Ok, hear me out. And be patient. If you look at WAR generated by plate appearance – yes. Javier Baez IS better than Ben Zobrist. And Addison Russell with 100 less opportunities. (And Jake Arrieta is the most offensively productive batter the Cubs have.)
Evan Altman has a really good piece out today about Javy Baez’s improved batting statistics in contrast to some weird peripherals. Javy has improved potential but is weirdly inconsistent, we get that. But intentional or not, it hits close to the same vibe I’ve heard elsewhere that Javy is not a reliable offensive weapon because he has streaks where he thinks he’s John Daley. And I think that is foolish.
I made an observation earlier in the week that Javier ranks FOURTH in the National League in Total Zone Runs at third base, directly behind Kris Bryant who ranks THIRD. This despite having about half the innings (274 vs 511) as KB. I’m not sure what his ESPN Web Gem appearance totals are yet, but I’m guessing he may have surpassed Sparkles there.
But the short changing of Javy’s offensive production by some miff’s me not a little. Especially when the try and apply saber-metric regression analysis to a player intentionally called up early – who missed nearly a year in development – and KEEPS improving every time someone concludes he will never be disciplined a the plate. These are the same people who dismissed Jake Arrieta and Daniel Murphy by their “historical” numbers claiming they would never become more than average producers, some even predicting they’d peaked.
What statistics can’t necessarily reflect is potential that is unrealized due to a lack of knowledge or learned behaviors. Including discipline. Ben Zobrist offensive production (right in wOBA) didn’t stabilize until his fifth or sixth year. While starting out at similar production to Zobrist in his first year, Baez has ALREADY adjusted continuously upward without “settling” his shorter swing approach as a daily (not Daley) mindset. With the acknowledged work ethic and baseball IQ universally attributed to Mr. Baez, why are we assuming that his skill level has yet shown us a baseline? Zobrist maintains his productivity IN SPITE of a degradation of physical skills. And Baez has continued to increase despite some of the WORST life situations he’s had to battle through.
The point is, his development has not fit that of the typical prospect. And his MENTAL maturity – according to multiple sources – is just this year beginning to be realized. Joe Maddon has said as much which I show below.
Sure, he’s been swinging for the fences the past week. But his ability to be disciplined (at the plate or by big brother Manny) isn’t going away. And as you can see by WAR production per every 100 plate appearances, he ALREADY is nearly as OFFENSIVELY productive as Addison with 113 less plate appearances. And as Joe has said now many times, Javier is one of the best infielders in the entire MLB.
A lot of attention has been given to Maddon’s comment that Javy is a “game changer on defense.” What they have missed is something MORE telling:
“If you watch (Robinson) Cano on defense, there’s not a tense muscle in his body. I think when you watch Javy play defense, there’s not a tense anything in anything that he does.
“Offensively, that’s where the loose, whippy approach is. Put your scout’s cap on, man. In a couple years, it’s going to be really fun.”
Joe Maddon – who WAS a scout for a time – is telling you something. We haven’t remotely begun to see Javy’s offensive potential.