Vladdy Report: The promised breakout is nigh

Good at-bats are important, but what will make Vladimir Guerrero Jr. special is the rockets he hits.

They finally started coming last week, as he broke through with a monster game on Tuesday and adding on throughout the week with a fielder-aided homer on Friday and a game-winning shot on Sunday.

There’s no doubt the third baseman is rolling now. He entered the week with a grisly .191/.283/.234 line, now it’s up to an above-average .235/.325/.441.

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Everything Blue Jays fans were hoping to see was on display, from his advanced approach to eye-popping Statcast numbers. Also quietly significant was Vladdy striking out just once, showing that he’s really settling into his grove.

That doesn’t mean something has clicked and this is it indefinitely. There are still plenty of ups and downs to come, but it must have been a bit of a relief for the club to get a glimpse of the good stuff.

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. finally got his bat going last week. (Matt Marton/AP)
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. finally got his bat going last week. (Matt Marton/AP)

Here’s an in-depth look at how the phenom fared in his first week of really swinging the bat:

The line: 7-for-21 with 4 home runs, 3 walks and 1 strikeout

Best at-bat: Home run 4th inning on Friday

Via MLB.tv
Via MLB.tv

Ivan Nova was determined to pound Guerrero Jr. down-and-in with the two-seamer and had no trouble hitting his spot. Vladdy countered by doing most of the things you’d like to see in an at-bat like fouling off tough pitches and making a tough two-strike take.

Although this home run needed a little assistance from Leury Garcia to clear the wall, it was still barrelled up at 104 mph with an Expected Batting Average of .870.

In a sense it was a cheap home run, but you’ll see plenty of bombs not hit nearly as well as this one:

Via MLB.tv
Via MLB.tv

Worst at-bat: Popup 8th inning on Wednesday

Via MLB.com
Via MLB.com

To be honest, it was very difficult to take issue with any of Vladdy’s at-bats this week. Even his strikeout was called and came on a borderline call deep into a solid trip to the plate. So, we end up with this one.

Generally speaking you want to swing for strikes, and being aggressive on the first pitch is no crime. That said, there are certain strikes you can’t do much with and this perfect on-the-corner sinker is a great example.

Also, the fact that Guerrero managed to pop up a pitch this low in the zone shows his swing was an ugly one — although “ugly” never feels like the right way to describe a Vladdy swing — even though this flare almost fell for a hit.

Via MLB.tv
Via MLB.tv

How they pitched him:

Via Baseball Savant
Via Baseball Savant

Guerrero Jr.’s treatment by opposing pitchers last week was a little bit more conventional than what he’s faced so far. Finally, he saw quite a few pitches in the zone — something that undoubtedly contributed to his breakout — and the number of fastballs he was thrown came down significantly.

The idea of pounding Vladdy with high heat went by the wayside for the Giants and White Sox, which was probably wise on their part because he hasn’t offered at those pitches much.

It’s possible that in light of his early struggles pitchers opted to challenge him more, and it will be interesting to see if that trend continues going forward. Considering Guerrero Jr. is happy to take his walks, the optimal way to mix pitches in and out of the zone against him is hard to decipher.

It wouldn’t be a surprise to see the percentage of hard stuff he sees continue to fall, but that zone rate could bounce all over the place.

Defence and base running: It wasn’t a particularly momentous week for Guerrero Jr. on the bases or in the field. Most of the defensive plays he was asked to make were routine and thanks to his homers he seemed to spend as much time jogging the bases than running them.

Vladdy’s most notable defensive play was probably this error on a Garcia chopper. Although he had to be aware of the outfielder’s speed, there was no need to rush — which is precisely what he did.

Via MLB.tv
Via MLB.tv

He also got his first start at DH, but that seemed like a routine move as opposed to anything to do with his fielding. So far UZR has him as a -0.9 run fielder whereas Defensive Runs Saved pegs him as +2. It’s too early to trust either much, but if you split the difference between them and say he’s been right around average or even a small touch above, that feels about right.

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