Javier Baez is fun. He can put together a year’s worth of highlights in a single week. He makes plays on defense and offense that very few, if any, other players in baseball are capable of replicating. More importantly, he makes things happen. Joe Maddon has discussed Javy’s incredible instincts for the game before. During the Cubs latest six game winning streak Cubs fans have had a front row ticket to those instincts and their unparalleled ability to make things happen in big spots.
Yesterday’s trip around the bases was one of those spots, and this snapshot is devoted to how el Mago stole home for the second time this season. But before I get into how incredible it is that Javy stole home, or how rare it is for a player to steal home twice in a single season, I want to talk about how remarkable Javy Baez’s first half has been in 2018. It isn’t an exaggeration to say that Javy’s first half has been an MVP caliber performance. If he keeps it up in the second half the Cubs’ second baseman, who is currently fighting Ozzie Albies and Scooter Gennett for a spot on the All-Star Team, will be in the middle of a much bigger conversation.
This is Javy’s slash line so far in 2018: .286/.321/.555. He’s hit 16 HR, has 61 RBI and 15 SB (two of those are steals of home). He makes unassisted double plays and ridiculous catches. In case you are worried that a lot of that offense is luck, his BABIP in 2018 is .338... his career BABIP is .333. In other words, no. He’s playing to a level that many have thought was possible, if he’d just lay off those sliders in the dirt. Speaking of that, he still doesn’t walk nearly as much as I’d like (he’s got a 3.7 percent BB rate in 2018), he’s been walking more lately. Five of his twelve walks this year were in June and only one of those was intentional.
I’d love to see more of those because as we saw yesterday when Javy is on the basepaths incredible things can happen.
First, the set up
Javier Baez made it to first base on a single to lead off the fourth inning, and then this happened, because Javy things [VIDEO].
Let’s break this down a bit because it’s pretty incredible that Javy turned what looked like a guaranteed pickoff into a trip to third base (with a little help from the Tigers).
Francisco Lirano has already thrown over to first here and Javy looks dead to rights, but he’s Javy, so rather than returning to his fate at first base he decides to make something happen by continuing to second.
If the throw is good, Javy is probably out (but with his slide moves, who really knows?) However, the throw is not good.
The ball is headed towards left as Javy slides into second and then one of my favorite parts of this entire sequence happens, look how fast Javy is on his feet heading to third:
Instincts. That’s all I can say about that. Ironically, it looked like a good throw at third would have probably gotten him too:
I need to stop worrying about Javy, this throw wasn’t even close to good and for a second I thought he might try to take home right there:
Javy thought about it too, but Willson Contreras and Brian Butterfield threw up stop signs and he went back to third.
Oops, he did it again
So now Javy is at third, Addison Russell is at first and the lefty Liriano, who is kind of slow to the plate, decides to get distracted by Addy on first base. I don’t know if the Tigers just didn’t watch the Mets series or if they thought they could trick Javy into an out at home. But I know you want to see it again as much as I do [VIDEO].
I mean, this is Twilight Zone level déjà vu:
Hicks has a much stronger throw to the plate here:
I was pretty worried because Javy looked caught again:
I need to stop doubting Javy, this is an incredible slide:
Keep working your magic Javy! And if you have votes left, get this man to the All-Star Game!