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March 2017

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COMMENTS

Seriously, What Do We Do About Javy Baez?

Written by , Posted in General

Spring training is rolling right along, and I have enjoyed watching the stars and the prospects intermingle and get ready for the regular season. The loss of Dexter Fowler, Jorge Soler, Jason Hammell, and others this offseason stings a little bit because it’s never fun to lose championship team members; but, I think the Cubs will be just as good, if not better, this year.

Aside: the over/under in Vegas on Cubs wins this year is 95.5. I know we’re all sorta homers here, but you have to take the over on that if you’re betting, right? Barring catastrophic injury, 96 wins seems pretty inevitable.

Anyway, all of that to say, as spring training continues, I still am hung up on what the Cubs are going to do about Javy Baez.

I need to be clear up front: I am a big fan of Baez, especially after the 2016 season. I thought he really calmed down at the plate and matured as a baseball player last year.

The big issue with Baez has always been in regard to his plate discipline, or his actually lack thereof. In 2014, in 52 games with the Cubs, Baez struck out 42%(!) of the time. Last year, he struck out just 24% of the time.

I make no claims to be as smart as Joe, Theo, Jed, or any of the stat wonks the Cubs have working in the front office. But I have to write an article, and there still isn’t a whole lot to talk about yet. So, here’s the conundrum I’m working through:

The Cubs have said the following is true:

  • Jason Heyward is the right fielder.
  • Jon Jay and Albert Almora are going to platoon in center field.
  • Ben Zobrist is the second baseman.
  • Javy Baez will play a “super utility” role.

Now, save me the conversation about how, “We have so many good players, the lineup is probably going to be different every day,” discussion. I get it. It’s not like Baez isn’t going to play.

But, why would Jay or Almora be considered “starters” instead of Baez being considered a starter?

My point is this: why does it make more sense to have Baez on the bench than Heyward in center, Zobrist in right, and Baez at second?

I mean, for goodness’ sake, people:

Two players on the Cubs can make that play: Addison Russell and Baez.

That, combined with Baez’s speed, power, and supreme tagging ability has to make a case for him to be something more than a “super utility” player, right?

Take a look at the list of Cubs position players below. I’ve added little stars next to the players in question:

Screen_Shot_2017_02_27_at_3_25_33_PM

All I am saying is that, considering Baez leads Jay and Almora in a number of categories, including the all-encompassing WAR, it would make sense for him to be considered a full-time starter instead of Jay or Almora.

“But,” you may say, “Your silly little plan requires moving Heyward from right to center, which wouldn’t be good for him.”

I’ll take my chances. He was supposed to play center field for the Cubs last season until Fowler surprised everyone and showed up at camp. So why is it all of a sudden a bad idea to move him over?

If moving Heyward from right to center is what it takes to get Baez at second base as much as humanly possible, I don’t know why the Cubs would avoid doing that.

Then, when Zobrist needs a day off, or Heyward wants to play some right, stick Almora or Jay in center or right, and as often as is humanly possible: leave Baez at second base.

I fully trust the Cubs decision-makers here, who know far better than I do about who should be playing where and how much.

I just don’t get how we sit Baez and play Almora/Jay with any regularity.

Please tell me I’m wrong, because I’m sure I am somehow.

  • Sherm

    Maybe they are are afraid that moving Heyward to CF will affect his offensive production. Oh, wait…

    Agree on Javy. He’s a weapon in too many ways. Needs to be playing, not watching. And needs to be more than a validation of the Maddon-esque quirkiness factor…

    • Eddie Von White

      Good to see your smiling face again Sherm. As far as I’m concerned Heyward can start on the bench until he proves himself worthy otherwise. Baez’ talent brings so much more than just a starting position.

      • You mean triangling.

      • JTBarrett16

        Agreed 100%. Baez and Heyward are probably the best gloves on the team, but Heyward’s offense is so bad that his glove doesn’t make up for it. Even though Baez is not necessarily the best hitter he can be, he hits enough for his glove to make up for his deficiencies on offense.

    • cap’n realist

      I couldn’t agree more. The only thing that makes sense is that with Heyward in center and Zo in right you’re asking Heyward to cover center AND (let’s face it)an enormous percentage of left field with Schwarber plodding around over there. At least with Jay/Almora in CF and Heyward in RF, you can swing both of them around to cover the uncovered area of left center. 83 jacks come at a defensive price, kids.

      • chrismartin17

        This is a fair point. Having Jay/Almora and Heyward in outfield instead of Zob does give us more coverage out there.

      • Having Heyward in center and Zo in right forces Heyward to cover an enormous percentage of left field AND right field because (and please forgive me because I like him a lot) Zobrist is not a right fielder by any stretch of the imagination. He can barely handle left.

      • chrismartin17

        Yes, also fair.

  • Allan Birmantas

    Almora is a plus defensive center fielder, and it’s really that simple. They simply have too many good players.

  • Adam Peters

    I’ve said this many times, but either no one is listening or no believes me. Whatever the case may be:

    ZOBRIST IS NO RIGHT FIELDER.

    • Eddie Von White

      WHAT??!!

  • Doc Raker

    Why not play Baez in CF or RF and sit Heyward, Jay or Almora? One thing we know, line ups do not stay with Joe Maddon if they do not work. I think Heyward is on a short leash in 2017. I saw him hit a warning track fly ball yesterday on a belt high cookie. I thought he got all of it, a strong wind was blowing out and it only reached the wall. I thought it was going to leave the yard but Heyward just doesn’t seem to have power in his swing. How does a guy with his size and apparent strength not have power in his swing? in the words of Harry Carey, “I just don’t understand”

    • Eddie Von White

      Yes, but what would Bryan Adams sing about that?

      • Jerry in Wisconsin

        Eddie Von Adams

      • Sherm

        Nothing worth listening to…

      • Adam Peters

        Cuts like a knife.

      • cap’n realist

        Bryan Adams is taking over the comments and I, for one, am loving it.

      • JTBarrett16

        Do you have any of his CDs? Or music downloaded if that’s how you roll

      • Sherm

        He has every 8-track

      • Jerry in Wisconsin

        So does my son!

      • cap’n realist

        I have CD’s, downloads, and a concert t-shirt that I am absolutely wearing in San Diego this year. The reason for the shirt is 2-fold. To annoy Sherm and to set an example by WEARING a shirt to CAPS.

      • Worthy endeavor.

      • Sherm

        He’s wrong about that. Where annoying is concerned? I’m a carrier.

      • I should have clarified. I meant keeping CAPS dressed. Big Toe Joe had way too much fun texting me pictures of that. No need for a repeat.

      • Sherm

        I knew that – my eyes still burn from the memory.

        I’d wear a Brien Addams t shirt…as long as I don’t have to LISTEN to the guy. I’m a big fan of obscure t shirts.

      • Adam Peters

        This thread has gotten really Reckless. Reminds me of that One Night Love Affair I had back in the Summer of ’69.

      • Chad Hoy

        dammit, Adam

      • Adam Peters

        😉

      • JTBarrett16

        I’m set to go to SD for the Padres series. I’m going to be booking my flight and rental car soon

      • JTBarrett16

        I just learned Bryan Adams is Canadian. I’m downloading some of his music right now

      • Sherm

        Use Canadian dollars – on ehTunes?

      • cap’n realist

        Sherm von Mackenzie

      • JTBarrett16

        I like your thinking. Especially with a weak Canadian dollar right now.

      • Eddie Von White

        You’re welcome.

  • We run him out to 2B. Next question.

    • Doug S.

      No muss, no fuss – Swanson cuts straight to the chase.

      • Sherm

        You mean Hataskew Fontenanson? (sounds like a Canadian territory)

        He’s right, though. Javier Baez starts – and STAYS – at 2B (or SS) on any team in MLB…except this one. (I know, this ONE is the defending WS champion…save it.) He’s growing in skill and smarts each season. Let Zobrist be the super sub – he’s at the tail end of a stellar career – Baez is at the very beginning of one.

        What worked last year doesn’t HAVE to be the same strategy as this year. As the young guys develop, you have to give them what they need to get them to the next level. Baez needs to play a position, day in and out, and to be allowed to be the best in the business at that position…which he very likely will be.

        For the record, I’d rather see Baez bat leadoff than Schwarber, too. I know that hasn’t been popular here – but I think he’ll continue to adapt at the plate. He’ll have moments where he’s wild…but he’ll have moments of genius, too, and has shown he can bunt for a hit, hit for power, run…a lot of things I want my leadoff hitter to do. I also don’t want Schwarber to feel any PRESSURE to try to stretch singles into doubles. I just want him healthy for a year, please.

        While I’m at it? I still prefer KB batting third. I know, I know…more at bats, blah blah blah. I think the numbers will show that the team who scores MORE runs in the first inning wins more games than the team who’s best hitter has more at bats. Are you telling me that Baez, Zobrist, Bryant, Rizzo and Schwarber – as a 1 – 5 isn’t ridiculous to face? Followed by Russell who is also ready to bust it open as a hitter? Then Contreras? Holy Shit.

      • JTBarrett16

        I can’t believe the amount of talent this team has. I wish MLB allowed you to trade draft picks. We could leverage our embarrassment of riches for them to build a long-term winner. Ricketts is right. We should be like the Patriots or Spurs.

        I don’t know if I want Baez as my 1 hitter just yet. But Zobrist is perfect as the 2 hitter.

      • Doug S.

        Please, no more patriots talk – I’m sick of those @$$#0£€$

      • Doug S.

        Hataskew Fontenanson?
        Love it.

      • maybe I should flip the triangle.. we did win the WS

    • Jerry in Wisconsin

      I agree with you, but I believe that the Maddon is worried that every time Javy is given something he starts swinging for the moon, therefore he wants to keep Javy hungry. I believe just keep him at 2nd, and every time he starts to slump sit him for a couple of days to get his head straight.

  • Buddy

    I don’t think it matters too much what the Cubs are telling reporters in late February and early March. Basically, lots of guys are going to move around, play different positions, bat in different lineup spots, etc. Even if Baez isn’t a “starter,” he’s going to play in almost every game and get tons of at bats. Maddon used 130 different lineups last year, and I’ll bet that number goes up this year.

    • JTBarrett16

      130.5 as the over/under? Different lineups meaning different spots in the batting order and positions on the field? Like say Bryant is 3B and hitting in the 2 spot with Baez at LF in 6 spot one game and another game Bryant’s in the 2 spot in LF with Baez in the 6 spot at 3B (the other 7 players are the same). Does that count as 2 different lineups?

      • Doc Raker

        Yes CAPS Von Genius

      • JTBarrett16

        If Buddy wants the over under at 130.5, give me the over

      • Somebody put TJBartlett down for the over.

      • Eddie Von White

        Somebody put TJBartlett down…for a nap.

      • Eddie Von White

        Please don’t desecrate my name.

  • Doc Raker

    Where did Javier Baez play in the World Series? One can argue that the 2016 World Series games were the Cubs most important games in 108 years so if Maddon had Baez at 2b for those games you gotta think he is going to get a lot of playing time at 2b. Zo, Schwarbs, Rizzo, Bryant, Russell, Heyward or our 2 centerfielders- when any one of those players gets a day off Javier is at 2b and maybe even more.

    My opening day line up
    Schwarbs LF
    Bryant 3b
    Rizzo 1b
    Baez 2b
    Zo RF
    Russell ss
    Contreras C
    Pitcher- Lester
    JJ/Almora CF

    No Heyward- No deadwood!

    If you want more speed in RF flip Zo and Baez.

    Any questions?

    • Adam Peters

      What makes you think Baez can play RF?

      • Sherm

        I’d ask what makes you think he can’t – but I think if they planned use him in the OF in any capacity, we’d have seen it by now…so it’s moot

      • Adam Peters

        Because I’ve played Right Field, and Left and there’s more to it than having an infielder stand further out in the field. Just as there’s more to catching than putting the gear on and squatting behind the plate.

        I would hope that after watching Soler out there, and also the Soriano in the outfield debacle that everyone here would recognize that not everybody has the innate ability to track fly balls and line drives off the bat.

      • Sherm

        I’ve never seen you play, but that notwithstanding? I somehow doubt you have the natural skills of Javy Baez. Something tells me that he could be an outstanding outfielder if that were the job.

        No offense. Maybe you have mad skills.

      • Adam Peters

        Damn right I have MAD SKILLS!!!

        When I was a Sophomore in HS this dude tried to tag up on me and my throw beat his sorry ass home by 25 feet.

        That impressive show of firepower notwithstanding, I don’t believe I ever compared myself to Javy Baez in any way shape or form (though we are the same height). I’m just saying if the guy has never played outfield and you just stick him out there he ain’t gonna be no Jason Heyward. Any more than if you stuck him behind the plate and expected him to be Yadier Molina–even the old broken down version.

      • JTBarrett16

        I robbed a guy of a grand slam when I played RF in Little League, and then threw him out at home plate. I can play a better RF than Heyward.

      • Sherm

        So you didn’t catch the ball? WTF?

        Adam Peters catches that ball.

      • JTBarrett16

        I prevented it from going over the wall. We were up 4. It would have tied the game. Then throwing him out at home plate to prevent an inside the park grand slam won the championship for us.

      • Sherm

        You lost me at “prevented”

      • cap’n realist

        then you yelled “hey Yankees, you can take your trophy AND your apology and shove it up your ass!”

      • That guy is on a blog somewhere saying “I almost hit a grand slam in little league but the ball hit a kid.” Or not, because it is sort of weird to be detailing little league plays as an adult.

      • Adam Peters

        Woot!

      • Sherm

        Baez wouldn’t surprise if he were great at every position.

        Congrats on the awesome throw memory thing.

      • What would be your defensive ranking if these were your only three choices to play right field: Schwarber, Baez, Zobrist. How about left? For me, for both, no joke I’d put Baez first, then Zobrist, then Schwarber. And I think that’s the point here. We know how Schwarber plays the outfield. We know how Zobrist plays (you even stressed it, in caps even!) Even though we don’t know how Baez would do, I can’t imagine with his innate athleticism, that he wouldn’t be better than both of them. (Noting of course that it’s hardly worth finding out, unless it allows all to get maximum playing time.)

      • Eddie Von White

        I’ve seen Zobrist play left field. Every catch is an adventure. I would definitely agree that Baez is better out there even though he’s never been out there. Just the fact that he has mostly been brilliant everywhere else tells me so.

      • Adam Peters

        Well sure, Lizzie. It’s hard to argue against that logic. But isn’t that a little like asking who’s the most handsome between Steve Buscemi, Brad Pitt, and John C. Reilly?

      • Lol hmmmmmm.

      • JTBarrett16

        He’s only played 2 innings in the OF. Zobrist is a better option in the OF than Baez. I agree that Baez should be playing 2B permanently and Zobrist should be the super-sub

      • Buddy

        Last year Baez played 383 innings at 2B, 370 innings at 3B, 194 innings at SS, and 21 innings at 1B. I think it will be more of the same pattern this year. Maybe some more time at 1B vs. LHP?

      • Doc Raker

        Baez can play any position, he is very athletic. An athletic short stop can play any position, a right fielder can not play short stop.

  • Sherm

    David Ross to be on Dancing with the Stars – which means, well, nothing to me because unlike the Bryian Addams fans…I don’t watch it and still won’t.

    • Buddy

      I guess “star” is a relative term.

  • Karen Hirsh

    I am more concerned about Heyward’s offense. However, I agree that Javy should be playing everyday. I am also concerned about Schwarber as the lead off man. He can hit but can he run. If he can’t run how does he play the outfield? Too many questions right now.

    • Eddie Von White

      Raker is asking for questions. Keep them coming.

      • Sherm

        Who developed the first eye chart?
        Who wrote the book of love?
        What was the last straw for Safety Sue?
        Where do the children play -ay – ay – ay – ay, ay?
        What’s the worst thing that could happen?
        Where’s Waldo?

      • Doc Raker

        Some guy named Snellen.
        Neil Sedaka
        Sue is on a crab boat in the Bering Strait

      • Jerry in Wisconsin

        Since it is Raker asking for them, WWJD?

      • WWJiWD? He’d probably get caught watching the Cubs on his phone during a date night with his wife or something and get his ass chewed out. Classic Jerry.

      • Roomful of Blues

        Is Jerry allowed on the blog? “If my wife didn’t allow me to enjoy my Cubs in any shape size or form she wouldn’t be my wife no more.” Roomful of Blues

      • Seymour Butts

        I don’t understand this? Why are you asking what you would do? don’t you know? I’m mean you are Jerry right?

  • Chad Hoy

    Javy has *got* to be starting. J-Hey in center is what’s gonna have to happen. Sorry to Almora and Jon Jay, but they’ll still play from time to time. Why start Zobrist at second when he was brought into the organization specifically to be a “super utility” player? Javy Baez is more than that role. Zobrist is ageing and shouldn’t be starting every game so that we can get the best production out of him for the most amount of time.

    But like you stated, Chris, I don’t claim to be as smart as the guys in the FO.