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The season that was: Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

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A look at Vlad’s 2021 season

Baltimore Orioles v Toronto Blue Jays Photo by Mark Blinch/Getty Images

The first two seasons of Vladimir Guerrero Jr.’s career added up to a very slight disappointment, at least for folks who figured a 20-year-old would be a world-beater right from the start.

In the 2020 season, Vlad worked hard to get into shape, but Covid hit, and the season was delayed. And, like many of us, Vlad put on some Covid weight.

Vlad hit .262/.329/.462 in 60 games in 2020, playing first base and DH, which, by any measure, other than expectations, is pretty damn good for a 21-year-old in the majors. Still, most of what I read on Twitter was how he ‘should be traded while he still had value.’

Last year too, before the delayed start to the season, he was moved to first base, and, without having spring training to work at the position, he was less than great at it.

Before this season, we were told about and shown Vlad’s commitment to fitness. Vlad, we were told, wanted to go back to being a third baseman. A worthy ambition. And, maybe it made him work harder. As someone trying to get himself back into shape after a year and a half, having a goal is needed. Unfortunately for me, no plan would lead me to a contract that would get me tens of millions of dollars, but such is life.

This season, even by the measure of expectations, was a huge success.

Standard Batting
G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+ TB GDP HBP IBB
161 698 604 123 188 29 1 48 111 4 1 86 110 .311 .401 .601 1.002 169 363 20 6 7
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/13/2021.

Baseball Reference has him at a 6.8 WAR. FanGraphs 6.7, giving him a value of $53.5 million to the Blue Jays.

He had a .419 wOBA (up from .338 last year) and a 166 wRC+ (up from 110 last year).

His BABIP was .313 (up from .282 last year).

Vlad’s walk rate was 12.3% (up from 8.2). Strikeout rate was 15.8% (up slightly from 15.6).

His line-drive rate was up a bit from last year (18.8% from 17.5%). Ground ball rate was down (44.8% from 54.6%). Fly balls up (36.5 from 27.9%). More of his fly balls left the park (26.5 from 17.6%).

Soft contact was down (10.7% (5th lowest in the AL) from 14.2%), and hard contact was up (41.7% (5th highest in the AL) from 38.8%).

Vlad hit better against RHP (.317/.400/.620) than LHP (.295/.405/.541).

He hit much, much better in our home parks (.332/.425/.708) than road parks (.291/.378/.497).

He hit better in the first half of the season (.332/.430/.658) than the second half (.288/.367/.538).

Vlad by month:

  • April: .350/.490/.663 with 7 home runs, 20 walks, 16 strikeouts, in 24 games.
  • May: .302/.380/.613 with 9 home runs, 12 walks, 16 strikeouts, in 28 games.
  • June: .371/.465/.753 with 10 home runs, 17 walks, 27 strikeouts, in 26 games.
  • July: .286/.358/.583 with 7 home runs, 10 walks, 15 strikeouts, in 23 games.
  • August: .267/.346/.440 with 6 home runs, 13 walks, 20 strikeouts, in 29 games.
  • September: .306/.382/.595 with 9 home runs, 14 walks, 16 strikeouts, in 31 games.

August was a bit down, and we heard the sky was falling for a bit there, but I’d imagine there are few players whose down month was as good as Vlad’s August. No one doesn’t have slumps.

Vlad hit .315/.441/.608 with runners in scoring position.

On defense, he looked pretty good to me, especially compared to last year. He made 8 errors for a .993 Fielding Average (exactly the league average for first basemen). I’m not a big fan of UZR for first base, but he had a 2.5 UZR/150.

He played 2 innings at third base.

As a baserunner, Vladimir was slightly worse than average. FanGraphs has him at -2.1 runs compared to the average baserunner. He did have four steals.

Vlad hit:

  • 2nd: 18 games.
  • 3rd: 135 games.
  • 4th: 1 game.
  • 5th: 7 games.

His longest hitting streak was 14 games.

His longest on-base streak was 25 games.

The longest he went without a home run was 13 games.

His favourite team to face was the Phillies (.455/.538/1.364 in 3 games). Among teams he faced more, he was best against the Orioles (.333/.400/.853) and the Red Sox (.375/.464/.750).

His least favourite? Cleveland, hitting .185/.233/.333 against them.


Comparing Vlad Jr. to Vlad Sr. Vlad Jr., now after his age, 22 season has 72 home runs. Vlad Sr., after his age 22 season, had 12 home runs, so our Vlad has a good lead. But from 23-25, Sr. hit 124 home runs. Our Vlad is also ahead 5 steals to 3, but Sr. ended up with 181 stolen bases. I’d bet anything you like that Jr. will not beat that.

Dad hit 449 home runs in his career. I’d still bet on Sr. having more home runs than Jr. accumulates but a good 2022 season would bring the odds of Jr. catching Sr. up quite a bit.

Poll

Will Vlad Jr. finish his career with more than 449 home runs?

  • 88%
    Yes
    (422 votes)
  • 11%
    no
    (56 votes)
478 votes total Vote Now

Buck and Pat often talked up Vlad’s defense as ‘Gold Glove’ level. I don’t see that. I think he’s average or slightly above average, but a fair bit short of Gold Glove.

I like him playing first base. I think it is a good spot for the ‘face of the franchise.’ But, personally, I don’t see any point in him playing third ever again, unless there is some sort of emergency where we need someone to stand at third for an inning or two.

Vlad played in 161 of our 162 games. I’d think that maybe a few move days off might be a good thing. But Vlad did DH 28 times. I think having him DH once a week is a good thing. I would tell him that he’s DHing on Wednesdays, just to give him let him know this is the plan.

Last year I asked who would finish with the better career, Vlad or Bo Bichette. I’m sure if I asked it again this year, I’d get a different result. After this season, they are tied at a 9.4 bWAR career.

Vlad’s 2021 season in Jays history:

  • 6.8 bWAR is the 12th best.
  • .311 BA is 16th.
  • .401 OBP is 14th.
  • 612 Slugging is 5th.
  • 1.002 OPS is 5th.
  • 123 runs in 2nd.
  • 363 total bases is 4th.
  • 48 home runs is 2nd.
  • 111 RBI is 18th.

And, if you are curious, his 72 career home runs have him tied for 30th (with Otto Velez and Devon White) in team history. If he were to hit 48 again next year, he would jump to 13th (though Teoscar Hernandez will likely still be ahead of him).

I don’t think there has ever been a Blue Jays player who I enjoyed watching more. Vlad has so much fun. It is great to watch him develop in front of our eyes. And he has the best smile on the team.

Jays, the sooner you sign him to a contract that buys out his first few free agent years, the happier I’ll be. Or, you know, if you figured a way to tie him down for his entire career, I’d be good with that too.

Poll

For his 2021 season, I would grade Vladimir Guerrero an

  • 93%
    A
    (603 votes)
  • 5%
    B+
    (35 votes)
  • 0%
    B
    (4 votes)
  • 0%
    B-
    (1 vote)
  • 0%
    C+
    (1 vote)
  • 0%
    C
    (0 votes)
  • 0%
    C-
    (0 votes)
  • 0%
    D++
    (0 votes)
  • 0%
    D
    (0 votes)
  • 0%
    D-
    (0 votes)
  • 0%
    F
    (1 vote)
645 votes total Vote Now