Every Sunday I’ll be bringing you a “Vladdy Report” which will summarize how the rookie did the previous week in some detail. This is a special edition covering his first weekend series.
After such a long wait, it’s hard to say whether Vladimir Guerrero Jr.’s debut delivered on expectations. It’s difficult to know exactly what expectations should have been for such a unique event.
On the field, he didn’t look remotely out of place, and in the stands, there was more passion and energy in Rogers Centre than there’s been for years — even if the building wasn’t exactly packed. Vladdy didn’t bring a dizzying array of tape-measure home runs, outside of batting practice at least, but he did bring excitement.
“I was probably just as excited as the entire fanbase getting Vladdy up here,” Marcus Stroman said of his arrival. “It’s like getting Zion Williamson on your team, it’s a once in a lifetime kind of talent.”
“We’re just as excited as you guys are,” Brandon Drury added. “He’s a great player. You can see by his at-bats that the game comes easy to him.”
“It’s been awesome, he’s brought a lot of positive vibes,” Trent Thornton said. “Everyone knows the kind of player he is, and we’re 3-0 with him so that’s a pretty nice feeling.”
Here’s an in-depth look at how the phenom fared in his first MLB series:
The line: 3-for-12 with 1 walk, 1 double, and 3 strikeouts.
Best at-bat: Single vs. Joakim Soria, ninth inning on Sunday.
In a big spot Guerrero Jr. impressed with his poise, taking three fastballs to earn a hitter’s count. He may have been a touch lucky to have a ball called on the second pitch, but it wasn’t one he could have done much with anyway.
With a 3-0 count he bet on himself and was rewarded with a line-drive single to centre.
“I make a joke on the bench, ‘what do you guys think? 3-0, green light?’ and someone ‘yeah, genius.’” Montoyo said. “If anybody you see somebody swinging on 3-0 it’s because we give him the green light and he had it.”
It’s hard to imagine a 20-year-old rookie having the 3-0 green light in the bottom of the ninth, but Vladdy is the exception to all kinds of rules.
Worst at-bat: Swinging strikeout vs. Chris Bassitt, fourth inning on Sunday.
Bassitt worked the edges of the zone with his fastball effectively early in the count, but nothing he threw stands out as being particularly nasty. Vladdy was fortunate the second pitch wasn’t called a strike, and even after getting that gift he whiffed at an uncompetitive breaking ball.
Don’t expect to see too many swings like this from the rookie slugger:
The third baseman did not seem concerned by the plate appearance after the game.
“It happens,” he said through a translator. “It was a good pitch from him and I swung at it.”
How they pitched him:
The Athletics came at Guerrero Jr. with a surprising number of fastballs in his first series. Forcing a rookie to prove he can hit the fastball before throwing the kitchen sink at him is a common strategy, but it seemed like a weird one for a hitter of Guerrero Jr.’s calibre.
What the Athletics were going for was a little more clear factoring in the location of their pitches. The A’s constantly worked the outside of the plate and the area just off the outside edge. They also climbed the ladder with fastballs consistently. Only 37.3 percent of the pitches they threw were in the zone. That number was as low as 27.8 percent through two games.
Oakland was being plenty careful with the 20-year-old, and it’s hard to fault the strategy given the fact they largely kept him in check.
Defence and base running: The “development opportunities” in Vladdy’s game didn’t show up too often. In his debut he calmed down worries about his shakiness at third by making a couple of strong plays, especially this one on a tricky short hop.
“To make that first play he made you have to be comfortable,” manager Charlie Montoyo observed. “He definitely didn’t look nervous.”
In Saturday’s game he had a couple of routine balls come his way and he made both outs, and on Sunday it was much of the same.
On the base-running side, there was little to report as he was removed for a pinch runner twice in his five times on base, and didn’t do anything of note otherwise.
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