AJ Pollock (OF, LAD): 4-4, 2 HR, 3 R, 2 RBI, 2 BB.
Did you know that A.J. Pollock his 15 home runs last year? It’s a question I spent all winter asking people. It’s easy to get lost in the fray when you play for the Dodgers, especially when you’re as injury-prone as Pollock. 2020’s shortened campaign was the first time Pollock had played in at least 70% of his team’s games since 2015, and he’s appeared in almost exactly two-thirds of Los Angeles’s games played since 2019, a rate that would probably be a disaster for many teams who aren’t the Dodgers, given that the five-year, $60 million deal he signed with them isn’t exactly chump change.
Perhaps all that is why Pollock has flown under the radar a bit. He shouldn’t be more much longer. After a four-hit effort last night in the Dodgers’ 22-1 bonanza over the hapless Diamondbacks, including his eighth career multi-homer game and two walks, Pollock’s triple-slash on the year sits at a heavy .272/.333/.518 with 12 homers despite missing nearly a month with a hamstring strain earlier this season. His 131 wRC+ is 18th among all MLB outfielders with 150 PA, sandwiched right in between Kris Bryant, Juan Soto, and his teammate Mookie Betts. Over his three seasons with the Dodgers, Pollock has run up per-162 game averages of 35 homers and 91 RBI, a jarring number for someone who typically topped out in the low-20s even when healthy.
Statcast numbers never tell the full story, but in this case, they tell us that Pollock is simply a much-improved hitter these past two years. His expected state mirror his real-life production quite well, and his expected wOBA on contact, which essentially tells us how well a hitter is doing when they make contact, is more than 60 points above league average since the start of last year. With much of the Dodgers offense inexplicably struggling, it may be time to recognize Pollock as a legitimate tour-de-force in the LA lineup.
Let’s see how the other hitters did Saturday
Albert Pujols (1B, LAD): 3-6, 2 HR, 2 R, 3 RBI.
Pujols may not be anything close to a tour-de-force anymore, but he continues to show that he does in fact still have something left in the tank, belting two homers and driving in three on Saturday. It was the 61st multi-homer game of Albert’s illustrious career, pulling him just one behind Alex Rodriguez and Henry Aaron for the sixth-most all-time. Should he continue his display of bench power, it seems like he might get at least one more shot at October magic after spending the month golfing during most of his time with the Angels.
Mookie Betts (OF, LAD): 2-3, HR, 4 R, 4 RBI, 3 BB.
Mookie led the way for the Dodgers in the most lopsided game of the season, hitting a seventh-inning Grand Slam and walking three times in a 22-1 rout of the Diamondbacks. He also scored four times thanks to the offensive explosion behind him, which included four RBI for Justin Turner and the aforementioned performances from Pollock and Pujols. It’s been a strange season for Mookie, whose .249 batting average is still easily a career-low, though his 128 wRC+ is still quite respectable, if not quite Betts-ian. His batted ball numbers are relatively unchanged from last year, however, so with walk and strikeout rates holding steady and few other obvious changes to his approach or mechanics, a second-half surge doesn’t seem out of the question at all.
Oscar Mercado (OF, CLE): 3-4, 2B, HR, 2 R, 4 RBI, SB.
In spite of the offensive outbursts across the league on Saturday, Mercado provided our only combo meal of the day in Cleveland’s much-needed win over Kansas City, tying a career-high with four RBI and chipping in his third stolen base of the season after just 12 games. As always, Cleveland is desperate for outfield help, and Mercado looks poised to once again grab every day at-bats (and stolen base opportunities, notably) for the forseeable future with Josh Naylor and Eddie Rosario shelved indefinitely.
Brandon Crawford (SS, SF): 3-3, 2B, HR, 2 R, 3 RBI.
Crawford’s career year with the bat continued in a big way on Saturday, going 3-3 with a double and his 18th homer of the season, a solo shot to dead center field. Gerrit Cole’s brother-in-law has suddenly turned into a force at the plate this year, reaching career-highs across the board with a .282/.359/.553 batting line, and Statcast numbers seem to think he’s for real, as he’s barreling a career-high 16% of his batted balls while seeing a substantial jump in average exit velocity and ranking in the league’s 92nd percentile for expected wOBA.
Brandon Lowe (2B/OF, TB): 2-3, 2 HR, 2 R, 3 RBI, BB.
After a highly disappointing start to the season, Lowe has been tearing the cover off the ball since the start of June, running a .942 OPS with 11 homers in just 30 games (26 starts) since then. Though his strikeout rate remains concerningly high, Lowe is once again the premier offensive second baseman around the league, running an elite .478 xwOBAcon with a barrel rate ranking in the top-5% of MLB. Saturday was his second multi-homer game of the season, and the Rays have won six straight after scuffling through most of June.
Jed Lowrie (IF, OAK): 3-5, 2B, HR, 2 R, 2 RBI.
It seems like career comebacks get lost in the foul territory at the Oakland Coliseum, because Lowrie’s return at age-37 after losing two full seasons to injuries should probably be a bigger story. He displayed remarkable consistency with the bat on Saturday, with four of his five of his batted balls checking in between 96 and 99 MPH, though his home run against Mike Foltynewicz had a hit probability of just 17%. He now has a 113 wRC+ while appearing in all but a handful of Oakland’s games this season, an accomplishment that probably deserves more recognition than it’s getting, given the nature of the injuries he dealt with prior to this season.
Brian Goodwin (OF, CWS): 4-5, HR, 2 R, 3 RBI.
Goodwin had his third career four-hit game in Chicago’s win in Baltimore on Saturday, breaking open the scoring with a second-inning solo shot against Thomas Eshelman and driving in three of the White Sox eight runs on the day. Goodwin is enjoying a resurgence on the south side after being released by Pittsburgh earlier this year, running a 150 wRC+ with 17 runs and 15 RBI in just 98 plate appearances so far.
Jean Segura (2B, PHI): 3-5, HR, 2 R, 3 RBI.
Now this is the Jean Segura that the Phillies thought they were getting two years ago. The 31-year old doesn’t have the burner speed he was blessed with earlier in his career, but his bat speed remains electric, and he’s currently running a career-high .325 batting average despite missing much of the season with groin and quad strains. Though his isolated power is down relative to previous years, the tradeoff for contact is working out quite well for the infielder, as the sheer volume of hits he’s producing (with a 90th-percentile expected batting average to boot) have lifted him to an outstanding 131 OPS+.
Andrew Benintendi (OF, KC): 3-5, HR, 2 R, 2 RBI.
Fully healthy and out of the Boston spotlight, the Benny Biceps resurgence continued in full force on Saturday, with the 26-year old generating much of Kansas City’s offense on the day in their 14-6 loss to Cleveland. Benintendi still isn’t the star that many envisioned when he was ranked as a consensus number one prospect in the game in 2017, but he’s back to at least being a productive major leaguer after falling off a cliff in 2020.
Thairo Estrada (IF, SF): 4-5, R, 3 RBI.
Best known as the Yankees intermittent sixth or seventh infielder over the last several years, the still only 23-year old Estrada is putting together a nice run since joining San Francisco’s big club several weeks ago, bringing his RBI total to eight with three walks and just four strikeouts in 28 plate appearances. With Evan Longoria, Brandon Belt, and Buster Posey all shelved, Estrada should continue to pick up plate appearances around the infield as Wilmer Flores and Darin Ruf slide around to fill other holes.
Nelson Cruz (DH, MIN): 3-3, R, BB, SB.
Nelson Cruz is an All-Star, he’s still hitting bombs at age 40, and now he’s got two stolen bases on the season! It’s the first time he’s reached two bags in a year since 2016, and he didn’t steal any at all in 2019 or 2020. Looking at the video of yesterday’s effort, it’s easy to see why. This is genuinely one of the worst jumps I’ve ever seen, and appears to have been successful by virtue of Eric Haase simply being caught too off-guard to do anything.
Since you asked, the single-season record for stolen bases at age 40 or older belongs to Davey Lopes, who swiped 47 for the Cubs in 1985.
Featured Imaged by Ethan Kaplan (@DJFreddie10 on Twitter)