Not much has gone right for the Cubs early on this season, but the decision to give 29-year-old career minor leaguer Bryan LaHair the starting job at first base is looking very good.
After knocking around Triple-A pitching for five-and-half seasons LaHair finally got his big break and has taken advantage in a huge way, hitting .390 with five homers, eight doubles, and a 1.251 OPS in 20 games.
He’ll come back down to earth eventually, of course, but LaHair hit .331 with 38 homers in 129 games at Triple-A last season and has a .528 slugging percentage in 653 total games at Triple-A.
Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer, and Dale Sveum deserve credit for giving LaHair a long-deserved chance that the previous regime was unlikely to provide and it’ll be interesting to see what the Cubs do if first base prospect Anthony Rizzo continues to push for a promotion to the majors with a strong performance at Triple-A.
Chicago could certainly use the added offense and LaHair could perhaps play left field somewhat passably, but the Cubs have Alfonso Soriano and his contract there.
For a few days, it looked like Aaron Judge was finally hitting his stride in the postseason. He was still striking out at a regular clip, piling more and more strikeouts atop the 16 he racked up in the Division Series, but he was mashing, too. He engineered a three-run homer during Game 3 of the Championship Series, followed by another blast and game-tying double in Game 4. His one-out double helped pad a five-run lead in Game 5, while his 425-footer off of Brad Peacock barely made a dent during a 7-1 loss in Game 6. And then Lance McCullers‘ curveball found and fooled him, as it did five of the 14 batters it met in Game 7:
The strikeout was Judge’s first of the evening and 27th since the start of the playoffs. No other major league batter has racked up that many strikeouts in a single postseason, though Alfonso Soriano’s 26-strikeout record in 2003 comes the closest. Within that record, Judge also collected three golden sombreros (four strikeouts in a single game), narrowly avoiding the dreaded platinum sombrero (five strikeouts in a single game).
It’s an unfortunate footnote to a spectacular year for the rookie outfielder, who decimated the competition with 52 home runs and 8.2 fWAR during the regular season and was a pivotal part of the Yankees’ playoff run. Thankfully, the image of McCullers’ curveball darting just under Judge’s bat won’t be the image that sticks with us for years to come. Instead, it’ll look something like this: