Albert Pujols and Joey Votto must go through Omar Infante to win the Triple Crown

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Believe it or not, Omar Infante may determine whether Albert Pujols or Joey Votto can win the Triple Crown.
Pujols leads the NL in homers and RBIs while ranking third in batting average. Votto leads the league in batting average while ranking second in RBIs and third in homers. There’s still a lot of baseball left to be played, but the two best hitters in the league are set up to go hit-for-hit down the stretch in search of the first Triple Crown since Carl Yastrzemski in 1967.
That is, unless Infante gets enough playing time to qualify for the batting title.
Despite (controversially) making the All-Star team Infante spent the first half as merely a part-time player for the Braves, so right now he has just 338 plate appearances and his .350 batting average doesn’t appear on the official leaderboard. However, now that he’s playing every day Infante is rapidly closing in on the 502 plate appearances needed to qualify.
Plus, if he finishes a small number of plate appearances short there’s a rule in place that will give him hitless at-bats until he reaches 502. In other words, if he hits .350 in 490 plate appearances Infante will then be given an 0-for-12 for the purposes of determining the batting title.
Infante has averaged 4.5 plate appearances per start this season, so assuming he’s in the lineup for, say, 35 of the final 37 games he’d end up with around 495 plate appearances. It may prove to be a moot point if Infante slumps over the final six weeks, but right now he has a 27-point edge over Votto and is definitely a factor in the Triple Crown picture.

Cubs won’t make Kyle Schwarber available in trade talks

Kyle Schwarber
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Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports that the Cubs won’t deal Kyle Schwarber this winter, despite multiple inquires from teams around the league. Schwarber is approaching his first year of arbitration and will remain under team control for another three seasons before reaching free agency in 2022.

The decision comes on the heels of one of the strongest seasons of the 25-year-old outfielder’s short career. Over 137 games and 510 PA for the Cubs, he proved a passable defender in left field and batted .238/.356/.467 with 26 home runs, an .823 OPS, and 3.2 fWAR in 2018. He also led the National League in intentional walks, with 20, and bumped up his total walks from 59 in 2017 to 78.

Despite his marked improvements from previous years, Schwarber’s performance still left something to be desired — specifically against left-handed pitchers, who held the slugger to a paltry .224/.352/.303 with four extra-base hits across 91 PA. Still, it’s evident the Cubs feel Schwarber is capable of strengthening his splits in the years to come, and they might stand to get more value from him on the field than they would in a trade this offseason.

Of course, that’s not to say the Cubs intend to pass the Winter Meetings in total silence, especially as they’ll be seeking bullpen and catching depth in advance of their 2019 run at the division title. As club president Theo Epstein remarked last week, “We’re certainly open and active in trade talks with a lot of deals that usually don’t come to fruition. So, we may make some trades. We could make big ones that transform the roster. We may make smaller complementary ones. But there’s certain things we’d like to accomplish.”