Chicago Cubs: Why wouldn’t you want this guy up in the ninth?
One answer to the previous questions might be that Descalso offers a bit more versatility on defense and has played shortstop before in his career. And, while that is true, Descalso and LaStella are both subpar defenders at second and third, Descalso didn’t play short in 2018, and he isn’t really anymore viable at said position than Ben Zobrist, David Bote or Kris Bryant.
If the Cubs needed someone to provide depth while Javier Baez is manning shortstop during Addison Russell‘s remaining suspension, what happened to Ronald Torreyes? (This is all assuming Zobrist and Russell aren’t going to be traded; of course, one or both things may very well be in the works). One would have thought that a defensive upgrade would have been coming once the Cubs traded La Stella, whose value was in his offensive potential and production.
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Another answer to the questions previously posed is a little deeper and more complex answer regarding the “clutch” narrative. Looking at leverage situations, Descalso has fared much better in medium and high-leverage situations than La Stella over the past couple years, with the latter destroying pitchers in low-leverage spots.
Just last year, Descalso posted a .936 OPS in high-leverage situations, while La Stella managed only a .705 OPS. Granted, these are both small samples, but if we continue to medium-leverage spots, Descalso posted a .600 OPS to LaStella’s .415. LaStella only shined and bettered him in low-leverage spots, with an OPS of .848 to Descalso’s .724.
Even in his great 2017 season, in which he posted an OPS+ of 122, La Stella’s leverage numbers of .487 and .636 OPS in high and medium-leverage situations pale in comparison to Descalso’s .936 and .600 OPS. And, while LaStella’s low-leverage OPS in 2017 was an off-the-charts 1.083 to Descalso’s .724, maybe the Cubs were looking for someone who could come in with the game on the line and deliver more often.