Coming into Spring Training, few things were assumed. But one locked-down assumption was that second base would feature a platoon between Blake DeWitt and Jeff Baker. DeWitt, a lefty, would start against right-handed pitchers, and Baker, a righty (who destroys lefty pitching), would start against left-handed pitchers. Done and done.
But then DeWitt struggled to start the Spring, both at the plate and in the field. Mightily. And Baker, for his part, has crushed it. So is Baker playing himself into a starting gig?
“Look at my career,” he said. “I’ve hit right-handers my whole life. There’s not one reason why I can’t hit right-handers, and I’ll continue to hit right-handers.
“Last year it was pretty drastic, and it was what it was. But I’m not concerned about it at all.”
Under Lou Piniella and Mike Quade, Baker became a platoon player last season because of the extreme difference between his production against lefties (.350 average, .550 slugging) compared with righties (.106, .121 in fewer than half the at-bats). Quade even used him as a platoon leadoff man.
But even with that in mind, Quade said of Baker this spring, “Labels are a pain in the neck to me. He’s swinging great against right-handers and left-handers down here. His at-bats have been very, very good.’’
Before last year, Baker hit .285 vs. lefties (.543 slugging) and .262 vs. righties (.411).
And Quade is open to Baker winning the second-base job outright, especially as left-handed option Blake DeWitt continues to struggle. Chicago Sun-Times.
To be sure, there was a time in Baker’s career – in Colorado – when he looked like a starting second baseman. He had the bat to carry the position, and was adequate defensively. The Cubs were, I suspect, willing to give him a chance at the spot, particularly after he came over in 2009 and played so well. But his early-season struggles in 2010, combined with an early-season call-up of Starlin Castro, which pushed Ryan Theriot over to second base, buried his chances last year. And even when Theriot went out, DeWitt came in. So Baker hasn’t had much of a chance to really win the second base job.
He’s got a chance now, and he’s definitely making the most of it.
But don’t forget, Darwin Barney is still out there, laying in the weeds.