For a long time, much was made about Javier Baez’ instincts on a baseball field. He can create runs seemingly at will and take them away with insane defensive all in the same game. Joe Maddon and now David Ross both mentioned that the best way to let Baez play is to “let Javy be Javy.” It may be time for the Cubs reign him in a little bit.
We wrote about how Baez isn’t the long-term answer at shortstop, and with every passing game, not only does that look to be true, but Baez becomes less and less of a choice to be a long-term answer for anybody. There aren’t a lot of teams that will take a chance on a player approaching 30 with a 50 percent strikeout rate. One thing that hasn’t cratered is Baez’ defense, it’s still elite, but how long can he keep being an elite defender as he gets older and slower?
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Heading into Wednesday, Baez’ strikeout rate sits at 44.9 percent, by far the highest in the Major Leagues. His slugging numbers are still there, with a .469 slugging percentage, five home runs and a .266 ISO per Fangraphs. When he hits it, he’s doing damage like we’ve gotten accustomed to seeing. The problem for Baez these days is actually hitting it.
His career strikeout percentage of 28.9 percent has always been something to live with because he makes up for it with his power. He’s just not making enough contact, and he isn’t showing any signs of changing. In his MVP runner-up season in 2018, he struck out 26 percent of the time. Since then that mark has increased to 27.8, 31.9 and, now, 44.9 percent. Baez is falling back into old habits and maybe it’s time for David Ross to have a talk with him and tell him, simply – settle down.
Baez generates enough power by his swing. He doesn’t need to swing for power, just a simple contact swing and see what happens. He has enough foot speed to beat a lot of grounders out and his baseball IQ is off the charts. That being said, he needs to start using that IQ.
Is there a scenario where NIco Hoerner comes up to play shortstop, keeping David Bote and Eric Sogard at second base, and Baez is relegated to bench duty? It’s hard to say, but if this performance keeps up, one would think the Cubs might consider it – even after a nice showing on Tuesday night.
This is not meant to be a piece to bash on Javy, he has given the Cubs way more of the good than bad over the years, but when it’s bad, it’s bad. It would probably just do Chicago some good to have a talk with Baez. He is a smart player that is willing to take chances, and he needs to reign it in a little, make some adjustments at the plate to get back to taking those chances on the field.