Javier Baez and His Fellow Rookies Pave Way For Cubs

Javier Baez and His Fellow Rookies Pave Way For Cubs

We now return to our regularly schedule Javier Baez programming, already in progress...

The Cubs had three rookies in the starting lineup when they faced the Rockies on Thursday afternoon, and that's really all they needed to cruise to a 6-2 series-clinching win.

Arismendy Alcantara started things off in the 2nd inning, singling home Justin Ruggiano before one of the other rookies, his name escapes me, drove Chris Valaika home in the 3rd with a single of his own. All the while, Kyle Hendricks was cruising, getting in front of Rockies hitters and avoiding free passes.

Hendricks might not throw hard, but he works fast. He doesn't dawdle on the mound and he doesn't try to get cute. For my money, I'll take a guy who knows how to pitch over one with million dollar stuff and a ten-cent head any day of the week. And I'll certainly take 3-1

But let's be honest, there's really only one player everyone's going to be talking about: Javier Freaking Baez. In case you're wondering, I'm starting a petition to have him drop the "Ednel," move "Javier" to the front and insert "Freaking." I think it'll play.

I was listening to the game when the first #JavyBomb dropped, though Pat Hughes' trepidation as to the ball's fairness prevented him from being all that excited. Nevertheless, he and Ron Coomer used some superlatives in their description of the blast.

For what it's worth, Starlin Castro's encore shot received more fanfare on the radio call.

But upon getting home and seeing a replay, I realized that Pat's subdued call may have resulted from an inability to see the ball at all. Rather than make a home run call as he tracked the flight of the hit, I think Pat was forced to improvise. No sooner had the ball left Javy's bat than it was landing well beyond the leftfield fence.

Outside of the existence of a wormhole somewhere in the mountain air, I am at a loss to explain how a baseball could travel that far that fast. Javy swung, the ball was launched up into the sky, and then it landed. Pretty simple when you think about it that way.

And perhaps the existence of an anomaly of space and time is apropos, because to watch the act take place, to witness the violent explosion of sinew and ash, is to see into the future. One can imagine what will happen as Baez continues to mature as a baseball player. Good for Cubs fans, bad for opposing pitchers.

But Javy was content with just one. No, he was quick to go back to the future with a sequel in the 8th, an absolute laser to right center that failed to achieve the rain-making height of his first two, but was impressive in its Spartan effectiveness. At first the ball didn't appear to have the distance, but then you saw it bouncing around in the bullpen.

Baez entered the majors a walking hyperbole and has only fueled the hype machine in his three games thus far. Now he and his fellow youngsters are paving the way forward for the Cubs, taking fans someplace most of them have never been. Roads? Where we're going...we don't need roads.

Soon enough, we'll get to see what guys like Jorge Soler and Kris Bryant can do too, but for now we can all hold hands and sing "Feliz Javydad." Or perhaps you'd prefer "Javy Nagila." But no matter how you celebrate, it's great to be able to get excited about Cubs baseball again.


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  • Pretty exciting game. I'm going to resist oh'ing and ah'ing over Baez because that's all Cubs fans Achilles heel. We way overvalue hard-throwing pitchers and fence-swinging sluggers, especially when young and with unlimited promise. That said, I can't help being impress by another rookie: Kyle Hendricks. Even including Baez's offense, he was the most impressive player on the field today. A complete players in all phases. super cool on defense. Yet another bunt. 8 innings. Missing more bats than a pitcher supposedly with too few plus pitches is supposed to be able to achieve. Pitching inside. Changing speeds expertly. Showing all those "brain dead heavers" (as Greg Maddux puts it) how to pitch deep and efficiently into a game. And no home runs despite the altitude.

    And if you combine his minor league and major league innings, he'd have pitched the second most innings of any Cubs pitchers -- behind only Samardzija (if you combine his Oak and Cubs innings). Not bad for a pitcher who some say has a ceiling no higher than a No. 5 starter. But those people forget what a TRUE quality start is: pitching deep into games, inducing easy outs, and limiting base runners. It's not all about radar gun readings and K's per 9 innings.

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    In reply to SkitSketchJeff:

    I think you're right on, Jeff. I would say that Hendricks could be more of a 3-type on a good rotation. I like that he doesn't mess around out there, which is something I wish more pitchers did. These guys with such great stuff often use it as a crutch, hoping that hitters will swing at bad pitches. Look at a guy like Marmol, just to use an easy target: his stuff was electric, so much so that he couldn't control it.

    A lot of guys can throw hard, but not as many can really pitch. Hendricks is truly a pitcher and I love that he's a strike-thrower. He's a smart kid and has the wherewithal to stick around for quite a while.

    That said, I disagree that he was more impressive than Baez. Javy is not just another player who can hit the ball really far; if he was, then we'd make comps to the Rockies 1B coach. This kid has got "it," as amorphous as that might be. There's something special there that the great ones have. Whether he can reach that potential has yet to be seen, but there's certainly something to his game.

  • In reply to Evan Altman:

    I don't slight Baez's 3-for-4 day. It's always super thrilling for fans who want the instant rush of a bomb ("chicks dig the long ball"), and I did pause to watch his ABs. But Hendricks had me watching his every pitch as he regularly baffled the Rockies into weak ground balls. If the truism that pitching wins championships is right, then a no-home-run dominant 8-inning pitching performance at high altitudes is far more impressive in my book than two bombs that padded our leads. And if Hendricks had a little better infield defense behind him in the 6th, his pitch count would have been even lower and could have given him a chance to go for the Cubs' first complete game of the year.

    But "star of the game" is all relative. How nice to have a couple quality nominees to chose from, for once.

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    In reply to SkitSketchJeff:

    Well said. And both rookies, at that. Pretty nice to think that Castro and Rizzo, at 24, are the elder statesmen of this team.

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    I'm pretty giddy right now. The last few days have reminded me of when I was 11 and knew I would be a cubs fan for life. Watching the cubs catch fire in 2003. I remember watching every game during the playoffs on the only tv we had cable on. Seeing the emotion build as they won game after game. That crowd! I was hooked. There was so much passion from the crowd during that Miami series it was almost palpable. I also remember crying pretty much all night when they lost games 6 and 7. I'm happy for fans like my grandpa who have been waiting their whole life for what we are gonna see the next 5 years. I know I am probably overreacting but I don't care.

  • Baez, First Rookie to hit 3 HR's in his first three games since some guy named Cunningham I believe back in the 50's..........

    now think of all the talk about rookie players who came along since that time who never did that.......Trout....Strawberry.....McGwire.........Lynn.........Pujols.......

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    I'm cautiously buying the Javier hype and will wait and see on Hendricks.

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    In reply to TheRiot2:

    I think Hendricks is the real deal. His velo is nothing to write home about, but that also means he's got to get by on guile and not stuff. That also means that he's less impacted by issues that plague those more dynamic pitchers. Also means he'll probably hold up longer, and being durable is nearly as important as being good.

  • In reply to Evan Altman:

    Hendricks reminds me a bit of a right-handed Mark Buerhle. If he can keep it up, he could possibly have a nice little career.

  • The jury is still out on Hendricks. How many RHP throwing 89 are effective MLB starters? Not many. Does it mean he can't be one? No, but let's see how he does once guys start to see him more than once and there's more of a scouting report on him. Junior Lake looked great when he first came up and I think we know how that turned out.

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    In reply to cubsker:

    About all of them up until about 05' considering that was the mlb average for starters. 89 mph is about 2 mph less than 2014 average, however... there has been about 400+ Tommy John surgeries since 2000, and the majority were for guys that throw +92mph. I'll take a guy who throws 89 with movement and control all day long over a guy on the DL. Also, you can't compare a position player with a pitcher.

  • I don't really need to compare. There are tons of guys who initially succeed at the MLB level and then come back to Earth once the league makes adjustments to them. It's a hard fact that velocity is the number one determinant of the ability to get swings and misses, which is the number one determinant of successful pitchers.

    There are a couple of things that are heavily into Hendricks favor of being a successful pitcher - his ability to bunt and his ability to field his position well. Pretty awesome writeup on Mark Buehrle from grantland that got into some of this, thought the other big factor cited was the ability to control the running game: http://grantland.com/features/mark-buehrle-surprising-success/

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