On Friday, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. provided a magical moment, emulating his father with a bad-ball home run for the ages.
It was the kind of moment that stands out in the midst of a non-competitive season, the sort of thing that will be remembered as so many others are forgotten.
Unfortunately for Vladdy, the miraculous homer hardly had time to marinate in the Blue Jays psyche as the very next day he was removed from a game due to knee inflammation he suffered on this play.
“I felt a little tweak on that play,” he said through a translator. “Me and Bo spoke with the trainers in between innings. I felt a little bit uncomfortable. They just want to be cautious with that.”
There was all kinds of awkward and unusual movement from Guerrero Jr. on the play, but that’s par for the course from a guy who isn’t a natural defender, so it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what went wrong. Whatever the case may be, Vladdy wasn’t too worried about his prognosis, even if he doesn’t have a timetable for his return just yet.
"I'm not going to put a day on it. I like to go out there and play very hard so when I feel like my knee is fully recovered I'm going to go out there."
Here’s how Guerrero Jr. fared before his injury scare in a week where his manager, Charlie Montoyo, called him “locked in” and “dangerous”:
The line: 5-for-18 with 2 doubles, 1 home run, 1 walk and 2 strikeouts
Best at-bat: Double vs. Ariel Jurado first inning on Monday
Coming of a 13-pitch duel against Aroldis Chapman last week, it’s difficult to pick a worthy “best at-bat” this week — especially since his impressive home run was not really the result of a great batter-pitcher duel, and was instead a feat of pure strength.
This double wasn’t the result of an amazing duel either, just a willingness to be aggressive. It did, however, result in his hardest-hit ball of the week — this one coming off that bat at a sizzling 111.9 mph. Less than one-third of the 436 hitters who’ve put 50 balls in play this year have managed a single hit this hard:
In three of the four full games Guerrero Jr. played this week he was the author of the contest’s hardest-hit ball.
Worst at-bat: Strikeout vs. Jose Leclerc ninth inning on Wednesday
This one earns extra demerit points for being a game ender, but the real reasoning for its inclusion here is that it features two consecutive chases, both of the ugly variety. Also the second pitch here is an absolute cookie of a slider that was begging to be smacked. Instead, Vladdy fouled it off.
Leclerc is a nasty reliever, but anyone can be when you don’t make them go near the strike zone. Any at-bat that concludes like this is not a good one:
How they pitched him:
Guerrero Jr.’s shortened week probably played into the wonkiness of these numbers — as did the fact he faced Lance Lynn — but they are extremely odd. If you’re going up against Vladdy, pounding him with fastballs in the zone is not the way to go, but that’s exactly what the Mariners and Rangers did.
They paid the price to the tune of .278/.318/.556, but knowing these numbers and the rookie’s strengths you’d almost expect a juicier output. One thing this approach did was nullify his ability to draw walks, as he managed just one on the week.
Defence and base running:
Other than the play that caused him his injury, it was a pretty quiet time in the field for Guerrero Jr. last week. Right now he’s grading out as a truly dismal glovesmith per UZR (-9.8 runs) while DRS has him as below average, but not disastrous (-2).
The truth probably lies somewhere in between, but whatever the case may be, the rookie needs to improve if he wants to stick at the position long term. Range is probably always going to be an issue, but if he can be more sure-handed and mistake free that’s not impossible.
On the bases the wait for Vladdy’s first stolen base continues, but he seems to have picked things up in the highly-underrated “hustle double” category. Tuesday’s two-bagger to left-centre certainly fit that description.
Add that to his inaugural triple earlier this month and it does feel like Vladdy is making more of a concerted effort to hustle of the box lately. That trend may find itself on ice due to a desire to be cautious with his knee, though.
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