Cubs give Javy Báez a ‘mental reset’ amid slump
Javy Báez’s frustration at the plate has been palpable lately and manager David Ross opted to give the All-Star shortstop a day off Sunday.
The break serves two purposes — a mental day off amid an offensive slump and a physical rest with the Cubs set to play five games in three days against the Cardinals this week at Wrigley Field.
“Get him off his feet, get him a mental reset and get him ready for the games we’ve got to come, I felt was good for him and our team,” Ross said.
Báez has anchored the defense once again this season, playing nearly every inning of the team’s games at shortstop and making highlight-reel plays from all over the field — including from deep in the outfield grass:
Javy makes it look easy. pic.twitter.com/cAoGzSHqNe— Marquee Sports Network (@WatchMarquee) August 15, 2020
His offense has been a different story as he’s found himself in a rut lately. After hitting a home run on Aug. 1, Báez has just 1 extra-base hit and a .381 OPS in 43 plate appearances across 10 games.
That’s brought his season average down to .205 and his OPS sits at .613 through the Cubs’ first 18 contests.
Báez struck out 4 times in Friday’s loss to the Brewers and on Saturday, he hit the ball hard without results. He smoked a ball 99.5 mph up the middle in the 5th inning of Saturday’s game, but the Brewers had him shaded perfectly and it went down as a groundout despite a .620 expected batting average.
“You cant control where the ball goes,” Ross said. “You have to continue to put in the work — which Javy does — and continue to stay at it. This guy’s been playing a while now and I think he understands the ups and downs of a season. This is no different.
“Hitting is extremely hard. You try to hit them right on the screws and he did [Saturday] a couple times. You want them to fall and usually that’s when things start to turn around — when something just falls in there or gets through. But as long as you’re hitting the ball hard, that’s all you can control.”
Ross said he doesn’t worry about star players with long track records of success like Báez, Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo, but he also wants to make the prudent decision and ensure those guys aren’t pressing too much amid a sprint of a season.
After Bryant landed awkwardly on his wrist on a diving attempt in left field in Cleveland, Ross and the Cubs played it conservatively and gave the leadoff hitter the next couple games off to rest up and regain full health. Ross especially didn’t want Bryant to develop any bad habits mechanically because of the injury.
As for Báez, Ross acknowledged he has seen the slugger pressing a bit at the plate even though he continues to help the team win in a variety of other ways.
“He’s had some really good at-bats,” Ross said before Saturday’s game. “You see sometimes when he’s tried to shorten up, he’s got some base hits the other way. I feel like he wants to get going for himself. You see sometimes the big swings and him wanting to get going a little bit.
“Javy’s one of those guys — every day he comes in, he affects the game in a positive way: defensively, offensively, with baserunning. Just his attitude in general is pretty infectious around our team.”
The Cubs have still been successful offensively despite Báez’s slow start, but they also know how important it is to get the 2018 NL MVP runner-up into a groove for the final month-and-a-half of the season.