Here is Mike Trout hitting an anomalous dinger:
The homer demonstrated that Mike Trout is special, because that’s not really a pitch people hit homers on. Trout hit a game-tying grand slam off one of the, I don’t know, five best starting pitchers in the world.
Here is Giancarlo Stanton hitting an anomalous dinger:
The homer demonstrated that Giancarlo Stanton is special, because people don’t really hit home runs like that. We’re all familiar with low-liner home runs, but it’s not like we ever see them hit down the line to the opposite field. That’s actually the opposite of how we see them.
So, Javier Baez is in the major leagues now.
We don’t know what Baez is going to be, and we won’t even know a year or two or three from now. The whole Baez picture will only be understood when Baez is finishing his career, however short or long it might last. What we can say with certainty now is that Baez is extraordinarily talented, and capable of things few others are capable of. Time will tell how close he gets to his ceiling, but it took less than three full games for Baez to slug his own anomalous dinger. Already, Baez has demonstrated why he’s unusually special.
The video, from Thursday, after Baez had already hit one home run in the game:
The ball screams off of Baez’s bat and surprises even the Cubs’ own announcers when it flies beyond the fence. What you’re thinking, what we’re all thinking: okay, big deal, it’s Colorado. Even Baez himself has acknowledged that anything hit in the air in Colorado has a chance to go out. But this is why we have the ESPN Home Run Tracker. Baez hit the ball an estimated 105 miles per hour. It had a distance of 405 feet, and it had a standard distance — adjusting for altitude — of 402 feet. It was a legitimate shot that Baez hit, and now, consider that it was a slider, and consider that it was located here:
Presumably, Baez, like most right-handed hitters, is prone to chasing low-away sliders off the plate. So he’s probably going to see his fair share of sliders down and away, and while this one wasn’t way off the plate, it was over the outer half, and it was down. It was right on the lower border of Baez’s estimated strike zone. Let’s make some use now of Baseball Savant. Here are all the homers hit by righties against righties throwing breaking balls since 2008:
Baez’s homer is in red. You can see, from that, that it’s an uncommon pitch to hit out, but now let’s narrow this down further for homers from the above sample hit to right or right-center field:
Now the homer’s almost by itself. We haven’t quite seen another home run like this in the PITCHf/x era. Matt Kemp hit one that was kind of similar; he hit the ball 99 miles per hour. Mike Napoli hit one that was kind of similar; he hit the ball 98 miles per hour. Jesus Montero hit one that was kind of similar; he hit the ball 98 miles per hour. Miguel Cabrera, 91 miles per hour. Paul Goldschmidt, just short of 100 miles per hour. Yoenis Cespedes, 93 miles per hour. Manny Ramirez, 98 miles per hour.
Javier Baez, 105 miles per hour. Breaking ball, down and away, hit out to right-center field on a god-damned line. Javier Baez hit a home run we haven’t seen, at least lately, at least to that level of impressiveness and legitimacy. While others have hit pitches almost like the one Baez hit, they haven’t hit those pitches as hard. Welcome to Javier Baez, who took less than half of one week to confirm that he’s got 80-grade bat speed. Maybe 85, if you go there.
Let’s go back to Baez’s debut real quick. People will remember it for either the home run or for the three strikeouts. But here’s an out that Baez made in play:
The location of the pitch, which was another low-away slider:
Baez made an out, so no one cares, but that was the first big-league hint that Baez is capable of destroying pitches few ever hit with authority. Two days later, he hit a lower slider better and farther, for a home run that wasn’t like other home runs. Probably, Baez is going to swing and miss a lot low and away. Probably, pitchers are going to have to be extra careful to make sure the pitches down there are out of the zone, because pitches that stay up even just a little bit might turn into one or two or three or four bases. For a guy with such a low contact rate, Baez is able to cover the plate, because his nonsensically quick hands afford him the luxury of extra time. He can stay back on a slider, and he can obliterate a slider, even if it’s not really all that bad of a slider.
Baez has only confirmed what we’ve known for a while: he can do things to baseballs few others can do. That’s the whole reason he is what he is: he has the same weaknesses as a lot of other prospects, but almost nobody can match his strengths. You can see why people think Baez has high bust potential, because it doesn’t matter how hard you swing if you swing over or under the baseball. We don’t know yet if Baez is going to make enough contact. But we know enough to know we should all hope he does. They don’t make ’em like Javier Baez. It’d be a real shame if this model went to waste.
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