Chicago Cubs: Looking at the numbers behind Javier Baez’s 2019 season

(Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
(Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images) /
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With the book semi-officially closed on Javier Baez’s 2019 campaign, how do we feel about the encore performance of the Chicago Cubs star?

If the Chicago Cubs are going to play in October for the fifth consecutive year, they’re going to get there without the magnificent play of last year’s National League MVP runner-up Javier Baez. Understandably, a lot of folks will remember how the season ended for him – in injury. But there was a lot more to it than that.

So went Baez, so went the Cubs. In Chicago wins, the Puerto Rican native slashed .332/.367/.688. But in losses, his OPS plummeted from 1.054 to .576 – leaving a gaping hole in the batting order. And while he definitely brought value to the team (4.7 WAR according to Baseball Reference) – he took a step back from last year’s historic performance.

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In 2018, El Mago put up a team-leading 6.3 WAR – finishing behind the Milwaukee Brewers’ Christian Yelich in NL MVP voting.

Yelich was otherworldly down the stretch, helping propel his team past Chicago in a winner-take-all Game 163 – and eventually getting them within one win from the World Series.

Baez set career-highs in virtually every offensive category. So, to a degree, you expected at least a minor regression heading into this year.

In what can easily be considered the recurring theme for this year’s team, the infielder played through some lingering issues at multiple points this year. For whatever reason, the team has shown an unwillingness to take advantage of the IL with key guys – and Baez was no exception.

"“That’s our expectation,” manager Joe Maddon told ABC-7 Chicago after Baez’s teammate, Anthony Rizzo, went down with an ankle injury last week. “Of course it is … It is the next man up kind of a theory. And I do believe there are galvanizing moments when you do lose key people in key situations. I do expect a good result.”"

Despite it all, though Baez put up a 112 OPS+ through 133 ballgames this year.  He faded a bit after a hot start, but still represents one of the team’s biggest long-term assets. I’ll take a 112 OPS+ out of the best defensive player in the game any day of the week.

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We may yet still see some patented El Mago magic if the team makes it back to the postseason. After putting up an .848 OPS while only drawing 28 walks on the year – the future is bright – and we likely haven’t see the best Javier Baez has to offer.

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