In the interests of equal time, I report good news relating to both my own team, the Braves, and my team’s quasi-nemesis, the Mets.
For the Braves, it’s FanGraph’s David Cameron opining that one of the team’s putative weaknesses — Melky Cabrera in leftfield — will actually be a positive:
He may not look like a classic corner outfielder, but Cabrera can play,
and I think Braves fans will be pleasantly surprised with what he
offers. His defense is going to be a solid plus in a corner, and he’s
not far from being a quintessential #2 hitter. Given his physical
skills and age, don’t be surprised if he locks down an outfield spot in
Atlanta for the next several years.
I’ll admit I’m worried, so it’s nice to hear one of the smartest baseball analysts in the business rocking the Melky optimism.
The Mets don’t have a smart analyst in their corner, but they do have an off-brand t-shirt shop showing an even greater optimism, and that’s not too bad seeing what they have to work with this year.
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.