Every Monday, in this space, we examine the exploits of Vladimir Guerrero Jr. over the previous week. This week, however, it felt appropriate to shine the light on Bo Bichette instead.
For what it’s worth, Vladdy hit an impressive .500/.536/.962 last week, but had a rough time in the field, making three errors.
Shortly prior to his MLB call up, Bo Bichette was pretty explicit about feeling ready for the challenge of the highest level. In his first week in The Show, he backed up his words with stellar play.
“It’s been good,” he said, rather modestly summarizing his inaugural week in the majors for reporters. “Definitely things I need to get better at and things I love that I’ve done so far.”
The 21-year-old started his career with a seven-game hit streak and claimed the leadoff spot in just his second contest. He hasn’t relinquished it yet, and it’s possible he’ll be written in at the top of the Blue Jays’ lineup for a long, long time.
His impressive first act also coincided with a rare five-game win streak that made it just a little easier to imagine what a winning future for the Blue Jays could look like.
Here’s a closer look at Bichette’s big week:
The line: 13-for-32 with 2 home runs, 5 doubles, 3 walks and 5 strikeouts
Best at-bat: Home run vs. Jakob Junis in the eighth inning on Wednesday
When in doubt, you’ve got to go with the first career home run. There’s not much to this at-bat, but you have to credit Bichette with not letting Junis drop in a free strike. So far, the young shortstop has swung at 42.9 percent of first pitches, and hit both of his two home runs those swings.
Although the willingness to be a first-pitch ambush hitter is admirable, what made this one special was the swing.
That's what you'd call "swinging from the heels" pic.twitter.com/ciSeWx2L5K— Nick Ashbourne (@NickAshbourne) July 31, 2019
Worst at-bat: Strikeout vs. Jimmy Yacobonis in the sixth inning on Thursday
Bichette didn’t have a lot of bad at-bats last week. It’s hard to put up such a ridiculous line while giving away AB’s. He was awfully aggressive at the plate, though. That usually served him well, but there were a couple of times he went fishing a little too far outside the strike zone.
This was a perfect example. Despite seeing two sliders from Yacobonis earlier in the at-bat, the 21-year-old was utterly fooled on the final pitch of this trip to the plate. You never want to end up waving at a pitch this far from the zone:
How they pitched him:
When hitters first reach the major leagues, they tend to be faced with a rather generic game plan. Pitchers are happy to pitch to their own strengths until rookies show their own weaknesses.
That was certainly the case for Bichette in his first go around the majors. His fastball percentage against (with cutters counting as fastballs under Baseball Savant’s categories), and zone percentage were almost exactly league average on the week. He was also pitched down-and-away out of the strike zone more than any other location. This is all very vanilla stuff.
The only wrinkle was the fact Bichette faced almost no off-speed pitches. When the 21-year-old has to deal with his first opponent with a truly special changeup or splitter it will make for a particularly interesting test.
Defense and base running: Questions about Bichette’s ability to stick at shortstop have waned this year with his work at Triple-A, and he hasn’t looked out of place in the majors. Until Sunday, he’d had a fairly uneventful week in the field, putting up a minus-1 DRS, which means little in such a small sample.
On Sunday, however, he stood out - both positively and negatively. In the first inning, he showed impressive fielding acumen by gunning down a runner at second base on a popup to left that shouldn’t have fallen in.
Unfortunately for Bichette, things went downhill from there. The rookie committed an error on a routine groundball the very next inning which led to one run in the moment and two later in the frame.
The play serves as a classic example of what happens when you get ahead of yourself and don’t watch the ball into your glove.
“Just thinking about the runner, thinking about the throw before actually catching the ball,” he explained to reporters after Sunday’s game. “Ninety-nine times out of 100, maybe 999,999 times out of a million I’d make that play.”
It can happen to just about anyone, although if Bichette wants a good example of the type of guy who never seems to make these blunders it’s teammate Freddy Galvis. As Bichette’s internal clock improves with experience, these plays will become fewer and further between.
In the bottom of the seventh Bichette was charged with his second error of the game, although there’s an argument to be made that part-time first baseman Cavan Biggio was more culpable on the play.
There’s actually not a tonne to dislike here as Bichette backs up and sets his feet nicely. The throw just didn’t really work out. Having this play go down as an error makes it seem like the shortstop had a brutal day in the field, but it wasn’t quite that dramatic - even if the first blunder was particularly untimely.
On the base paths, Bichette didn’t make anything special happen - although his 15 stolen bases in just 56 games at Triple-A make it clear that he has more than a passing interest in larceny. Statcast has pegged him at a Sprint Speed of 27.4 ft/s, which is in the league’s 65th percentile, although his sample size is small enough that could change a bit.
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