The Bernstein Brief: Metrics Favor Addison Russell Over Javier Baez At Shortstop

By Dan Bernstein —
CBSChicago.com senior columnist

(CBS) As much as we love highlights, baseball success is more often in the routine and better handled by those who make the former look like the latter.

For all the flair Javier Baez has shown at shortstop for the Cubs with Addison Russell out, Russell will and should regain his rightful spot there. And the decision isn’t a difficult one after consulting more than just our recent and often fallible respective memories.

Russell has 14 defensive runs saved in 159 plays this season, per Fangraphs.com, and Baez just one in 112. Even missing all the time he has, Russell’s total in that category is still tied for second among MLB shortstops behind Andrelton Simmons’s otherworldly 28 DRS in 252 plays. Russell has an Ultimate Zone Rating of 4.0 based largely on his superior range, while Baez posts a -0.8.

What’s interesting is that even as Baez returns to regular duty at second base, these same numbers also show how well Ben Zobrist has been performing there this season. The 36-year-old Zobrist has a UZR of 3.1 and three DRS in 96 plays, while Baez has a 0.6 UZR and 4 DRS in 78 plays. But when we factor in the measured values of offensive runs above average and baserunning runs above average, the decision to keep Baez in the lineup there is also easy.

The Cubs are fighting to lock down another division title and prepare for the playoffs, and they’re making the correct call. The spectacular is entertaining, but better is better.

Dan Bernstein is a co-host of 670 The Score’s “Bernstein and Goff Show” in afternoon drive. You can follow him on Twitter: @dan_bernstein and read more of his columns here.

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