Vladimir Guerrero Jr‘s performance in the first half for the Blue Jays has been incredible. In fact, he’s on a pace that even his Hall of Fame Father never produced.
That’s how special the 2021 campaign has been for Vlad Jr., who added to his breakout season by winning the MVP award at this week’s All-Star game. His first half numbers are absolutely ridiculous, as he slashed .332/.430/.658 with 28 home runs and 73 RBI. He leads the league in batting average, on-base percentage, OPS (on-base + slugging), RBI, and OPS+. He’s also second only to Shohei Ohtani on the home run leaderboard, and has even turned into a plus defender now that he’s gotten used to first base.
Add it all up and Jr. has a chance to do something even Vladimir Guerrero Sr. never did, and he was one of the greatest outfielders baseball has ever seen. He finished his 16-year career by slashing a remarkable .310/.379/.553, 449 home runs, 477 doubles, 1496 RBI, and a long list of accolades including the 2004 AL MVP award, 9 All-Star selections, 8 Silver Slugger awards, and more.
One of the calling cards of Sr’s career was his consistent production, as he routinely hit for both power and average, only failing to hit .300 or better in two seasons. Even then he posted a .295 averaged in 2009 at 34 years old, and .290 in his final season at 36. He also had a cannon for an arm in right field, and was a likeable and popular personality with the Montreal Expos, Anaheim Angels, and the Texas Rangers.
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What Vlad Sr. didn’t really have was one season that stood out about the rest. Don’t get me wrong, he was a 4-7 WAR player throughout the majority of his time in the big leagues, but his son has a chance to have a greater single season than he ever posted, at least in terms of Wins Above Replacement. Some of you may not care for that metric, but I think it’s one of the better ways to measure overall value.
Getting back to the comparison, here are Vlad Sr’s three best single seasons:
1998: .324/.371/.589, 38 HR, 109 RBI, 7.4 bWAR
2002: .336/.417/.593, 39 HR, 111 RBI, 7.1 bWAR
2004: .337/.391/.598, 39 HR, 126 RBI, 5.6 bWAR
I included the 2004 season since that was Vlad Sr’s MVP campaign, but it was really 1998 and 2002 that he put him his best numbers. At that point in his career he was even a stolen base threat as well, swiping a career-high 40 bags in 2002 (although he was caught a league-high 20 times).
Since we’re just 87 games into a 162 game schedule, it’s entirely possible that Vlad Jr. falls off of his pace a bit, or maybe takes the occasional day off in the second half (he appeared in all 87 games prior to the All-Star break). That said, if he continues at his current pace for the remainder of the regular season, his numbers could look like this:
Vlad Jr.– .332/.430/.658, 52 HR, 136 RBI, 7.8 bWAR
Vlad Sr. would have a better single-season batting average, as he hit .345 in 2000. His best on-base percentage was .426 in 2003, and his single-season slugging percentage was .664 in 2000, so he’s set some pretty high bars to meet. As for bWAR, it’s all the more impressive that Jr. is on pace for a higher total considering he plays a less rewarding defensive position at first base, instead of right field like his Dad. And for those that prefer fWAR, Vlad Sr’s best fWAR total was 7.1 in 2002, and so far Jr. has 4.6 in 2021, putting him on pace for 8.6 fWAR.
The talented young man has a long way to go before he’ll accomplish what his father did over a 16-year career, but if he can keep up his current level of production, he might have some pretty significant bragging rights on his old man.