Because you can never have too much of this guy in your life.
In this case, “this guy,” of course, refers to 2018 NL MVP candidate Javy Baez. If you haven’t noticed, Baez is having himself one hell of a season at the plate, in the field, and on the bases. And I’d like to just sit in awe of that (at least) one more time. With that said, while I firmly believe Baez is a legitimate contender – if not the current frontrunner – for the National League MVP, I won’t really be making that case here today. Instead, we’ll simply discuss his general awesomeness and worthiness of that honor, independent of any other players or MVP candidates.
Let’s start with his offense.
This season, Baez is slashing .295/.326/.568 with 30 homers, 100 RBI, and 21 stolen bases. In another era, batting .300, hitting 30 homers, collecting 100 RBI, and stealing over 20 bases would make someone an MVP candidate without even considering his other contributions. Hitting those marks by early September might even make them a shoe-in. And maybe, to an extent, it still does.
As Mike Petriello points out in a fantastic piece at MLB.com, however, Baez isn’t alone at the top of any of these categories (making his MVP case a bit tougher to defend), but he is right up there among the very best in every area besides OBP.
But screw OBP. I mean, not really – it’s an extremely important stat/skill – but it’s not everything. And if Baez has taught us anything about baseball, it’s that the totality of a player’s game is more important than any one individual component. Kyle Schwarber’s .355 OBP crushes Baez’s .326 mark, for example, but you would never swap Baez’s overall offensive output (132 wRC+) for Schwarber’s (114 wRC+), right? Of course not.
And that’s without taking his ELITE base running into account. When MLB.com ranked various MLB tools a few weeks back, Javier Baez was not listed as the fastest baserunner or even among the top three, but he did rank third on the “best baserunner” list, and honestly, since then, he’s probably climbed up a spot or two. I don’t know if you’ve been watching lately, but Baez has pushed his risky, but successful base running style to the absolute max and it has caught the attention of many. At FanGraphs, Craig Edwards takes a look into Baez’s “other secret skill” (the first being his elite tagging abilities) and how it creates pure chaos on the field.
But while plenty of fast players can create some havoc on the field, lately, Baez’s mayhem has turned into tangible runs. In fact, the way Edwards sees it, we’re still not quite able to accurately quantify how much value a guy like Baez adds. It seems Baez is uniquely skilled at the sort of things we might take for granted, including getting on base via the error more often, taking an extra base and causing errors more often, and so much more. It’s not exactly a hard-science yet, but there’s something there.
And then, of course, there’s the defense.
Hopefully, I don’t have to say much to convince you that Baez is defensively gifted, because we know he is. He’s got fantastic range, good glove work, arguably the strongest infield arm in baseball, and has even buttoned up some of those simple/silly mistakes that hung out at the beginning of his career. And of course he plays the toughest defensive position in baseball (outside of catcher), shortstop … while also covering at second and third. Yes, a capable shortstop should be able to cover less demanding positions with time, but his ability to move back and forth and play well without skipping a beat is a skill in and of itself. He may never accumulate the sort of big defensive numbers at any one position because he moves around so much, but I think, like his base running, we can all understand that there’s just a little something extra there that a lot of guys don’t offer.
I’m not sure if Baez will actually win the MVP award this year, but honestly, it doesn’t matter. I would STRONGLY prefer a world in which he’s got the hardware, but the most important thing is that no one can argue he’s isn’t worthy.