A Cubs Den Journey: My unrelenting confidence in Javier Baez

Javier Baez

Javier Baez

Author's Note: This post was originally written during the 2016 National League Championship Series, but for obvious reasons Cubs Den was a very crowded website at the time. Everyone was excited as the Cubs marched toward a World Series victory and there were several posts going up on a daily basis. Since there was no time sensitive aspect, and because I worried the post might come off a bit as an "I told you so" at a time when I wanted everyone to focus on the joy of a postseason run, I decided to hold off until the offseason. 

By the time the season ended, however, I had essentially stepped away as a writer for Cubs Den without publishing it. I eventually returned last season as John's health deteriorated but by then the article had slipped from my mind. Earlier this week I stumbled across it, and after last night's dynamic performance, it seems as good a time as any to release it. I did a light editing to remove 2016 specific references and added a few new pictures, but it is essentially the same version I wrote back during the NLCS.

Once upon a time, before I found Cubs Den tucked away in a quiet corner of the internet, I used to comment on various other Cubs websites. The internet being what it is, these sites all devolved into bile-spewing and name-calling and I decided I had enough, so I stopped engaging. Even after I started reading Cubs Den and was pleasantly surprised by the relatively civil discourse occurring in the comment section I abstained for well over a year, maybe even close to two. But just when I thought I was out for good, Ednel Javier Baez pulled me back in.

Javier Baez

Javier Baez with Peoria in 2012

I thought I was too old to still have a favorite player. But from my first viewing when I took a day off of work and drove seven hours round trip to watch Javy make his debut with the Peoria Chiefs, he instantly became that guy for me. I repeated that trip as often as possible in those days as I knew his Midwest League days would be numbered. His attitude and demeanor reminded me of the way I tried to play it as a kid, only with infinitely more talent.

While his BP sessions in Peoria attracted the buzz, I was drawn in by his instincts during games, especially on the base paths. He showed an early knack for avoiding tags and taking extra bases. On defense he showcased his quick first step, insane transfers around the second base bag and cannon arm. At the plate it was impossible to miss his incredible bat speed. I felt it was my duty to start preaching the gospel of Javier Baez to all that would listen. At the time I did not realize how much patience would be required. I knew Baez would not be long for the minors, and blow through the system he did, but still when it came to Javy it seemed few could keep a level head.

Of course Javy did not make this journey easy either…

The Early Years

Javy in high school

Javy in high school

Most of my early posts on Cubs Den were centered around Javy. I’ve always been interested in the minor league system, and at the time I was one of the few that had actually watched Baez in person. So I wanted to give my perspective of him to as many people as possible and attempt to quell the fears of any fans that were dependent only on box scores to evaluate him as a prospect. I was quick to defend him at every turn:

“What I thought was the same thing I always think when I see any Javy Baez doubters and that is: Javy Baez will crush all non-believers.” - 2013/06/10

“Baez has supreme confidence in himself. You can tell by the way he carries himself, the comments he makes, and the way his teammates and coaches speak of him. There is no thought of failure in his mind. Sometimes this can lead to a guy that is slow to adjust, because he has such trust in his own ability, but ultimately the desire to succeed will win out.” - 2013/05/20

This comment in particular seems prescient:

“You’ll love Baez then too. Baez is [...] the kind of player that would see breaking the drought as challenge, not a burden” - 2013/06/03

Baez has the star quality that will draw people to the ballpark.” - 2013/09/05

Javy Baez

Javy Baez with Tennessee in 2013

People actually began doubting his baseball instincts! I could not sit idly by and allow that nonsense to perpetuate without speaking out:

“Baez has great instincts. Yes, he gets over anxious at times and that get him into trouble, but there are zero holes in his game. He can hit a fastball, he can hit a breaking ball. He has good pitch recognition. He is an excellent baserunner. He can play anywhere on the field.

I know people worry about the Ks and the errors. But for guys like Baez it is more of a process of him determining what his own limits are. He thinks he can do everything and so that is what he tries to do at first, then once he determines what doesn’t work, he begins to weed that aspect out from his game and his performance improves.” - 2013/09/09

That last comment sums up my feelings best when it has come to the highs and lows of Javier Baez’s development. Some guys need to learn how to maximize limited skills. Others, like Baez have so much skill they need to learn what they can’t do, and that can take a little time since they are usually able to get away with it at lower levels.

His MLB Beginning

When Baez first arrived in the majors, he learned a hard lesson that one of the things he couldn’t do was hit Major League pitching with poor hitting mechanics. Things he could get away with at every other level no longer allowed him to be successful at the highest level.

Baez swings and misses

Baez swings and misses

I pride myself on patience. It is something that people who know me will comment on, and I think my fellow Denizens have also witnessed it. .I've preached it with Miggy and Heyward in previous year, and with guys like Ross and EJax before that. Sure patience doesn't always pay off, but it normally does. In each of those cases, except Edwin Jackson, the player ended up being a big factor in the Cubs winning the World Series.

For Javy, his early career struggles were tough to watch, for everyone. Fans wanted to know why Baez was being allowed to flounder while Bryant lingered in the minors. Obviously, economics were the main reason, but there were also baseball reasons that I attempted to point out:

“My view is that Baez is far better served by early exposure than Bryant because Baez needs to have his limits tested. Baez strikes me as a guy that learns through failure while Bryant is a guy that learns through prep[a]ration. It’s two different mindsets and there are different levels of benefit for each guy by getting this experience.” - 2014/08/15

I kept my spirits up and stayed optimistic and even went so far as to prognosticate, even if I was a year off:

“August 2012/April 2013 – Half the commenters here worried Javy was going to be a bust and not make it out of A ball

May 2013 – Everyone agreed Javy Baez is awesome!

July 2013 – Half the commenters: Javy is a bust that won’t make it out of AA

August 2013 – Everyone agreed Javy is incredible!

April/May 2014 – Half the commenters: Javy is a bust that won’t make it out of AAA

July 2014 – Everyone: Javy is amazing!

August 2014 – Half the commenters: Javy is a bust that won’t ever hit MLB pitching

2015 – Everyone will agree on what Javy is and I wonder what that conclusion will be…” - 2014/08/26

John did his best to calm everyone’s nerves with a great piece at the end of August 2014, Patience Needed for Javier Baez's Struggles. I was happy for the support, but the panic exhibited by others was starting to wear on me:

“I have plenty of patience with Javy. I am finding I have way less patience for the people who have no patience with Javy.” - 2014/08/27

Plays like this are why Javier Baez isn't getting traded.

Plays like this is why you don't trade Javier Baez

August was just the start of Baez’s struggles however. His swing mechanics completely deteriorated as the season concluded and he sunk deeper into his slump. He was lost and completely overmatched. There was no denying that.

After the season, most were down on him, but I kept positive:

“Yes, I find the doubt regarding Baez amusing. Don’t worry. It won’t last. [...]His mechanics will not stay as messed up as they were at the end of the season.” - 2014/10/06

Just two days after that comment, even John became susceptible. Less than three months after preaching patience with Javy, there was a crack in his resolve. He toyed with the notion of the Cubs being more balanced and better off with a potential trade for Cole Hamels, using Javy and Arismendy Alcantara as the bait: Cubs Need to Strike a Balance With Future Lineup and How That Could Impact This Offseason.

The knife left a deep wound. Surely, off all people, not John. John is like me. John is patient.

“Et tu, Brute?

Do what you want with Alcantara, but leave Baez alone!” - 2014/10/08

It seemed only HoosierDaddy and I remained as Baez-backers. At that point I was sure the two of us were destined for a Highlander-there-can-be-only-one-style deathmatch. I wasn’t going to lose. I would keep my head. I would defend it and Javy to the last.

 “Maybe it doesn’t happen until he is 24, but there is zero doubt in my mind that it will come eventually.” - 2014/12/22

“Baez does everything else on the baseball field well. He has tremendous baseball instincts. He is going to figure out his issues at the plate eventually. He wants to be great, he will not allow himself to continue to fail so spectacularly, even if it means he will have to change his approach/mechanics at some point.” - 2015/03/31

The Climb Back

A Javy Tag

A Javy Tag

Maybe patience isn't even the right word. Patience describes my feelings regarding Montero, Heyward and Ross. With Baez it was always something different. Something more aggressive. It was confidence. I never doubted Javy.

"Baez was just absolutely flailing last year and even to the most casual fan his issues were clear to see. It’s unfortunate that version of Baez is the first impression that a lot of fans who never watched him in the minors will be left with and in the back of their minds will forever be worried will return." - 2015/05/18

With the hiring of Maddon my spirits were definitely given a boost. Maddon would know how to deploy Baez and get the most out of him:

"I’m also the guy that has no problem with Baez filling the Zobrist role that everyone projects Alcantara to if it comes down to it. He can play anywhere, and probably play all of them better then Mendy. Zobrist was one of the best players in the AL and Maddon found plenty of ABs for him. I have confidence he could do the same for Baez." - 2015/04/21

Javy would end up having a successful, albeit injury shortened 2015, capped off by a dramatic HR in the playoffs. He was showing his willingness to make adjustments, but it was clear more were necessary.

A Javy Slide

A Javy Slide

Throughout the 2016 season we saw those improvements take place. He became more consistent. As Baez’s defense and base running wizardry began to draw more and more attention and others began to sing his praises I couldn’t help but feel a little proud:

“This makes me so happy to read. I tried to tell everyone. I’ve done my best for the last five years or so, not just on here but Cubs fans I meet as well, to preach the gospel that Javier Baez was going to be the kind of player that becomes a box office draw and must watch TV. He does everything. He even fails spectacularly. There is never a dull moment with him on baseball field.” - 2016/08/06

And if there is one comment that is a fitting summation of Javy's season and my/our hopes regarding his future it was an exchange in August of 2016 when many of us shared our feelings that the first thing we do whenever a lineup is posted is check for one name:

“Is it mature when I kick a clump of dirt and sulk whenever I see Baez isn’t in the lineup?” - 2016/08/10

 

Filed under: General

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  • What we talk about when we talk about Javier Baez.

    Can't we just watch the cat play? Do we have to have another article about him every week? Snarky, I know. But jeez.

  • In reply to Cubswin09:

    Why do you hate fun?
    ;)

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    I like watching him play. Jon Lester was pretty good last night. How about an article on him. Schwarber dedicated his entire offseason to getting into shape, and it has paid off; how about a feature on him. Heyward has played better: how about a feature on him. Almora looks awesome: how about a feature on him? Anyway, the Baez territory seems pretty well examined at this point and I am ready to move on. I suspect i am in the minority.

  • In reply to Cubswin09:

    Then don't read the article. You don't have to click it, by the way is schwarber leading the cubs in hits,rbi's and runs like baez is? Is heyward making spectacular defensive plays like baez is? So why should an article be written about either. You always have lil smart comments about baez like you dislike him. I know he's "flashy" and you washed up baseball purists don't like that the good thing is people of your ilk are fading away.

    Schwarber is hitting .237 good for him getting in shape but it's not helping much he's still the overrated hitter he's always been.

  • In reply to bolla:

    Easy big boy.

    Schwarber had a better OPS than Javy as late as last week. Even with the low batting average and Javy's hot start. Today he is only .030 behind him after Javy's big night last night. And that is without Schwarber really having a hot streak at all.

  • In reply to bolla:

    I finally get it. Schwarber stiffed you for an autograph, huh? You continue this false narrative against Schwarber.

    Baez WAR 2.1 with 126 wRC+.
    Schwarber WAR 2.0 with 122 wRC+

    Damn near identical contributions. Don’t let the facts get in the way of your blind disregard for Schwarber’s performance.

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    I think you need to compare many more areas before drawing a conclusion. Comparing 2 stats is not enough.

  • In reply to WaitUntilNextYear:

    Defense is accounted for in WAR. So it is a solid overall stat encompassing O contributions and D contributions.

    Fact remains Schwarber has been just fine and not the “he sucks” he’s overrated” posts.

    Instead of picking nits with my post, why don’t you pose your own thoughts on why you agree with bolla on Schwarber?

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    I do appreciate when people create their own original thoughts and ideas, opening up to potential criticism, rather than simply offering negative replies.

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    just to play sone devil's advocate here..... WAR is a good quick overview of roughly how a player has performed, but it is still limited and can be misleading for a player such as Baez where his true value still isn't able to be completely quantified. Baez is at -1.5 for his defense according to fWAR, and Schwarber is at 3.1. yes, Schwarbs has improved his D a lot this year ( i've been a big believer in this eventually happening with him since he's a solid athlete and he's had minimal reps there). but he isn't near as valuable as a defender, and the conversation isn't even close. WAR definitely isn't capturing Javy's value on that end. even the most staunch defenders of UZR and DRS admit its still pretty flawed. we should look at the overall body of work, which should also include the eye test. as much as Schwarbs has been above average this season, he hasn't been Javy. Javy has better numbers in nearly every offensive category, not to mention his D and baserunning

  • In reply to CubbieInfantry2327:

    Javy’s D was less than inspiring for the first 45 days to the season. 9 errors thus far and we are not at the break. That is a lot.

    WAR encompasses as full body of work and Schwarber has been an equally valuable member of the Cubs this year as Javy. I am not saying Schwarber is better or more valuable. I am saying he does not suck and is not overrated like has been posted for some time. It is factually wrong.

  • In reply to CubbieInfantry2327:

    The vagaries of defensive stats certainly hurt WAR as an all encompassing stat. Center fielders can be hurt in that department simply due to where they set up on the field, left fielders seem to get over credited for routine plays and someone needs to explain to me what it would take for a first baseman to have a positive Def on Fangraphs. Currently the best in that category in MLB, Matt Carpenter has -.2. Anthony Rizzo is consistently hurt in WAR for that reason. In Javy's case though he brought some of it on himself this year with a string of errors and just seemed a little out of sync defensively to start the year. After all his Def was 4.5 last year, 7.4 in 2016 and yet he sits at -1.5 today. Defensive metrics have to many flaws, but frankly this is probably on him right now. None of that is to knock him. He's one of the most exciting players I've ever seen. Most of the frustration over his play stems from the fact that he's so uber talented that you expect him to be better, and yet he nearly always makes the play when it counts and carries his team offensively when he's hot. He's going to be about a 4.5 WAR this year which to me is a very, very good player, but I think we all know he has a 6 plus WAR year or two in him at some point.

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    Offensive war baez 2.6 schwarber 1.2,that's double war on offense buddy

    and the only reason schwarbers ops is close is because baez has a low on base %

    But the stats that actually matter like runs,rbi's hits baez leads in all categories

    and baez ops is still 100+ points higher. Don't compare baez to inferiors players like schwarber

  • In reply to bolla:

    Sorry I read the wrong ops baez is 40 points higher than overrated 5 tool patient hitter kyle schwarber

    Baez also leads the team in steals by lot.he leads the team in Steals,triples,hr's,runs,rbi's,hits. He's also the best defensive infielder by a long shot.Who cares about on base % I don't

  • In reply to bolla:

    more like 31

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to bolla:

    To be honest it sounds like you only care about stats that have Javy looking good and simply discount those that make him look mortal.
    Runs as a TEAM stat are very valuable. Runs/RBI as an individual statistic are not particularly valuable.

  • In reply to bolla:

    So, on what planet is an .870 ops to .839 ops 100+ points higher?

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to bolla:

    bolla,
    Baez having a low OBP might actually be seen as a problem BEYOND deflating his OPS to the likes of the "inferior" Kyle Schwarber making them even remotely comparable. That lower OBP means that he makes more outs in a given number of times up to the plate. Outs lead to ending innings. Outs lead to ending games before a rally can take place. In my mind it takes a lot of power to offset making outs.

    I also categorically disagree that runs/rbi are "the stats that actually matter." You believe that and that is fine. But I consider these to be some of the least valuable stats.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    In the last 7 days schwarber is hitting .182 with a .280 on base %

    in the last 14 days schwarber is hitting .209 with a .333 on base %

    In the month of june schwarber is hitting .211 with a .337 on base %

    Bottom line is schwarber is not that good outside an occasional hr/hit

    It's hilarious to see the people who rely on all these ridiculous baseball stats use ops and on base,war etc when mike trout says himself runs and rbi's are the only stats that matter.

    You can't praise baez on here without people always making sure to temper any praise.I watch the games and baez makes more difference making plays than anybody on the team so what if he makes more outs the guys who make less outs aren't doing anything. Kris bryant has pretty stats but sucks when it matters.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Joel Mayer:

    bolla, do you actually think you can just cherry-pick a 7 day stretch and pretend it proves that Schwarber is a bad player? If that is the case then what is to stop me from picking June 5-12 in which Baez had a .083 BA and 1 RBI. What is to stop me? It is a MEANINGLESS sample. It doesn't actually tell us anything about Javy Baez as a player. The same way that picking "the last 7 days" doesn't tell us anything about Schwarber.

    Just out of curiosity, I have said Javy "is what he is" and have gone on to expound that he is a very good player. I am not as bullish on him as some are but I respect their opinion.

    I am puzzled by your antipathy toward Bryant, Schwarber and Rizzo, though. Do you think that by putting these guys down it somehow makes Baez look "better"? Personally, I like what those guys bring to the table more than I like what Baez brings. That does NOT mean I think Baez is a bad player, or even a "worse" player. He has got a ton of talent and does many things to help the team. Like everyone he has weaknesses as well. So do Bryant, Rizzo and Schwarber et al. I prefer guys that make fewer outs. You prefer guys who get more RBI.

  • In reply to bolla:

    Move the goal posts much?

    Your ignorance of the stats makes it difficult to discuss this with you. Your take on Schwarber as a baseball player is 100% wrong and inaccurate.

    And, BTW, I love your passion for Baez and share similar thoughts. First guy I got really got excited about in years and will never forget my dad calling me in excitement the night Javy hit 4 HR for Daytona against Ft Myers in June 2013.

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    Think you're both right to a degree. I think Bolla knows the game better than some people act like he just tends to be rude to certain posters that antagonize him and he tends to exaggerate how bad a player is when they're not on his good side like a Schwarber. Bolla not attacking you btw I've always had good respectful conversations with you. I agree Bolla that in my eyes Baez is a flat out much better all around player and contributor for this team than Schwarber I don't care what their OBP says I value OBP as much as anyone but Schwarber has a hole when it comes to his contact hitting ability right now. But that doesn't mean Schwarber isn't a good young player remember he's less experienced than a young Baez even and I think that average may creep up to the .260 range with experience but I do think that his inability to get base hits with RISP due to being a poor contact hitter at this place in time hurts our lineup at times but at the same time his high walk rate and power also significantly increase his value as a hitter like many have stated and that's why Bolla while I agree he's not close to Baez's impact level he's still better than you're acting like even though I see where you're coming from with your criticism of Schwarber despite the fact I think you're exaggerating how poor he's played as a whole this season. And as for Baez I think I've already made my love for him clear nothing to really add there except to say that I think his impact isn't correctly valued by stats such as WAR for example I think he's an exception to this stat based era that we're in. And that's coming from a guy that places a ton of value in metrics but they're only one very strong method of evaluation but not the only method of player evaluation

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to bolla:

    I don’t like Sam don’t read his stuff. No problem

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to bolla:

    "Is heyward making spectacular defensive plays like Baez is?" Yes.

    https://www.mlb.com/gameday/dodgers-vs-cubs/2018/06/20/530509#game_state=final,lock_state=final,game_tab=videos,game=530509

    just for example.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    You’re trying way too hard, it’s not that serious. Schwarber is overrated imo , btw Baez has 2 more hits tonight and 2 more runs. All I care about is results forget the shiny sabermetric stats

  • In reply to Cubswin09:

    I got you. Frankly, I guess I hadn't really paid much attention to what the other writers may have posted of late. This is literally something I wrote in 2016 and stumbled across a few days ago after forgetting about it. After watching Baez last night I was struck with the desire to rescue it. That was as far as my planning went.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    I hear ya as well. It is a good article. And he was really amazing last night.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    Is one Javy article a week really enough? That is the question. Even got my local brewers fans going this morning about how talented he is which is not an easy task. The guy is absolutely phenomenal!

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Cubswin09:

    This guy would tell your kids to get off his lawn.

  • Great article! Thanks for rescuing it!

  • In reply to stv711:

    Agreed, thanks for sharing the article.

    I'll never forget when the Dodgers had Javy picked off in that game in the 2016 NLCS, and he immediately took off and scored. My jaw dropped. Almost every other player is going to freeze and be out. That was one of the most incredible displays of baseball instincts I had seen to that time. And there have been so many more examples since then. His baseball instincts are truly off the charts!

    I fully believe that if baseball wants to attract a younger audience, it needs more players like Javy, who have fun playing the game, not to mention making spectacular plays almost daily. The things he does on a baseball field just blow my mind. I honestly can't think of another Cub who has been anything like him, and I've been watching since I was a kid back in 1969.

    Thanks again!

  • In reply to nccubfan:

    That is one of the things I always tried to focus on when talking about Baez to people who had never actually seen him play. Baez was going to do things they had never seen before. He was going to keep them on the edge of their seat at all times, both offensively and defensively. Even his failures tend to be spectacular and thus entertaining in a certain light. He is the type of player you make sure you are in your seat for when he is scheduled to be up.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    Yes, like Michael Jordan was, back in the day. Must see TV.

  • Watching Baez play is like riding a crazy roller-coaster! Glad he still wears a Cubs uniform. Always enjoy your pieces btw...

  • This should be fun...

    I'll start by saying I remember that last comment, the one about kicking dirt. I was very engaged in that exchange, and we may have to go outside to settle who has been the bigger Javy cheerleader.

    In all seriousness, I was just about to write a long response to a couple comments on the recap post about how how people keep saying "this is who he is". No, it's not. I, and Michael and others, have been predicting superstardom from the beginning. He is simply the most naturally gifted player I have ever seen.

    I understand your point about not wanting to appear to be patting yourself on the back. But it's true. Part of the Javy polarization comes from those who never believed vs. those who always believed. The goalposts keep moving. After the horrific 2014 debut, the narrative was that no one had ever had success striking out so much, and he was the latest first-round bust. I said no, he'll be a future superstar and MVP. In 2015 he could be a defense-first bench player. No, I said, he will be a superstar. In 2016, hey, he might be a Zobrist-type utility player. No, he is a future MVP. 2017 rolls around, and people realize he can be a serviceable yet flawed everyday player. Nope, he is a superstar, wait and see. Here we are now. He's not there, yet, but I keep hearing people say "this is what he is". And I'll continue my refrain: no, it isn't. Javier Baez is the most naturally gifted baseball player I have ever seen. He is going to be a superstar and an MVP.

    That had nothing to do with the comment I had planned to make on the other post. I can't control my love for the talent that is El Mago, and I'm enjoying the hell out of watching it all unfold.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    Yeah, I remember that exchange as well. With as much MiLB games I have to watch, I probably don't end up catching the actual Cubs games as often as many on here. I can absolutely say without any remorse that when I see a lineup without Baez in it, I tend to not bother and instead focus on the minor league games that day instead.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    I think it was a very good article you have here Michael, I liked it, also liked the angle of you bringing out one you had on the shelf. Maybe some people think he gets too much print, I dunno....I never really noticed it.
    I actually hope he does attain super status so long as it’s in a Cub uniform. I wouldn’t say he’s close to being there yet though. This is more his initial breakout year. If he knocks in 125 and hits 35 out and then turns around and does it again next year yep.....then we have one. We need him, there is no doubt.
    I see good improvement in Schwarber, Almora and Needsasammich. We really need Darvish to be good Darvish, that’s not a bonus, that’s a necessity for October.
    I still think this team has sputtered too much, we really need to put it together because there is still little comparison between this one and ‘16.....let’s get ‘em tonight....step it up Kyle.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    I wanted to find you today and let you know that your El Mago moniker has now made it onto ESPN’s coverage. The Cub beat writer used it in his column today but I forgot his name.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to BarleyPop:

    I can get behind Javy as a multi-time all-star. At this point I just don't see him becoming an MVP player. I am the "people" who say "He is what he is." And that is a very good player. I think part of what makes him so good is his absolute faith that he can do things. His lack of doubt means he makes plays on defense that others don't even bother trying. It means he has no fear of failing to come through in the clutch (for those who like "clutch") and seems genuinely a little surprised when he doesn't. I think it is a large part of what makes him special. It might also be his kryptonite.

    We have seen many players who have the opposite problem. A ton of talent but never quite believing or trusting that talent. They try to over-analyze things and it winds up hampering them. I have always said that Javy is just as baseball intelligent as Bryant and Hendricks. But his is a more instinctive intelligence. He thinks about baseball constantly, I believe, so there is no situation that arises in a game that he hasn't pondered at some point. But I also believe that how Bryant and Hendricks view it is somewhat different. I think they go in more aware of the flaws in their games. They try to determine how best to cover the flaws in their games. I think Javy imagines what he will do and it never occurs to him that he might not succeed. I don't see it as arrogance/cockiness. I don't think he believes he has no flaws. He is too knowledgeable about baseball to believe that. But he seems to stop at "but I will succeed," rather than contemplating how a pitcher will pitch to him he seems to want his athleticism and talent simply overwhelm the situation. To his credit, more often than for most people, it will.

    But as I said above, that very knowledge, that ability, that undying belief in himself might be his greatest strength, but it might also be his kryptonite...or I might just feel literary this morning.

  • Thanks Michael. There are special athletes who see the field of play and anticipate in real time the actions of the game. Comparisons are players like Larry Bird, Isiah Thomas, both of whom coaches told me of their special nature, but one could place in the same Gale Sayers, Billy Sims, Bret Farve, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Wayne Gretzky, Pele, Beckham, there are probably others, though baseball doesn't offer the kind of dynamic action like the other sports in simultaneous ways that the other team sports do. It is called reading the field of play and instantly and intuitively making decisions or initiating a play. I think catching defensively could offer the most opportunities but Baez on the IF and base running sees the game much faster as the play snagging Puig is prime. Translating to the plate is the final phase special special player.

  • In reply to rnemanich:

    I agree wholeheartedly. His base running has amazed, his flashing of leather hasn’t been seen since the days of Willie Montenez, and the bat is pure Gary Sheffield. He is the player I most love to watch.

  • Waiting for the "Unrelenting Confidence in Jed Lowrie" article, Michael.

    Very cool write up. No one doubts the talent - Baez has more of it than almost anybody in the world. You've seen more of him than probably anyone here. Gun to your head, honest answer - do you think he ever figures out the plate discipline issue? I don't mean maintain a 12% BB or anything like that. Just dialing it back on swinging at literally everything. Because that's the difference between the league average hitter that he's been through his career, and someone who is 40-50% better than a league average hitter.

  • In reply to Kramerica20:

    I've always leaned more toward a Alfonso Soriano type offensive player than the Manny Ramirez comp Maddon throws on him. Manny was always pretty patient and composed as a hitter. Soriano isn't a perfect comp due to the defense and other things, but I do think there are always going to be stretches where Javy gets into "swing at everything" and be susceptible to the slider away like Sori was.

    The key will be how long those stretches last. If he can cut them down to a week or two rather than a month, I will be extraordinarily happy. He does that and he becomes a consistent 30+ HR and .300 hitter.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    I can see the Sori comparison but I don't know if I like it...
    Sori was susceptible to the low slider because his bat weighed about 50 oz. So he had to start his swing early, and once the slider started to break he was already committed. Baez seems more like he's determined to swing before the ball leaves the pitcher's hand.
    Javy probably gets to 30 HR this year, and I wouldn't be surprised if he sniffed .300 this year as well. Yeah, the consistency is key. I want to believe... I just think discipline is such a sticking point as far as the reason guys fail to reach their potential.

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    In reply to Michael Ernst:

    Michael, even with a "gun to your head"--who says we don't take these discussions seriously?--you give a very good and reasoned answer and I respect that. I have often said when I hear or give a "comp" I do not consider it to be "These players are identical." Nor do I think it means that these two players, in their entirety, are similar. That being said I can get behind the Soriano comp. Sori was a very good player who never figured out how to lay off the slider low and away for an extended period of time. Like you said with Baez, if he just shortens his cold stretches and lengthens his hot ones he could be special.

  • In reply to Kramerica20:

    I think we'll see more sustained runs of good javy and less of the bad javy where it looks like he's guessing what pitch is coming. Don't think he'll ever have a high walk rate but I think he has a chance to get in that 5-6% range if I'm being optimistic but I think his average can really take a step forward if his plate discipline is just more consistent. He shows signs of an improving approach at times before reverting back to his swing at everything approach. One other thing I'll say about baez that I love as well is he seems to play his best baseball in big games against great teams. I know he's given certain teams like the dodgers, giants, and nationals fits in recent years.

  • In reply to Kramerica20:

    Your question "do you think he ever figures out the plate discipline issue?" is what I wanted to address before going off on my previous rant.

    I do think he figures it out. You said not to the 12% BB range, and I've always said probably not to the 10% BB range. He'll never walk much, he is too aggressive. His damage will be by hitting the ball, and I believe he will hit the ball more consistently.

    We all rave about his baseball instincts, yet complain about his plate discipline. How can such an intelligent player not see what is so obvious to the world? I think he sees it but hasn't matured to the point of fixing it. I think he will.

    I hate using this comparison, but I think it illustrates my point. Barry Bonds was the best player in baseball for over a decade. He knew it. It was natural and easy. Then he saw what McGuire and Sosa did, and the attention and admiration they received. It made him jealous and he decided to act. The rest is head-expanding, record-breaking, making-a-mockery-of-baseball-tradition history.

    I'm certainly not suggesting Javy go the BALCO route, just hinting that switch is about to go off. I've often said that sometimes these kids with such tremendous natural ability can be slow to develop. They've always been the best, and it has always come so easily. I'm not suggesting Javy doesn't try, just that he has always "played" baseball, and hasn't had to really "work" at it. We have seen some of that work in the past couple seasons, such as simplifying his hitting mechanics, so we know the desire is there.

    Like Bonds, I think that Javy will get jealous, or selfish, or whatever you want to call it, and that will motivate him to change. He will admit to the one flaw that the whole world sees is keeping him from obtaining elite status, and he will finally work to fixing it. It make take pride and jealousy to get there, but he will tire of being just "good". He enjoys the spotlight, the big stage, and will realize it is only his stubbornness keeping him from reaching the pinnacle of his profession.

    He will get there. He will be a superstar. He will be an MVP.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    I have been one who says "he's not going to change." I'll hold to that, because he hasn't shown one spec of a glimpse of a good approach, ever in his career. That's not to say he won't get better. He IS better, right now. And it's also not to say I won't jump to eat crow if he does figure it out. I love Baez. The idea of a Baez with even decent discipline is drool-inducing.
    I will say, I don't think he ever figures out the discipline aspect. But if anyone is going to figure it out and jump to the next level, it's going to be Baez. He has made adjustments, made major improvements, and proven people wrong at literally every professional level. At the end of the discussion, who am I to say he won't do it again?

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    In reply to BarleyPop:

    Superstar? Maybe. I could see him being a 4-5 fWAR player at his peak. I can even imagine him maintaining that for a couple years. I will be surprised if he isn't a multi-time All-Star, likely a deserving starter.

    Baez is in the unusual position. We have many here who rave about his contribution to the team. When I watch him play he certainly looks critical to success when he is in one of his hot streaks. But somehow, when I look him up in fangraphs he has a passable BA, a marginal OBP, an outstanding SLG...and that is about it.

    I know many say he is why the eye-test is superior to looking at his numbers. I still say the opposite might be true. He might be an example of where the eye test can mislead us into believing he is more critical than he is, or a bigger contributor than he is.

    *ducks around corner for safety.*

  • I give you a lot of credit Michael because Javy maybe my favorite player as well and I passionately backed him up to friends even after his awful rookie stint which I frankly expected given his slow starts at every level he was promoted to. But I've been reading this site since before we hired Theo and throughout the years you have passionately been in Baez's corner since day 1 through thick and thin when many less educated cub fans on other sites especially were ready to write him off saying his K rate is historic, blah, blah...I truly believe Javy is the type of player you almost can't trade. He does so many things on the field that just brings a certain energy and excitement to the group that in my view you can't quantify by numbers and to me trading Baez would almost change the identity of this team if that makes sense. I love watching Javy and I can't wait to see him more as he approaches his prime I for one don't think we've seen the end to his progression as a player especially regarding his jekyll and hyde approach at the plate.

  • In reply to kkhiavi:

    Baez being untradeable is an interesting thought. I thought about this during the game last night actually. I certainly think there are probably trades to be had involving Baez where you acquire more value than what you give up. But can the FO trade him?
    I remember one scouting pundit (maybe Keith Law?) was asked about Lindor vs Baez back when they were in the minors. He responded, "Lindor can be an all-star. Baez could be a religion." He certainly has become that among Cubs fans. Not to say the FO would ever consider a move based on what the fans want, but the backlash from Cub nation after a Baez trade would be devastating. You're right, he has come to embody the Cubs in a way.

  • In reply to Kramerica20:

    There were many, many, many, MANY times over the years here where I had to restrain myself from responding to every ridiculous TRADE JAVY post made by people.

    My favorite reply to a TRADE JAVY comment was this one from May 12th of 2014:
    "Trade Javy? Sigh. I really thought we were done with that. I know, Javy Baez is terrible and never making it out of A ball and Emilio Bonifacio is the leadoff hitter we have all been searching for our whole lives. Its a month into the season. Isn’t it far more likely that Javy is still awesome and Bonifacio is still just a bench guy?"

    My prognosticating is not always spot on, but there was one view I always fell back on and was pretty adamant about whenever people were worried about the team becoming "too right handed" or whatever else, I was always the guy pointing out the Soler would be the first to go. If I am going to pat myself on the back about anything it was that call. Here is one from 2015:
    "I just really hope to see Bryant-Russell-Baez-Rizzo around the infield, with Schwarber behind the plate or in LF. Find some veteran left handed OFs to fill out the last two spots. I think that gives this team the best chance to win moving forward."
    - or you know... the lineup that won us a WS.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    Emilio Bonifacio. There's a blast from the not-too-distant past. Ah 2011-2014, when Rizzo and Castro were the only players you had to pay any attention to for an entire game.

  • In reply to Kramerica20:

    He was the new Neifi Perez. Because of one good month to start his Cubs career we were forced to watch terrible play for far too long afterwards.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    Hahaha Neifi Perez. That guy was a full time starter who produced -3 WAR for his career. Does anyone remember his extra inning grand slam in St Louis, down the RF line? Sunday night game on ESPN.
    I remember that first Bonifacio week. I think he went 5-6 in his first or second game. Talk about the BABIP dragon... never seen so many jam shot squeakers reach the OF grass.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    That sounds like the guy who hit three homers on opening day!

  • In reply to KJRyno:

    Tuffy Rhodes. Guy hit 13 MLB HR, and 3 came in one opening day.
    Then he went to Japan and hit 464 HR.

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    In reply to Michael Ernst:

    That wasn't the line-up that won the WS. Schwarber was a DH and not in LF or behind the plate...though I admit you were pretty accurate on the rest. LOL.

  • Whoa, Tigers fired Bosio for insensitive comments.

  • In reply to wastrel:

    He said the 74 year old who threw out the 1st pitch yesterday has better stuff than the staff here in Detroit.

    LOL.

  • In reply to wastrel:

    Two years in a row. Is there another team willing to hire him?

  • In reply to John57:

    Bosio never had a verbal filter. I recall listening to him on radio interviews when he would disclose things he wasn't supposed to. In late 2016 I was listening when he said Contreras was working behind-the-scenes with Arrieta and Lester in preparation for the postseason. I immediately commented on here, and the Cubs weren't thrilled about that info being leaked.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    I also heard that he can be stubborn, hard headed and difficult to work with. Sharp guy but he has his flaws as an employee being known as borderline overly competitive. I'm surprised his tenure ended so quickly but not surprised he's having more issues like this.

  • Michael, I appreciate the trip down memory lane. Your description basically reminds of how I came to Cubs Den (not that I post much).

    Javy truly is must see TV. His cold stretches are getting shorter, and even keeping a low level of productivity as opposed to 3 weeks of golden sombrero's.

    For me, I look for 2 things in Javy at the plate. When he's laying off those outside sliders off the plate, and not pulling off the pitches on the outer half, good things follow.

    I love that pick of Javy jumping into the stands in Miami. I was at that game in 2016. I remember, the night before my flight got in, and didn't got to the Thursday night game. But I was with a friend (non-Cub fan) and my brother, and we were watching the game on TV. He says to me "You must be excited to see a good Cubs team". As I'm Toronto based, I don't get to many games, and don't think I'd seen one since 2014. The next comment is, "You must be excited to Bryant". I said "Not really, I'm more excited to see Baez." At the time he was a part time player. I tried to explain how although Bryant is really good, he's more of a steady guy, and how Baez everything Baez does is exciting. 2 minutes later on the TV, was the play were Baez slide to grab a ball, deflected it 15 feet straight into the air. Caught it bare handed and rifled the ball across the field from his butt (the runner was called out, but it got overturned in review). Still just an incredible thing to see.

  • Surprised about Bosio getting fired in Detroit.

  • After losing a catcher and struggling to finish out the game the Royals finally do hold on to win by the slimmest of margins! Yippee.

  • In reply to KJRyno:

    Reds beat the braves 2 out of 3. They face the brewers for a 4 game series starting tomorrow. Hope they stay on fire

  • Baez is he catalyst to the 2018 cubs. Period

    Bryzzo been underwhelming to say the least(rizzo had a great may)

    Day one baez fans are very proud.Great article

  • In reply to bolla:

    The Bryzzo Souvenir Company is under threat of a hostile take over from the Schwarbaez Inc.

  • Does it have to be either/or with any of our players? I am a Schwarber fan because he does some phenomenal things with his bat. I am a Baez fan because he does some phenomenal things with his bat, his baserunning and his fielding. Same thing with Bryant, Rizzo and others. This is a golden age to be a Cub fan and for some commenters here it's still not good enough. The old farts like me who have seen too many bad teams with too many bad players will definitely agree with me for sure. Even on their bad days most of the current players are head and shoulders above many of the players on past Cubs teams. My advice is to enjoy this team and these players for as long as they are hete.

  • Agreed 100% Tommy and I for one appreciate the young talent that we have developed. They're not perfect but frankly I think every single one of them have bright futures ahead of them. These kids are all going to have long successful careers and I think at times we have to be patient and understand they all have flaws and it's typical for young players to face adversity against big league pitching even for superstars like machado or Bryce Harper.

  • Amen to that!

  • Michael, a few thoughts:

    1) Great article! Don't worry about feeling like you are patting yourself on the back. It took strong conviction to support Baez over the years as much as you did. He is a player that continues to amaze and he is only 25!

    2) I read John's articles you linked in this post. It was fun to go back and read them again. Reading the comments from his articles from three/four years ago was really fun. I enjoyed seeing again the names of those who posted all the time and now don't post anymore.

    3) You mentioned Hoosier Daddy's support of Baez was similar to your support. I enjoyed HDs posts. Where is he by the way? I wish he'd post again.

    4) I miss reading John's thoughts on the Cubs. I never met him, but the way he managed/led this site impacted me. I could tell he was a good man and if I knew him I wouldn't of been surprised if we'd become friends.

  • In reply to David23:

    Thanks David.

    I actually found myself going through some of John's old articles as a result of this as well. His personality did come through in his writing, so I'm sure you would have liked him had you ever had the chance to meet him.

  • In reply to David23:

    I miss Hoosier Daddy too. Always enjoyed his comments.

  • Loved this Michael. I will only note that the record should reveal that no one has posted more effusive pro-Javy comments than me. You had plenty of actual analysis. I was just more of a big time fan, saying early and often things like:

    "Javy is my guy"

    "I hate when Javy is not in the line up"

    "Put Javy in the clean up spot and leave him there for the next ten years"

    "Javy is the most exciting player since Clemente"

    "Javy is my favorite Cub of all time"

    "JAVY! JAVY! JAVY!"

    And so many people were so wrong about him. So many were ready to trade him since he got here, including so many saying let's trade him for pitching

    Your certainly entitled to an I told you so. I'm happy to say that I am too. So are a number of others cause we were not alone. And, BTW, where is momtofuturecubs. She too loved Javy. I miss her.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to TTP:

    Man, blast from the past. I haven't read from momtofuturecubs in a long time. And Michael brings up HoosierDaddy. I think he was one of Javy's biggest supporters early on too.

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    What is going on with Kyle H? He was so precise and this year he's off by an inch or so and now walks too many and way too many HRs.

  • I, who worship walks and walk-takers, don't really care if Javy ever takes another walk. But I do really care if Javy forces pitchers into the zone (or zone-area), because Javy PUNISHES pitches there. But every MLB pitcher with minimal intelligence and skills knows that, because Javy is so aggressive and skilled, there is no need (and in fact it is especially dangerous) to throw him pitches anywhere near the zone, especially with two strikes.

    I suspect that mentally Javy views walks as a wasted PA. As soon as he flips the switch to seeing walks as FORCING PITCHERS INTO THE ZONE, thus playing into his hands, he will be very special indeed. Can't wait for that to happen.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to wthomson:

    I wonder if he views them as a wasted PA too. My other theory is that he is mortified at the thought of striking out looking.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    That too.

    For an aggressive hitter, that is a strict no-no. But if he took a called third now and then, I believe that pitchers would notice and come into the zone more often.

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    In reply to wthomson:

    I posted a couple weeks ago that Davis or Maddon should offer to pay Baez $100 if he gets the count to 3-2 and then takes the next pitch. Tell him that, for the purposes of evaluating him, they will disregard a strike-out. And see what happens.

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    Better up the ante--he probably makes more than you or me.

  • fb_avatar

    Any chance we can get a re-hash of a previous Den article? "5 years ago on this date here is what we said..."

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    We were talking about Matt Garza trade rumors on this date 5 years ago:
    http://www.chicagonow.com/cubs-den/2013/06/cubs-rumor-thread-cubs-scouting-jays-nats-heavily-both-teams-saw-garzas-dominant-start/

    Also, IFA rumors (Torres/Jimenez/Moreno):
    http://www.chicagonow.com/cubs-den/2013/06/cubs-minor-notes-trio-of-promotions-paul-blackburn-cubs-in-on-columbian-pitcher/

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    In reply to Michael Ernst:

    Do I just need to keep scrolling down or is there a way to jump to a date or something like that?

    These links are GREAT!

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    There is unfortunately no way for you to jump to a date that I know of. I have a bit better search capabilities as an editor, but frankly even mine are a bit limited.

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    In reply to Michael Ernst:

    It is really fun to read these. One post proposed keeping Feldmann, Garza and Samardzija as a core of a good rotation. Why didn't we do that?

  • In reply to Joel Mayer:

    Probably the same people that wanted to extend Travis Wood for like 6 years.

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    In reply to Michael Ernst:

    Guilty.

  • Thank you Michael. I am in a similar mindset as you, having seen Javy in the minors and believing he would be a major factor in taking the Cubs out of the doldrums of early 2010s Cub failures. The more I watched him, the more he became (as he still is) my favorite player.

    My defense of Javy defense spread beyond just blogs (and I am sure you have many similar stories). Friends demanding we trade him for a BOR starter or middle reliever "as soon as possible, before he loses all trade value". I just couldn't understand how people who knew as much as or, in many cases, significantly more about baseball than me could miss his talents.

    He can be infuriating with his strike zone management and universally aggressive swings that sometimes seem inappropriate for the situation. But I love the value he brings, both in traditional production and his unique way of finding opportunities and plays that nobody else sees. I regularly state (and credit you for) a phrase you've said multiple times that I find irrepressibly true....baseball is more fun when Javy Baez is playing.

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