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The best 5-game starts in baseball history

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Javier Baez has started out extremely well at the plate in his debut with the Cubs. How does his start rate historically (or at least since 1914)?

Power hitter -- YES! Contact hitter -- not so much.
Power hitter -- YES! Contact hitter -- not so much.
Brian Kersey

It seems like only yesterday (actually, last Thursday) since I wrote about the Cubs Javier Baez, but he's off to a terrific start at the bat so far. This is his line through Saturday's games:

PA AB R H 2B 3B HR KO BB BA OBP SLG wOBA
23 23 4 6 0 0 3 10 0 .261 .261 .652 .394

It's fun to see the numbers, but far more important to see how they compare to other player's first five games -- is he among the best that ever was, middle of the pack, something else entirely? In all cases, the data goes back to 1914 and was retrieved using the Baseball-Reference Play Index Player Batting Game Finder function.

Baez hit the game-winning home run in his debut game and two more a couple of days later, becoming only the second player to hit three home runs in his first three games. When the other player is the Cardinals' Joe Cunningham in 1954, it's clear this is no guarantee of success. This list shows the most home runs in a player's first five games:

Player left Year HR Player Team Year HR
Yasiel Puig Dodgers 2013 4 Mark Quinn Royals 1999 3
Mike Jacobs Mets 2005 4 Magglio Ordonez White Sox 1997 3
Javier Baez Cubs 2014 3 Brant Brown Cubs 1996 3
Josh Phegley White Sox 2013 3 Ricky Jordan Phillies 1988 3
Manny Machado Orioles 2012 3 Luis Medina Indians 1988 3
Yoenis Cespedes Athletics 2012 3 Sam Horn Red Sox 1987 3
Will Middlebrooks Red Sox 2012 3 Ruben Sierra Rangers 1986 3
Yasmani Grandal Padres 2012 3 Alvin Davis Mariners 1984 3
Danny Espinosa Nationals 2010 3 Dave Kingman Giants 1971 3
Trent Oeltjen Diamondbacks 2009 3 Billy Conigliaro Red Sox 1969 3
Taylor Teagarden Rangers 2008 3 Curt Blefary Orioles 1965 3
Shelley Duncan Yankees 2007 3 Dick Gray Dodgers 1958 3
Kevin Kouzmanoff Indians 2006 3 Joe Cunningham Cardinals 1954 3
Carlos Quentin White Sox 2006 3 Ed Sanicki Phillies 1949 3
Keith McDonald Cardinals 2000 3 Zeke Bonura White Sox 1934 3

That's a list that can be taken many ways and includes current stars like Yasiel Puig, hot starts that fizzled like Will Middlebrooks and so-much-promise-what-happened like Carlos Quentin. Power is a fickle skill, but with Baez' hyper-violent swing, if he makes contact the ball will end up significantly farther away than its starting point.

This is the most hits in a player's first five games:

Player Team Year H Player Team Year H
Junior Lake Cubs 2013 12 Ichiro Suzuki Mariners 2001 10
Trent Oeltjen Diamondbacks 2009 12 Doug Dascenzo Cubs 1988 10
Bo Hart Cardinals 2003 12 Andy Allanson Indians 1986 10
Mike Lansing Expos 1993 12 Brad Mills Expos 1980 10
Kirby Puckett Twins 1984 12 Willie McCovey Giants 1959 10
Ken Reitz Cardinals 1972 12 Spook Jacobs Athletics 1954 10
Jim Davenport Giants 1958 12 Emil Verban Cardinals 1944 10
Riggs Stephenson Indians 1921 12 Snuffy Stirnweiss Yankees 1943 10
Jay Bruce Reds 2008 11 Nanny Fernandez Braves 1942 10
Ron Cash Tigers 1973 11 Stan Musial Cardinals 1941 10
Bill Bruton Braves 1953 11 Enos Slaughter Cardinals 1938 10
Jack Merson Pirates 1951 11 Gibby Brack Dodgers 1937 10
Andy Pafko Cubs 1943 11 Calvin Chapman Reds 1935 10
Barney McCosky Tigers 1939 11 Dee Miles Senators 1935 10
Charlie English White Sox 1932 11 Johnny Vergez Giants 1931 10
Gregory Polanco Pirates 2014 10 Tony Piet Pirates 1931 10
Josmil Pinto Twins 2013 10 Ralph Winegarner Indians 1930 10
Adam Eaton Diamondbacks 2012 10 Danny Taylor Senators 1926 10
Andrew McCutchen Pirates 2009 10 Joe Munson Cubs 1925 10
Ian Desmond Nationals 2009 10

Now some more familiar names, not just those with some thump in the bat, begin to appear, such as Ichiro Suzuki and Kirby Puckett. But again, there are no guarantees, since some of the recent players started strong and disappeared for any number of reasons.

The next list shows highest batting average and requires at least 20 plate appearances to qualify, in effect playing full-time in the player's first five games:

Player Team Year BA Player Team Year BA
Jay Bruce Reds 2008 .579 Trent Oeltjen Diamondbacks 2009 .500
Bruce Bochte Angels 1974 .571 Ian Desmond Nationals 2009 .500
Ken Reitz Cardinals 1972 .571 Kosuke Fukudome Cubs 2008 .500
Riggs Stephenson Indians 1921 .571 Mike Jacobs Mets 2005 .500
Fern Bell Pirates 1939 .563 Craig F. Wilson White Sox 1998 .500
Wayne Ambler Athletics 1937 .563 Andy Allanson Indians 1986 .500
Ron Cash Tigers 1973 .550 Kirby Puckett Twins 1984 .500
Junior Lake Cubs 2013 .545 Gordon Goldsberry White Sox 1949 .500
Jim Davenport Giants 1958 .545 George Shuba Dodgers 1948 .500
Akinori Iwamura Rays 2007 .529 Mike Schemer Giants 1945 .500
Doug Dascenzo Cubs 1988 .526 Gibby Brack Dodgers 1937 .500
Andy Pafko Cubs 1943 .524 Tony Piet Pirates 1931 .500
Barney McCosky Tigers 1939 .524

This last chart ties it all together and shows the highest weighted on-base average, again with a minimum of 20 plate appearances:

Player Team Year wOBA
Mike Jacobs Mets 2005 .740
Jay Bruce Reds 2008 .654
Yasiel Puig Dodgers 2013 .649
Trent Oeltjen Diamondbacks 2009 .648
Dick Gray Dodgers 1958 .635
Wayne Ambler Athletics 1937 .623
Barney McCosky Tigers 1939 .619
Bill Sudakis Dodgers 1968 .617
Junior Lake Cubs 2013 .615
Kosuke Fukudome Cubs 2008 .611
Steve Whitaker Yankees 1966 .595
Will Middlebrooks Red Sox 2012 .594
Bert Campaneris Athletics 1964 .593
Orlando Miller Astros 1994 .592
Akinori Iwamura Rays 2007 .589
Ian Desmond Nationals 2009 .588
Craig F. Wilson White Sox 1998 .585
Sam Horn Red Sox 1987 .570
Zeke Bonura White Sox 1934 .569
Delmon Young Rays 2006 .553

Weighted on-base average describes not only how often a player hits the ball but how hard, creating a more complete combination of both a player's ability to hit and generate power. I adjusted the wOBA to reflect the year in which the player made his debut, which is only fair to reflect the changes in offense over time. In some cases the difference between using 2014 weights and the actual year was as high as a five percent difference, but in general the variations were much smaller than that.

I strongly suspect there was one stat that should have jumped out:

Player Team Year PA KO
Matt Williams Giants 1987 20 12
Domingo Santana Astros 2014 14 11
Brett Jackson Cubs 2012 20 11
Darryl Strawberry Mets 1983 23 11
Javier Baez Cubs 2014 23 10
Aaron Hicks Twins 2013 24 10
Travis Buck Athletics 2007 19 10
Josh Kroeger Diamondbacks 2004 18 10
Alex Gonzalez Marlins 1998 22 10
Glenn Murray Phillies 1996 19 10
Ray Durham White Sox 1995 25 10
Marcos Armas Athletics 1993 22 10
Darrell Whitmore Marlins 1993 22 10
Bill McNulty Athletics 1969 17 10
Jackie Warner Angels 1966 23 10
Fred Vaughn Senators 1944 24 10

Anything I read projected Baez to strike out around thirty percent of the time, but he's exceeding even that. Earlier this week I made a comment to forget about the three-outcome hitter (home run, walk or strikeout), Baez is starting out as a two-outcome hitter, and despite his tremendous power simply can't become this generation's Dave Kingman or Rob Deer.

The future of the Cubs will be as bright as the young talent of Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro joined by Baez, Arismendy Alcantara, Kris Bryant and others can take them. This will probably not stay intact as some of these players will be dealt in exchange for pitching, but they have more than enough to spare. Is Javier Baez' debut as electric and ground-breaking as that of Yasiel Puig in 2013 -- in my opinion, no, since he's showing far too much one-dimensionality for my liking. But for a player who's not yet 22, he's answered the power question unequivocally. The defense will never be anything better than average at best, but if he can develop a hitter's eye and be more selective at the plate and quit trying to hit every ball through our younger daughter's window, clear your plans for August 2040-ish, when he'll be inducted into the Hall of Fame.

All data from Baseball-Reference. Any errors in amalgamating or processing the data are the author's.

Scott Lindholm lives in Davenport, IA. Follow him on Twitter @ScottLindholm.