When I did our off-day check-in yesterday (spoilers: things are looking good), I picked Anthony Rizzo as the “standout” offensive performer of this recent stretch, because, well, he’s been really good. HOWEVER, I think I needed to be more mindful of my choice in words.
While I was saying Anthony Rizzo’s performance was particularly noteworthy – and for very specific, obviously good reasons – I didn’t mean I thought he was the best (let alone only) standout performer of this stretch, because, frankly, Javier Baez (among others) has been an absolute machine.
We’re only a month into the 2019 season, but I’m no longer really concerned that Baez’s breakout 2018 campaign was just some one-off fluke. He may not perform at these MVP levels throughout the entire season, but … he sure is so far.
Through 28 games and 128 plate appearances, Baez is slashing .314/.352/.653 (158 wRC+), and has already been worth 1.6 WAR (6th most in MLB). He’s an absolute stud at the plate, on the field, and, as it turns out, possibly the best base runner in baseball, so here’s a mish-mash of some random and unrelated love for the Cubs standout performer of the year.
- The Cubs YouTube production team has kept up their end of the bargain, delivering quality content every single week. I think you’ll particularly enjoy Javy Baez Mic’d up:
- And how about this … In one particularly impressive way, Javy Baez is keeping company with two notable Cubs: Anthony Rizzo and Sammy Sosa …
Javier Baez has 10 home runs, 24 RBIs, and 25 runs scored in 28 games this season. The only other Cubs over the last 60 years with that many homers, RBIs, and runs within the team’s first 30 games of a season are Sammy Sosa in 2001 (10/28/26) and Anthony Rizzo in 2016 (10/28/26).
— Elias Sports Bureau (@EliasSports) May 2, 2019
- His 10 home runs are tied for the fifth most in baseball, his 25 runs seventh, and his 24 RBI 14th. And it’s worth noting that he’s played as many as 4 fewer games than a some of the folks ahead of him in these rankings.
- On an individual level, his 5.5 % walk rate is better than it was last season (4.5%) and better than his career average (4.9%). His 26.6% strikeout rate is also below his career average and pretty much right in line with 2018.
- And here’s some other stray thoughts:
Just here to remind you that Javy Baez is doing what he's doing to start the season with:
-Contact/K rates better than his career average
-A slightly above his career average walk rate
-Only slightly elevated BABIP
PLUS, he's hitting the ball WAY harder than he ever has before
— WhoCanIJinxNext?CountTommy (@FullCountTommy) May 2, 2019
- What I love most, however, his the quality of his contact. Javy Baez’s 46.0% hard-hit rate this season absolutely blows his career mark out of the water (33.6%) and even dwarfs his MVP runner-up season (35.8%). On top of that, his ground ball rate is lower than it’s been since 2015 and he’s got his highest fly ball rate since his first half-season back in 2014.
- Here’s another way to talk about that quality contact:
Put it this way: None of Báez’s 14 hardest-hit balls since ‘15 have come in ‘19.
Yet, here’s his % of batted balls topping 100 MPH:
2019: 44.8 (!!!)
He’s brought his insane talent *just* enough under control to weaponize it. 💥 https://t.co/isdLfzDdel
— Matthew Trueblood (@MATrueblood) May 2, 2019
- On top of that, Baez’s contact rates – both in and out of the zone – are up this season and his whiff rate is down.
- Indeed, in basically every way you can imagine, Javy Baez is looking even better this year than he did last year when he was voted the second best player in the National League. If that’s not enough to kick your weekend off on the right foot, I don’t know what is.:
When god made Javy Baez …. (audio on) pic.twitter.com/Hwz9Mlp5HC
— Michael Cerami (@Michael_Cerami) May 2, 2019