You don't want to kick a person when he's down, but at the same time…good lord.
Javier Baez was Detroit's crown jewel during this most recent offseason (I couldn't even read that with a straight face, but sadly it's true). Carlos Correa, Corey Seager, and Trevor Story were too expensive for an owner whose net worth is in the billions. And following a nice little start to the season, including a walkoff on Opening Day, Javier Baez has fallen off a cliff. Yes, Javy is a tremendous defender and a solid baserunner. I'm happy to compliment him on his cannon of an arm, though it's hard to praise his baserunning at this point because the threat of wreaking havoc on the basepaths diminishes when you don't get on base.
Among the 157 qualified hitters in baseball, Javier Baez ranks dead last in wRC+. I couldn't help but chuckle when I saw that Baez's teammates Jonathan Schoop and Jeimer Candelario rank 156 and 155, just above Baez. This means that the three worst baseball players play for the same team in terms of run creation. Good work, everybody. Baez is 153rd out of 157 players in batting average (Spencer Torkelson is last). He's 156th in OBP, just ahead of Jonathan Schoop and just behind Jeimer Candelario. He's 153rd in slugging percentage, and he also draws a walk about once every two weeks.
Baez has been a free swinger his whole career. There are entire compilations on the internet of him swinging at junk. And while I find it aesthetically displeasing watching someone consistently flail at sliders low and away, that formula has more often than not worked for Baez throughout his career. His pedigree speaks for itself. I would be happy to trade a high chase rate if it meant we'd get twenty-five home runs a year. Hell, at this point, I'd settle for twenty-five doubles. But the problem with Baez right now isn't that he's swinging and missing at bad pitches, he's swinging and missing at good pitches. Last night he got Dylan Cease to a 3-2 count with the bases loaded and one out. He swung and missed through a fastball that was as down the middle as it could be. He would finish the night 0-4, and he's now in the midst of an 0-11 streak.
The sad reality of this situation is that the Tigers are stuck with Javier Baez. After consistently being promised that the Tigers would spend when the time was right, Chris Ilitch and Al Avila spent money on a shortstop who might not be hitting his body weight at this point. Do I think Javier Baez will be the worst hitter in baseball throughout his six years in Detroit? Absolutely not. I have a pretty long leash with that stuff. Sometimes players, even excellent players, can have entire seasons in which they're out of sync. At the same time, this notion that the organization preached in which they tried to convince the fanbase that somehow Javier Baez was the missing puzzle piece was a clear fabrication and a reflection of the fact that the people in charge of the Tigers have no clue what they're doing. So we can look forward to five more years of Baez.
I watched Javier Baez a lot when he played for the Cubs. When he felt himself, he was an electric player, and I hope we see a semblance of that player again at some point. And while I yell "LAY OFF THAT FUCKING SLIDER" at my television screen about six times a night, I don't believe that what he's going through now is a result of poor worth ethic. I know he's better than how he's played, but that isn't comforting for any Detroit fan, nor should it be because Tigers fans have been patient. We were promised something different this season. And in a sad twist of fate, that's what we've gotten. In past years, the Tigers had one of the worst offenses in baseball. This year, they have one of the worst offenses of all time. At the forefront of that is a free agent shortstop who is now the worst hitter in baseball.