Javier Baez is a home-run hitter, and on Tuesday against the Reds, he hit a home run. This is a video of said home run, linked because it is not yet embeddable. I would encourage you to watch the home run, because why not?, but if you’re not in the mood, check out the catcher’s pitch signal:
The count was 1-and-2, and Javier Baez is also a strikeout hitter, so the signal was for a pitch in the dirt. If not for a pitch in the dirt, then it was at least for a pitch well below the zone. Nothing unusual for the circumstance. Here’s the pitch that Baez ultimately hit:
Yeah, so, whoopsadoodle. What was supposed to be thrown was a pitch below the knee. What was actually thrown was a pitch over the middle and at the belt, with Baez already in swing mode and probably guessing offspeed. Baez strikes out and hits home runs. Featured here, he got his home run.
Like many hitters, Baez crushes pitches in the zone. Like many hitters, Baez doesn’t so much crush pitches out of the zone. This, of course, is exactly why hitters go up there looking for a good pitch to hit, in theory. The strike zone is roughly the same as the hitting zone. That’s why it’s the strike zone. According to Baseball Savant, when Baez has hit a batted ball, he’s slugged .817 against would-be strikes, and .397 against would-be balls. Remember, this is when Baez has made contact. He makes more effective contact in the zone. There’s nothing weird about this.
Yet I present Baez in this case as the opposite of Michael Saunders. I wrote about Saunders a few weeks ago, and in there, I pointed out Saunders’ high rate of batted balls against pitches in the zone. In other words, when Saunders has turned pitches around, he’s mostly been turning around strikes, helping him maximize his contact quality. Every leaderboard that has a top has a bottom. Let’s look at the bottom, in terms of batted balls against strikes over all batted balls. I’m using a minimum of 100 batted balls, so you know.
I’m a complete sucker for lists with big gaps. Can’t get enough of them! As you see here, the difference between second-lowest and third-lowest is…well, as seen here, it’s nothing. It’s a tie. There’s not much separating many of these players, and then there’s Baez, in last place by more than six percentage points. Out of Baez’s batted balls, just 47% have come against pitches in the zone. Then there’s the next-closest player, at 54%. That’s laughable, if baseball statistics are ever laughable. Maybe they aren’t? That’s a different post.
I doubt that you just learned anything new about Javier Baez. I mean, you just learned a new fact, but you probably already knew he’s aggressive. Discipline is his problem, as you can see from his contact rates and O-Swing%. But, you know, after Tuesday, Baez is sitting on a 104 wRC+. That puts him right there with names like Todd Frazier and Jason Kipnis. Baez is kind of succeeding like this, and what it really indicates is Baez’s upside if he could ever figure out how to lay off pitchers’ pitches. Over-aggressive hitters usually don’t do that, so I wouldn’t hold my breath. Yet, remember when we all wanted to fall in love with Javier Baez? This is why it’s easy to love him, and this is also why it’s difficult. There’s a special player in there, almost half the time.
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Jeff made Lookout Landing a thing, but he does not still write there about the Mariners. He does write here, sometimes about the Mariners, but usually not.
Not really important butttt it’s probable the Reds’ catcher was trying to make Baez think a high fastball was gonna be a low slider by tapping the ground with his glove
Except it was a slider that was accidentally thrown high, not a fastball. Sorry, but I’m going to assume that Finnegan missed his spot.