

    natsfan1a said… Second the thanks to Phil's brother for the link, although the initial question had me thinking that the containers were in the ballpark's bullpen. :-) March 31, 2012 9:35 AM

  28. Anonymous - Mar 31, 2012 at 1:38 PM

    Anon @9:35, not sure what your 2nd paragraph means.

  29. sm13 - Mar 31, 2012 at 1:43 PM

    natsfan1a — would you mind reposting the link to the half street story? Thanks!

  30. natsfan1a - Mar 31, 2012 at 1:46 PM

    Thanks, Anon, you beat me to it. :-)

  31. natsfan1a - Mar 31, 2012 at 1:47 PM

    For the record, getting the 503 error message this a.m., with no active game thread.

  32. sm13 - Mar 31, 2012 at 1:53 PM

    Thank you 1a and Annon! We've been waiting for this spurt of development since the park openned.

  33. MicheleS - Mar 31, 2012 at 1:59 PM

    1A.. I have gotten the 503 error message as well. hmmm..Mark Z, Any ideas?

  34. #4 - Mar 31, 2012 at 2:02 PM

    Anon @ 9:35I see a difference between his worst moments last year and last night. Last year his swings and misses seemed aggressive – almost overswinging in an effort to do too much. It looked like he was pulling his head and coming around the ball. It was the "loop" that everyone talked about correcting this spring. Last night he looked like he was batting in the dark – late and defensive.Davey's comments make me think that Espi's in a pretty good place with his swing. Let's hope he's right.

  35. Mark'd - Mar 31, 2012 at 2:07 PM

    #4 Honestly, watching last nights swing and misses reminded me of the July and August strikeouts. Still, this current K rate is way out of whack.Good points above about many of the swing and misses were balls way low in the zone.Trying to stay optimistic and still thinking he is a back of the lineup hitter.

  36. Richard - Mar 31, 2012 at 2:32 PM

    Sad to watch Espi flail away. Goes back to mid-season last year, as Insiders have noted. If it continues you'd think the Nats would have to demote him and let him try to work out the demons in Syracuse, however painful that'd be for all. But this is MLB not the boyscouts. There's lots money on the table and lots of competition. The mind turns to Lombardozzi — or even DeRosa. Lombardozzi's outplayed Espi this ST for sure and yet apparently he isn't the anointed one. Eventually though either Espi works it out or not, but I fear the worst case: he struggles through the year with promising spurts but strikes out a lot, doesn't drive in runs, and has a sub .300 OBP; and we hear a lot of "he's my boy" from Davey.

  37. #4 - Mar 31, 2012 at 2:32 PM

    "Good points above about many of the swing and misses were balls way low in the zone."I guess that's part of my point, Mark'd, if by "way low in the zone" you actually mean "out of the zone". The wild swings last night at balls so far out of the zone seem to me at another level than we saw last year. Last year it appeared he was being attacked in the 2nd half in areas of the strike zone where he had holes. He was swinging at strikes, just missing them. Last night looked much worse. I guess time will tell.

  38. bdrube - Mar 31, 2012 at 2:39 PM

    While I hate seeing Espi struggle, I can't help but think how great Lombo's emergence has been. He gives them an immediate option if it does become apparent that Espi or Desi need to be taken out of the lineup for a while. We talk all the time about how amazing it is to have pitching depth finally, but this is also the first time we've ever had real middle infield depth and won't be relying on Aaron Boone to play 3B and bat cleanup at some point.

  39. Mark'd - Mar 31, 2012 at 3:04 PM

    Good news Espi gets to see lots of breaking pitches.

  40. sjm308 - Mar 31, 2012 at 3:08 PM

    sm13: (great initials by the way) – if you really want to get excited about development, check out what is going to happen in "The Yards". There is already a beautiful park that opened over a year ago and now they are seriously talking about both residences and some great dining/drinking establishments as well. Most excited about the Churchkey venture and there will be another brew pub as well.Things are looking up down on the waterfront!!Go Nats

  41. sjm308 - Mar 31, 2012 at 3:08 PM

    As natsfan1a knows, I can't send links but I am sure someone else can get that done.

  42. natsfan1a - Mar 31, 2012 at 3:16 PM

    We'll work on that, sjm. For now, here's an item on The Yards.btw, just realized I had a synapse lapse while posting yesterday evening and was referring to you as sm13. Apologies to both of you. :-)

  43. natsfan1a - Mar 31, 2012 at 3:18 PM

    fwiw, I walked around the park there a couple of times after games last season. It's very nice.

  44. natsfan1a - Mar 31, 2012 at 3:22 PM

    Here's the official site for the park, with map, rules and regulations, FAQs, and more. Note that, while grilling isn't allowed, picnics are. hmmm…

  45. Anonymous - Mar 31, 2012 at 3:29 PM

    Richard,I think Spinner is a special talent. He is compactly built, has excellent speed and range, and remarkable power for a guy his size. He reminds me of Joe Morgan, only with more raw power, and that's saying something. Danny has the tools to not only be good, but to be All-Star good.When he was putting up those big numbers, HRs, RBIs at a ROY pace last year, he was doing it from the 6-7-8 slots, coming up with men on base, and delivering. He was then known as a clutch hitting run producer, because he was. Opposing pitchers with men on base are more likely to throw strikes – and if Danny sees something he can hit, as we all know, he can just crush a baseball.At the top of the order, more often than not, he comes up with no one on. Pitchers do not have to come to him, and they have discovered that it is better for them if they do not. His own aggression is killing him at the plate, and his inability to recognize pitches way out of the zone is leading to those wild swings and misses.Danny must force those pitchers to throw him his pitch. When, or if, they do, he could be a solid hitter with plus power, but he has to force them to come to him. He is doing just the opposite by letting them off the hook. No need to throw him anything he can hit, because he tries to hit almost everything they dish up.The reason he is not hitting is because they are not giving him anything to hit, and they never will, until he learns to recognize the difference and develops the patience to wait out the guy on the mound. He is losing that duel because he is fighting it on their terms, not his.I think he will come around. There are plenty of veteran guys on that club who are patient at the plate and very, very successful – the FOF, for one. And DeRosa is a great example of a guy who is winning the duel with the pitcher just by waiting him out. If he has to take a walk, so be it.OTH, if Danny does not improve his approach at the plate, he will lose his job, sooner or later. His competitive fire must now take a back seat to his drive to succeed. Right now, patient discipline would be much more of a virtue than unrestrained aggression. He can do it.Laddie_Blah_Blah

  46. DWS - Mar 31, 2012 at 3:31 PM

    Nice to know the area around the Nats park is going to be developed. IMO that was the demise of the Expos. "The Big Owe" wasn't a baseball park and it wasn't near downtown Montreal. Hopefully you'll have a team for the long run and I hope to get there one day. Washington is crying for a winner, I think you've got one.As a previous poster mentioned (on subject) nice to see a backup in the middle infield.

  47. DWS - Mar 31, 2012 at 3:34 PM

    Well said Laddie, hit the nail on the head as it were.

  48. Kirbs - Mar 31, 2012 at 4:31 PM

    Love espi but derosa is a solid 2 hole hitter. I am happy to see Desmond has been lighting it up the last week. I was also stoked to see ALR hitting the ball.Best 24goN. + Harper in May.

  49. JaneB - Mar 31, 2012 at 5:04 PM

    Thank you for teaching me what the "battery's eye" is. I never knew that green wall had a name, though I did know it's purpose.

  50. NatsFanJim - Mar 31, 2012 at 10:24 PM

    Espinosa worries me. Me thinks he 'ain't to bright." I cut him slack for the entire season last year — but this year? Nope. He still has a loop in his swing. His pitch/swing selection is still poor — AA poor. He wants to jack everything out — like last year. Only the K's are still there — worse.Yet, he denies what we all can see: a player going backwards. He'll have to prove me wrong beginning Tuesday.

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