Javier Baez and the Anomalous Dinger

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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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.

25 Responses to “Javier Baez and the Anomalous Dinger”

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  1. Given Her The High Hard One says:

    Nice to have the numbers, especially after hearing so many dismiss it as the Coors Field effect.

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  2. Terrible Ted says:

    Thank you.

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  3. Gary Sheffield says:

    I would have taken the walk.

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  4. Phillies113 says:

    Javier Baez and the Chamber of Taters

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  5. John Elway says:

    Only a select few of us have anomalous dingers.

    Just neighing.

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  6. Jon L. says:

    Shock value ranking of above homer GIFs: Stanton >> Baez > Trout.

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  7. Tommy John says:

    On the first “Right vs. Righty Homers” graph, who hit the pitch in the upper left (way off by itself) for a homerun TO THE OPPOSITE FIELD?!?

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  8. RL says:

    Pretty sure this Corey Patterson shot is the most anomalous HR:


    You have to be doing something wrong to hit that ball hard.

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  9. dcs says:

    Similar to Vlad? Well, similar in that they both were very aggressive with poor strike-zone judgement and few walks. But at least Vlad didn’t strike out much, while Baez strikes out a ton. I wouldn’t be surprised if, once the pitchers figure out that Baez is a one-trick pony, they adjust and leave it up to him to counter-adjust. If he’s not capable of doing that, he won’t be a star…

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    • Jeff Webber says:

      So far, Baez’s professional career is a repeating pattern: pitchers adjust to take advantage of his aggressiveness, Baez struggles, Baez adjusts, Baez is victorious. One of the primary motivators behind giving Baez this 50-ish game shot this year is to give him a chance to get burned and then recover before 2015.

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    • joser says:

      I’m not sure I’d say Vlad had poor strike-zone judgement; he may have had a good idea of where the rulebook strike zone was, but he just didn’t care. In fact I’d say he had a very good sense of his own personal strike zone — which extended from somewhere above his eyebrows to somewhere near his shoetops — which was precisely why he didn’t strike out much.

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      • dcs says:

        That he was still a good hitter despite swinging at tons of bad pitches does’t mean that Guerrero didn’t hae poor pitch selection. It just means that he had enough raw talent to succeed in spite of it. The impaler in his good times probably had a 600 OPS on balls in play outside of the strike zone. That’s better than most batters, but it’s still not helping your team to win.

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        • Cool Lester Smooth says:

          He had a career BB% of 8. He absolutely had good judgment for what he could hit with authority.

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  10. IggyPopAzalea says:

    Jeff Sullivan is always very bueno, but can I just say that he was on a roll with using his words to express ideas/things at the end of this week. Just good article followed by good article.

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  11. Ryne Sandberg says:

    He’s got my Hall vote.

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  12. gaius marius says:

    i am beyond hyped w/r/t Baez, as a Cub fan who bleated for decades that this club needed a competent teardown and rebuild. i’m getting everything i ever wanted in the Ricketts/Epstein/Hoyer plan.

    but Baez in the minors fanned about 25% of the time, with rates ramping up with the level as pitchers started showing up who could throw a reasonable breaking ball for a strike. it’s early, but he’s struck out 12 times in 29 PA, including some head-scratching eye-high fastballs.

    yes, he is 21 and playing at least two levels higher than he should at that age. yes, he won’t fan 41% of the time in his career. and he very well may learn to focus his aggressiveness in time.

    this list is sorted by K rate. 339 guys managed to put up 300+ PA since 2011. just 28 struck out more than 30% doing it. of those, only four compiled a .350+ wOBA — Thome, Darin Ruf, Chris Davis, George Springer. and pretty much anyone in the 28 worth a damn took walks at a 9% or better clip.

    if he’s going to be the star we all want him to be, it won’t be as the player he is now.

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