In an attempt to solidify the defense and use aggressive play, Javier Baez has started regularly this year. It is time to admit the truth and move forward. It was the wrong choice.
The choice was difficult to make. Choosing between a young, flamboyant player versus a reliable veteran is why Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon gets paid what he does. However, sometimes the wrong decision is made. And it is time to admit it and move forward.
The options made the choice challenging. Javier Baez showed his baseball acumen during the 2016 postseason and World Baseball Classic. He is a defensive magician and one of, if not the best, around the bag at second base. Yet, he swings freely. Then you have Ben Zobrist. A veteran with a knack for taking pitches, working counts, and clutch hitting. Furthermore, he is a switch hitter. While not stellar on defense, he is not a liability either. Zobrist is struggling at the plate, but he is not a true clean-up batter.
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Well, Joe, you made the wrong choice. Now it is time to correct it.
Now, I am not a MLB level manager. I did lead my church league softball team to a championship, but that is not the same. But, for 30 years, I have watched and studied the game. And, stats back up my opinion of the matter. That opinion is to sit Baez.
Baez’s performances in the postseason and WBC were eye-candy. We fell in love with his flare, his overly confident brashness on the field. It was refreshing. On a team with so much talent, few express emotions or energy like Baez. The team needed that. But now, it needs reliability.
This year, Baez is erratic. On defense, the stellar play has not been witnessed. He has three errors already this season, half his total at second last year. On several balls hit in his direction, he positioning was poor. For example, he ran to cover the bag on a hit and run leaving the second base whole wide open. On a left-handed batter.
Batter hits the hole, runner goes from first to third. And, just today, he threw a double-play ball into left field. Instead of no one on base and two outs, it turned into a game-tying three-run blast.
More so, his performance at the plate lacks proficiency. Baez is swinging at 43.8 percent of balls outside the strike zone, a career-high. Additionally, he is only making contact on those same pitches on 37.1 percent of his swings. That equals approximately 4 out of every 25 swings on pitches out of the zone that makes contact. This is resulting in 14 strikeouts in 12 games, with only three walks. At this pace, he will finish 175 strikeouts and a mere 50 walks.
Make the change
The Chicago Cubs need to make the change. Ben Zobrist must be in the lineup daily, simply for his ability to work counts and fight off pitches. Plus, he does it from both sides of the plate.
It is a difficult decision, but it must be done. The Chicago Cubs won 103 games and led the league in run differential last year with Zobrist in the game. Time to bring back the old.