Making the Case for Daniel Descalso as a Better Hitter Than Giancarlo Stanton

The concept alone is unrepentant click-bait, or perhaps click repellent for those whose gag reflex was triggered by the very notion of comparing Daniel Descalso to Giancarlo Stanton. Other than being drafted just one round apart in 2007 and debuting in 2010, the pair seems to have little in common. But ESPN’s Sam Miller approaches the topic with a flagon full of self-awareness and proceeds to quaff lustily over what ends up being a pretty interesting read.

Hold my beer.

On the surface, the comparison seems stupid beyond contemplation. Even Descalso’s wife and mother wouldn’t select him ahead of Stanton in a fantasy baseball league comprised solely of their family members. Descalso’s lifetime total of 2.1 fWAR is less than Stanton has posted in any individual season, with the latter’s 2.2 in 2016 serving as his low-water mark. And yet Miller finds a way to present Descalso as the better hitter in many regards.

Consider the following evidence from within the column:

  • Descalso drove in 17 percent of the men who were on base when he came up, while Stanton drove in only 14 percent.
  • Descalso was far more effective in high-leverage situations, with a .591 slugging percentage to Stanton’s .462, and a .378 OBP to Stanton’s .313.
  • By win probability, Descalso accounted for 3.10 wins added (23rd in MLB); Stanton was good for 0.95 wins added (106th).
  • Since their debuts, Descalso’s 7.31 “clutch” score ranks 1st among 299 qualified batters; Stanton’s -9.26 ranks 299th.
  • Among all 1,268 qualified hitters in history, Descalso’s clutch score is 9th (just behind Ozzie Guillen‘s 7.48); Stanton is also 9th…from the bottom.
  • In their 100 highest-leverage PAs, Descalso has generated 5.2 more wins than Stanton (3.1 to -2.1 WPA)

Whoa, is this telling us what I think it’s telling us?

“Descalso, Daniel Descalso, was apparently quite a bit better than Stanton, and also better than Nolan Arenado and Manny Machado,” Miller writes. “It’s a hot take, but you can actually stand behind it.”

There’s a lot more to the piece and it’s worth your time to check it out in its entirety, even if only to challenge some of your preconceived notions about value in baseball. Or perhaps it will serve to reinforce what you already hold true, particularly if you are leery of highly-paid sluggers with more limited skillsets. Either way, there’s a lot of interesting information.

The whole point of the exercise, or at least what I took from it, is that it’s always good to question “what we think we see through the fog.” Despite the sizable pile of credible evidence Miller presents, No one is taking Daniel Descalso over Giancarlo Stanton. But there’s perhaps a good deal more merit to the Cubs giving the journeyman infielder $5 million than many of us first acknowledged.

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