In a move that should have happened much sooner, Daniel Descalso was finally placed on the IL on July 27 with a bad ankle. Originally suffered during a game against the Cardinals on May 4, the injury put him out of action for one whole game and then limited him to a pinch-hitting role over his next six games. But dealing with constant discomfort got Descalso into some bad habits and ruined his offensive production.
“It’s been frustrating just trying to play through it and manage it instead of maybe resting it when I should have,” Descalso recently told Tommy Birch of the Des Moines Register. “I’m not going to sit here and blame it all on [the ankle]. But, I’ve just been battling it, battling some instability in that foot and ankle and I don’t know how much of it affected me but I’m sure it had something to do (with it).”
Yeah, I’m going to go ahead and say the injury had pretty much everything to do with Descalso’s numbers falling straight off a cliff. Prior to leaving that game with a bum wheel, Descalso was hitting .253/.340/.386 with a .316 wOBA, a 94 wRC+, and seven extra-base hits (5 doubles, 2 homers). Nothing spectacular, but those numbers included a 1.079 OPS, .449 wOBA, and 180 wRC+ with runners in scoring position.
That situational performance, along with his reputation as a good clubhouse guy, is the main reason the Cubs acquired Descalso in the first place. Well, that and because he checked the even more important box of being relatively cheap.
In the time since the injury, Descalso slashed .104/.222/.130 with a .177 wOBA and a wRC+ of 1 (yes, ONE) that included a lone extra-base hit (a triple). He was actually much better than that with RISP, but his .612 OPS, .274 wOBA, and 66 wRC+ only look good because his overall numbers are so abjectly awful.
I’ve already gone in on the Cubs for failing to use the IL appropriately in this case and others before it, so we’ll avoid following that same rabbit trail here. Suffice to say this is one of the clearest cases of negligence in a long line of them over the last three years alone. The good news, though, is that Descalso seems to be on the mend.
In three games with the I-Cubs, he’s 2-for-5 with two home runs — which is as many as he hit over 185 plate appearances in Chicago — and four RBI. Not bad for a guy who hasn’t been right health-wise in over three months.
“I’ve only played a couple of innings at a time and had a couple of at-bats at a time,” Descalso said. “But running the bases feels better. I feel pretty good at the plate right now. So, it’s good to be back out there.”
If he’s actually back to full strength, Descalso could fatten up the Cubs’ admittedly thin depth down the stretch. Ben Zobrist could do the same. And David Bote. And Albert Almora Jr. While none of those guys figures to get much time in the starting lineup in September, they provide the big club with some very experienced options and a time when they will be needed.