Vladimir Guerrero Jr. has been a different hitter since the All-Star break, and the difference has been noticed both on and off the field.
Even on nights when the Blue Jays get beat up 16-3 by a team like the Dodgers, there are still reasons for fans to tune in, and even remain optimistic about the future.
Last night it was Bo Bichette taking Clayton Kershaw deep twice in the 21-year-old’s first appearance against the future Hall of Famer, and he’s been filling up the highlight reel quite a bit in his first three weeks as a big leaguer. His quick emergence has helped what Vladimir Guerrero Jr. has been doing to slide under the radar a little bit, and I’m not sure that’s a bad thing.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like people haven’t noticed that Guerrero Jr. has been hitting a lot better lately, but I’m not sure if most are aware of what a difference there has been.
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Coming into last night’s series opener with the Dodgers, Guerrero Jr. had slashed .364/.417/.657 over his last 26 games, adding nine doubles and six home runs to his season totals. He returned to the lineup against the Dodgers last night after some rest for a sore knee and quickly showed that he’s just fine. He ended up reaching base all four times last night, picking up two singles and two walks.
Shi Davidhi of Sportnet’s published a piece yesterday that outlined the difference in Guerrero’s successes on the field lately, but also how much different he’s approached things off the field. For the 20-year-old rookie, being a big leaguer is still relatively new, even if he’s arguably the biggest star on the roster already. There is a lot to learn about beating the best in the world, and so far he’s making adjustments at a pretty rapid pace.
For a guy who slashed .249/.328/.413 in 58 starts in the first half and struggled at times, he’s done an pretty incredible job of adjusting on the fly. His slash line was .320/.376/.557 in 31 starts coming into last night’s game, and he looks more confident than I’ve ever seen him since he arrived at the highest level.
The key point of Davidhi’s article that stood out to me was a quote from Guerrero right at the very end:
"“I’m not really focused on what they’re trying to do to me. I’m really focused on the pitches I’m looking for,” Guerrero says of stepping into the box. “If I get the pitches I want, I’m trying not to miss those pitches. If I focus on what they’re trying to do to me, it’s going to be too much.”"
It seems like a fairly simple concept, but it’s easier said than done with the talent on the mound in the big leagues this day. It’s understandable when any hitter gets in their own head trying to perform at the plate, let alone when you’re a 20-year-old rookie.
While it’s foolish of us to expect an MVP level performance from Guerrero Jr., he’s been providing close to that level of production over the last month, and he doesn’t seem to be slowing down. The phenom and his talented young teammates are proving that the future is a lot closer than most of us believed it was a few months ago, especially if they keep learning at this rate.