On MLB Network “MLB Tonight”, host Brian Kinney made his claim for why Brewers outfielder Lorenzo Cain should win the NL MVP. Analysts Harold Reynolds and Joe Girardi then responded by claiming that Javier Baez of the Chicago Cubs should win that award. Their not the only ones, as fans (especially Cubs fans) are proclaiming Baez as the MVP front-runner. They point to his excellent base running, his flashy defensive plays, and his power to why he is deserving of the award. However, fans and analysts have ignored several red flags from Baez. These red flags show that Baez is not only undeserving of the MVP award, but he’s nothing more than a serviceable starter.
Sure, Baez’s .300 average, 25 home runs, and 88 home runs look excellent at first glance, but there’s more to it than that. He only has a .333 on-base percentage(OBP). That OBP is good enough to rank tied for 82nd in the MLB. It’s also lower than Denard Span (.348), Derek Dietrich (.349), and Jurickson Profar (.338). These guys are role players at best, and if you’re an MVP candidate, role players can’t even be in the same conversation as you. Baez’s .300 average is better than Span’s (.268), Dietrich’s (.285), and Profar’s (.252). However, one’s batting average only shows how often a player gets a hit. One’s on-base percentage, on the other hand, shows how often they get on base, whether it be a hit or walk. That means that Baez gets out more than all of those three role players, which shows how one dimensional of a hitter he is. His 3.8% BB rate is the main cause of this substantially low OBP, and it has haunted him his entire career (career 4.5 BB%). As a hitter, the primary goal should be to get on base in any way they can. Baez’s low walk rate shows that he doesn’t do that, which means he isn’t as valuable of a hitter as people give him credit for.
Let’s continue with Baez’s issues as a hitter and take a look at his high strikeout rate. He’s striking out in 23.8% amount of his plate appearances this season. To add onto that, he is swinging at almost half of the pitches thrown to him outside the zone (49.1%). This explains the low walk rate and further shows Baez’s one dimensional way of hotter than is borderline selfish. He’s not giving his team any better of a chance to score runs by not taking his walks. Yoan Moncada leads the league in strikeouts but has nearly three times the amount of walks as Baez. So whereas most high strikeout hitters take their walks when given the opportunity, Baez doesn’t do that. Because of that, Baez is incapable of hitting at the top of the order, where a high OBP is a must. Constantly relying on a pitcher to make mistakes over the middle of the plate is a bad habit, and it will come back to bite Baez when facing top-tier competition in the playoffs.
Now, on to another overrated part of Baez’s game, which is his fielding. Despite being considered one of the game’s best fielders, he only has 4 defensive runs saved (DRS) and 1.4 ultimate zone rating (UZR) at second base. At short, those numbers don’t any better, with 1 DRS and 0.3 UZR. In comparison, Francisco Lindor (11 DRS, 8.7 UZR), Andrelton Simmons (15 DRS, 13.2 UZR), Brandon Crawford (10 DRS, 2.9 UZR), and Ian Kinsler (11 DRS, 7.7 UZR) are just a few of the many middle infielders that are better defenders than Baez. Just because Baez makes some flashy plays defensively doesn’t mean he is a good defender, as he definitely isn’t the most consistent.
One thing I’ll give Baez is that he’s fearless as a base runner. He isn’t afraid to go for the extra base, no matter what the situation. However, his aggressive base running can sometimes become too aggressive, which results in unnecessary outs being made. Plus, he’s not as good of a base stealer as people give him credit for. For baserunning to be one of your main cases for MVP, you should rank Top 5 in stolen bases. Instead, Baez is tied for 14th in the MLB. So let’s drop the case that Baez is an elite base stealer. Yes, he’s flashy, but being flashy doesn’t mean he is productive.
Not only is Javier Baez the most overrated player in the MLB, it isn’t even close. He’s not close to an MVP-caliber player and is nothing more than a serviceable starter. So, let’s slow down with the hype and acknowledge players who actually help the team and don’t just try to look flashy.