*Jung Ho Kang was named the NL Rookie of the Month for July. He posted a .379/.443/.621 1.064 OPS in 97 PAs with 3 HRs and 9 RBI. He led all of MLB in WAR for the month. Since Josh Harrison went down on July 5, effectively making Kang an everyday starter, he's posted a similar .381/.447/.667 1.113 OPS in 94 PAs, with 4 HRs and 10 RBI.
When Harrison and Jordy Mercer return later this month (Harrison in a week?) it will be interesting to see how Clint Hurdle allocates playing time. Kang has proven to be a passable defensive shortstop, but Mercer is better. Kang, however, is an excellent defensive third baseman. He's quick, has good hands and a very strong arm. Kang's performance over the past month means he should be in the lineup everyday. That gives Hurdle a lot of options to mix and match Harrison, Mercer and Aramis Ramirez. My guess is Kang and Mercer are the most-often used pairing on the left side of the infield, with Harrison reverting to a super-utility role and Ramirez coming off the bench while getting a couple starts a week. Options are a good problem for Hurdle to have and it leaves him with a much-improved bench for the stretch run.
Here is an excellent piece by Mike Petriello on Kang with some great stats on his ability to hit major league heat.
*This is one of my favorite charts. It's intuitive that if you hit a ball hard, you are making solid contact and therefore more likely to get a hit, right? Statcast has provided us with a trove of data about all sorts of things, one of which is exit velocity of batted balls. The linked chart shows the batting average of all major league hitters who have hit at least 50 balls into play with an exit velocity of at least 100 mph. What's it tell us? Basically, if you square-it-up and hit-the-crap-out-of-it, you've got about a 60% chance of getting a base hit. Pirates on the list are Pedro Alvarez, Starling Marte, Kang, Andrew McCutchen and Gregory Polanco. Interestingly Polanco is one of just seven players out of 84 with a batting average below .500, checking in next to last at .431. I don't have a good explanation. Thoughts?
Here is a look at the Pirates individually. Gerrit Cole, A.J. Burnett, Francisco Liriano and Jeff Locke are all on the list. No Chris Stewart. As of last week he was the only ML position player with over 50 at bats and no batted balls with an exit velocity over 100 mph.
*I wrote about Francisco Liriano and his swing-and-miss stuff a couple weeks ago. I took a deeper look into the numbers. Since Liriano signed with the Pirates in 2013, he leads MLB in swinging strike %, and it's a pretty impressive list.
Here are Liriano's swing-and-miss Percentages by season: (The numbers above are on all pitches, these are relative to pitches where the batter swings.)
*Not quite sure how good Mark Melancon and Tony Watson have been over the past couple seasons? Here is a Fangraphs article on Wade Davis. Take a look at the chart in the middle. Pretty impressive.Francisco Liriano's swing-and-miss %'s 2008: 25.1% 2009: 26.4% 2010: 27.8% 2011: 28.3% 2012: 31.2% 2013: 30.2% 2014: 32.9% 2015: 32.9%— Beyond the Box Score (@BtBScore) August 3, 2015
*Clint Hurdle said Sunday he wanted to mix up his rotation so he wasn't throwing three lefties against the Cubs. I didn't see any way he could avoid it, but last night's rain out and off days Thursday and Monday give Hurdle an opportunity to shuffle things up. I didn't like how Hurdle set up the rotation out of the All-Star break and this gives him an opportunity to break up the lefties. J. A. Happ will go tonight, Locke will still go Wednesday and Cole will pitch Friday against Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers. Hurdle should come back with Liriano instead of Charlie Morton Saturday and push Morton back to Sunday. I imagine that is exactly what he will do.