Most of the attention on Javy Báez‘s magic rightly goes to the mind-boggling sleight of hand he uses to tag and avoid tags, but baserunning feats are a big part of what makes him El Mago. Specifically, the way he’s able to turn singles into doubles, teleport on throws to other bases, and make 90 feet disappear by advancing on wild pitches.
FanGraphs has a metric called BsR, an all encompassing baserunning stat that seeks to measure runs added by weighing extra bases taken against outs made on the basepaths. Javy’s 3.9 BsR ranked 26th in MLB last season and was right in line with a 3.8 that ranked 20th in 2017. Interestingly, Kris Bryant‘s 4.8 was 10th in 2017, confirming the eye test of his gazelle-like running.
But just like there’s no way to quantify the elusiveness of Javy’s swim move or the velocity of his glove on a swipe tag, no numbers exist to accurately explain the actual impact of his exploits. He’s not just taking advantage of opportunities, he’s creating them. By so doing, he’s squatting rent-free in opponents’ heads and inviting his teammates over for a party.
BsR can’t take into account a player’s intent or the degree of difficulty involved in a particular baserunning gambit. Some might call it reckless, perhaps because Javy does things most other players would never dream of attempting, but it’s hard to blame him when it works so frequently.
Eh, it's probably for the best that Javy was out there. He was gonna keep trying to stretch every single to CF into a double until he got thrown out. Flew too close to the sun.
— Cubs Talk (@NBCSCubs) April 17, 2019
I have a couple clips of these plays from recent games to demonstrate just how good Javy is at applying pressure on the base paths. Added bonus: More chances to see magic slides!
Against the Angels last Saturday, Báez extended two bloop singles into doubles. Below we see him taking second on a broken-bat flare to right when Kole Calhoun was so surprised that he didn’t even throw to the base.
In this next highlight, another aggressive El Mago move creates an error that leads to an extra base. A blooper drops in right and the Marlins outfielder rushes a throw to second. Not only does Javy beat the play, he alertly springs back up and takes third base when the throw gets away from the shortstop.
On this play, look how Javy never breaks stride in going for second the entire time. The Marlins execute perfectly and the throw is cut off by the first baseman who fires perfectly to the base. As is often the case, however, Ednel is in just ahead of the tag. Jason Heyward subsequently singled to left and cashed in the runner in scoring position.
And these plays are all just from the last week of action, he does this stuff all the time. Some may think all the praise for Báez is over the top, but I honestly don’t think it’s enough. Every aspect of his game is a net plus for the Cubs.
Javy is always going to take whatever his opponents give him. If you let up for just a second, slip up even a bit, you will pay for it. The rest of the league better start paying attention or they will be the next victim of the magic man.