Shortstop channels Simmons with remarkable jump-throw against Cardinals
By Paul Casella
Nationals shortstop Ian Desmond flashed his defensive potential during the eighth inning of Tuesday night's 2-1, 10-inning victory over the Cardinals.
Instead of simply labeling it a highlight-reel play and moving on, however, Statcast is able to pinpoint exactly what made it such an incredible play. Statcast, a revolutionary tracking technology, made its live television debut during the Nats-Cards showcase game on MLB Network.
To set the scene, Desmond's play came when Cardinals outfielder Jon Jay grounded a ball toward the hole to lead off the frame. Desmond raced to his right to make a reaching stop, then, seemingly all in one motion, jumped and fired across his body to narrowly retire Jay at first base.
While Desmond would have simply been commended for his range and arm strength in the past, Statcast adds an entirely new dimension by actually quantifying those aspects of the play.
Statcast shows that Desmond was able to reach Jay's chopper thanks to an impressive first-step time of 0.2 seconds. Equally impressive, perhaps, is the fact that Desmond was then able to muster a 63.8-mph strike on his jump-throw across the diamond.
"He was ranging to his right -- he has fantastic arm strength and the ability to do that," Nats manager Matt Williams said. "He had a couple of them tonight where he went to his right, threw across his body and threw perfectly to [Ryan Zimmerman] at first. Ian looked comfortable and made a couple of nice plays to keep the guys off the bases for us."
Add even one-tenth of a second to Desmond's first step (the time it took from contact until his first movement) or subtract one or two mph off his throw, and it's possible that Jay beats out the throw, putting the potential tying run at the time on base to start the inning.
To add some context to Desmond's gem, one can look to a pair of similar plays made in the past by Atlanta's two-time National League Gold Glove Award-winning shortstop, Andrelton Simmons.
Simmons has twice robbed Mets catcher Travis d'Arnaud on grounders hit into the hole, once on Aug. 27 of last year and the other coming on April 10 this year. For the one in 2014, it took Simmons 0.33 seconds to take his first step and his leaping throw clocked in at just 59.9 mph -- both coming up short of Desmond's marks on Tuesday.
Simmons, however, eclipsed Desmond in both categories with his more recent thievery. In the play made earlier this month, Simmons logged an eye-popping 0.11-second first-step time and then fired a 68.5-mph throw that left d'Arnaud staring across the field in a state of disbelief.
Back to Desmond, he -- and Statcast -- demonstrated on Tuesday night that he has the elite reaction time and arm strength to make even the most difficult of plays on any given night.
"That was an amazing play," said Nats pitcher Tanner Roark, who was the direct beneficiary of Desmond's play. "It was Derek Jeter-esque. It was an unbelievable play. Everybody loved it."
Paul Casella is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.