Before last night’s game, I discovered that it had been about a month and a half since Javier Baez appeared in more than one single game (even as a pinch hitter) without a hit. That’s obviously impressive for any player, but is especially so for someone like Javier Baez, whose early-career performance was more or less defined by poor pitch recognition *and* uneven contact skills.
But after going 3-4 with a single, a double, and a home run last night, Javier Baez is riding WAY high – both this season and for his career. We’ll have more on that in a second, but first, let’s take a look at that three-run dong:
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) August 1, 2018
That homer was Baez’s 22nd of the season (t-19th in MLB) and 69th of his career. With three more RBI, Baez is now the National League leader with 82 runs batted in, behind only J.D. Martinez (89 RBI) and Khris Davis (84 RBI) in all of baseball. Unreal.
Oh yeah, there’s also this:
I mentioned it briefly in the bullets this morning, but it bares repeating. Ednel Javier Baez “El Mago” is batting .300. THREE-HUNDRED.
There was a time right at the beginning of his prospect journey, where hitting .300 wouldn’t have surprised us, but that was a very long time ago. That he’s hitting .300 in the Major Leagues (and still absolutely killing it on the power front) after all the swing and miss early on is nothing short of astonishing. I won’t dare say this is “peak” Javy Baez or “best case scenario,” because that guy has a knack of proving people wrong, but boy is it about as good as I could’ve reasonably hoped – particularly on the contact front.
And the crazy thing is … he arguably still has a ton of pitch recognition problems. He’s swinging at pitches out of the zone more this season than he ever has before and is pairing that with more swings on pitches in the zone (all the swings!). He’s even got one of the highest first-pitch strike and whiff rates of his career. However, his contact rate is also up across the board and because of that and his natural power, he’s made it work.
Sure, this sort of profile is far from how you’d draw it up, but what about Baez has ever been orthodox?
And as for the power? Well, that sure has been good too. We already know Baez is among the top-20 in home runs this season, but did you know that he also ranks among the top 15 in doubles (28) and is tied for fifth in triples (6). You probably won’t be surprised to learn, then, that his .274 ISO ranks 10th best in baseball while his .574 SLG ranks 9th best. For reference, none of Kris Bryant (.262 ISO, 2016), Anthony Rizzo (.252 ISO, 2016), or Kyle Schwarber (.256 ISO, 2017) have ever finished a season with a higher isolated power figure.
And that means that the Cubs best power hitter is also batting .300 … oh and he’s got Gold Glove-caliber defense at about three different positions (third, short, and second). What else is there to say?
As of today, Javier Baez has earned 3.9 WAR according to FanGraphs, and, frankly, that’s probably a little low given how the advanced defensive metrics are not nearly as into him this season as they should be (or have been in the past). Despite that, he’s currently tied with Andrelton Simmons as the 14th most valuable player in all of baseball this season (by WAR) and 4th most valuable in the National League.
He has a very real shot at winning the National League MVP award – especially with that batting average/HR/RBI combo that voters love – and he’s only getting hotter.
Overall, Javier Baez is slashing .300/.330/.574 (135 wRC+), but in his last 170 PAs (June 11th), he's slashing .371/.402/.648 with 8 HRs, a triple, and 18 doubles.
There aren't enough fire emojis available on Twitter.
— Michael Cerami (@Michael_Cerami) August 1, 2018
I can’t wait to see what he’ll do next.