Aroldis Chapman took a step back last year, walking a ton more guys than he had previously. Yesterday Dusty Baker told John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer that Chapman had some family issues that may have affected his focus, and that, for him, family problems are trickier than they are for other guys:
“Last year he had some off-the-field stuff going on, Cuban family stuff. That makes it tough … Right now he’s different than most,” Baker said. “Most of the other Latins can go home. He can’t go home. If he goes home he might not be able to come back out.”
One always has to take this stuff with a grain of salt — the spring lends itself to guys talking about past troubles as if they were isolated incidents — but I think Dusty Baker has earned the benefit of the doubt when it comes to talking about and dealing with his players’ personal problems.
I’ve mentioned this a lot in the past, but I thought that Baker’s public handling of Joey Votto’s anxiety issues a couple of years ago was near perfect. He was likewise great in dealing with Mike Leake’s weird shirt-theft thing. Baker seems to get that kind of stuff — and is able to talk about that kind of stuff — in a way that is more clear and intelligent and with more empathy than most managers.
It’s one of the reasons, I’ll wager, why he’s so popular with his players, basically everywhere he’s been.
The Cubs wrapped up a four-game series against the Reds at Wrigley Field on Thursday afternoon, suffering a 13-10 loss to split the set. They’ll match up again against the Reds next week for a three-game series in Cincinnati. That’s good news for Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant, because that means he’ll get to see Reds first baseman Joey Votto some more.
As CSN Chicago’s Patrick Mooney reports, Bryant has grown quite fond of Votto. Bryant has already won a World Series ring, a Rookie of the Year Award, and an MVP Award, but he still looks up to Votto. According to Bryant, Votto is “the best player ever.” He added, ““He’s my favorite player. I love watching him. I love talking to him, just picking his brain. He gets a lot of (heat) about his walks and working at-bats and some people want him to swing at more pitches. But, gosh, I mean, he does an unbelievable job. You know that he’s going to give you a great at-bat every time he goes up there. It’s definitely a guy that I look up to and I can learn from.”
Bryant said that Votto is “a future Hall of Famer, that’s for sure.”
Bryant also explained how his approach changed by watching Votto. He said that in his rookie season, he was “swinging at everything.” Votto, however, is “aggressive, but he’s not going to swing at a pitch until he wants it.”
Indeed, in Bryant’s rookie season, he struck out in nearly 31 percent of his 650 plate appearances. This season, he has struck out in only 19 percent of his PA. His walk rate has also increased by more than 2.5 percent since his rookie campaign. Compared to last year, Bryant is down in HR and RBI, but his average is the same, his on-base percentage is markedly better, and his slugging percentage is only down by a minute amount.
Diamondbacks second baseman Daniel Descalso hit his team’s third inside-the-park home run of the season during Thursday’s 4-0 win over the Astros. In the top of the fourth inning, with the score 1-0 and the bases empty, Descalso ripped a 1-0, 83 MPH change-up to right-center field. The ball caromed off the wall, heading towards left field, which sent center Jake Marisnick on the chase. Marisnick tried to pick up the ball with his glove, but dropped it, which sealed Descalso’s destiny for an inside-the-parker.
It had only been five days since the Diamondbacks’ last inside-the-park home run. David Peralta hit one against the Cubs on August 12. Ketel Marte legged out his club’s first ITPHR on July 26 against the Braves.
As ESPN Stats & Info notes, the Diamondbacks have three as a team, which is amazing because the other 29 teams have hit seven combined.