Blue Jays: George Springer's slow start isn't being talked about enough
By Henry Wright
As of right now, there are currently eight Blue Jays hitters with 60 or more plate appearances, and out of all of them, George Springer's OPS+ of 69 is significantly lower than everyone except for Daulton Varsho. After posting a 135 OPS+ over 211 in 2021 and 2022 with the Blue Jays, Springer has had a very uncharacteristically slow start, batting just .216 with an OPS barely above .600. He's struggled in the field as well, sitting in the 7th percentile for statcast Outs Above Average and has -2 defensive runs saved at his new role in right field. So what exactly has been happening to him, and should we be concerned?
At the plate, while Springer's raw numbers have been rough, his advanced metrics suggest that he's just been really unlucky. Per baseball savant, his xwOBA, xBA, xSLG, barrel%, strikeout%, whiff%, and chase rate, while not up to his standards, are all above league average. The biggest difference this year is that his BABIP, which is a hitter's batting average on balls in play, is sitting at .247, well below his career number of .300. This isn't to say that his start at the dish isn't concerning, but it's likely more of a case of bad luck than bad process.
In the field, the answer is a bit more complicated. Springer, who's actually played most of his career in right field, started off as a pretty average fielder, but since 2019 he's been an outstanding defender. This coincided with him becoming primarily a center fielder, so one possible explanation is that he's just not as good in right. The more likely problem though is that his struggles at the plate are taking up most of his focus, and his play in the field isn't really a priority. Additionally, while he hasn't graded out all the well in the field, he hasn't looked all that bad, and hasn't committed any errors, so there's plenty of reason to expect his defensive number will bounce rise with his offensive stats over the course of the season.
In Wednesday's win over the White Sox, Springer took a pitch to his right hand and was removed from the game, although initial X-rays came back negative. This certainly has the possibility of keeping him sidelined for a few games, and that might not actually be the worst thing. Sometimes when a player is in a slump, all they need is a break, and for Springer, all he needs is for his luck to change. Whether it be Friday's series opener against the Mariners or later, expect him to get going sooner or later.