Although he was not a “starter” last year, Javy Baez saw plenty of action. Even after missing the first couple weeks of the season, Baez managed to appear in virtually every single game in some capacity thereafter, totaling 142 games on the season, fewer only than Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, Addison Russell, and Ben Zobrist.
That is to say, not seeing Baez in a game at all is an oddity.
This weekend, though, Baez got some time off. After coming out of the gate to a woeful .196/.263/.333 with a 38(!) wRC+ in his first 58 plate appearances, Baez sat out some games in the last week. Whether that time off gave Baez a chance to quiet the mind after a crazy postseason and World Baseball Classic, or whether it simply gave him an opportunity to make adjustments, he’s been on fire ever since.
Consider, after last night’s near-cycle, Baez is now hitting .269/.315/.507 with a 100 wRC+ after just 16 more plate appearances, during which time he’s homered twice, tripled, doubled, and struck out just three times. That says a lot about sample sizes, of course, but it also indicates just how hot he’s been.
Here’s how he looked last night, going 4-4 with a triple and a homer:
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) May 3, 2017
The homer, of course, was a majestic piece, but how about that triple? Staying down on the ball, driving it hard the other way? That was truly a work of art.
Baez had a chance to finish his cycle at the end of the game, blooping one into right field. He clearly thought about trying for second, which he later admitted would have required a crazy slide, and he thought better of it.
“I was just thinking the ball was going to beat me,” Baez told the Tribune after the game. “And if I tried a swim move at that point, the game was over and with a bad slide, I didn’t want to have the chance to get injured.”
Good man, Javy. You’re too important at this point to risk getting injured, even as amazing as it would have been to see a crazy slide complete a cycle. (And with his skills, I wouldn’t put it past him to pull it off.)