Taking another look at Daniel Descalso

Daniel Descalso has been busy doing what he does best: Frustrating lots of St. Louis Cardinals fans. This time around, he’s back to his old tricks, namely getting clutch hits late in important games that ultimately set the team up to win games. What a jerk. I’ve been a fairly vocal critic of his, but with big hits this week, I thought maybe it was time to give him another look.

The usual talking points from those that don’t like Descalso relate to his defensive abilities, and his batting skills. You know, all the things a position player needs to be able to do well to be useful to a team. While his defensive skills haven’t been upgraded much in the past week, he’s also not playing more the last couple of weeks because the team wants a defensive boost. His bat, however, is certainly out of character of late. So let’s look at exactly how good it has been.

Year Age Tm Lg G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+ TB GDP HBP SH SF IBB Pos Awards
2010 23 STL NL 11 37 34 6 9 2 0 0 4 1 0 2 6 .265 .324 .324 .648 78 11 0 1 0 0 0 /56
2011 24 STL NL 148 375 326 35 86 20 3 1 28 2 2 33 65 .264 .334 .353 .687 91 115 3 3 10 3 9 *546
2012 25 STL NL 143 426 374 41 85 10 7 4 26 6 3 37 83 .227 .303 .324 .627 72 121 5 5 7 3 3 465/3
2013 26 STL NL 123 358 328 43 78 25 1 5 43 6 3 22 56 .238 .290 .366 .656 80 120 7 3 3 2 5 645
2014 27 STL NL 79 128 115 10 25 9 0 0 9 1 1 10 26 .217 .291 .296 .587 65 34 2 2 1 0 0 645/1
5 Yrs 504 1324 1177 135 283 66 11 10 110 16 9 104 236 .240 .308 .341 .648 79 401 17 14 21 8 17
162 Game Avg. 162 426 378 43 91 21 4 3 35 5 3 33 76 .240 .308 .341 .648 79 129 5 5 7 3 5
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/21/2014.

That’s a pretty bleak picture of a pretty weak bat. In fairness, he has 234 fewer plate appearances in 2014 than last year. Let’s say he could rise to his career numbers, would fans be satisfied with a career .240 hitter whose best season was three years ago? Surely, that’s a big old “no.” Are the last few weeks really something new? Let’s have a glance.

Split G GS PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB GDP HBP SH SF IBB ROE BAbip tOPS+ sOPS+
Last 7 days 6 1 9 7 1 3 3 0 0 2 0 0 2 0 .429 .556 .857 1.413 6 0 0 0 0 0 0 .429 381 297
Last 14 days 13 3 24 19 3 8 4 0 0 4 0 0 5 2 .421 .542 .632 1.173 12 0 0 0 0 0 0 .471 300 241
Last 28 days 20 3 31 25 3 9 4 0 0 4 0 0 5 4 .360 .484 .520 1.004 13 0 1 0 0 0 0 .429 242 192
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/21/2014.

Well, something has clearly changed. The .212 hitter has caught fire in the last month and is now hitting .348 over the previous 28 days. Hallelujah! He’s turned the corner. Not so fast. This edition of small sample theater is brought to you courtesy of just 27 plate appearances and two starts. It isn’t a lefty vs. righty issue either. He’s been very consistent over his career in this regard, always about .100 worse against a RHP, whether it’s a starter or a reliever. He isn’t getting lucky on match-ups.

Split G GS PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB GDP HBP SH SF IBB ROE BAbip tOPS+ sOPS+
vs RHP 63 101 93 5 18 6 0 0 7 1 0 6 23 .194 .250 .258 .508 24 0 1 1 0 0 0 .257 82 46
vs LHP 18 23 20 4 6 2 0 0 2 0 1 2 3 .300 .391 .400 .791 8 2 1 0 0 0 1 .353 183 125
vs LH Starter 17 1 16 13 5 4 3 0 0 2 0 0 2 2 .308 .438 .538 .976 7 1 1 0 0 0 1 .364 249 175
vs RH Starter 61 16 108 100 4 20 5 0 0 7 1 1 6 24 .200 .252 .250 .502 25 1 1 1 0 0 0 .263 80 45
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/20/2014.

This magic streak will require us to dig a little deeper into some game logs.

  • In April, Descalso hit .125 in 35 plate appearances. He started in five of the 21 games he appeared in. He had two separate streaks going where he failed to get a hit in consecutive games in that month. He had two pinch hits, and went 2 for 4 in one game. That was the sum of his offense in April.
  • May was kinder to Daniel, where he hit .250 in 22 plate appearances and three starts. He compiled five hits in the month.
  • In June, he regressed a little, to .238 in (again) 22 plate appearances with four starts. He collected five hits.
  • In July, he went .150 collecting just three hits in (again) 22 plate appearances.

What is it about the number 22? I’ll leave it to the reader to decide on that one.  Alas, our numbers game comes to an end in August. Descalso has had 23 plate appearances this month and is .350, starting in two games.

Now, let’s look at those August at bats.

Rk Gcar Gtm Date Tm Opp Rslt Inngs PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB IBB SO HBP SH SF ROE GDP SB CS BA OBP SLG OPS BOP aLI WPA RE24 Pos
August Tm Opp Rslt Inngs PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB IBB SO HBP SH SF ROE GDP SB CS BA OBP SLG OPS BOP aLI WPA RE24 Pos
64 489 108 Aug 1 STL MIL L,4-7 7-8 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .181 .238 .234 .472 9 .26 -0.007 -0.30 PH
65 490 109 Aug 2 STL MIL W,9-7 7-8 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .179 .235 .232 .467 9 .71 -0.017 -0.41 PH
66 491 110 Aug 3 STL MIL W,3-2 7-8 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .177 .233 .229 .462 9 1.59 -0.045 -0.56 PH
67 492 114 (3) Aug 8 STL @ BAL L,2-12 6-GF 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .173 .229 .224 .453 1 .04 -0.002 -0.50 PH SS
68 493 115 Aug 9 STL @ BAL L,3-10 CG 4 3 0 3 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .198 .257 .248 .504 9 .35 0.042 0.95 SS
69 494 116 Aug 10 STL @ BAL W,8-3 CG 5 5 1 2 1 0 0 1 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .208 .263 .264 .527 9 .80 0.109 0.94 3B
70 495 117 Aug 11 STL @ MIA L,5-6 6-6 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .206 .261 .262 .523 9 2.83 -0.082 -0.57 PH
71 496 118 Aug 12 STL @ MIA L,0-3 8-8 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .204 .259 .259 .518 9 .49 -0.012 -0.15 PH
72 497 119 Aug 13 STL @ MIA W,5-2 8-8 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .204 .265 .259 .524 9 .31 0.010 1.00 PH
73 498 120 Aug 14 STL SDP W,4-3 8-9 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .204 .271 .259 .530 9 2.74 0.093 0.60 PH
74 499 121 Aug 15 STL SDP W,4-2 6-7 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .202 .269 .257 .526 9 .45 -0.011 -0.21 PH
75 500 122 Aug 16 STL SDP L,5-9 8-9 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .200 .267 .255 .521 9 .84 -0.023 -0.47 PH
76 501 123 Aug 17 STL SDP W,7-6 8-9 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .198 .264 .252 .517 9 .05 -0.001 -0.09 PH
77 502 124 Aug 18 STL CIN W,6-5 7-8 1 1 0 1 1 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .205 .270 .268 .538 9 2.60 0.275 1.16 PH
78 503 125 Aug 19 STL CIN W,5-4 8-9 1 1 0 1 1 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .212 .276 .283 .560 9 5.15 0.323 1.10 PH
79 504 126 Aug 20 STL CIN W,7-3 CG 4 2 1 1 1 0 0 0 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .217 .291 .296 .587 8 .37 0.028 1.57 2B 3B
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/21/2014.

Descalso has eight hits so far this month. For a guy who got three to five hits in every other month, seven might seem like a lot through August 19th. Really, with his limited exposure, eight hits is nothing. It will inflate the numbers on a temporary basis, but is hardly the basis on which to derive your starting lineup. What he really did right was going 3 for 3 on August 9th, and 2 for 5 the next day. Add a couple of pinch hits on the 18th and 19th, and you’ve got the very definition of riding the hot hand. Really, that’s all it is. Still, if we were to play everyday, he would likely cool off, but ultimately raise his season average to something resembling his career numbers. Perhaps, just a tad south of them.

Having said all of that, Descalso’s hits lately have been timely. When you play a lot of close games, and you’re a pinch hitter, your chances of getting a “timely” hit go up a lot. Either way, the Cards will take them. I’m happy to see anyone contribute to this offense that finally seems to be pulling it all together.

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