Danny Espinosa Just Had the Best Week of His Career
With the holiday weekend now over, there will be plenty of questions on Tuesday morning at the office about how your long weekend was. As good as it might have been, it couldn't have topped what Washington Nationals shortstop Danny Espinosa did.
The division rival New York Mets came to town last Monday, and Espinosa had a ho-hum 3-for-5 night at the plate with 2 RBI and a stolen base. It was a small taste of what was to come.
After the Nationals swept the Mets, the Cincinnati Reds were next up on the schedule, and Espinosa had a rude welcoming in store for the cellar-dwellers in the National League Central.
With the Nats leading 4-1 in the bottom of the third inning, Espinosa quickly blew the game open.
Qué sabroso es cuando un #PapaSlam como el de Danny Espinosa sea 4to de tu equipo este año. @mejorpizza. @Nationalshttps://t.co/Fzl9EolcgW
— LasMayores (@LasMayores) July 1, 2016
His grand slam came against lefty Brandon Finnegan, meaning the switch-hitting Espinosa was batting right-handed. His next plate appearance came an inning later against righty Josh Smith, so Espinosa turned around to bat left-handed. Despite hitting from the other side of the plate, the outcome provided similar results, as Espinosa this time hit a three-run homer.
He finished the game 2-for-4 with 2 home runs and 7 RBI, and his team won 13-4.
Espinosa struggled in his next game, going 0-for-5 with 3 strikeouts on Friday and only had a single hit in Saturday's contest, although it was a two-run tater.
Then Sunday rolled around and the 29-year-old got back to his "old" ways.
After Reds starter John Lamb walked three consecutive batters to begin the fourth inning, Espinosa found himself in another bases loaded situation and against another southpaw. Here's what happened this time.
Stop us if you’ve seen Danny Espinosa do this before.
(He did it Thursday). https://t.co/kKjM1gcw5m #PapaSlamhttps://t.co/zwqwBA5Uji
— MLB (@MLB) July 3, 2016
This home run prompted the following tweet regarding Espinosa's excellence hitting in the eighth spot in the lineup.
Danny Espinosa has 13 HR out of the No. 8 spot in the order this season. No other player has more than six.
— Andrew Simon (@AndrewSimonMLB) July 3, 2016
Believe it or not, Espinosa wasn't done wreaking havoc against the Reds. He hit a run-scoring single in the bottom of the fifth inning and was due up second in the bottom of the seventh against righty Keyvius Sampson.
Third baseman Anthony Rendon led off the inning with a solo shot, and not wanting to lose any of the spotlight, Espinosa decided to follow suit, hitting his 18th home run of the season and 14th as the eighth hitter, rendering the above tweet useless.
He finished the day 4-for-5 with 2 taters and 6 RBI, giving him a whopping 15 RBI for the series.
Danny Espinosa's 15 RBI was the most in a 4-game series in franchise history pic.twitter.com/8f3QQO8gRf
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) July 4, 2016
Not only did he set a franchise record, but his 15 RBI also tied for the third-most in all of baseball for a four-game series. You would think that a celebration that involves getting slapped by a teammate would make Espinosa not want to continue producing.
Danny Espinosa is hoarding RBIs at this point. His single to RF brings in another run. #Nats 8, Reds 0 pic.twitter.com/XbnlPYvBER
— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) July 3, 2016
However, over the past week, it seems like Espinosa can't help himself. In his last seven games (31 plate appearances), he's slashing .423/.516/1.077 with a .654 Isolated Power (ISO), a .629 Weighted On-Base Average (wOBA), and a 306 Weighted Runs Created Plus (wRC+). His 1.0 Wins Above Replacement (fWAR) are the most in baseball and have bumped his season mark to a 2.4 fWAR, which surpasses his total from all of last season (2.3).
In addition to leading all eight hitters in home runs (with 14 of his 18 coming from that spot), he also has the most runs scored and RBI of any eight hitter and is second in on-base percentage, slugging percentage, OPS, ISO, wOBA, and wRC+, all to another shortstop, Aledmys Diaz. However, Diaz has 123 fewer plate appearances than Espinosa batting eighth and he has primarily hit out of the two-hole for the St. Louis Cardinals since mid-May.
Espinosa is having a career year, as his .342 wOBA and 112 wRC+ are both easily career highs and well above the current National League average of .315 and 94, respectively. His walk percentage of 9.1 is almost two points higher than his career mark of 7.3 percent, and his strikeout percentage of 23.4 is almost four points lower than his career average of 27.3 percent.
Some of this success can be attributed to improve discipline at the plate, as he has lowered the amount of pitches he swings at outside of the strike zone by exactly five percentage points from last season, while also making more contact. His swinging strike percentage is down 1.5 percent this season from his career mark.
And when Espinosa does make contact, he's hitting the ball harder than ever before. His hard-hit rate of 36.4 percent is just outside of this season's top-50, but it's exactly 6 points above what his career mark was entering the 2016 season. A more disciplined approach and an improved rate of hard contact equals tremendous improvement.
Or as Espinosa said himself after Sunday's game, it makes for the "best time I've ever had."