Denard Span's offensive struggles (especially against LHPs) never affected the 28-going-29-year-old's defense. Throughout the 2013 campaign, the center fielder acquired from the Minnesota Twins last winter for top pitching prospect Alex Meyer, provided the Washington Nationals with exactly what they expected from him defensively.
Nats' GM Mike Rizzo described Span as, "a true defensive ballhawk center field-type of guy with great range," who, "sabermetrically and with a scout's eye," was, "... a front line defensive center fielder," after completing the deal with the Twins last winter. Towards the end of the season, the Nationals' General Manager told 106.7 the FAN in D.C.'s Holden Kushner and Danny Rouhier that he was glad things were coming around offensively for Span, and impressed that the outfielder never took his struggles onto the field.
"There was an adjustment to a new league and a new city and leaving the only franchise he's ever been in," Rizzo said. "But this guy's character and approach to the game is second to none. He's a terrific teammate. He's a great player. And even when he was struggling offensively throughout the first half of the season, it never affected his defense one bit." As the GM saw it, Span's turnaround in the last few months of his first run in D.C., which included a 29-game hit streak, played an important role in the Nats' late-season run.
"[He's] turned a corner," Rizzo explained, "and is getting back to himself at the plate and [he's] a guy that is very dangerous and a table-setter that is allowing us to put a run on like we're putting."
Span was named a finalist for the Gold Glove in center field after his first season in the nation's capital, but lost out to the Milwaukee Brewers' Carlos Gomez:
Like I said b4 I won no matter what in my mind and heart! Congrats to my ex teammate Carlos Gomez for an incredible season... #illbebacktho— Denard Span (@thisisdspan) October 30, 2013
Span was, however, recognized as the Wilson Defensive Player of the Year for the Nationals. The Wilson Defensive Player of the Year winners, as an MLB Press Release explained, "... are determined by using a formula that balances scouting information, sabermetric analysis and basic fielding statistics."
Span played a flawless center field, (0 errors, 1.000 fld%), finished 3rd in the NL (amongst qualified center fielders) in UZR (Fangraphs: - "Ultimate Zone Rating - The number of runs above or below average a fielder is in both range runs, outfield arm runs, double play runs and error runs combined.") at +10.2 to the D-Backs' A.J. Pollock's +17.4 and Gomez at +24.4, finished third in RngR (Fangraphs: "range runs - The number of runs above or below average a fielder is, determined by how the fielder is able to get to balls hit in his vicinity.") at +6.2 to Pollock's +15.7 and Gomez's +19.0 and first in ErrR (Fangraphs: "error runs" - The number of runs above or below average a fielder is, determined by the number of errors he makes as compared to an average fielder at that position given the same distribution of balls in play.") at +2.0 to the Cards' Jon Jay's +1.3 and Pollock's +0.5.
The Nats' center fielder took to Twitter to express his appreciation for Wilson's award:
I wanna thank Wilson for acknowledging me for my defense.. Also wanna thank my followers/fans as well. #blessed— Denard Span (@thisisdspan) November 8, 2013
• Check out the Nationals' post on the award:
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