The Rundown Lite: Universal DH ‘Moved a Little Bit,’ Javy Draws Two Walks, Busting Slumps, Kang is Back

It’s Saturday and I started my morning so tired that when I went to look up stats on Eddie Butler for a separate piece, I actually typed “ginger” into the FanGraphs search. I’ve since caffeinated myself, but it’s still probably best to jump right into this.

Manfred talks universal DH

As a general rule, I’m opposed to anything Rob Manfred wants to change with the game. That’s partially because he’s proposed some really inane stuff and also because he’s threatened to make unilateral changes for seemingly not other reason than to spite the union. But when it comes to bringing the designated hitter to the NL, I don’t really care.

Seriously, this issue is one that I simply can’t bring myself to choose sides on, which might seem strange given the very strong feelings people have about it. If pitchers continue to bat in the NL, we get to keep seeing Yadi Molina biff plays on Jon Lester‘s bunts. If the Cubs play with a DH, we get to be even more angry when they get shut out in consecutive games.

Wait, that last one isn’t a positive. But you have to admit that the Cubs would have an even more potent offense if given an extra hitter each time through. As an added bonus, the change in strategy might benefit them further. While traditionalists will no doubt lament the loss of nuances like the double switch and timely pinch hitting, Joe Maddon detractors will have less to complain about.

Though he’s a master manipulator of the mental game, Maddon isn’t the world’s greatest tactician. So perhaps eliminating some of those decisions would be good for him. But how real is the possibility of getting the DH?

While addressing the owners during their quarterly meetings this week, Manfred said “the dialogue probably moved a little bit.”

I’m not sure what that actually means and it’s probably not something we’ll see in the next year or three, but there at least appears to be some momentum. That said, the only thing I can think about when reading Manfred’s words is…

Javy walks twice

There are a lot of things Ednel Javier Baez does well, but drawing unintentional walks is not on that list. So taking four balls twice in a game was kind of a big deal. In 1,519 plate appearances heading into Friday’s game, the free-swinging phenom had drawn a total of 72 walks, 23 of which had been intentional.

On only five previous occasions had he drawn multiple free passes in a game, and three of those included intentional walks. In fact, prior to last night’s game, the only two other times Javy had drawn two non-intentional walks in a game came on August 17 and 19 of 2014. So we’re talking nearly four years ago.

“Magnificent,” Maddon said of the feat. “I was calling for the ball after the first one. After the second ball, I thought it was going right to Cooperstown.”


Kris Bryant came into Friday’s game without a hit in 19 plate appearances and without a home run in a month, but he ended both skids with a deep homer to left off of Michael Wacha.

Kyle Schwarber was going through similar struggles and his only hit in his last 22 plate appearances was a single in Milwaukee. He hadn’t homered since June 1 before absolutely unloading on a first-pitch Wacha curveball in the 6th inning.

Schwarber’s shot was recorded by Statcast at 439 feet, but the Cards say it traveled an estimated 465 feet, which made it the third longest ever hit by a visitor at Busch Stadium. What’s really amazing is that it went so far after being golfed as high as it was. Schwarber’s bat path met the ball perfectly and launched it at a 35-degree angle,

For additional perspective on that, balls hit at such an angle typically generate a mere .247 batting average. Compare that with a 30-degree angle that generates a .389 average. Most hits like Schwarber’s are pop-ups, which is why it only had an 88 percent hit probability. But when you barrel it up at 110.1 mph, it’s going to go far.

Now let’s get back to Bryant, who got to spend some time with his dad prior to his big game. Mike Bryant has been instrumental in his son’s growth as a hitter and estimates that the two have spent nearly half of the MVP winner’s life in the batting cage.

The elder Bryant flew to St. Louis for Father’s Day and no doubt talked to his son about simply getting back to the basics. We’ve covered Kris Bryant’s development to a great degree here, often with insight from his dad, and one thing that’s clear is his focus on repeating the fundamentals of his swing.

It can be easy to fall out of that routine and to start pressing, though Bryant is too good a hitter for that to happen for long. Maybe getting some time with his old man helped him to find that groove, but it was really just a matter of time. Same for Schwarber.

With that in mind, I’ll offer a shameless plug for the pregame lineup posts in which we try to give a little scouting report on that day’s pitchers and even lay out some predictions. And if memory serves, yesterday’s post said big things were in store for both Bryant and Schwarber.

Kang reinstated

After missing all of last season and the first few months of 2018, the Pirates have activated Jung Ho Kang from the restricted and have optioned him to AAA Indianapolis. He’s not expected to be back in Pittsburgh anytime soon, but he’s on the 40-man roster and is now earning a pro-rated portion of his $3 million salary.

As you may recall, Kang was unable to play last year after being arrested and charged with his third DUI in South Korea prior to the season. While driving drunk in December of 2016, he was unable to make a bend in the road and went over the median before returning to the proper lane. The arrest left him unable to secure a work visa, hence the absence from the roster.

Kang played for Aguilas in the Dominican Winter League this season, but was released after posting an abysmal .143/.219/.202 slash line in 96 plate appearances. After eventually securing a work visa, he returned to the US and raked for high-A Bradenton before being moved up AAA.

The responses to my tweet about how Kang is being allowed to play at all have been interesting, to say the least. Whether you’re calling out, “Second chances” or “Well, this other guy did x and still got to play,” you’re missing the point. That’s like my son bringing up something my daughter did when I tell him what he did wrong.

Just because you’re a fan of a team doesn’t mean you’ve got an obligation to defend the actions of said team and/or its players. And please don’t go comparing apples to potatoes when it comes to athletes’ behavior.

End brief rant, enjoy your Saturday.

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