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javier baez aflHappy Labor Day to folks who are laboring or not today. We did the cookout thing yesterday, which was swell, but it’s back to relative normalcy for me today.

  • Javier Baez hit another homer yesterday – his 37th on the minor league season, and his 20th in just 53 games at AA – and his numbers are just stupid good. We long ago reached the point where superlatives fail to adequately describe how well he’s doing (as a 20-year-old in AA, playing shortstop), so I’m just going to go ahead and focus on the bad right now. We need some grounding, because his absurd success is going to have fans foaming at the mouth next year when Baez (a.) struggles early at AA or AAA, or (b.) has more early success next year and isn’t called up immediately. In his last 10 games, Baez has hit for a ton of power, but some of his strikeout issues have returned: 12 Ks in those 10 games, with just 2 BBs (.286 OBP). After a long, downward trend, Baez’s K-rate has climbed back up at AA, going back over 28%. Alone, it isn’t a concern when he’s doing the other things he’s doing, but it has always been something to watch. Contact issues at this level portend worse contact issues at higher levels, especially in the bigs. Baez will probably always have a large number of strikeouts as a part of his game, but you don’t want to see it become a significant enough issue that he’s not putting enough balls in play (with authority, moreover) to take advantage of his talents.
  • That all said … that’s me working very hard to focus on the negative. The young man is eating worlds with his bat right now. Let me put it this way: it is not implausible or laughable to advance an argument that he’s the best prospect in all of baseball. I don’t think I’d go that far, but I wouldn’t slap anyone who did.
  • Anyone wonder what kind of numbers Jorge Soler would be putting up in the second half if he hadn’t gone down with the stress fracture in his leg? What if he was right there alongside Baez at AA right now, humbling the league? Until the injury, the duo was doing it together at High-A.
  • You just can’t do it. Don’t do it. It’s not worth it. I’m referring, of course, to the annual story of someone trying to take a piece of Wrigley Field home with them – this one included some Phillies fans who broke into Wrigley after hours to try and take some ivy. I get the allure, and it’s a compliment to Wrigley … but don’t be that person. It’s a legit crime, and the Cubs have no choice to push for criminal charges when folks do this kind of thing (if they didn’t, think of the possible long-term consequences).
  • Speaking of the ivy-covered wall, anyone else hold their breath when Ryan Sweeney leapt into the wall on the Darin Ruf homer yesterday? Dude was activated that day from a broken rib injury that he sustained leaping into a padded wall. I appreciate the obvious gamer in Sweeney, and I appreciated even more than he appeared to pull up just enough to ensure that he didn’t actually crash into the wall this time around.
  • Although they were up last year, neither Josh Vitters nor Brett Jackson will be coming up this month, per Cubs.com. It’s not really a surprise; the former is injured and the latter is struggling at AA. What a difference a year makes.
  • http://www.twitter.com/jslip1 JSlip1

    “What a difference a year makes.”

    Humbling truth since we could be saying the same about Baez a year from now. Unlikely, but who knows?

  • Spencer

    Luke: “He has also lowered his Double A strikeout percentage to about 28% (about 25% in August). That is still high, but the trend line is continuing downwards.”

    Brett: “In his last 10 games, Baez has hit for a ton of power, but some of his strikeout issues have returned: 12 Ks in those 10 games, with just 2 BBs (.286 OBP). After a long, downward trend, Baez’s K-rate has climbed back up at AA, going back over 28%.”

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      We were talking about different time periods for trends, and both indicated that the 28% range is high.

  • Believe in 2015

    Who cares about strikeouts if the guy is hitting .300 with close to 70 extra base hits. I get that the major leagues will be tough but Javy keeps proving people wrong and adjusting at an insane pace. Top 5 prospect in all of baseball, this kid is special and hopefully some of the other cubs prospects can follow his footsteps

    • cub2014

      I would think if Baez hit .260-.270 he will hit
      30+ homers. Doubtful he will hit near .300. It would
      be amazing if he did.

    • DocWimsey

      But Baez won’t hit anywhere near 0.300 without insane blessings from Eris. He’s going to K 30+% of the time in MLB. Sure, he might wind up hitting 30-35HR a year. However, that means that his batting average will basically be (HR/AB) + BABiP x (1-[K/AB]-[HR/AB]). Let’s say that first number is around 0.05. That makes the last term (balls in play that someone can catch) 0.65: and we need BABiP that last term up to 0.25 to get the entire equation to 0.30. That would be a ridiculous 0.385 or so. (League average is about 0.300, I think.)

      • Mr. B. Patient

        Just curious. How do KNOW a 20 year old in AA, who is working on his approach, will K @ 30+ % of the time in MLB? Do you have a Delorean?

        • DocWimsey

          No, just data. miLB K-rates are highly predictive of MLB K-rates: and the K-Rates that they predict are actually a little higher in general. After all, the pitchers who can throw those sliders that look like outer half fastballs or curves that look like shoulder high fastballs tend to congregate in MLB. And, of course, MLB pitchers get much better data on the batters on their smartphones than do miLB pitchers.

          • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

            This is about as well-put as it gets.

          • Mr. B. Patient

            So basically, what you are saying is, you don’t KNOW what’s going to happen, you’re just predicting it. I get it now.

            • DocWimsey

              1) My blushes.

              2) The word “duh” comes to mind.

              I’ll let people guess which response goes where…. ;-)

              • DocWimsey

                I will add that I am beginning to hope that Javier might become a Chris Davis type of “Two True Outcome” player (HR and K’s). Davis had K-rates a touch lower than Javier’s and HR/batted ball rates that were comparable (frequently over 10%, which is where Javier is this year). Davis walked more than Javier, but nobody ever compared Davis to Wade Boggs. (Well, if they did, then the comparison involved chicken or extra-marital relationships or something else other than batting eye.)

                The K’s would be frustrating and lead to a lot of “he’s not consistent” complaints, but sticking a 10% HR on batted ball rate in the lower part of the lineup (and from a “skill” position) would help more teams than it would hurt. (That would require a combination of a higher FB:GB and or higher HR:FB ratio than I assumed above: but even a FB rate of 0.45 up from 0.4 would mean about 5 more expected HR in a full season of PAs.)

              • Mr. B. Patient

                “Duh” ?

                You stated it as fact.

                • turn two

                  You always state a thesis as a fact and then prove it with days…typically after grade school this begins being taught.

                • DocPeterWimsey

                  Yes, it is a fact that this is a statistical tendency.

                • DarthHater

                  So, when you read a statement about “insane blessings from Eris,” you assume that statement is intended as a statement of fact?

            • Spencer

              Baez is striking out more in AA than Adam Dunn, Giancarlo Stanton, Mark Reynolds, Curtis Granderson, Pedro Alvarez, and Drew Stubbs did. Those players are all very high strikeout guys in the majors. I’m not sure why it is so unfathomable to think that he’s going to strikeout more at the AAA and MLB levels.

              If the K’s are because of some hole or weakness in his swing, MLB pitchers pitch him there for days. Sometimes a hitter can feast on very bad pitching, which is why AAA will be a very good test for him next year.

              I’m very confused as to why you think he’s going to continue hitting .300 with 70 XBH as he moves up a level if his K% stays the same. Do you really think his K% is going to lower or stay the same without impacting his power numbers?

              His strikeout rate is a concern. It’s not an exercise of searching very hard to focus on the negative about him. It’s a fact.

              • MaxM1908

                Does anyone know if any high strikeout AA guys were able to lower their strikeout percentage at the major league level? I’d be surprised if there are more than a handful, but I imagine there are few. Regardless, I’m sure the number of individuals whose K% increased going from AA to the majors far exceeds the few diamonds in the rough.

                • jj

                  I would agree that hitters tend not to change. However, for Baez, is the evidence that hitters do not improve K rates as they continue in the minors? In other words, is Baez’s AA stats the best track for MLB success or could AAA be a better comparison? And if its AAA is there evidence that players never improve K rates from AA to AAA?

                  • DocPeterWimsey

                    jj: Javier’s K-rates at each level are:
                    A- 20.4%
                    A+ 23.4%
                    AA 28.0%

                    Now, the fact that it’s gone up 2 straight years should not really worry us: after all, it’s 50:50 that they’ll go up or down, and thus a one in four chance that they’ll go up or down two straight years.

                    On the other hand, we might worry that the amoutns have gone up so much: it looks a lot like a trend where Javier increases his K-rate by about 3.8% each year. However, the sample sizes are small enough that we cannot really say that: basically, about one player in 9 would show a trend that strong just by chance alone if their “true” K-rate was about 23.8%. Given that pitching is better in each level, we shouldn’t worry that Javier himself is getting worse: but on the other hand there is no evidence that he’s getting better.

                • DocWimsey

                  I saw a histogram of this somewhere (Fangraphs probably) and although the histogram median was greater than zero, the “bell curve” did include negative numbers (that is, guys who reduced their K-rate). I do not remember the breakdowns of which guys tended to go up or down: that is, were there shifts in power that accompanied these shifts, or was the “good” shift less common among “contact” hitters or something like that. Given the very normal looking shape, there might not have been much to report (and I do not remember that being the point of the summary).

                  The simplest explanation is that a guy’s “true” strikeout rate almost always increases going from AA -> MLB, and that the decreases reflect guys K’ing more than expected given their “true” rate in AA (which often is based only a single season) and then return to “true” rates in MLB, offsetting the improvement in pitching. One might think that improvement by batters should reduce this, but we have to remember that the pitchers also are improving: so, it’s the good old Red Queen where you have to get better to remain just as good.

                • waittilthisyear

                  until baez fails, i will expect him to succeed

          • http://deepcenterfield.blogspot.com Jason Powers

            ” And, of course, MLB pitchers get much better data on the batters on their smartphones than do miLB pitchers.”

            That will change…as that market inefficiency will disappear at least by decade’s end. I’d suspect someone is working on that…If they haven’t got a rudimentary system in place right now. (I don’t know who is doing this, but some MiLB expert probably knows who is getting their platform together to leverage all things statistical and technology enhancing.)

            • DocPeterWimsey

              The problem for balancing this is that pitching and batting are completely different skill sets. A pitcher is trying to throw a ball to a particular spot. Having a heat chart allows him to visualize his target in a very exact way. It is 2D and it is static, but that is fine: the pitcher is essentially aiming for a 2D target and he can pitch when he is ready.

              A batter is reacting to what is thrown. He has to identify within a tenth of a second where the ball is going to be when it gets to him and then swing for that target (or not swing). It’s a dynamic, 3D system where decisions must be so quick that they are basically trained reflexes.

              So, what batters really need is still in the scifi realm: a sort of “holodeck” where they can take batting practice against a good simulation of today’s starting pitcher. Obviously, there are people working on this for lots of reasons (I’ve read it joked that this could put the world’s oldest profession out of work!): but I have no idea how close we are to this sort of thing.

              • TOOT

                Have a lot of respect for you Doc. Question posed. Is Rizzo the answer at first, in your opinion,

                • Jeff

                  Rizzo will be fine but will grow as a hitter if properly nurtured. I have doubts about that happening under Sveum. The biggest issue is that Rizzo is not and will never be a #3 hitter.

                  He is at best a #5 or #6 hitter, it’s not his fault he is being type cast in the wrong spot in the line-up simply because we lack the player that can hit in that spot.

                  His future is a .250 30hr 100rbi guy, 100+ strikeouts, not a #3 hitter.

              • jt

                Ted Williams could see the spin of the ball and determine the type of pitch. I think other players have the same ability. How do they have time to process that info?
                A 90 mph pitch takes close to 0.4 seconds to get to home.
                Bonds’ short swing gives him more time than Griffey’s long swing so the timing of a bat swing is not exact. To hit a ball 400 feet the rotational velocity of the bat must be around 80 MPH. A sprinter can run 10 yards in 0.1 seconds. So just to use a round number that errs on slow, say the pull of the trigger to contact takes 0.1 seconds. You say the batter must decide in 0.1 seconds whether to swing or not to swing. What is happening the other 0.2 seconds.
                Google Mike Epstein’s rotational hitting. Epstein has a letter of endorsement from Ted Williams and played for him for 3 years.
                As the batter sees the ball approaching he strides or shifts weight to a balance point or just beyond. As this shift or stride occurs he opens up his hips while the bat is still stationary. He then tilts his shoulder and trusts his hands to move to the level of the pitch without the bat moving forward. At this point he still has not decided if he is going to swing. Now his back and shoulders are adjusting to the pitch. All this info is being sent to the brain in the same way as if a clutz has tripped and trying to regain his balance. The body and brain can feel the pitch because the brain can sense its body adjusting to the pitch. This is all happening much further into the balls journey than it’s first 15 feet. Some of it is happening before the ball is tossed and I’ve seen batters adjust their hands as they start their swing.
                Joe D. seemed to swing almost flat footed. It has been said that he made the hardest catches in the OF seem gracefully easy. He seemed to have had some sort of space time thing going on in his head the most others don’t. But most hitters, like Ruth and Williams, have much of their swing in the works long before the trigger is pulled and they have more than 0.1 seconds to decide whether or not to swing. They also use more than the eye brain sense as body position tells a lot to an athlete.

                • Jason

                  A Ted Williams story. I was playing ball in Sarasota under a hitting coach, Joe Tanner. 75 yrs old probably but had been roommate with Ted one Spring Training. He said Ted rarely used their room as he had a new girl every week. Ted was young and Boston Coaches wanted him to quit pulling every ball to right field. So this coach insulted Ted and said you can not even hit to left field even in B.P. Ted became angry and said meet me on field early in a.m. and I will bet you a new Cadillac versus a steak dinner that I will hit the first ten pitches to left. So Coach Tanner told me that he did not sleep all night but Ted slept well in their room. So the next morning here they go and Ted hit the first 9 into left field–here comes the 10th pitch and Williams slugs hit off the left field fence. Joe said , Williams turned and bellowed, “you, son of a B, you owe me a steak dinner. Joe, said that was Ted Williams.

                  • jt

                    nice, thanks

      • jt

        A batter with 650 PA’s hits 30 HR’s. He also walks 74 (11% of 650) times and K’s 195 (30% of 650) of his PA’s.
        His BAbip is 0.320 which is above avg but he does hit the ball hard.
        He has 345 PA’s with bip which at 0.320 success rate leads to 110 hits.
        His on bases then is 110 + 74 + 30 = 214 and an OBP of 0.330
        If he hits more HR’s or K’s less then the BB rate can fall.
        Seems like this would be a useful guy.

  • Matt

    Another important question is how are the Ks coming. Breaking balls away? Do pitchers pound him up-n-in late in the count? I have no idea where he’s getting beat but it’s probably instructive as to the potential to bring that number down. I have a hard time imagining people are throwing heaters by him on any type of consistent basis.

    • cubmig

      Even if we knew how Baez was “getting beat”, would it matter? Hitter have a propensity to give in to their “weakness” (think Castro, Soriano, Rizzo) . When they see a pitch close to the location they like, habit wins out and they become casualties to their weakness. As we watch Castro and Rizzo right now, the big thing (for me anyway) is whether they can break out of falling for the lures that make for outs rather than hits. Slumps, happen, but adjusting to break out of them is what makes a player valuable, imho. Baez will have to face his own “demons” when he hits the big club. The ticket is going to be can he overcome them.

  • Chef

    Year Age Tm Lg Lev Aff G Ch PO A E DP Fld%

    2013 20 2 Teams 2 Lgs A+-AA CHC SS 122 640 231 366 43 75 .933

    Just let this one simmer a little longer. I like him a lot, but I want him to succeed at the majors, not just be a big bat who can’t defend.

  • http://Isa Voice of reason

    Baez is just a baby. Once he gets to the bigs and starts getting plate discipline and starts shooting roids the skies the limit.

    The kids the real deal and is reason for excitement. Now, we need to develop more baez’. What drives me nuts is the people on here who want to start trading our prospects. Keep them together and wait two years and then start trading your strengths to get your weaknesses. And, throw in free agents. Right now we don’t know what those strengths and weaknesses will be. Price for one of our top 4 prospects was something I read on here? Thank god that person isn’t running the cubs.

    Theo and the boys are building a franchise. Be patient and have fun watching it develop.

  • Oswego chris

    Is “Eating worlds with his bat right now” a Galactus reference?

    • Elk Grove Dan

      It has to be a Galactus reference?
      I mean who else can be the “eater of worlds”?

    • http://www.frenchrocks.net Ian Afterbirth

      That’s how I took it.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Go big or go home.

      • miggy80

        “The young man is eating worlds with his bat”

        “I don’t think I’d go that far, but I wouldn’t slap anyone who did”

        best……bullet…..of….THE SEASON!

  • miggy80

    I defiantly was a little worried about Sweeney going up against the bricks, but did you see how hard Ruf hit the bricks. Don’t want to see anyone get hurt out there.

  • Bill Carlson

    What about the 1st and 3rd basemen at Tennessee, Justin Bour and Christian Villanueva? What are the Cubs plans for them? I saw the Smokies about 10 days ago, and Bour hit a long home run, and Villanueva was just a defense wizard…kinda reminded me of Aramis Rameriez.

    • Voice of Reason

      Maybe bour ends up in left? Maybe rizzo doesn’t pan out and bout ends up at first? Maybe villanueva ends up at third and Bryant plays right?

      To answer your question the plans for all our young players is to keep developing them and see what happens. You just can’t say what the plan for baur and villanueva is. Sit back and see if they progress. Both could be out of baseball next year or both could be competing for a major league position.

  • fromthemitten

    scary, I’ve had numerous dreams about breaking into wrigley field and running the bases

  • http://deepcenterfield.blogspot.com Jason Powers

    I love the fact Baez has power plus so far as a minor leaguer – HR every 16AB bodes pretty well. The big question: can the kid walk?

    So far, he has 54BB in 912 PAs. If he’s assured a 25% K-rate, I’d like to see a 11-13%BB-rate to go with it. At least, if he’s gonna be a low average guy with ridiculous power numbers, we can live with that if he walks a bit more. He’s only 20; so patience can improve with time.

    I was looking at David Ortiz – not comparable by position, but wanted to see – 31 HRs at 21, 45BB, 142K – http://www.baseball-reference.com/minors/player.cgi?id=ortiz-001dav ….

    Ortiz learned how to take walks/and the league learn to give them…leading the league in the category. Only took a decade! ;) http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/o/ortizda01.shtml

    But that K-rate has to come down as Brett and Luke noted.

  • arta

    if he (Baez) did the HR and RBI thing up here, i’m sure no would complain.

  • arta

    he’s not B. Jackson!

  • jt

    295/401/562 15 HR in 248 PA’s 64 K’s 37 BB 21y/o Dave Kingman AA
    299/352/650 20 HR in 236 PA’s 66 K’s 19 BB 20y/o Javier Baez AA

    • jeff1969

      Wow. I’m scared now.

      • jt

        joey votto as a 21 y/o in A+
        529 PA’s 256/330/425 17HR 122K 52BB

  • http://Bleachernation Lou Brock

    One thing to note on the future of Baez and his success or failure at the plate. His history in the minors shows he really kills it versus lefties. All his numbers are better against them by a considerable margin. It is important that the FO has balance L/R in the lineup so that they see a fair # of LH starters. Baez, Soler, Bryant , Castro ,Castillo, Almora are all probable starters who will be seeing a lot of right handed pitching. Currently Rizzo and possibly Alcantara would project as the only left handed bats. It is important for the future of the organization that more LH bats are added either thru trades or drafting.

    • Blublud

      I don’t think having a certain amount of Lefties or Righties in the lineup will effect which starter a team will face. Most teams will set their rotation and not change it unless there is a injury. Some teams will play with the rotation, but most won’t.

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