Chicago Cubs: The recent disappearing act of Javier Baez

(Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images)
(Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images) /
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Chicago Cubs
(Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images) /

Chicago Cubs: From good to great?

This year Baez has improved in some key areas. His hard contact rate is up six points to 41.6 percent and his soft contact rate has dropped two percent. Baez is also using more of the field than ever before, with a career-best 29.8 percent of his hits going to the opposite field.

With these key adjustments, Baez launched into the 2019 season with the same hitting prowess he displayed in 2018.  By the end of April, he was slashing .302/.341/.612 with a .954 OPS and a 129 OPS+ through the first 27 games.  So much for a letdown.

Despite the team-wide power outage that struck in late May and went through the All-Star break, Javy has been the team’s best hitter after Willson Contreras.

In addition, Baez has been one of the most clutch hitters for the Cubs. His two-out RISP slash is  .395/.439/.842 with a 1.281 OPS.  In high leverage situations, he’s hitting .286/.311/.557 with an
.868 OPS.  Even in 0-2 counts, normally a spot when he was most likely to strike out, he is proving a tough out.  This season, he is slashing .286/.286/.667 in that situation.

The days ahead in 2019 certainly looked bright for the smiling, leather-flashing El Mago. Then a different kind of magic happened.  With the wave of an analytical wand and a poof of smoke, it all went away.