All Aboard the Hype Train: Latest home run provides 2021 flashbacks, Vladdy looks so back

Why Vladdy's latest home run warrants hope for a good season

MLB: Spring Training - Philadelphia Phillies at Toronto Blue Jays
MLB: Spring Training - Philadelphia Phillies at Toronto Blue Jays / VIEW press/GettyImages

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. turned heads on Wednesday after launching a first-inning home run off of Braves star Raisel Iglesias. Seeing Guerrero start to mash home runs again is promising, especially after his sub-30 home run season last year. But while the home run itself was certainly interesting, the implications behind it might be even more so.

After mustering up a full count, Vladdy absolutely unloaded on a 94mph Iglesias fastball, pulling it to deep left field. This was Vlad's third home run of the spring, culminating a very strong start of the year for the young first baseman. While Vlad is certainly known for his power, this home run (among others) signal a season of hope for the Dominican slugger. Let's break it down.

In 2021, Guerrero Jr. finished 2nd in AL MVP voting after putting up a monstrous offensive season, complete with a league-high 48 home runs. Vladdy regressed a bit the next year, only hitting 32 and a disappointing 26 the year following. But why such a decline? The answer lies in pitch type. In Vlad's MVP year, he put up a staggering 34 RV on four-seam fastballs, a majority of which he was able to pull for home runs. The most impressive of these arguably coming off of Rays' reliever Adam Conley, where he pulled a 97 MPH low and inside fastball to left field with an EV of 113.9 MPH.

The following years would see a decline in this metric, however. In 2022, Vlad's RV on four-seam fastballs dropped dramatically to just 7, a year where he went from a 166 wRC+ and 48 HRs to a 133 wRC+ and 32 HRs. This would even drop even more in 2023, where he would just have a 1 RV on fastballs, striking out nearly 8% more on the pitch than in 2021. Unsurpsringly, Guerrero was only able to pull just one fastball for a home run last year, coming off of Mets ace Kodai Senga.

The ability to hammer fastballs is ultimately what defines not only Guerrero's ability to perform in the bigs, but almost any player. The majority of his 2021 home runs came on fastballs, clocking in at 54.1%. That number in 2023? 46.1%, nearly a ten percent drop. This is perhaps why it hasn't been surprising Vlad has had a small two-year regression. Arguably, Vladdy's 2024 success will ultimately be defined by his abilty to hit fastballs. His home run off of Iglesias is promising, as we saw a small glimpse of him reverting back to 2021 form.