Inside the Article:
There may not be a more polarizing player in Detroit sports than Detroit Tigers shortstop, Javier Baez. He's drawn the ire of the fans from the moment he got here, first because they hated the signing with Carlos Correa still a free agent, second because the length and dollar amount didn't jive with their brain cells, and third because he swung at pitches that were in the opposite batter's box. It makes sense. And, after another slow start in 2023, people were ready to give up on him completely. Then came April 13th, 2023.
It was the second inning of the team's finale in Toronto. Javy was hitting sixth and blasted a ball to left field, one he admired, then trotted to second base. The next hitter, Akil Baddoo, lined a ball to left field, which was caught and Javy was rounding third base. This came on the heels of two base running blunders the night before. And, A.J. Hinch had seen enough. Javy was pulled from the game, the Tigers won, and have been 13-9 since that game.
Javier Baez stats pre- and post-benching
April 13th may end up being the demarcation line for this team. If they were 2-9 prior to this and 13-9 after, then there is clearly a notion that we can look back to this game as a potentially seasoning turning moment.
Javier Baez prior to benching
To say that Javy did not get off to the best start this season, may be an complete and utter understatement. Let's look at some numbers:
- 45 plate appearances, 6.7% BB rate, 17.8% K rate, .024 ISO, .152 BABIP
- .122 AVG, .182 OBP, .146 SLG
- Five hits, one double, three runs scored, one RBI.
- Maybe the worst stat of all: -8 WRC+; the league average is 100 so Javy was 102% worse than the average MLB Player.
One word: woof.
It's not that Javy was slow starting, or just off, it's that his start to the season was an entire reason to nearly write him off. That's why you saw him moved all over the batting order, including batting sixth that fateful night he was benched. Since his benching:
Javier Baez post-benching
Now, to be fair, Baez ripped a double the night he was benched. Maybe that swing helped to set him right. However, whatever it was that Hinch said to him in the tunnel seems to have had an effect. Not only on his on-field game but also in the way in which Baez is carrying himself.
- 81 plate appearances, 6.2% BB rate, 14.8% K rate, .194 ISO, .379 BABIP
- .347 AVG, .407 OBP,.542 SLG
- 25 hits, five doubles, three home runs, 11 runs scored, 14 RBI, two stolen bases.
- And that stat that matters most: 165 WRC+; a 173% improvement over the first stretch of the season.
Not only has Javy been swinging it very well, he's also the best defensive shortstop in the MLB according to Defensive Runs Saved (4) and Outs Above Average (6). This is the Javy Baez they signed to that deal, and no one has a reason to complain about it right now.
The Bottom Line
All the Javy boo birds are eating crow right now. He's performing well, looks like he's having fun again, and it's directly leading to wins for the Tigers. This is a good thing for a number of reasons, of which we won't dive into, but the bottom line is Javy is playing much, much, much better after he rode the pine for a night and the Tigers are better off for it.