When I think of Javy Baez’s 2016 season with the Cubs, I’m going to think about the game-winning home run in Game One of the NLDS first and foremost. Then I’ll think about his NLCS MVP performance. I’ll also think about his Mother’s Day walk-off, and his 15th inning grand slam.
In a less specific way, though, I’m going to think about the jaw-dropping defense (more on that later), and stellar moves on the base paths. Do you remember how Baez scored from second base on Kyle Hendricks’ bases-loaded bloop single in Game Two of the NLDS?
The read he got on this ball, and then the stomach to just go all out right away … so much baseball instinct on display:
Remember how Baez stole home in Game One of the NLCS? It happened, and it came *after* Baez got himself to third on a hustle bloop double and taking third on a wild pitch:
Sure, it wasn’t a straight steal of home (as much as I love the straight steal of home, I’d almost never advise attempting it, short of the perfect situation), but it was impressive nonetheless. It almost looks like Baez was committed to coming home no matter what, by way of baiting a throw to third (notice how Jon Lester pulls back on a somewhat buntable pitch, so it was not a suicide squeeze situation … and yet Baez is coming down the line hard). Once the throw was baited, Baez takes off hard for home. I loved it.
Those are just a couple playoff examples of what Baez can do on the bases. But when you think back on his 2016 season as a baserunner, my guess is you think of only one thing: his magic ninja slides.
Baez pulled off the feat twice, each time blowing our minds:
There’s not a shareable video of the second time Baez pulled off the move, but we do have a dramatic reenactment from Hector Rondon:
Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
— Randall J. Sanders (@RandallJSanders) June 19, 2016
There’s also this fantastic frame-by-frame of the second slide:
— MBDChicago (@MBDChicago) June 19, 2016
Here’s to many more magical ninja moments on the basepaths from Javy Baez in 2017. There is still work to do at the plate, but the baserunning looks to be very squared away.