August 6, 2014
The Non-Scout's Guide To Javier Baez
There’s the expert review, and then there’s the rollout. The experts get the first look at something. They get to test it on monkeys, they get to interview the director after the festival screening, they get to put dummies in the passenger seat and drive it into a wall to see whether the cup holder is going to break off and stab a kid in a car seat in the neck. Experts look at the thing and tell us, here now, it’s ready and it’s amazing.
Then, sometimes, the thing sucks. It bursts into flames at high speeds, it cures your migraines but creates some sick-looking tumor on your lip. Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close was supposed to be some kind of a lock to win best picture, until it came out and we all said “that thing sucks, stop playing it!” Reality can make for a cruel collision.
So here’s Javier Baez, and here’s reality, and last night they collided. The experts have had their say. Now we get ours. A non-scout’s scout-like not-scouting report on Baez’s first game.
It’s the swing you would take if you were trying to hit a line drive at the guy in the on-deck circle, which is not (yet) the goal in baseball. I’m pretty sure that, from a certain angle off to the side, Baez’s legs have formed a swastika.
This swing is weird, and it’s scary, and there’s a possible swastika in his legs. I’m not sure I like this, though I'm also not completely sure that the beginning of this sentence wasn't intended to be a setup for the corny twist: "I'm not sure I like this.... I love it!"
It’s important for a major-league hitter to have a good approach at the plate, to have a plan, to adjust to the pitcher and to control the strike zone. Does Baez? Historians will decide. He swings hard!
A human body in this shape:
A human face in this shape:
I did not get a chance to see him run the bases, partly because he swings so, so, so hard. If he has a .350 BABIP and every game he plays goes otherwise like his first game did, he’ll run the bases less than once every two days. He swings like it always felt like your dad swung you when you were a kid.
In fact, if you go frame by frame, there’s essentially one frame where he looks like he’s got any chance at all—the frame where the ball is crossing the hitting zone. Before that, you swear he’ll never catch up to it. After, he looks out of control. Only that one frame, when he miraculously catches up just (or almost just) in time, do you see what would happen if the bat hit the ball.
And, because he’s been doing it for the past three years, you know that the bat does hit the ball.
Is it actually good to swing hard? It's good to have bat speed, but is it good to swing so hard to do it? This is pretty much the question, isn't it? Everything good that happened to Baez happened because he swings like Batting Stance Guy doing a caricaturized version of an already ridiculous swing invented by a 12-year-old holding a broomstick. But he missed an awful lot of hittable pitches against some mediocre pitching in his first game, and all that was arguably because of that swing, too. Would you believe that, after one game, it's just too soon to say?