Over the course of the offseason, I'm going to look at the fanposts I made during the season and reflect on them, finding out if my opinions were off base or not. First up, Javier Baez is not a leadoff hitter. This one, like most of my fanposts this season, was a reaction to conversations elsewhere on BCB.
My major points were as follows:
- The classical idea of a leadoff hitter is a guy that walks a lot, steals a lot of bases, and doesn't strike out much.
- Javy fits none of those ideals.
- Rajai Davis steals a lot of bases. He led off in 45 of the 65 games he started this year.
- Rajai Davis is hot garbage.
- The main goal of a leadoff guy is getting on base. Stealing bases is secondary to getting on in the first place.
- Schwarber is a good OBP guy, and therefore not a bad choice for leadoff. Same for Contreras.
First off, I was right about Rajai Davis. Moving on from that mess, Javy led off in two games this year. May 24th he went 1 for 2 with two sacrifice plays and an RBI. May 28th he went 2 for 5 with a solo homer and a strikeout. Nothing much to gain from looking at that sample. He singled in his first plate appearance in both games.
Let's look at the three points of a classical leadoff hitter. Walks, steals, and strikeouts. Javy's walk rate almost doubled this year (from a pathetic 3.3% to a pathetic 5.9%), but there's a huge hang-up there that I'm sure you're all aware of. Of Javy's 30 walks this year, 15 were intentional. 14 of the 15 IBBs took place in order to reach the pitcher, so you can probably assume that if he wasn't batting in front of the pitcher most of the year, he'd have had much fewer walks. If we take out the plate appearances that resulted in intentional walks, his walk rates in 2016 and 2017 were 2.7% and 3.0%.
As far as steals, not much changed. Last year, he had 12 SB and 3 CS. This year, 10 SB and 3 CS. Those ten stolen bases were tied for the team lead with Anthony Rizzo, though Ian Happ had 8 and he was in AAA for the first six weeks of the season. Anyway, steals are not a huge part of Javy's game, though he is unsurprisingly adept at choosing the right time to steal. Lastly, let's talk about strikeouts. Javy was improving year by year until now. In 2014, he had a 41.5% strikeout rate. 30.0% in 2015, then 24.0% in 2016. This year, he regressed to 28.3%. That is not what I expected to see when this year started.
Let's peek at the other leadoff candidates I'd mentioned, Contreras and Schwarber. Contreras led off two games (June 26 and July 5), and went 3 for 8 with a home run, a walk, and two strikeouts. Oddly enough, he also had hits in each of his first plate appearances, one of which was the HR. Now, on to Schwarber. Close your eyes. Ignore the fact that closing your eyes will prevent you from reading. Imagine a dumpster. Imagine it being set on fire. Imagine climbing into that fire and attempting to live there for a couple months. Let's just move on.
No, Javier Baez is not a leadoff hitter. I think this year proved further what we all pretty much already knew. That's not what the guy's good at. I judge myself hitting a SOLO HOME RUN. No grand slam because of that whole "Schwarber will be fine at leadoff" thing, though we'll never know if hitting leadoff is what caused his slump or if it was something mechanical. Now let's watch a highlight reel.