Remember those hitters on your Little League team who would helplessly flail at each and every curveball coming their way? Maybe you were that guy.
There is nothing worse than gearing up to take a big rip at what looks like a knee-high heater only to see the bottom fall out 6 inches before the plate. I’ve been there in my playing days. You walk back to the dugout feeling stupid. It’s not good for your batting average, either.
A select few hitters are so good at crushing the ball that their coaches do not care if they chase out of the zone. It is merely the cost of doing business. These hitters continue to chase throughout their entire baseball careers, even in the majors.
A select minority of chronic bad ball chasers can still hit for a high average. Vladimir Guerrero hit .318 over the course of his 16-year MLB career, but he is definitely the exception.
For the most part, hitters that routinely chase pitches will be streaky and prone to long cold stretches, thus making sustaining a high batting average virtually impossible.
Here is how we can use that information to win our leagues and make bank. If a hitter is raking while consistently chasing pitches out of the zone, one of two things is happening. Either this hitter is an anomaly who can sustain rates like this while still being productive or he is about to regress.
Let’s take a deeper look at one of baseball’s most frequent chasers and determine whether his habit is simply a side effect of his approach or a reason for concern.
The League’s Worst Chaser – Javier Baez
Much like milk or water, Javy Baez is a terrible chaser. Through his first 100+ plate appearances of 2019, Baez has offered at a staggering 44.9% of all pitches thrown to him that would have otherwise been balls.
It does not seem to be bothering the young middle infielder too much. He has posted a .320/8/21 line through his team’s first 23 games. My verdict – don’t worry about the chase rate. Javy will be fine.
Here is why I am not concerned about Baez’s chase rate. He is the long-lost son of Vladimir Guerrero, separated at birth. Well … not really. But he might as well be.
Baez owned the second-highest chase rate in 2018, posting an even higher 45.5% mark. Javy was third in chase rate in 2017, again swinging at over 45% of what should be waste pitches.
Since Baez began playing full-time in 2016, only Salvador Perez and Corey Dickerson have chased more often.
Isn’t he hurting his team? Why do they keep putting him out there? Because he is a great hitter, that’s why.
All he has done is mashed 89 dingers and driven in 290 runs in 3 seasons and one month of work. He hits the ball so hard that he has maintained a career BABIP of .338.
Sure, the kid chases a lot, but he has increased his home run total by at least 9 each season he has played full-time. He went from 14 to 23 to 34 from 2016-18. With 8 already through 22 games, Baez is on pace for 59 long balls this year.
I am not worried about Baez’s chase rate because he has swung at everything his entire career. His elevated .362 BABIP in 2019 is also no reason for alarm in my book. This is not too much higher than his career mark of .338.
He does not walk much (4.9% career) and he strikes out a ton (28.1% career). These are normally major red flags, but Baez is one of those rare talents who makes it work. If you happen to own Javy, hold onto him. You’ll be glad you did.
See you on top!