There are maybe 15-20 people that I’ve seen in my life that look like they were put on this planet with the express purpose of hitting a baseball. Keston Hiura, a 22-year-old second baseman who for reasons that extend far beyond my comprehension was sent back to AAA by the Brewers, is one of them. I get that this is a sure sign of a very fortunate life, but every game the team has lost the past 2.5 weeks I’ve been consumed with the idea that he could have made the difference.
In 64 at-bats in the majors this season, Hiura had five home runs, batted .281, and had a .865 OPS. His fielding was not wonderful, but he’s one of those players whose swing is just so tantalizingly beautiful that you can forgive almost any shortcomings in the leather department. Since being sent back down to AAA San Antonio, he has inevitably continued to rake; overall there this season he has a 1.039 OPS.
Since sending Hiura back down, the Brewers are 6-9. It’s not nice; they were 34-26 on the season before that. In four of those nine losses, they’ve either been shut out or managed just one run. Travis Shaw, who has been a consummate professional for the Brewers, is the second baseman ostensibly vying with Hiura for the playing time. He has inexplicably struggled this season; he’s batting .171 for the year and is 7-for-35 with one home run and three RBIs since Hiura was sent down.
David Stearns, the Brewers general manager who in aggregate has done a phenomenal job with the organization, swore this was not a service time issue. Hiura was already in the minors long enough into May that he is at this juncture not eligible for that type of manipulation as to when he will become eligible for free agency, though there are possible Super-2 implications with regards to arbitration salary a few years down the road.
What this is about, said Stearns when he made the move, is “preserving depth” — they aren’t able to option Jesus Aguilar, who hit 35 home runs last year but like Shaw is straddling the Mendoza line this season, nor do they seem to want to broach the topic with Eric Thames.
In the meantime, though, this is profoundly aggravating for Brewers fans. What we see is a player born to hit, excruciatingly unavailable to us as the Brewers falter and the Cubs have taken a 1.5-game lead in the NL Central. The Cardinals and Reds are lingering as well. Pretty please with sugar on top let this situation be resolved very soon.