Detroit needs Javy Baez to get his magic back

It’s easy enough to find the main reason the Detroit Tigers are among the worst teams in the major leagues, just as we enter the third month of the season: Detroit hasn’t hit. Point and ball.

A lineup loaded with hitters who have been successful for most of their careers has failed to execute up to its reputation. And for obvious reasons, among all the Tigers’ poor performances, that of the charismatic Puerto Rican shortstop stands out. Javier Baez.

Baez, who earned the nickname “El Mago” as much for his defensive skills as for his genius running the bases or handling the wood, signed a six-year, $140 million contract on the free agent market to help Detroit to jump to the next level.

“Baez was a great need for us, because of his glove and because of his bat,” Tigers general manager Al Avila said before the season opener. “The bar has been raised. We want to win and we believe that with the acquisitions we have made, we can reach the playoffs this year,” Ávila added in a conversation with ESPN Digital.

The reality is Detroit hasn’t looked like a playoff team thus far and Baez hasn’t looked like the man to carry them.

Baez went 2-for-4 with two RBIs on Sunday, but couldn’t prevent the Tigers from being swept by the New York Yankees in the Bronx over the weekend. In the season, the Puerto Rican hit .198 (167-33) with three home runs and 15 RBI in 43 games.

Detroit is 21-33, 10 games behind the Minnesota Twins in the central division and six games out of the final wild card for the AL playoffs after two full months of the season.

Among the 161 qualified major league hitters (who have the appearances necessary to rank among the percentage leaders), Baez is 157th in OPS (.539) and OBP (.234) and 149th in hitting.

Worse yet, Baez has walked six times and struck out 46 times and state-of-the-art metrics show he is hitting more ground balls and fewer fly balls than earlier in his career, which has reduced his opportunities for balls from the park. His hard-hitting percentage (28%) is the worst of his career.

A two-time All-Star and Gold Glove winner two years ago, Baez is averaging 29 walks and 179 strikeouts per 162 games, but also 27 home runs, 15 steals and 87 RBIs. Sadly, if he doesn’t get his touch back soon, projections indicate he would end up with the worst season of his career.

When Báez hit his third home run of the season, on May 22 against the Cleveland Guardians at Progressive Field, he snapped a 23-game streak without hitting a ball out of bounds, the fourth-worst of his career and the longest since July 2017.

A sore right thumb, which occurred in the first game of the season, no less, affected the start of Báez’s career in Detroit. The shortstop went 2-for-4, including the game-winning ninth-inning hit, in his debut and .316 in his first five games in a Tigers uniform, but then had to be placed on the disabled list a week after the game. start of actions.

With the glove, Baez has two runs saved on defense, which isn’t exactly bad, but it’s a long way from the 31 he had in 2019 and behind the six he had two years ago. Playing two positions and two different teams in 2021, Baez finished with three runs saved at 2B and three at SS.

Báez’s career has been characterized by long streaks, positive and negative, and the Tigers, who are last in the major leagues in OPS (.596), home runs (30) and runs scored (150), urgently need their most expensive gets into a positive sequence, so as not to be out of competition before the season reaches the halfway point of the calendar.

And it’s not like “The Wizard” is the only member of Detroit with a damaged engine. Dominican third baseman Jeimer Candelario Batting .181 with five homers, the second baseman from Curaçao jonathan schoop he does it for .192 with the same number of home runs, while the first baseman Spencer Torkelsonwho began the year as a serious Rookie of the Year candidate, is hitting .191 with four homers.

Venezuelan designated hitter Miguel Cabrera, who is playing in what could very well be the penultimate season of a legendary career, has been by far the best offensive player on the Tigers, at 39 years of age. Cabrera is batting .301 with three home runs, 19 RBIs and 14 runs scored and leads the club in batting averages, OBP (.345), Slugging (.393) and OPS (.738).

But while Cabrera, Candelario and Schoop would all be off the Tigers’ books after next season, Báez (whose average annual salary is $23.3 million) is locked in with the team through 2027, making a return almost mandatory. of his magic.

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Detroit needs Javy Baez to get his magic back