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All or Nothing: Javier Baez is turning the MLB season into a Home Run Derby

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Javier Baez is the first of the Cubs' super prospects to reach the bigs, and he's started his career mashing home runs and striking out like someone who hasn't learned how to ration the "Swing for Power" option in a video game.

Baez, who mostly played shortstop in the Minors but has moved to second base in Chicago, has seven home runs in his first 21 games. Only the Astros' Chris Carter has hit more long balls since Baez made his debut.


Though the sample size is admittedly not massive, the 21-year-old's Gary Sheffield mannerisms and his all-or-nothing approach at the plate have been the catalyst for conversations about the philosophy of hitting and the merits of swinging out of your spikes on every pitch.

If you extrapolate his performance in his first 1/8 of a season in the majors to a full 162 games, Baez's stat line would look like this:

.198/.233/.465 with 54 home runs, 15 doubles, 84 RBIs, 30 BBs and 308 strikeouts.

First off, a 50-homer campaign next season would make Baez the youngest player to accomplish the feat (Prince Fielder did it at 23).

All the more impressive when you consider Baez's position: middle infield. A-Rod is the only middle infielder in MLB history to hit 50 homers in a season; he did it twice back when he was still a shortstop for the Texas Rangers -- and it would be even rarer considering Baez's transition to second base. Only three second basemen have logged 40-homer seasons: fellow Cub Ryne Sandberg in 1990 and Davey Johnson and Rogers Hornsby, who share the record for the position with 42.


But, that average ... woof. Of the 43 50-HR seasons in Major League history, only 13 were handcuffed to an average below .300 and none to one lower than .260. Baez is hitting 62 points below that lowest mark through his first 86 at-bats.

In those at-bats, Baez has been sat down on strikes 40 times, including an 0-for-4, four-strikeout performance on Tuesday. That puts him on pace for 308 in a full 162-game campaign. All-or-nothing poster boy Adam Dunn has hit 40 homers and struck out 200 times in the same season only once, let alone 50 and 300. In fact, no player in Major League history has hit 50 home runs and struck out more than 200 times in the same season (Chris Davis and Ryan Howard each K'd 199 times in their 50-HR seasons).

Babe Ruth struck out just 337 times in all four of his 50-HR seasons combined.

Just think about this: Baez is on pace to strike out 308 times in his first 162 games. To put that in perspective, Ken Griffey Jr. entered the bigs in April of 1989 when he was just 19 years old. He didn't strike out for the 308th time until September of 1992, two months before his 24th birthday.

Those strikeouts kill Baez's slugging percentage, too. Only two players have had 50-homer seasons while slugging less than .600--Cecil Fielder in 1990 (.592) and Andruw Jones in 2005 (.575). Baez is currently slugging .465.

Baez isn't exactly picking his pitches, either. He's swinging at basically everything. Most guys who launch balls that far into orbit and at that kind of rate usually do so while walking frequently (which is why the Adam Dunn comparison only goes so far). In his first full Major League season, Dunn walked 128 times. He has eight 100-walk seasons under his belt. Baez is on-pace for 30 in 162 games. Dunn once walked 30 times in a single month. Giancarlo Stanton walked 33 times before June 1 this season.

On the other hand, Baez isn't just using the hitter-friendly confines of Wrigley Field to collect his dingers. He's sending monster shots that have just as much of a chance at leaving the stadium as they do of leaving the field of play. According to ESPN's Home Run Tracker, five of his seven homers have had a true distance of at least 400 feet. That's 71 percent, and a higher rate than reigning moonshot superking Giancarlo Stanton (68 percent).


It's been nearly 100 years since Babe Ruth became the first player to hit 50 home runs in a season. Javier Baez obviously isn't Babe Ruth (we've already established that he isn't really even Adam Dunn). And it's important to keep in mind that our sample size with Baez is too small for this endeavor to be more accurate than it is entertaining. He probably won't hit 50 home runs next year and he probably won't strike out 300 times (at least we hope not).

But he and his binary approach to hitting should have your breath in your throat every time he comes up to bat with runners on base, even if it'll end like "Casey at the Bat" more times than not.