CHICAGO — His teammates had appears of disbelief on their faces. They didn’t consider the numbers at first. Some — together with nearer Brandon Morrow — simply stared into area, standing at their lockers, whereas attempting to do the maths. Is it actually attainable for a hitter to compile something near a 1.000 OPS over the course of a month or longer with out incomes a single stroll?
It’s in case your identify is Javier Baez.
That’s proper. The Cubs’ lead-off hitter on Saturday hasn’t taken a free cross in over a month. The final one got here on April 11 — and that was an intentional stroll. His final common stroll was April 7. But from April eight by means of Saturday’s recreation towards the White Sox, he compiled an eye-popping 1.003 OPS.
“Really?” slugger Kyle Schwarber stated. “Over .900 for a month without a walk? That’s hard to do.”
The last word work-the-count and take-a-walk man, Ben Zobrist, was equally impressed as he was shocked.
“With no walks? That’s amazing,” Zobrist stated. “I did not know that. That’s really crazy. You have to be able to hit every kind of pitch all around the zone. And some outside the zone, for sure.”
All these requested agreed there’s just one option to accomplish such a feat: by swinging. Quite a bit. In response to ESPN Stats & Data, Baez leads the majors, swinging at 61 % of all pitches and 54 % of first pitches in an at-bat. He swings at 46 % of pitches exterior the strike zone, additionally the best in baseball. The final Cub to perform an OPS of .900-plus over course of a month withoout a stroll was Starlin Castro in 2010.
“He’s always been a bad-ball hitter,” Morrow stated. “You just had to miss the bad spots that he was good at hitting. Right now, he’s probably still swinging at those bad pitches that he’s good at hitting but not swinging at the bad pitches that he’s bad at hitting.”
It took an Abbott & Costello reply by Morrow — after fascinated with it for a minute — to half-explain what Baez is doing. It actually is tough to grasp.
“That would be like hitting .450 on singles,” Schwarber stated with out actually making some extent.
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In reality, Baez has saved his numbers up in quite a lot of methods, starting with incomes an inordinate quantity of extra-base hits throughout his walk-less time. Of the 35 hits he had between April eight and Saturday, 20 went for further bases, together with 10 that left the park.
“It means you’re slugging,” shortstop Addison Russell stated whereas shaking his head on the considered Baez’s numbers. “Walking in this game is significant whenever you’re talking about final batting averages and stuff, but if anyone can do it [keep his numbers up], it’s him.”
Gamers who stroll typically had been probably the most amazed on the work Baez has been in a position to do whereas his batting common and on-base share have stayed precisely the identical since his final free cross.
“He’s fouling off more pitches to get to another pitch where it might be a mistake,” Anthony Rizzo stated. “You don’t change someone’s approach. That’s not the objective. Walking is a product of great at-bats. He’s not walking but still having great at-bats.”
And that’s what makes Baez distinctive. When Rizzo fails to take a stroll for a protracted time frame — he simply got here off a type of stretches — it means his offensive recreation isn’t proper. For Baez proper now, it means nothing.
“That’s still the one item I’d like to see him get better at,” supervisor Joe Maddon stated. “[But] when he does make contact, something good usually happens.”
Earlier than Schwarber was knowledgeable of Baez’s walk-less month, he opined on what somebody’s stat line may appear like with out taking a free cross for that lengthy.
“That slash line would be low because you’re not eliminating any at-bats,” Schwarber stated.
After being informed of Baez’s OPS, Schwarber had the look of a confused child at college attempting to do a math drawback.
“Wow,” he lastly stated. “Really? That’s really good. He’s just locked in with that swing, I guess.”
Zobrist was requested what these numbers would imply even with out seeing an at-bat by Baez throughout that time-frame.
“It tells me when he’s seeing the ball and his swing is on, there is no way to pitch him,” Zobrist responded. “Unless you just walk him like you have to walk him. Almost an intentional, unintentional walk.”
Maybe groups have tried that tactic, however they haven’t been profitable as a result of Baez retains swinging whereas largely making contact. He struck out solely 24 instances in 114 plate appearances throughout his month-plus stretch with no stroll. However there was one participant who wasn’t as shocked as everybody else. Maybe it took a free swinger to grasp one other one.
“The plan isn’t to get a walk,” outfielder Albert Almora Jr. stated. “Hitters are going to hit.”
Almora has simply eight walks on the season, which appears like a big whole in comparison with the 2 unintentional free passes Baez has taken to this point. Some guys simply don’t have it in them to carry the bat on their shoulder. Almora has been on base typically when Baez has come to the plate.
“I’m on my toes every time he’s up to bat,” Almora stated. “He’s trying to hit; he’s not trying to walk. He’s trying to do damage.”
Harm he’s accomplished. Loads of it. And not using a free cross. And to the amazement of most his teammates.
“I’ve never heard of it,” Russell stated with one other shake of his head. “Only Javy.”