Bo Bichette is quietly putting together another very fine performance for the Blue Jays in 2021. So why are there so many that believe he’s underperformed?
In my mind there are at least three good answers to that question, but let’s start by clarifying things before I get to anything negative. Bichette has been very good so far in 2021, and among the best shortstops in the American League in most offensive categories. He entered last night’s game ranking first among AL shortstops in HR, RBI, Runs, fWAR, and .OPS, and that’s obviously nothing to sneeze at.
And yet, I’ve read a fair bit of criticism about the 23-year old this season, and have even written about him in a less than flattering light myself. Let’s break down the three reasons why his solid performance maybe isn’t registering in a lot of baseball fan’s minds.
Bichette’s early struggles on defence
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Despite the fact that he’s improved his glove work a fair bit over the last few weeks, it might take a while before Bichette can convince everyone that he’s an asset on defence. He’s made 10 errors so far this season, and most of them came early in the year. His early struggles were compounded by Cavan Biggio’s similar battles at third base, and made the right side of the infield a real problem for a few weeks.
As I said though, Bichette is playing much better these days, and even if he hasn’t played up to his potential yet, he’s moving in the right direction. It’s helped to have a veteran keystone mate like Marcus Semien to work with, and I genuinely believe the discussions about moving Bichette away from shortstop should be over for good. For what it’s worth, Fernando Tatis Jr. has made 15 errors this season, and you don’t hear Padres fans calling for him to change positions.
The impossibly high bar set by his teammates
Remember last year when it felt like Bichette was taking over as the face of the franchise? Vladimir Guerrero Jr. has put an end to those arguments, and is now pushing the likes of Tatis Jr., Ronald Acuna Jr., Juan Soto, and others for the new young face of the league in general.
Vlad has been arguably the best hitter in all of baseball this season. He entered last night’s game slashing .340/.445/.681 with 22 home runs and 56 RBI, and came up with a huge leadoff hit against Aroldis Chapman in the 9th inning in a comeback attempt on Wednesday night. He’s been exactly the type of hitter we all dreamed that he’d be, and he’s dominated in a way that we haven’t seen since he tore up the minor leagues.
Then there’s Semien, who has been one of the best free agent signings in all of baseball. In hindsight I’m sure the Blue Jays wish they’d signed him for at least 2-3 years, but either way he’s provided All-Star calibre production at second base, and also as the leadoff hitter. In fact, Semien and Vlad Jr. both lead their respective positions in All-Star voting, and they just so happen to sandwich Bichette in the order. Not hard to be overshadowed when that kinda thing is going on.
The impossibly high bar set by Bichette himself
As I’ve already stated, Bichette is having a good season and is providing a real asset to the Blue Jays. He’s on pace to be better than a 5 WAR player, and those types don’t grow on trees. That said, I believe that because Bichette was SO good over the first 75 games he played in the 2019 and 2020 seasons, what he’s doing now feels underwhelming.
For what it’s worth, we often hear Buck Martinez talk on the broadcast about how Bichette really hasn’t gotten going yet this year, and I agree with him. Lately we’ve seen Bichette looking a lot more locked in at the plate, but we’ll see if that continues through the rest of June and into the summer. Even if he’s been a genuinely good player, we all know that he’s capable of more.
Now that it sounds like I’ve picked apart one of the best shortstops in baseball, I’ll state one final time that I don’t think there is anything to worry about with Bichette, or even anything to criticize much. He’s been good, and there’s nothing wrong with that at this young stage of his career, and I still believe we’ll see a lot more “great” before this season is over.