Midway through the 2009 season the Cubs acquired Jeff Baker from the Rockies in exchange for Al Alburquerque. Alburquerque striked out a lot of batters, but walked more than his fair share. He was 23 at the time and at best appeared to be a middle reliever. The Cubs acquired someone with potential who at the very least would be a quality back-up at 2nd and 3rd base. In 224 PA for the Cubs in 2009 Baker had a .355 wOBA. He absolutely crushed lefties and had some difficulty with righties.
He was mediocre in 224 PA in 2010 and was quite bad in 2011. Despite a .333 BABIP, he hit only .269/.302/.383 (good for a .300 wOBA). His ISO fell to .114. His walk rate fell. Baker managed an impressive 23.8% line drive rate, but when he wasn’t hitting liners, he was pounding the ball into the ground. His GB/FB ratio was the highest in his career at 1.7. In his career 43.8% of balls in play have been grounders. Last year it was just over 48%. His FB rate fell to 28%. He ended the season hitting only 3 home runs.
In his career he’s swung at 28.8% of pitchest out of the zone. In 2011 he did on 37.7% of out of zone pitches. His overall contact rate was about the same so he was hitting pitches that were much more difficult to made solid contact on.
DRS, UZR and Total Zone all had Baker below average on defense in 2011. He had been an above average fielder.
His career wRC+ vs lefties is 127 and last year it was 119. He didn’t hit them as well as he had been, but he still hit them well above average. In Baker’s impressive stint with the Cubs in 2009 he was league average vs righties. He’d never hit them well in the past and in 2010 he posted a wOBA of .150 against righties (-22 wRC+). This past year he improved all the way to a 26 wRC+. Jeff Baker cannot hit righties. He should really not ever face them if it’s at all possible.
Since Baker continues to hit lefties well he’ll stick around on an MLB roster for awhile. The Cubs could easily use him next season in a platoon role or they can use him off the bench vs lefties. If he ability to hit lefties continues to decline he won’t be around baseball much longer.
By the way, nobody really could have seen Alburquerque progressing as he did, but in 2011 he made his big league debut and put up silly numbers. In 43.1 innings he allowed 21 hits. Yes, you read that right. He didn’t allow a single home run and he struckout 67 (13.9 per 9 innings). He did walk 6 per 9 so that’s going to be an issue, but he had a pretty good rookie season.