Detroit Tigers and the curious case of Javier Báez

Detroit Tigers shortstop Javier Baez (28) protests a call during an at-bat against the Chicago White Sox.
Detroit Tigers shortstop Javier Baez (28) protests a call during an at-bat against the Chicago White Sox. / Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

Detroit Tigers' shortstop Javier Báez slumping once again.

The Detroit Tigers have seen shortstop Javier Báez slump a bit lately. Even some of the Tigers faithful took to Twitter saying it was time to bench the star again, to light a fire underneath him again, and see him kick it into high gear.

After Detroit Tigers manager A.J. Hinch benched Báez after a baserunning miscue, he went on an absolute tear for the team, swinging the stick well and helping the team make a bit of a run as they climbed the standings in an abysmal AL Central Division.

Báez has since cooled off and really struggled as of late. He's hitting .122/.143/.195 with just one walk and 14 punchouts over 42 plate appearances. This ranges from his last ten games at the time of writing, stretching back to May 26th.

The shortstop has not exactly been seeing the ball well as of late, and the swing-and-miss issues have reappeared again. Not that they went away, but it has become a more noticeable problem once again.

I'll be the first to admit that I am a Báez critic and have not been thrilled with him as I was upset with the signing of Báez when it happened. But trying to embrace it, he has been fine at times, but the performance lately has been problematic.

Something that has come up a good bit when it comes to Báez is his ability to perform well on competing teams. A colleague of mine, Bob Heyrman, and I often joke about the Báez signing, as he is big on the Puerto Rican shortstop.

Heyrman said that he performed well during his time with the Cubs during their route to the World Series championship and that he has done well when things are going well with the Tigers. He's right, and it just got me thinking a bit.

Báez is one of those players who thrives off competition and that motivation to win. When the team's in the dumps and things are down, Báez seems to be down. The mass amount of injuries and immediate need to claw and fight for each win has been tough, and hitting woes have come out from Báez and several of the Tigers hitters, honestly.

It just really seems like Báez is one of those highs and lows players that rides the highest of highs and sinks to the lowest of lows. He's a player that will have fans excited they're spending $24 million on him one week because of some flashy glove work and a week where he hits .400 with a handful of extra-base hits.

But, Báez is also going to throw away several balls one week when the team's in a slump, and he's going to be the superstar being paid $24 million a year to hit .100 with 11 punchouts and some ugly swings on that low & away slider that teams feed to him.

What irks me about Báez is that the swing-and-miss on the slider never improves. You can argue that he's made some contact and tattooed a few sliders in his day, but I've written about this before, last year diving into it a bit more. He hits mistakes.

Báez's damage on sliders comes when pitchers miss their spot and leave a hanger over the middle that he punches pull-side for a hit or a homer. Any good big leaguer should be able to punish the hanger. Any big leaguer should have their eyes light up when the catcher is set up low and away for that wipeout slider, and instead, it hangs in the happy zone.

Maybe it's just me gawking at Báez over a rough stretch or being overly critical since I was "out" on the signing from day one. But it's a curious case of inconsistency, paired with the highest highs and lowest lows regarding their big-time shortstop.

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