Blue Jays quietly chasing franchise home run records
With a more well-rounded hitting approach from most of the Blue Jays lineup, the focus hasn’t been on the home run as much as in past seasons. That doesn’t mean this young roster hasn’t been hitting them at a near-record pace though.
After two solo shots from Randal Grichuk in last night’s game the Blue Jays now have a total of 81 through the first third of the season, and they’re now on pace for 243. In a season where power has been down a bit across the game, it’s impressive that this talented Jays lineup is on that kind of pace. In fact, it’s not far off from the franchise record of 257 bombs that the 2010 team put up.
It’s all that much more impressive when you consider that arguably their top home run hitter heading into the season was George Springer. Dealing with a pair of injuries that have ruined his introduction to his new club, Springer has only played in four games this season and has yet to take his place in centre to anchor the outfield. The 3x All-Star hit 14 HR in just 51 games for the Astros in 2020, and 39 over just 122 appearances the year before. His presence alone (eventually) will increase the power output from this group of hitters.
I also believe that there a couple of players who will find their power stroke at some point over the next 108 games. We’ve only seen Lourdes Gurriel Jr. hit five balls out of the yard so far in 2021, and just three a piece from Cavan Biggio, Alejandro Kirk, Rowdy Tellez, and Danny Jansen. Biggio and Kirk are both on the Injured List, but I expect that both will return and contribute a bit to the power department. We’ll see if Jansen finds his hitting stroke at some point, and for Tellez it’ll boil down to opportunity, especially once Springer returns. That said, I expect there to be more power from this group in the second half one way or another.
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And then there’s the phenomenal season we’ve seen from Vladimir Guerrero Jr., who leads baseball in home runs with 17. It’s hard to say whether or not the 22 year old will be able to keep up the pace, but he hasn’t exactly slowed down for long at any point over the first 54. He’s obviously a big part of why the Blue Jays have such impressive team power totals, so much so that he’s pushing another franchise record.
That would be the single-season mark held by Jose Bautista who hit 54 home runs in that previously mentioned 2010 season. At Vlad Jr’s current pace he’ll finish with 51 HR and just shy of the pace set by “Joey Bats”. That said, the Jays have now moved to Sahlen Field in Buffalo, a venue that Vlad Jr. has abused throughout his young life. It’s also proven to be a hitter’s haven, and I’m sure Vlad and his teammates will take advantage of it.
And I mean, they haven’t even played the Baltimore Orioles yet, who they’ll still get to play 19 times.
It’s been an impressive output from the regulars, far beyond Guerrero Jr. The AL Player of the Month for May in Marcus Semien has 13 of his own (on pace for 39), and Bo Bichette and Randal Grichuk aren’t far behind with 11 (33). Teoscar Hernandez also has hit eight home runs out of the cleanup spot, and that total would be higher if not for a stint on the Covid-19 list in April. They have an embarrassment of riches in the hitting department, and will be all that much more dangerous with Springer joins them, hopefully sometime sooner than later in June here.
At the end of the day, home runs only matter if they translate into wins. They obviously will go a long way in helping in that department, but even at their near-record pace this roster is proving that it takes more than the long ball to win with their 29-25 record. Still, who doesn’t love the long ball, and if they keep up the pace it’s going to be a lot of fun watching them chase some franchise records.