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George Springer's recent dominance has reached an absurd level

·MLB Writer
·4 min read
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Although George Springer has been a Blue Jay for less than seven months, the fanbase’s experience with the star outfielder has already been a rollercoaster.

His signing was met with elation, followed by disappointment surrounding his quad injury, and concern about his first rushed return. In four games before hitting the IL again he had a moment of brilliance hitting one of the longest home runs in team history, but he never played the field, and the Blue Jays faithful didn’t have time to warm to him before he was gone.

When Springer came back for the second time in June, he blended into the background, playing a supporting role in the lineup behind Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Marcus Semien and Bo Bichette — literally and figuratively.

In recent weeks, that dynamic has shifted. Since the all-star break, Springer hasn’t been a cog in an impressive lineup, he’s become its driving force out of his familiar leadoff spot. Here’s a comparison of his 20 games since the break and his first 20 as a Blue Jay:

Springer isn’t on a garden-variety heater, he’s reached a level of offensive dominance of late that few hitters are capable of. During the 20 games since the break his wRC+ of 234 is tops in the major leagues among qualified hitters. It’s also one of the most impressive stretches of the three-time all-star’s career:

Not only are the offensive statistics a boon for the Blue Jays, Springer is also making an impact defensively. While it’s too early to put much stock into defensive metrics, his ability to track down balls in the gap is passing the eye test. His robbery of Brandon Nimmo on July 24, for instance, was one of the best catches of the year:

The very next day he made another diving catch, admittedly of a far less dramatic variety, against Pete Alonso.

That play isn’t spectacular in and of itself, but it’s the sort of ball that’s fallen in for a hit in centre often since Kevin Pillar left town. Perhaps more importantly, Springer’s willingness and ability to lay out for balls on consecutive days is an encouraging sign that he’s healthy enough to play an aggressive brand of baseball.

Springer’s Sprint Speed number also supports the idea that he has put his quad issues behind him. His 28.4 ft/s is 84th percentile league-wide, and the second-fastest for a player his age. It’s actually a touch faster than his mark last year, and identical to what he managed in 2016 at the age of 27.

When Blue Jays fans imagined what Springer might bring to the team in 2021 they envisioned a player capable of being the lineup’s best producer for extended stretches, a leadoff hitter with massive power, and a more-than-capable defender in centre field. Before the Gurerrero Jr. breakout he even looked like the probable face of the franchise. That’s a lot to ask, but those expectations were warranted based on Springer’s track record and $150-million contract.

TORONTO, ON - AUGUST 04: George Springer #4 of the Toronto Blue Jays rounds the bases after hitting a home run against the Cleveland Indians in the first inning of their MLB game at Rogers Centre on August 4, 2021 in Toronto, Ontario. (Photo by Cole Burston/Getty Images)
George Springer has been the best hitter in baseball since the all-star break. (Photo by Cole Burston/Getty Images)

For much of this season it didn’t look like the 31-year-old would be able to deliver on that promise. His recovery was full of uncertain timetables, and even when he returned in late June there was a passivity to his game that showed up in inflated walk and strikeout rates, and a Sprint Speed that initially hovered under 28 feet/s.

Not only is Springer back on track now, he’s at the height of his powers. FanGraphs values his contribution since the all-star break alone at $11.1 million, and if he continues at anywhere close to his current pace, the Blue Jays will feel like they’ve gotten plenty of value out of him in his truncated 2021 season. If his contributions help them earn a playoff spot he’ll look like a steal, even at his premium price tag — especially since history suggests Springer does some of his best work in October.

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