The metamorphosis of Javy Báez from indiscriminate free swinger into MVP candidate has been incredible to behold. And, ironically enough, it’s actually driven by a more aggressive plate approach.
Remember when observers believed Javy should more patient? That’s great in theory, but it didn’t work for him. Instead of dialing down his natural aggressiveness, El Mago actually swung at more pitches inside the zone last season than in any other previous season.
And wouldn’t you know it, swinging at more pitches up and in actually led to more homers in that region.
Báez’s let-it-rip approach is illustrated perfectly by a homer he hit late last season. Facing the Tigers in August, Javy fouled a 95 mph high, tailing fastball painfully off his leg. But two pitches later, on a pitch in the same exact location, Javy let it rip again and annhilated a homer deep into the left-field stands.
The Cubs letting Javy do Javy allowed the slugger to take advantage of in-the-zone pitches and perhaps kept pitchers from getting into strikeout-favorable counts. That doesn’t necessarily mean Javy shouldn’t still continue to develop a more selectively aggressive approach, though. He has even made it a priority to cut down on his bad-pitch swings. So if El Mago continues to be aggressive in the zone while also spitting on more bad pitches, it’s possible he could put up even gaudier numbers.
*Note: I generate these figures using Jim Albert’s CalledStrike package in R.