Scanning through the list of doubles and extra-base leaders in the National League and one name stands out. After two more doubles on Sunday, Denard Span ranks third in the NL with 28 doubles, sandwiched by Jonathan Lucroy and Starlin Castro, both who hit for more power. Span has a total of 34 extra-base hits, including only one home run, so far this season, as many as sluggers such as Todd Frazier, Hunter Pence and Justin Upton, and more than even Anthony Rizzo, Chase Utley and Ryan Braun.
Span is often maligned for his lower on-base percentage — the average leadoff hitter has a .328 OBP this season while he has a .316 OBP — but he produces some power from his spot atop the Nationals‘ order. His .393 slugging percentage is up from .380 last season and a tick above his .388 career average.
“I’ve never considered myself a singles guy or slap-type hitter,” he said. “I’ve always been a guy that can drive the ball. Just so happens I’ve been hitting a lot of doubles this year. I’ve hit a lot of triples in my career over the years. I wish that some of those doubles would go over the wall every now and then. I think it’s a tribute to my hard work and working with Rick Schu in the cage, just concentrating on my swing.”
Span has already reached his doubles total from last season and is on pace to shatter his previous high of 38 in 2012. He has five triples already and could at least match his career-high of 11 from last season. Span’s extra-base percentage (9.6) is the highest of his career — and ranks 40th in the majors, in between Adrian Beltre and Michael Brantley, and above David Ortiz and Adam Jones. Nearly 40 percent of Span’s hits are for extra bases.
At this stage of his career, perhaps Span profiles more as a hitter better suited lower in the lineup. But for now, Manager Matt Williams has kept him atop the lineup because of his speed and production, and it’s worth appreciating what Span has accomplished so far.