There are several polarizing players on just about any good professional sports team. One such player is Javy Baez. You can ask 50 different Chicago Cubs fans their thoughts on Baez, and you’d get 50 different answers. They will range from talking about his defense to erratic swinging to dumb defensive plays. Some love him, and some can’t wait till he’s shipped out of town.
We have seen glimpses of it, but in 2016 it seemed like everyday Baez was making a circus play. While Javy can certainly win games with his bat, it is his glove that steals games.
106 mph off the bat?
Still can’t hit it past Javy. pic.twitter.com/rFqLalQHoV
— MLB (@MLB) August 18, 2017
That is on a ball hit 106 MPH ball away from the glove side. This is purely reaction, and he has the best reaction in the game. Ooohhh and wait, this is my favorite of his.
Len Kasper encapsulated this play perfectly, “please be out, it might be the greatest play I’ve ever seen.” We know that he wasn’t out, but this play shows how much differently Javy’s brain works than most. 99.99% of all players would just accept that they knocked the ball down, but Javy tracked the ball in the air and never waivered on knowing he could get the out. Even if another player tracked the ball and attempted the play, something would be rushed and the throw would be off, or they’d bobble the bare hand – something.
I read something a few years back on Baez where a former position coach talked about his instincts. The coach mentioned something that stuck with me, Baez just sees the game differently than anyone else does.
This play encapsulates that. When Baez was asked about this play, he mentioned that he didn’t realize he was doing it. While some have said this is him showboating, how could it be if he didn’t even realize he was doing it?
The game is just slower for him defensively. He sees so much, anticipates so much, is in the right spot. This is the mark of a truly special defensive player. I would even argue that the few defensive mishaps he has, is because he sees the plays develop differently than most others in the game.
You can’t talk about Baez’s base running without talking about this play.
It seems that all of these gutsy, borderline dumb plays turn out in Baez’s favor. Stealing at weird points, delayed steals, taking the extra base at inopportune times. But they seem to work for him. This has to be chalked up to him seeing the game through a different lens than the rest of us do.
This play shows the way his mind works perfectly.
A soft dribbler to third, Baez running on contact from second. He sees Eduardo Nunez miss the ball and knew that shortstop Brandon Crawford was waiting back but not charging aggressively. He saw that, and with a ball that didn’t even make it 90 feet, he knew he could score.
It looks aggressive. It seems cocky. People feel it’s a player that is off the rails. But in his mind, they way he sees the game and play, it is completely controlled and mundane.
A lot more people like Baez for his glove than they like him for his bat. Let’s face it, you’d believe he struck out five times in a game before you’d believe he had four hits in a game. He rarely cuts down on a swing. He is susceptible to that outside slider dipping away. If you get two strikes on him, you should be released if you throw him a strike.
That’s the book on him anyway, right?
In the second half, Javy Báez is slashing .308/.336/.664. Yes, he’s frustrating at times, but Cubs would be lost without Javy’s bat & glove.
— Sahadev Sharma (@sahadevsharma) August 18, 2017
Did you know he has been producing at this clip? Since the break, he has a 1.000 OPS! You know who else carries a 1.000 OPS?
Sure, this isn’t over a full season and one wouldn’t expect Baez to continue this pace up, but a stretch like this is truly special. This should begin to show the baseball world what Javy is capable of if and when he gets to play daily at the same position. But what if I showed you he has been an exceptional player over his last 630 plate appearances (equivalent to a full season).
The strikeouts are high, but we knew that already, right? Outside of that, who wouldn’t take a 26 homer .273/.313/.466 season from their shortstop? Hell, there’s only four guys carrying a higher slugging percentage in all of baseball!
There’s a saying, you take what you can get, well you get a hell of a lot from Baez. I hope fans start to understand that.