Photo Credit: Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

Vladdy 64: Digging for trends within Guerrero’s first 64 games

Through his first 64 games in the majors, it’s been a tale of three seasons for Vladimir Guerrero Jr. There were his first two weeks with the Blue Jays when he barely got a pitch to hit, the eight-game span in May when he collected five home runs and everything since then.

Vladdy hasn’t looked lost at the plate per se, but as of late, he’s missing that light tower power from the minors which elevated him into baseball folklore last year. His majestic moon shots have been replaced with a smattering of singles to the outfield.

He quelled many of those concerns with his Herculean display at the Home Run Derby last week, but after demolishing the minor leagues the last two years, Guerrero hasn’t produced consistently at the Major League level.

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Should there be a concern for a hitter like Vladdy who’s hit one home run over the last 32 games? Of course, it’s an alarming trend, but outside of the major counting stat like home runs and RBI’s, Guerrero is essentially the same hitter through his first 32 games as he was in the following 32.

Dates PA GB/FB LD% GB% FB% HR/FB Pull% Cent% Oppo% Soft% Med% Hard%
04/26 – 06/04 133 1.48 19.8% 47.9% 32.3% 19.4% 38.5% 39.6% 21.9% 18.8% 36.5% 44.8%
06/05 – 07/14 132 1.38 12% 51.1% 37% 5.9% 41.3% 38% 20.6% 26.1% 44.6% 29.3%

Numbers through July 14th – Data via FanGraphs/Baseball Savant

Dates BB% K% AVG OBP SLG OPS ISO BABIP wOBA wRC+ AVG Exit Velo AVG Launch Angle
04/26 – 06/04 9% 18.8% .248 .316 .446 .762 .198 .267 .323 101 91 MPH 6.7°
06/05 – 07/14 10.6% 18.9% .241 .326 .353 .679 .112 .289 .298 84 86.5 MPH 5.6°

Numbers through July 14th – Data via FanGraphs/Baseball Savant

Most of his peripherals are near identical through his first 64 games played. His strikeout and walk rate are very similar and his spray charts look identical from the first 32 games compared to the last 32 games.

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The big difference between those two timeframes boils down to four things; more ground balls, fewer line drives, a lower launch angle and a slightly diminished exit velocity.

Vladdy had nearly a 20 percent line drive rate through his first 32 games, but that dialled back to 12 percent from June 5 to July 14. He started hitting fewer line drives and instead was pounding the ball into the ground and was getting under the ball, increasing his fly ball rate as well.

Chris Black pointed this out on Twitter last week, but Guerrero’s average exit velocity is down a tick or two as well. During his first month or so in the big leagues, Vladdy posted an average exit velocity of 91 miles per hour. The following 32 games, it decreased to 86.5 miles per hour.

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A few people mentioned this already, but that slight downshift may coincide with the timeframe when Guerrero was hit by a fastball on the hand, courtesy of Gerrit Cole back on June 14. It’s not uncommon for power hitters to see some of their power dissipate in the weeks following a hand or wrist injury.

Then, of course, there’s mention of Guerrero potentially suffering from a Home Run Derby hangover, which seems silly to me. He was struggling well before the derby and he’s had plenty of time to recover in the week-plus since has 91 home run dinger parade in Cleveland.

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To me, the concerning part of Vladdy’s season thus far is his overall lack of extra-base power. He’s found a lot of holes on the infield and stung a lot of singles to the outfield, but he isn’t consistently driving balls to the gap or clubbed homers over the fence; something he did with regularity in the minors last year.

Is that part of having a world of expectations on the shoulders of a 20-year-old prospect? It’s incredibly early in Guerrero’s development, but this stretch is one of the first bouts of adversity he’s faced in his young career. This is Vladdy’s fourth year in professional baseball and for the first time in his career, he’s in an environment where he’s being challenged.

On the plus side, Guerrero’s plate discipline remains consistent and he hasn’t deviated too far from the approach that got him to the big leagues. He isn’t chasing more pitches outside of the strike zone and he’s swinging at quality pitches.

In due time, his extra-base power should return. Vladdy’s situated in a prime spot in the Blue Jays lineup where he’s finally getting pitches he can hit. Outside of making tweaks in the batter’s box, there aren’t many other adjustments the Blue Jays can suggest to get his bat going again.

Luckily, he hasn’t been out there by himself on an island; the emergence of Cavan Biggio, Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and the recent resurgence by Danny Jansen has cushioned the blow of Guerrero’s recent dry spell at the plate.

At first glance, it looks concerning that Vladdy has one home run to his name over his previous 32 games. Outside of a few small differences, he’s been the same hitter since day one. For better or worse, that’s the kind of up-and-down season Guerrero’s going to have this year.

    • El Cabeza

      Pillar would have been a better hitter than Mike Trout in his first season. I guess the Angels missed out on flipping their prospect for Superman at that time.

  • Snakeeer

    I’m disappointed in how Guerrero seems to not adjust to how the pitchers are pitching to him. He looks at a lot of strike 1 fastballs down the middle which puts him in a pitcher’s count and puts him on the defensive. His reactions with 2 strikes are also showing his immaturity. He swings the same at all counts. A lot of Blue Jays batters have that problem. Guerrero is struggling for the first time of his career and we’ll see if he can adjust. When he first came to the majors, his bat speed was fast and helped him hit the ball with authority. I personally think his swing is longer and slower now. He appears to need to start swinging earlier to make up for that and therefore swings at balls more often. Hopefully he figures it out or he’ll need to go down to AAA to do so.