As the Chicago Cubs sneak closer to first place (again), the scoring has come aplenty and the plays have been awe-inspiring and entertaining at the very least. Meanwhile, one of the most popular Cubs players (if not a fledgling superstar, depending on how you feel about the term) is making an early case for himself for Most Valuable Player. You could argue any number of Cubs starters deserve the recognition, but as an energy sparkplug and catalyst on both sides of the ball, it’s hard to ignore the Magician #ElMago, Javier Baez.
We’ve known all along how versatile Javy is on defense, but so far this season, he has also shown some versatility on offense, batting in every spot in the lineup and also taking the ball the other way. Because we’re only human, we like to take an early season sample and run with a narrative, but so far the numbers seem to back up the fact that Javy has improved his plate discipline and is also taking a better approach to the ball than just swinging for the fences every time. And while it’s true that some of this is against arguably subpar pitching, the approach and the results still count and are still nice to see.
I think in years past, Baez might have tried to pull the ball to Wisconsin while missing and falling to his knees or butt. This was a very welcome result, as he went with the pitch and then made an executive decision to go for three easily (with the help of a slight bobble and errant throw). His teammates are also amazed that he has turned in an outstanding early season performance without taking many walks. Eventually I believe he will accept a few walks as he learns more about how pitchers will deal with him, but it’s hard to fault a guy for swinging when he does damage just about every time, even if his on-base percentage is lower than his batting average for now.
He also turned disaster into gold with this WTF slide:
— MLB (@MLB) May 12, 2018
We have seen slides as awesome as this, for example, in the NLCS (where he won co-MVP):
The level of baseball awareness and intelligence displayed by Javier Baez is astounding. He is the type of player every coach wants not just because of his talent, but the energy level he displays and the desire to always make the play and to take that extra base. While some of the decisions Javy makes might be initially questionable, they always seem to work out for him in the end because of an amped up internal chronometer that tells him he has those extra milliseconds to sneak in untagged when he catches the other team unaware. The part where he never gives up on an at-bat or a play is nice, too, leading to moments like these:
Given his popularity and energy, it’s no secret that I chose the Javy bobblehead day as my one game to go to this year. It also allows me to segue into making baseball fun all the time. I want to see guys running wild all over the bases, because that is fun and exciting. I want to see more balls in play to show off the athletic feats of Javy and other defensive wizards. And I think a little emotion and passion goes a long way to bringing joy to current fans and bringing in new ones.
Never change, El Mago.