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Cubs News: Javier Baez miraculously leads the NL in runs batted in

(Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images)
(Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images) /
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Lost in the shuffle of the Chicago Cubs somehow sweeping the defending World Series champions this week is the fact that Javier Baez, who is striking out in 36.9 percent of his plate appearances, is leading the National League in runs batted in.

In Wednesday’s walk-off win, the Chicago shortstop went 1-for-4 with a strikeout and a walk, also driving in his 25th run of the year. It’s totally feasible he’ll drive in 100 runs this year and strike out north of 250 times while continuing to chase balls that bounce in the left-handed batter’s box.

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Baez is the perfect personification of the Cubs’ longstanding offensive issues. They assembled a collection of hitters who live and die with slugging and are deeply tied to a three true outcome approach. While it’s great to see the All-Star infielder helping the offense, looking at the outliers make you feel much less optimistic.

He ranks in the bottom one percent of the league in whiff rate, the bottom four in strikeout rate and the bottom two in both walk rate and outs above average. His approach has him pulling the ball more than ever and, as we all know, he’s at his best when he’s using the entire field.

Cubs can’t build around Javier Baez

With Baez, Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo all set to hit free agency at season’s end, it seems like a matter of time until the Cubs start breaking up the remaining pieces of their 2016 World Series core. The shortstop remains open to extension talks, but it’s worth asking ourselves: as exciting as he is, do you want to build your lineup around a player who’s wildly inconsistent, especially with a star-studded free agent class looming this winter?

Personally, I’d say no. Aside from his 2018 NL MVP runner-up campaign, Baez has never really put it all together at the dish. His chase tendencies look more problematic than ever and he’s still swinging through very hittable pitches far more often than you’d like from a cornerstone player.

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At the end of the day, runs batted in are runs batted in. But you shouldn’t use that as a measure of a guy’s total value. As stellar as Baez is capable of being, the holes in his game have been on full display this year and should give the Cubs pause when thinking about who gets extensions this summer.

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