Every single player in baseball history has a really, really bad game in his career. It’s inevitable. From Babe Ruth, to Kris Bryant, to Aaron Judge, it happens – every year, to every player. But even with that in mind, there’s no escaping just how bad Javy Baez’s latest start was.
Starting at second base against the White Sox on Tuesday night, Baez went 0-5 at the plate with five straight strikeouts. Worse, every single one of them was of the swinging variety. Oof. That’s a whole lot of whiffing, and about as bad as it gets on an individual level. And although he went 1-3 with an (intentional) walk the night prior, he added two more strikeouts and an 0-3 effort the night before that.
All together, Javy Baez has put together an ugly three-game stretch, featuring a disappointing slash line of .091/.167/.091 with a 58.3% strikeout rate. And if the numbers aren’t enough for you, I can tell you that he sure didn’t look great in any of those plate appearances, either.
Javier Báez: first 5-K game by #Cubs player since…
… Ted Lilly! 6/30/2008.
First position player since Geovany Soto 4/26/2008
— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) July 25, 2017
But neither Baez nor his team are ready to make any unnecessary changes. Indeed, after the game Joe Maddon laughed it off and compared Javy at the plate to big-swinging golfer John Daly.
The Cubs manager did decide to give Baez the night off yesterday, however, because he does believe that his struggles were caused by just a bit of mental fatigue (CSN). To be sure, Baez has played in 88 of the Cubs 100 games this season (behind only Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, Addison Russell, and Willson Contreras), but he’s also played at least four games at every single infield position. That’s a lot to ask of a guy who’s trying to make adjustments and improvements at the plate.
Maddon believes Baez will bounce back, because he’s gone through tough stretches like this before. But, more broadly, the Cubs are also prepared to just take the good with the bad. What do they mean by that? Well ….
Sure, every now and then, Baez is going to give you a brutally bad stretch like the three-gamer he just went through. But did you realize how well he had been doing before that? In the second half of the season, which INCLUDES that terrible three-game stretch stretch, Baez is slashing .343/.378/.571 – good for a 141 wRC+ (three points higher than Bryant’s season mark). Cut out the one bad day and that number shoots up to 182 wRC+ in the second half.
But you can go back even further than that.
Since the start of JUNE, Baez has been an above average offensive contributor, slashing .291/.338/.472 (105 wRC+). When you throw in what he can do on the base paths and in the field, that’s two months of an extremely valuable player. So you’ll have to excuse the Cubs if they’re not scared off by one (admittedly and extremely) bad performance.
“He’s his own toughest critic, also,” Maddon said via CSN Chicago. “I have a lot of faith in him, I have a lot of faith in hitting coaches. He’ll be fine. I really am not concerned. … He’s young, he’s done it before, he’ll do it again. I promise you — that’s gonna happen again. In the mean time, just continue to support him.”
Maddon’s affinity for Baez is no secret, but he’s not alone: this front office has kept him around through MANY trade rumors too. There’s something inherently fantastic about the way Baez plays the game – we all saw it in the 2016 postseason and the World Baseball Classic – but it just so happens that the same explosive qualities that make Baez so special also lend themselves to some deep slumps.
Maddon believes Baez may one day grow out of the inconsistencies, but for now he’s happy to let him be himself through the good times and the bad.