Life’s a Mitch

Recapping Saturday's best offensive performances

Mitch Haniger (SEA): 3-4, 2B, 2 HR, 3 R, 3 RBI.

Mitch Haniger’s joyous comeback campaign made another leap forward on Saturday night, with the 30-year old going 3-for-4 with a double and two home runs, the last of several multi-homer performances around the league as the Mariners wrapped up the night with a dramatic 5-4 win over Seattle. None of them were cheap either; somewhat incredibly, Haniger was responsible for the three farthest-hit balls of the game, with both homers clearing the 400-foot mark and his first-inning double against Chris Bassitt just barely missing at 395 feet to dead center field. Haniger now has five homers, 10 runs driven in, and 12 runs scored since the All-Star break, all top-five marks in the majors.

With just a year of team control remaining after this season, some identified Haniger as a potential trade candidate after his torrid start to the season, but Seattle’s winning ways as of late seem to have removed them from the conversation as deadline sellers. Whether that will be revisited in the offseason remains to be seen, but there’s little doubt that Haniger is no worse off for his time missed with injury. He’s already just one homer shy of his career-high, set during his 2018 All-Star campaign, and while his plate discipline has regressed somewhat, he still strikes out less than your average hitter, and far less than someone with his prodigious power: his .257 ISO is good for 13th in the entire league, and among the players ranked higher, only Vladimir Guerrero Jr., José Ramirez, Matt Olson, and Max Muncy have done it while striking out less.

Let’s see how the other hitters did Saturday.

Rowdy Tellez (1B, MIL): 3-4, 2 HR, 2 R, 3 RBI.

Here’s a deep find for you: With his two dingers in Milwaukee’s 6-1 win over the White Sox, Tellez became the 69th player in MLB history to record five multi-homer efforts in their first 230 career games. That’s not particularly remarkable, but most of the other names on the list are at the very least recognizable. Tellez has filled in admirably for Dan Vogelbach in Milwaukee as they’ve ascended to the top of the NL Central; last night were his first home runs as a member of the Brewers, but he’s now driven in seven runs alongside seven hits and four walks in 11 games since coming over from Toronto.

Bo Bichette (SS, TOR): 3-4, HR, 3 R, 2 RBI, BB.

The younger Bichette’s All-Star season continued with flair on Saturday, raising his batting average to .294 on the season with three hits and a walk, including his 17th home run on the season. Bichette is now an even .300 hitter through the first 755 plate appearances of his career, and although his slugging has trended slightly downward as of late, Bichette has been on a tear since the beginning of June, slashing .333/.384/.485 and hitting safely in 35 of 43 games played.

Akil Baddoo (OF, DET): 2-4, HR, 3 R, 2 RBI, BB.

Some may have expected Baddoo to fade into the gloamin’ after his red-hot opening week, but the 22-year old Rule 5 pick has settled in as a quiet rookie of the year candidate in Detroit, raising his batting line to .272/.348/.485 after Saturday’s two-hit performance. With a perfectly respectable 17% K-BB, Baddoo’s swing-and-miss issues are far less frightening than they might have seemed earlier in the season. With 28 extra base hits and 14 steals in just 77 games — he often sits against righties — Baddoo might be one of the most underrated power-speed threats in the game right now.

Salvador Perez (C, KC): 2-5, HR, 2 R, 3 RBI.

The analytics still don’t love him, but Sal is racking up counting stats at a career-best rate, with his 22nd home run of the season breaking things open against Casey Mize last night and paving the way for a Kansas City victory. It was his first homer since his Home Run Derby appearance nearly two weeks ago, and of the three-run variety, bringing his season RBI total to 59. It’s come at the expense of plate discipline — his 26% strikeout rate is easily a career-worst — but given Kansas City’s lack of big bats to drive him in, it’s hard to fault him for being a bit more aggressive. Sal is as good as ever.

Teoscar Hernández (OF, TOR): 2-4, 2 HR, 2 R, 4 RBI, BB.

Teoscar Hernández completed the quartet of four-RBI performances last night, belting his 14th and 15th homers of the season last night in Toronto’s win. Both of them were no doubters, leaving the bat at 105+ MPH and clearing a .900 expected batting average. Other names in the loaded Blue Jays lineup receive more attention, and for good reason, but Hernández has shown himself to be just as critical as Bichette and Vladito with a 133 wRC+ dating back to last season, which ranks in the top-12 of all qualified outfielders.

Austin Barnes (C, LAD): 2-3, HR, R, RBI.

Barnes had the most remarkable offensive night in a game in which there were no remarkable offensive nights. He was the only member of either team to record a multi-hit game — there were just seven hits in total — and his fourth-inning solo home run against an otherwise impeccable Kyle Freeland was the difference-maker in the Dodgers’ 1-0 win over the Rockies. The 31-year old Barnes has largely failed to live up to his promising rookie campaign, but has settled into a fine role as Will Smith’s backup, putting up excellent defensive numbers alongside a passable 87 wRC+.

Daulton Varsho (C, ARI): 2-4, HR, 2 R, 3 RBI.

Banner night for catchers, huh? Varsho had one of the more productive games of his young career on Saturday, breaking open Arizona’s scoring against Alec Mills and the Cubs with a two-run blast in the 5th inning, his fourth of the season. The homer tied the game, and two innings later, his single to the outfield scored Pavin Smith to give the Diamondbacks a lead they wouldn’t relinquish, winning 7-2. Varsho has struggled to a .194/.257/.364 line through his first half-season or so of big league at-bats, but at 24 years old, he’s still got plenty of time to figure it out — sometimes it takes a while for catchers to click, anyway — and this current iteration of the Diamondbacks doesn’t seem like a particularly welcoming place to begin one’s career, in all fairness.

Austin Meadows (OF, TB): 2-5, 2 HR, 2 R, 4 RBI.

Meadows hasn’t quite rediscovered the power stroke that made him an All-Star and garnered MVP votes in 2019, but he sure had it on Saturday, stroking his 17th and 18th homers of the year in Tampa Bay’s 8-2 win over Cleveland. After last season’s massive spike in strikeout rate, Meadows’ plate discipline has essentially returned to its 2019 levels this season, and while his slugging has been somewhat diminished, his run production hasn’t Last night’s four RBI give him 70 on the year, fifth in the majors, and he joined Fernando Tatis Jr., José Abreu, Rafael Devers, and Adam Duvall as the only players this season with five games of 4+ RBI.

Jesse Winker (OF, CIN): 3-4, 2B, HR, R, 4 RBI.

Winker’s breakout season continued in high style on Saturday night, with the 27-year old outfielder responsible for every single one of Cincinnati’s runs in their 5-3 win over St. Louis, knocking in four and scoring one, including his 20th home run of the season. Though he only made his first All-Star appearance a couple of weeks ago, Winker has quietly produced a star-worthy line since the start of 2020, with last night’s bomb giving him 31 homers and 79 RBI in just under 500 ABs since the start of last year, good for a .284/.379/.535 slash line and excellent 141 wRC+.

Joc Pederson (OF, ATL): 4-6, HR, 3 R, 4 RBI.

Pederson had his biggest game since his trade to Atlanta several weeks ago, picking up four hits and driving in four runs as the biggest standout of the team’s 15-4 rout over the Phillies on Saturday. Pederson has struggled since his departure from Chicago seemingly heralded the beginning of their teardown, picking up just five hits in 28 plate appearances entering last night. Believe it or not, this is just the fifth four-hit game of Joc’s career, with his last one coming all the way back in April 2019 as a member of the Dodgers.

Gregory Polanco (OF, PIT): 2-4, HR, 2 R, 3 RBI.

Exactly three players this season have stolen more than ten bases without getting caught once: Bryce Harper, Bo Bichette, and Gregory Polanco. Long live Gregory Polanco! The former top prospect is playing at or below replacement level for the third consecutive season, but he’s under contract for $11.6 million this season, and somebody has to soak up those outfield innings. The beautiful thing about baseball is that just about everybody has their moment in the sun over a 162 game season, and Saturday was one of Polanco’s, as his 11th ding-dong of the season drove Kevin Gausman from the game, two innings after breaking open the scoring with a two-run single in Pittsburgh’s win over the Giants. Polanco is now slashing .209/.287/.393 on the season, good for just an 82 wRC+.

Ryan Weathers (P, SD): 1-1, HR, 1 R, 1 RBI.

Ryan Weathers looks like the kind of pitcher who hits tanks. I would have said that before he took Braxton Garrett 421 feet to dead center field last night. Nonetheless!

Featured image by Ethan Kaplan (@DJFreddie10 on Twitter)

Zach Hayes

Zach is based in Chicago and contributes analysis and coverage for Pitcher List and South Side Sox. He also co-hosts the Shaggin' Flies podcast with Ben Palmer, and enjoys reading, Justin Fields highlights, and people-watching on the CTA. Find him on Twitter @pinetarkeyboard if, for some reason, you really want to.

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