“He’s always thinking ahead and never gives up on a play. We’ve got a lot of special guys like that here, but Javy’s Javy.” —Jason Heyward, Cubs outfielder
The Cubs shortstop is fueled with an incredible amount talent. He has power at the plate, a strong throwing arm, and a tagging ability that no other player seems to possess. However, it’s his instinctual base running ability that makes him one of the most effective run scorers in baseball. He’s currently ranked seventh in runs scored in MLB and continues to quickly move up in the rankings.
Báez has always defied logic because despite his low OBP, he’s still been able to score runs at an elite level. According to Forbes, he led the Cubs last year in runs (101) and RBIs (111). However, he had an OBP of .326 which was the ninth best on the team. It’s impressive to see how he was able to manufacture an MVP-caliber year despite being ranked 85th in OBP among all MLB hitters in 2018.
According to NBC Sports Chicago, Báez currently has a wOBA of .408, which is ranked 21st in the league. Despite all of his achievements, he’s been significantly underpaid considering what he does with his bat, glove, and base running. According to the Athletic, FanGraphs estimated Baez’s on-field production at $88 million so far during his career. However, since he came into the league in 2011, Baez has accumulated just under $20 million in total cash earnings, according to Spotrac.
Báez is unique in that his career OBP is only .312, while the league average last year was .318 with Joey Votto leading the NL with an OBP of .417, according to Baseball Reference. Yet once Baez gets on base, it’s only a matter of time before he swipes an extra base and scores a run. His speed helps him turn a lot of singles into doubles and because of his supreme agility, he makes plays on the base paths that no other player could ever do.
Joe Maddon is not often credited enough for the gradual success of Báez. A lot of conventional managers would not approve of the decisions he makes on the base paths. Maddon, who is arguably one of the most unconventional managers in MLB, celebrates Báez’s aggressiveness and allows his natural instincts to take over. He’s has been stated several times by saying that his shortstop’s baseball IQ is off the charts.
His strategy of being aggressive puts immense pressure on the opposing team’s defense to not only be good, but be perfect. There is no room for error when fielding a routine base hit or missing the cut off man. Báez thrives on those mistakes which usually results in extra bases.
According to Sports Info Solutions, they’ve been able to quantify the value of good base running plays (GBP) vs. bad base running plays (BBP). They categorized eight different types of good plays and the most common is “baserunner taking an extra base.” Other types of good plays include “avoiding the tag” and “quick reaction to pitch in dirt/dropped pitch.”
Top base runners since the start of 2018:
Despite having a low walk rate and an average OBP, Báez is on pace for another MVP-caliber season in 2019. Even though he may look erratic and out of control at times, don’t worry. He knows what he’s doing.