The Chicago Cubs hoped Daniel Descalso would provide a veteran presence in the lineup. But he has really struggled to give them anything usable with the bat.
The Chicago Cubs‘ 2019 offseason was one of the coldest we had seen from the team in a long time. Daniel Descalso and Brad Brach stand as the two key additions to the team and, while Brach has not done the team many favors, Descalso has been an absolute nightmare.
Entering this weekend, Descalso has a -0.9 bWAR with a horrid 52 OPS+ in 52 games played. Compared to 2018, or really any of his previous years in the Majors, this marks a drastic decline in production for an already lackluster bat.
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Perhaps most frightening are his splits for the month of May: an unholy .094/.183/.132 slash line. If you did not know who Descalso was, this might lead you to assume he’s a pitcher, though Jon Lester actually has a higher OPS+ right now.
Now, normally Descalso has gotten by being a more situational hitter, as he was for the Diamondbacks in 2018. And, while his splits in clutch situations are more promising, he sits with only 14 RBIs thus far on the season.
Whenever Descalso is in the lineup lately, he has been a black hole for an otherwise solid Cubs lineup with plenty of far more capable hitters that can fill in at second. David Bote and Addison Russell both have a higher OPS+ than Descalso with Bote’s over double that of Descalso’s at 122.
What makes this so frustrating to watch is the stellar year former Cub pinch-hitter extraordinaire Tommy La Stella is stringing together. He looks to be an early lock for the AL All-Star team at second base with career highs in batting average, slugging percentage and OPS.
Had the Cubs kept La Stella, one could see him finding more time in the middle infield with the suspension of Addison Russell earlier in the season. Without having spent for Descalso, the Cubs could have used the extra money to improve their largest area of concern: the bullpen.
All of this being said, is it too early to condemn Descalso and his void of a bat? More than likely. Despite last year being a relatively strong year for him, he faced a somewhat similar slump in the second half with only a .198/.331/.347 split.
At the very least, Descalso still provides the much-needed utility with veteran Ben Zobrist potentially out for the season. If Descalso can look more like his 2018 self when the Chicago Cubs need it down the stretch, it will be easy to forget the struggles he currently faces, but it certainly does not make it easier to watch in the moment.