When the Detroit Tigers signed SS Javier Baez to a 6-year, $140 million deal during the offseason, I have to admit, I cringed a bit.
You see, Baez is one heck of a defensive player, there is no question about that, but what concerned me with the signing is that he is a free-swinger who strikes out way more than I would like. In fact, Baez led the entire league in strikeouts in 2021 with 184 whiffs (33.6% strikeout rate), despite playing in just 138 games.
In his first 50 games with the Tigers in 2022, Baez batted just .189 with three home runs and 16 RBIs, while striking out 53 times (26.1% strikeout rate). During those games, walked just nine times and posted a horrendous .520 OPS.
A couple of weeks ago, after going 0-for-3 against the New York Yankees, Baez made some concerning comments about his struggles at the plate.
“I don't know what to tell you,” Javier Báez said. “I'm not following the ball, not keeping my approach. They're not throwing my pitch. As long as I don't make them throw my pitch, they’ll throw the slider if I don’t make an adjustment. There’s no excuses.”
Earlier that week, Baez admitted that he was not seeing the baseball.
“I don’t have any excuses,” he said of his offensive struggles this season. “I’m not seeing the ball. I’m not following the ball. And you can’t hit what you can’t see.”
“I’m just trying to make the adjustments and see the ball,” he said. “Like I said, though, I’m not going out during the game and working on it. I work on it before or after. It’s hard with these (pitchers) and their plan. But there’s no other option but to come back tomorrow and try again.”
“Right now, it’s just about trust,” Báez said. “The way I’ve been struggling, I think I’m trying a lot harder and that only makes it worse.”
Javier Baez is starting to rake for Detroit Tigers
Over the past six games, Javier Baez has really started to heat up for the Detroit Tigers and the hope is that he can continue to produce.
In those games, Baez batted .375 (9-for-24) with two home runs and three RBIs while posting a video game-like OPS of 1.233.
To make things even better, Baez has only struck out twice in 25 plate appearances (8% strikeout rate), which means he is clearly starting to see the ball better than he was over the first 50 games of the season.
Following the Tigers' 5-4 loss to the Boston Red Sox on Tuesday night, Baez, who went 3-for-5 with a triple and a home run, sounded much more confident than he did just a couple of weeks ago.
“I think when I get my timing down and when I have my trust, I don't like comparing who is on the mound,” said Báez, who is on a six-game hitting streak. “When I've got my timing down, it doesn't matter who is on the mound.
“When I am making them throw strikes, it's really good for me and bad for them.”
Tigers manager A.J. Hinch explained that Baez has been more disciplined at the plate and that is what they need to see from him as the season goes on.
“He's been very disciplined and letting the ball travel a little bit further, and he's seeing it well,” Hinch said. “And he's hitting it hard. This is the exciting side of Javy Báez that we need to continue to move forward.”
Folks, it's only six games and I certainly don't want to overreact about 25 at-bats, but there is no question about it that Javier Baez has been starting to rake.
The question is, will it continue?