Where are they now: Jake Fox

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It seemed like a safe enough assumption; Jake Fox had made 10 starts in left field this season and he’d hit .286/.332/.526 in his 175 at-bats for the Cubs. Of course he was going to see additional playing time with Alfonso Soriano being shut down with a knee injury. It was a given.
But now it’s Sept. 11, and Fox was on the bench for the seventh straight game Friday against the Reds. He hasn’t started since going 2-for-4 with the Cubs’ only extra-base hit in a 5-0 loss to the White Sox on Sept. 3. Soriano has missed all seven games since. Milton Bradley just missed one Wednesday. Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez have each had a day off in the span. Yet Fox has been limited to three pinch-hitting appearances.
The most stunning absence came the very day after the shutout. Fox hit a grand slam off the Mets’ Bobby Parnell on Aug. 29, yet didn’t start when Parnell faced the Cubs again on Sept. 4. The Mets ended up winning that game 6-2 behind seven scoreless innings from the rookie.
The whole scenario seemingly has Cubs writer Carrie Muskat baffled. “Fox has opportunity to step up for Cubs” was the headline for her preview column for Friday’s game. That was written after Fox had sat out six straight.
I’m pretty baffled myself, but it’s clear Fox is in manager Lou Piniella’s doghouse. He has yet to prove adequate anywhere in the field, whether it has been his 22 starts at third, his 12 in the outfield or his two at first base. The former catcher has also been behind the plate for seven innings, but the Cubs saw so little to like there that they had Koyie Hill catch every single game when Geovany Soto was forced to the DL for a month.
It’s still hard to justify the current treatment, though. When given the chance, Fox has provided oodles of power to a lineup that’s been surprisingly short of punch this season. Maybe he shouldn’t be a full-timer given his limitations, but about the only time he definitely shouldn’t play is when flyball pitcher Ted Lilly is on the mound.

Hunter Pence is mashing for the Rangers

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Hunter Pence was thought to be on his way to retirement after a lackluster 2018 season with the Giants. As he entered his mid-30’s, Pence spent a considerable amount of time on the injured list, playing in 389 out of 648 possible regular season games with the Giants from 2015-18.

Pence, however, kept his career going, inking a minor league deal with the Rangers in February. He performed very well in spring training, earning a spot on the Opening Day roster. Pence hasn’t stopped hitting.

Entering Monday night’s game against the Mariners, Pence was batting .299/.358/.619 with eight home runs and 28 RBI in 109 plate appearances, mostly as a DH. Statcast agrees that Pence has been mashing the ball. He has an average exit velocity of 93.3 MPH this season, which would obliterate his marks in each of the previous four seasons since Statcast became a thing. His career average exit velocity is 89.8 MPH. He has “barreled” the ball 10.4 percent of the time, well above his 6.2 percent average.

What Pence did to a baseball in the seventh inning of Monday’s game, then, shouldn’t come as a surprise.

That’s No. 9 on the year for Pence. Statcast measured it at 449 feet and 108.3 MPH off the bat. Not only is Pence not retired, he may be a lucrative trade chip for the Rangers leading up to the trade deadline at the end of July.