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The season that was: Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

A look at Vlad’s 2020 season

MLB: Toronto Blue Jays at Miami Marlins Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

When Vladimir Guerrero Jr. finally was called up on April 26th of last season, by the Blue Jays, we had rather high expectations. I was told how he was going to be a better player than his dad. I had a hard time explaining that picking a 19-year-old to become a better player than a Hall of Famer is a bad bet.

Matt wrote:

At this point, Vlad could turn in a very good rookie season, fall well short of the projected slash line, and it would probably be considered a failure. The word overhyped will be tossed around, that if this is upon whom the franchise has pinned its hopes, the Jays better find a new plan. I wouldn’t even be surprised if he struggles for an extended period (by this I mean a couple weeks), there will be some hyperbolic calls of him being a bust.

Hot take overreaction is going to happen regardless, and it is best ignored. But the point I want to make now, even if it rapidly mooted by Vlad tearing the cover off the ball, is that even a pedestrian rookie season (by the standards of the projections and expectations) would not be indicative that he’s likely to fall short of future stardom.

The point is, there’s often an adjustment period for even the greatest. Baseball has a way of humbling even its immortals. At least for a little while anyway.

Maybe you could point us out some stocks Matt.

By the expectations, he had a disappointing rookie season and we heard everything Matt said we would.

This year, he came to spring training in much better shape than last year. He had an excellent spring, hitting .290/.358/581.

And then COVID hit and baseball was delayed for long enough to allow Vlad (and me) to put on a fair bit of weight. The team decided that Vlad would play first base, without the having spring training to learn the position. Something that would be unfair, but then they didn’t have much for choices, he wasn’t going to be able to play third.

Compared to expectations, his season was a bit of a disappointment.

Standard Batting
60 243 221 34 58 13 2 9 33 1 0 20 38 .262 .329 .462 .791 115 6
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 10/12/2020.

Baseball Reference has him at a 0.4 WAR. FanGraphs 0.3.

He had a .338 wOBA (up from .329 last year) and a 115 wRC+ (up from 105 last year).

His BABIP was down (.282 from .308).

Vlad’s walk rate was 8.2% (down from 8.9). Strikeout rate was 15.6% (down from 17.7).

His line drive rate was about the same as last year (17.5% from 17.3). Ground ball rate was up, (54.6% from 49.6). Fly balls down (27.9% from 33.1). More of his fly balls left the park (17.6% from 12.1).

Soft contact was down (14.2% from 20.8) and hard contact was up (38.8% from 34.4).

Vlad had kind of weird splits. LHP he hit with more power (.224/.318/.569). RHP he had a better batting average against (.276/.333/.423).

He hit much much better in Buffalo (.323/.380/.566) than on the road (.213/.289/.377).

Vlad by month:

July: .172/.200/.276 with 1 home run, 1 walk, 7 strikeouts in 7 games.

August: .289/.373/.515 with 4 home runs, 12 walks, 15 strikeouts in 26 games.

September: .263/.320/.463 with 4 home runs, 7 walks, 16 strikeouts in 27 games.

On defense, well it was a learning time. He made 3 official errors at first base, for a .990 FA in 34 games. FanGraphs had him at a -13.8 UZR/150.

I thought he improved as the season went on. He went too far chasing ground balls 2 or 3 times, but then he could have been helped out if his pitchers went to cover first. There was a play like that in one of the Rays playoff games. The Rays’ first basemen when a long way to get a ball (that the second baseman would have had easy), but the pitcher broke hard for first and got there in good time to make the play.

I really would like them to leave him at first, but Mark Shiparo said he might be playing third next year, depending on his fitness.

FanGraphs has him at a -0.9 runs as a base runner. He did steal a base and had 2 triples, but he was thrown out on the bases too much.

Where Guerrero hit in the lineup:

  • 3rd: 10 games.
  • 4th: 14 games.
  • 5th: 21 games.
  • 6th: 12 games.

Vlad had a stretch of 9 games without a strikeout near the end of the season. He hit .400/.438/.667 in those 9 games. It would be nice to think he could do that continuously.

I compared Biggio to his dad at the same age. Vlad Sr., through his age 21 season had 27 PA, so Vlad Jr. has a good lead at the moment, 24 home runs to 1. Vlad Sr. had his rookie season at age 23. It was a good one, a .302/.350/.483 line, with 11 home runs (3 steals, 4 times caught, he wasn’t a good base stealer in his career, but he tried. 181 career stolen bases, 94 times caught). Vlad the Elder didn’t become great until his age 23 season.

It would be interesting to see into an alternate universe where the season started in April and see how his season would have been if he carried his improved conditioning through the season. Unfortunately, we have to live through this universe.I don’t understand the idea of moving him back to third. If he were to move to third, it would only be for a season or two at most, and then we’d be moving him again. Why not let him learn one position and have him stay there. Moving guys between positions ensures that you won’t get better than average play at those spots.

I know people want to call him over-hyped and all, but I’m still expecting a terrific career. Not every player hits the ground running at age 20. To me, the fun of watching baseball has always been watching players develop and grow. We live in a world of snap judgments, but baseball is more fun if you take a long view.

Damn I forgot the poll:


For his 2019 season, I would grade Vladmir Guerrero a

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