The Braves have announced that they have hired John Hart as senior advisor to their baseball operations department.
Hart, you probably know, is the former general manager of the Cleveland Indians and Texas Rangers. For several years he has served as a senior adviser of baseball operations for the Rangers and as an analyst for MLB Network. He goes back a long ways with Braves president John Schuerholz too.
Hart’s contract with the Rangers was up after this past season. It’s possible this move relates to Nolan Ryan’s departure from the Rangers organization, but given that he predated Ryan in Texas, I wouldn’t read too much into that. It is likely just a matter of new challenges in a new environment and a chance to work with an old friend in Schuerholz.
And heck, given that his most noted accomplishment in Cleveland was locking up young players to long below market deals, combined with the Braves multiple young players who could be looking at such extensions soon, perhaps Atlanta just wants to have the master on the payroll.
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.