Blue Jays: An odd struggle for Vladimir Guerrero Jr. this season
As impressive as Vladimir Guerrero Jr. has been for the Blue Jays this season, there’s an area of his game that he’s surprisingly struggled with.
There’s a solid argument that Vlad Jr. may be the best right-handed hitter in the world, or at least he has been in 2021. Typically a premium right-handed slugger like him will be able to hit pretty much any type of pitcher, but it’s very common for them to dominate left-handed pitching, at least compared to same-siders.
Oddly enough, it’s been the opposite for the Blue Jays’ 22 year old phenom this season.
Entering yesterday’s double-header with the Angels, Vlad Jr. was slashing .318/.412/.625 with 35 home runs and 87 RBI in total. Where it gets interesting is when you look at his splits and see just how much better he’s fared against right-handed pitching. Have a look for yourself:
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.337/.414/.693, 30 HR, 76 RBI, 309 at-bats
.253/.409/.440, 5 HR, 11 RBI, 91 at-bats
To be fair, he’s obviously had a lot more exposure to right-handed pitching, which is always going to be the case in the big leagues. The good news is that he still manages to get on base at a fairly even clip regardless of what side the pitcher is throwing from. The bad news is that for some reason most of his power goes out the window against southpaws, and his batting average takes a pretty serious hit as well.
This is against the trend for most big league hitters, and for a high-end hitter like Vlad Jr. it makes even less sense. So what’s the deal then?
If I’m being honest I really have no idea why that would be the case, but I can take an educated guess. We’ve seen that Guerrero Jr. is a premium fastball hitter, especially when he attacks early in the count. Most of the Blue Jays are that way, however, they’ve struggled against soft-tossing starters like a lefty in Tampa Bay that inexplicably dominates them in Ryan Yarborough. Sure enough, Vlad Jr. is just 3-20 in his career against Yarborough, although he does have two home runs.
Whatever the reason, it’s actually a trend that has been pretty consistent throughout Vladdy’s big league career so far. I wouldn’t call it a major issue when you consider that he still has a .404 OBP against southpaws this year, but it is strange that an outstanding hitter like Guerrero is far better against righties.