Chicago Cubs: Remember how the Home Run Derby ruined Javier Baez?

(Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
(Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images) /

Unlike so many sluggers of the past, Chicago Cubs infielder Javier Baez participated in the Home Run Derby and caught fire post-All-Star Break.

I remember when we all learned Chicago Cubs Javier Baez and Kyle Schwarber would participate in the Home Run Derby. At the office, I heard at least two people comments something to the effect of, “Great, there goes their swings.”

Mmmhmm. Okay.

Schwarber, admittedly, hasn’t been great since the All-Star Break. He’s hitting just .222 with a .306 on-base percentage. That’s not what the Cubs need – especially with Kris Bryant still sidelined with an ailing shoulder. But Baez. What can we say about El Mago that hasn’t already been said.

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Gold Glove defender. Emotional leader of the Cubs. Potential National League MVP?

We’ve got a little under two months left in the regular season and Baez has already set new career-highs in multiple offensive categories. Home runs, RBI, doubles, triples and stolen bases. By the end of the week, you can likely add base hits to that rundown, as well.

The rain delay gods strike again (with help from Strop)

After whiffing in each of his first two at-bats on Monday night in Kansas City, Baez refocused (with some help from teammate Pedro Strop) and locked in. The results? He clubbed his team-leading 24th home run, smacked a go-ahead RBI double and showcased his outstanding glove work at third – in just over half a ballgame.

"“I struck out twice, and not that I struck out, but it was pitches way out of the zone. This is the first time I played here so I was really excited to be here. I like the field — it’s really big. I was trying to control my emotions. After the rain delay, I went out there with a different attitude and being patient.”"

That’s always been the linchpin in Baez’s game – cutting down on wild swing-and-miss tendencies. When he can rein it in and control his powerful cuts, good things happen. This season, perhaps more than ever before, we’ve seen him use the whole diamond – and the results speak for themselves.

In just 19 games after the break, Baez has six home runs and 16 RBI. Add in six doubles and a triple to go along with a team-best 1.116 OPS and it’s no wonder he’s greeted with chants of ‘MVP’ every time he steps into the box.

Taking care of business in the second half

His 16 runs batted in post-All-Star Break ranks third in the National League, trailing only Matt Carpenter of the Cardinals and Nick Ahmed of the Diamondbacks. What does all this tell us? I think it’s safe to assume the Derby didn’t do much to one of the most lethal swings in baseball.

Personally, it hardly seemed like a risk. Oftentimes, we hear about sluggers swinging out of their shoes in the Home Run Derby – and such an approach impacting how they takes their at-bats in the second half.

Well, it’s hard to imagine that being an issue with Baez. Why? Because he quite literally swings as hard as he can on a near-daily basis anyways. And you know what? It works.

Next. Embrace the ups and downs of this great stretch run. dark

The Cubs utility infielder leads the league with 244 total bases, a .594 slugging percentage and 88 runs batted in. There’s still a lot of baseball to be played, but two things are abundantly clear: his swing is just fine – and he’s not going to let these MVP chants fade away down the stretch.