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Friday, August 29, 2014

The First Hundred PAs: The Curious Case of Cubs Rookie Javier Baez

“Walk” is just a four-letter word.

[Javier] Baez has swung at pitches outside the strike zone 45 percent more often than the typical hitter. It’s no wonder, then, that he hasn’t seen many strikes… Baez swings at 37 percent of pitches that have a less than 5 percent probability of being called a strike, according to BP’s strike probability model. There are only four hitters with higher swing rates on those unlikely strikes than Baez this season: Reed Johnson, A.J. Pierzynski, Ramiro Peña, and Hector Sanchez. When those four swing at those distant pitches, though, they whiff only 37 percent of the time, relative to the 50 percent league average. When Baez swings at them, he misses 76 percent of the time…

Baez’s problems are even more pronounced against breaking balls, which he swings at, on average, almost 2 inches farther from the center of the zone than he does all other pitches (one of the biggest such discrepancies in the sport). Pitchers have noticed. Although they avoided the strike zone against Baez from the start based on scouting reports and reputation, they’ve dramatically upped their breaking ball usage against him as his vulnerability has become clear…

Baez’s second [homerun] of a game against the Rockies on August 7 [was on] an 0-1 slider from Juan Nicasio [that] had only an 8.3 percent probability of being called a strike… Of 188 other pitches in that area that were put in play, only two others left the park. Baez’s was the only one that went out the other way…

Baez is the youngest man in the majors, a distinction that typically implies both that a player has a ton of talent and that he has a lot to learn. He swings hard and with awe-inspiring bat speed, and the homers (he already has seven) have come almost as thick as the K’s. Baez’s contact rate when he swings at pitches inside the zone is barely below league-average; now he needs to become more judicious about swinging at pitches outside the zone, which young hitters tend to do as they add more pitches to their decision-making databases. The only question is whether the contact rate will rise enough for all the power to play.

The District Attorney Posted: August 29, 2014 at 06:23 PM | 12 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: cubs, javier baez, sabermetrics

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   1. The District Attorney Posted: August 29, 2014 at 11:51 PM (#4782186)
Baez did not strike out in his first plate appearance today, and thus merely ties Russell Branyan (timely!) and Brett Jackson (always timely!) for most strikeouts in one's first 100 PA (43).
   2. PreservedFish Posted: August 30, 2014 at 12:07 AM (#4782192)
Someone tell me why Alfonso Soriano is not a good comparison for Baez. Other than age.
   3. Norcan Posted: August 30, 2014 at 12:46 AM (#4782208)
Someone tell me why Alfonso Soriano is not a good comparison for Baez. Other than age.


Because Baez doesn't project to be a butcher in the field or steal over 40 bases? Soriano also wasn't nearly as contact deficient in the minors. It's hard to envision Baez being able to hit for the same averages as Soriano did. Soriano hit between 268 and 300 in his first eight seasons. I'm not sure Baez is going to be able to top 260. If he can have Soriano's career, he'd have done very well for himself.



   4. Walt Davis Posted: August 30, 2014 at 08:50 AM (#4782268)
#1 ... out of curiosity, what's the record for most HR in the first 100 PA? (I'm guessing it's more than 7 but ya never know ... well I never know)
   5. JJ1986 Posted: August 30, 2014 at 09:04 AM (#4782274)
#1 ... out of curiosity, what's the record for most HR in the first 100 PA? (I'm guessing it's more than 7 but ya never know ... well I never know)


I don't know how to check that, but Shane Spencer had 11 HRs in his first 100.
   6. slothinator Posted: August 30, 2014 at 12:05 PM (#4782356)
#1 ... out of curiosity, what's the record for most HR in the first 100 PA? (I'm guessing it's more than 7 but ya never know ... well I never know)


I was thinking it might have been Mike Jacobs. He hit 11 hr IN 112 PA for the Mets in 2005.
   7. zonk Posted: August 30, 2014 at 12:52 PM (#4782386)
Who cares about Baez?

He's so last week... Now it's on to speculating regarding the Hall of Fame career of Jorge Soler...
   8. DCA Posted: August 30, 2014 at 01:00 PM (#4782389)
I don't know how to check that, but Shane Spencer had 11 HRs in his first 100.

My first thought was Kevin Maas. He had 10.
   9. Leroy Kincaid Posted: August 30, 2014 at 01:07 PM (#4782392)
My first thought was Kevin Maas. He had 10.

His 1991 Topps record-breaker card would seem to support this. I bet bobm (or is it mbob) would know.
   10. Kiko Sakata Posted: August 30, 2014 at 01:16 PM (#4782395)
Because Baez doesn't project to be a butcher in the field


Actually, I think he does. Baez committed 44 errors in the minors in 123 games in 2013. It wasn't entirely deference to the veteran that prompted them to move Baez off of shortstop instead of Castro (who will not be winning his first Gold Glove this season).

Baez is just fascinating to watch bat. Routine ground balls or medium-depth fly balls to the outfield just seem so unexpected when he's up to bat.
   11. Pops Freshenmeyer Posted: August 30, 2014 at 03:01 PM (#4782435)
In 2013 Baez only played SS and had 44 errors in 644 chances (.932 on the improperly named Fielding Percentage).

In 2014 he cut that rate to 15 errors in 456 chances between SS and 2B (the bulk of it at SS) for an FP of .967.

So he saw some dramatic improvements in that area this year. If he can be a league average 2B then he has a much lower bar for his necessary offensive contributions.
   12. Brian C Posted: August 30, 2014 at 03:44 PM (#4782446)
Man, have the Cubs ever been getting some fat pitches in this series against the Cards. They're not just hitting a ton of homers, they're hitting some real bombs. Watkins, Valaika, and Castro all have hit HR today, with the latter two of those being no-doubters off the bat.

This is fun.

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