Javy More Comfortable with Everyday Role, Improved Communication with Russell
For all the flash and swag, not to mention the way he’s able to move seamlessly around the diamond, it’s easy to overlook the fact that Javy Baez has never really been an everyday player. Not for an extended period anyway, unless you want to count the time he spelled an injured Addison Russell late last season.
That should all change this year, with Baez entering the season as the Cubs’ starting second baseman. Despite Ben Zobrist’s desire to play 130 full games coming off of a disappointing 2017 campaign, it’s high time the veteran officially passed the baton. Getting regular reps at the same spot can only help as Baez looks to take the next step in his development.
“I’m just trying to be patient, obviously, and last year I was just trying to make a lot of adjustments in a short time,” Javy told reporters after Saturday’s game, his first in over a week after sitting with a tender hamstring. “Now that I don’t got that pressure that I don’t know if I’m going to play tomorrow or not, it’s gonna help me a lot.
Knowing when and where he’s going to play each day really should help Javy to feel more comfortable and could well aid his performance. A lot of that is pure common sense, but actual psychological studies have proven that longer cue periods lead to lower switch costs. Which is to say that knowing when and where he’s going to play each day should really aid Javy’s performance.
Something about that sounds oddly familiar, but I just can’t really put my finger on it. Maybe it’ll come to me.
Of course, playing only second base all season is entirely unrealistic for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the need to give Zobrist at least a little run. And even though Ian Happ has effectively converted to a full-time outfielder, Joe Maddon might see fit to let him play in the dirt on occasion. Then you’ve got the need to give Addison Russell a break every now and again.
Outside of carrying spring training All-Star Mike Freeman on the roster for that express purpose, Javy is going to shift to the other side of the bag at least a few times. One such instance will come Sunday’s as Russell handles those duties in the other half of the Cubs’ split-squad games.
“They actually asked me if I wanted to play short tomorrow and I was fine with it,” Javy said. “It gives me pretty good arm strength too, throwing from short.”
But don’t you go interpreting that talk about arm strength as some sort of an argument for the middle infielders to switch positions. Fully healed from his shoulder issues and more than capable of making all the requisite throws, Russell is pretty clearly the superior shortstop. And keeping the pair in their set positions can only make them stronger, both individually and as a tandem.
“[Russell’s] been obviously working too, we’ve got a lot better communication now, as a team and even between me and him. We got great communication on the field and he’s been throwing the ball really good. He actually looks stronger now.”
Wait, so you’re telling me the Cubs could have a strong, healthy Addison Russell and a strong, healthy Javy Baez playing beside one another on a daily basis. Where do I sign up? If you feel the same and would like to join me in supporting this movement, please feel free to add your John Hancock below.