The Chicago Cubs are in the midst of a rough stretch as they close out the month of June. This team hasn’t won a series since the sweep of the St. Louis Cardinals back on June 13 and they enter a stretch where they will face some of the league’s best pitchers this week in Milwaukee.
With the bullpen starting to experience a touch of regression and a lineup that isn’t fully healthy, we have to hold our breath. One name that has symbolized this team’s recent struggles is Javier Baez. His lack of focus has really prevented him from being one of the league’s best talents.
Baez is not only one of the most exciting players to watch, but he’s also one of the most frustrating. He has untapped potential but doesn’t seem to have his head in the right place and we watch him become careless at times. Watching David Ross bench Baez after he got doubled off the bases for not knowing how many out there were really summarizes the lack of focus from our shortstop.
Baez’s numbers this year are all over the place. He leads the league in strikeouts with 103, has the worst BB/K ratio at .087 and highest strikeout rate at 38 percent. He’s only walked nine times this season (fourth-lowest in baseball) and has the sixth-worst on-base percentage at .267.
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However, along with those brutal numbers, he has 18 home runs (ninth in baseball), 47 RBI, good for ninth in the National League and a WAR of 2.1. He’s still managing to post numbers amongst the best shortstops in the league so it begs the question; why is there so much inconsistency?
Baez was second in MVP voting in 2018 and has two All-Star appearances to this point. Strikeouts have always been an issue with Baez, but he’s on track for the worst strikeout numbers in his career. From 2017-2019, he was under 30 percent with his strikeout rate but we’ve watched it balloon to 38 percent so far in 2021.
He’s a flashy player who goes up with a “go big or go home mindset” and this is what I think has gotten him into trouble. This honesty boils down to a lack of discipline. He has a long swing and has trouble keeping his head down and is quick to chase pitches. Sliders away are typically his kryptonite.
Chicago Cubs: Consistency has long evaded Javier Baez and his game
When we look at the makeup of his game, the most frustrating part is that this “boom or bust” performance we see night in and night on is definitely adjustable. The Cubs, as a whole, score the majority of their runs from the long ball and they need to play some more small ball if they want to become more consistent.
Baez needs to shorten up his swing, keep his head down and focus on getting on base. HIs .267 OBP shows that he’s more focused on hitting one out than putting the ball in play and that’s a major cause for concern.
An experiment I would truly love to see David Ross implement is to stick Baez in the leadoff role. Putting him in the spot where getting on base is the primary objective would give him the opportunity to focus on his biggest weakness.
I truly believe the lack of discipline has held Baez back from being one of the best in the league. The coaching staff needs to find a way to get his head right and get him back to playing at the level he was at in 2018. The potential is there but he needs to readjust – and quickly.