Tommy La Stella has made several starts this season at third base and second base. However, if it was not evident already, his results so far show that his best role for the Chicago Cubs is as a pinch hitter.
Tommy La Stella has come a long way since his 2016 Chicago Cubs’ debacle. When he was sent down to the minors in late July 2016, he did not immediately report to Iowa. Since then, though, he appears to be embracing his role of pinch hitter for the Cubs. He excelled in the role in 2017 and is off to a good start in 2018, as well.
La Stella has started at second base and third base this season. His starts primarily occurred while Kris Bryant sat out after being hit in the head. He also got a start Tuesday against the Miami Marlins while Javier Baez sat out with groin tightness.
Excelling as a pinch hitter
La Stella has been good defensively in his starts this season. However, his numbers at the plate prove that he excels the most as a pinch hitter.
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La Stella has made 19 appearances as a pinch hitter this season. In those appearances, he boasts a .367 batting average with a .395 on-base percentage and a .967 OPS.
Compare that to his numbers in seven starts this season, and it is apparent that where he thrives is in pinch-hit situations. In his starts this season, La Stella is batting .294 with a .338 OBP and an OPS of .718. While these are still impressive numbers, his numbers as a pinch hitter are better.
Additionally, La Stella has struck out eight times so far this season. Only two of those strikeouts have come as a pinch hitter.
Coming through in the clutch
Whether it is his ability to hit hard pitching or just his ability to come through in the clutch, La Stella seems to thrive as a pinch hitter. And that should come in handy down the road for the Cubs, as it often did in 2017. La Stella ultimately became one of Chicago’s best clutch hitters in 2017, batting .288 and amassing just 18 strikeouts in 151 plate appearances on the season.
Of course, everyone wants a chance to start, and surely La Stella does too. But he appears to have embraced this role of coming through in pinch-hit situations late in games, where he excels more than almost anyone on the team.
La Stella seems to have matured as both a hitter and a person since 2016, and his success has not gone unnoticed by Cubs fans. Thus, he has a chance to be a key piece of a potential championship run for Chicago this season as a pinch-hitter in key situations late in games.