When Vladimir Guerrero Jr. made news this week, it was not for the right reasons.
The 20-year-old rookie was ejected for the first time in his career arguing balls and strikes on Friday - a battle as manager Charlie Montoyo said “you can’t win.” It’s something that should never happen, but at the same time, it would be foolish to overreact to it.
For his age, Vladdy has actually shown pretty remarkable maturity and an ejection like this one does little to take away from that.
More concerning was the week he had at the plate, where he failed to register an extra-base hit and looked like a guy who’d completely cooled off after being on fire for the majority of the second half.
Here’s how Guerrero Jr. fared in a week that certainly won’t go down as his best:
The line: 5-for-18 with 5 singles, 2 walks and 2 strikeouts.
Best at-bat: Single vs. Mike Soroka in the sixth inning on Tuesday
Vladdy didn’t have any truly remarkable hits last week, but one of his at-bats against tough Canadian righty Mike Soroka stood out.
In an unfavourable 1-2 count the slugger was able to get the head out against a tough slider just off the plate and deposit it in left-centre.
There’s nothing spectacular about the hit itself, but it was a great example of the right way to expand the zone. Although the breaking ball was just out of the zone, it was far too close to leave to the umpire’s discretion and so Vlad went to work on it. The slider was a tough pitch in its own right, and Guerrero Jr. didn’t do too much with it, earning him a hit.
Worst at-bat: Groundout vs. Wade Miley in the third inning on Friday
An obvious candidate for his worst at-bat is the one that got him booted from Friday’s game, but that’s already been covered so this routine groundout comes up in its place.
What makes this a rough trip to the dish is just how badly Vladdy was fooled by Miley’s changeup. The rookie slugger swung at the pitch near the dirt and was well in front of it to boot.
It looked like this:
There’s a big difference between a valid expansion of the zone with two strikes - like in the best at-bat of the week - and getting yourself out on an uncompetitive offering. Guerrero Jr. has done the latter a few times this year, which is totally understandable for a rookie.
As Vladdy matures, outcomes like this will get rarer and rarer.
How the pitched him:
These numbers alone make it seem like it should have been a banner week for Vladdy. After all, fastballs in the zone should be a power hitter’s bread and butter. However, “in the zone” covers a lot of ground and while Guerrero Jr. tends to own the lower third, teams have had success pounding him up-and-in.
Houston in particular went after this spot and it makes sense because it’s where he has the most trouble driving the ball.
Right now that looks like a location to be exploited. Now it’s Vlad’s turn to make an adjustment.
Defence and base running:
Guerrero Jr.’s defence continues to be troubling, and it seems like every week he does something to plant further seeds of doubt about his ability to play third base.
Continuing to throw him out there is the only way to go for the Blue Jays, but that has resulted in more than a few ugly plays. His error on Friday, for instance, set the stage for an Astros’ four-run inning that helped them seize control of the game.
The misplay also had an unfortunate lackadaisical look to it as well as Vladdy threw out his glove and and saw the ball clank unceremoniously off of it.
Playing Guerrero Jr. at third base in as ongoing experiment and he’s far from a finished product. Right now, it’s clear that experiment isn’t going too well.
According to FanGraphs, Vladdy has cost his club more runs in the field (9.2) above replacement than he’s created with his bat (8.3). You can quibble with that math and how seriously to take defensive metrics down to a decimal point, but the situation still has to be concerning for the Blue Jays.
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