How Did Javier Baez Strike Out?

Javier Baez strikes out. I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s his whole thing, but it’s kind of a big part of his whole thing. Picture Javier Baez. Picture him hitting, not running or slapping a tag down on some poor, unsuspecting opponent. You see that swing? We’re all picturing the same swing. Sometimes that swing connects and it hits the ball a very far distance. Many more times, that swing whiffs. It finds nothing but the disappointing freedom of air. I don’t need to further explain Baez to you; his reputation is well established. He just homered 23 times, and twice more in the playoffs. He just struck out 144 times, and 11 times more in the playoffs. He wound up with a contact rate of 66%.

So Baez strikes out. I’m here to ask you about one strikeout in particular. Really, it’s two strikeouts, I guess, but they’re virtually identical, and one is from Game 5 of the recent NLCS. I didn’t write about this immediately because it didn’t seem relevant, not within the greater, ongoing postseason context. The postseason is dead now. Now we’re in a very different kind of postseason. So I’d like to shine the light on unusual Javier Baez strikeouts. Specifically, I want to know what you think about them.

Most of the time, when Baez strikes out, he strikes out swinging. That’s a part of being aggressive. We all know what it looks like when Baez strikes out swinging. It looks like this.

More rarely, when Baez strikes out, he strikes out looking. No one’s immune to being caught by surprise. This is what it looks like when Baez strikes out looking.

Right, nothing too weird. It’s weird to have Baez striking out looking in the first place, but there’s nothing weird about the actual process. Ball goes by. Umpire punches Baez out. Baez leaves the box. This is how all called strikeouts look, save for those questionable ones that cause a batter to flip his lid.

So what in the blue hell is this?

Don’t ask me how I tracked this down, but — Baez had done this before. Here’s Baez striking out in August of 2016.

That’s two, which is enough. Maybe there are more, but I don’t care. There are two, and one is from the Cubs’ final game of the year. It’s clear that we see Javier Baez striking out. But do we see Javier Baez striking out looking, or do we see Javier Baez striking out swinging? That’s why this post has been written — I’m calling on the audience to help out, in another poll. This is going to be in your hands. Well, actually, it’s not, because it’s already been decided, and your vote is irrelevant. But I don’t care what’s in the books. I care what you think, right now, today. How would you want this to be ruled? In your opinion, how did Javier Baez strike out? Before the poll, some brief arguments.

He struck out looking

Don’t be stupid. You’re being stupid. It’s stupid to even entertain this as a concept. There is no question, not in any reasonable sense. He struck out looking. He took the pitch and it was called a strike. That’s what striking out looking *is*. Just — I mean, just look at Baez as the pitch is crossing the plate.

Or, if you prefer, look at when the barrel is somewhere over the plate.

The pitcher is already celebrating. He’s leaving the mound. The catcher is leaving the catcher’s box. The umpire is already in full-on punch-out mode. As the pitch crossed the plate, Baez stood still. We know from baseball precedent — both in general and specific to Baez — that this isn’t how it looks when a hitter is trying to swing at the ball and make contact. It’s just way…too…late. It doesn’t feel like a legitimate swing, you know? So, deep down, your gut should tell you Baez struck out looking. Something less deep down should also be telling you that. How is this even a conversation? According to the books, and so, therefore, according to the scorers, Baez struck out looking. Duh.

He struck out swinging

But what if he didn’t strike out looking? Hold on, stay with me here. Why isn’t this a swing? So what if the swing is late? A swing is a swing, right? Baez’s actual swing itself is unambiguous. And if you’re super caught up in how late it took place, well, consider Baez’s front-foot trigger.

That’s not so late, right? And the trigger is the first part of any swing. Sure, Baez’s bat started moving awfully late. But the rest of his body had already started. Since when do we care about how a swing looks? Since when do we care about how a swing’s timed? We’ve all seen pretty swings, and we’ve all seen ugly ones. We’ve all seen early swings, and we’ve all seen late ones. Especially with two strikes in particular. Baez swung the bat. He did so while he was standing in the box. Baez struck out, and he was swinging.

There is no actual rule-book definition of a swing. There is a rule-book definition of a strike, and a strike can be called when a pitch “is struck at by the batter and is missed.” Is Baez seen attempting to strike at the ball? You might want to say the answer is no, but then, how comfortable are you trying to read intent? Shouldn’t we, if anything, be trying to eliminate intent as a factor? If you care about intent, then there would have to be some kind of 50/50 line, where a swing attempt goes from being late to being too late to be considered a swing at all. Why even try to get into that? Why open the door to that kind of in-the-weeds thinking if it’s unnecessary? This can be as black and white as it gets. Javier Baez is seen standing in the box. He’s seen swinging. Therefore, he’s seen striking out swinging. Easy. It only gets complicated if he checks his swing, but that’s a whole other problem.

*****

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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.

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TryingNotToSuck
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TryingNotToSuck

Gonna need this Hot Stove to heat up from a simmer ASAP