A few Sundays ago on the national broadcast, the Cubs were taking on the Nationals in D.C. and Cubs star shortstop Javier Baez collapsed to the ground in pain after making an unbelievable defensive play. He tried to stay in the game but was removed shortly thereafter. The diagnosis was a bruised heel. He’d miss the next two starts (though in the second game, he actually pinch hit with a walk-off single).
The injury has appeared to linger. A red flag went up for me when Baez served as the designated hitter for the first two games in Houston earlier this week. Baez is a dynamic defensive player and even if you disagree, teams aren’t in the business of DHing everyday shortstops and most certainly not in order to put Daniel Descalso at second base.
Baez was back at shortstop Friday night in St. Louis. Saturday, he was initially in the lineup, but then this happened:
The injury happened on May 19. The injured list in MLB is 10 days. I’m all for players playing through pain if it doesn’t affect performance, but …
Baez before injury: .319/.359/.595; 57 K in 185 AB
Baez since injury: .222/.300/.417; 18 K in 36 AB
Now, the strikeouts are going to be there with Baez, and they are acceptable when he’s in pre-injury form with a .319 average and nearly .600 slugging percentage. Since the injury he has some highlights (two homers and the aforementioned walk-off), but he’s mostly been badly off and, to be clear, striking out in half of your at-bats isn’t OK for anyone.
Maybe it’s the heel, maybe it’s not. Maybe it’s a combination of the heel and something else. All we know is he’s been in a huge funk of late while dealing with a heel injury.
The Cubs, too, are in a funk, entering Saturday having lost six of their last eight. Some might worry about placing one of their four star position players on in the IL, but it’s still only June 1 and it’s much more important to have Baez going well in August and September (and possibly October) than the next 10 days. If he’s really being held back performance-wise by the heel, it would behoove them to get him right.