Digging into Vladimir Guerrero Jr.'s concerning home and away splits

Houston Astros v Toronto Blue Jays
Houston Astros v Toronto Blue Jays / Mark Blinch/GettyImages

As of right now, Vladimir Guerrero Jr.'s road wRC+ of 161 ranks 10th among all major leaguers with at least 100 plate appearances. His home wRC+ of 72 ranks 146th.

To this point in the season, his home and away splits have been concerning, to say the least.

On the road, he's hitting like the Vladdy we saw in 2021, but at the Rogers Centre, he's played like one of the worst hitters in baseball. This is a drastic change from a player who throughout his career has always hit much better at home. So what exactly has been going on this season, and should we expect it to change?

This first and most obvious discrepancy between his home and away splits are his power numbers. On the road, he currently has a .557 SLG with nine homers, while at home, he's slugging below .300and has yet to go deep. This has him on pace for just 21 home runs, despite having led MLB in homers just two seasons ago with 48. The drop-off in power seems almost inexplicable, but there are a couple of stats that could help explain all of it.

For starters, his strikeout rate increases by about four percent at home, but the biggest issue seems to be that his quality of contact sees a significant dip. His pull rate drops by almost four percent when at home, which may not sound like a lot, but to put it in perspective, that's the difference between the seventh and 29th-best pull rates in MLB this season. There also may be a little bit of luck at play here, as he has a lower ground ball rate at home as well as a very similar fly ball rate and seems to be hitting into lots of line-drive outs, all resulting in a much lower BABIP at home. His hard hit rate, though, sees a significant drop off when at home, going from 38.1%which would rank 25th in MLB, to 32.6%which would rank 98th. 

It's probably impossible to truly be able to explain why there's such a chasm between his performance at home compared to on the road, but it seems like it stems from one of two factors. The first one is his approach. It's hard to back this up with stats, but when you watch Vladdy hit at home, his approach looks more tense and he seems tighter than he should be. Compare this to when he's on the road when he looks loose and unbothered by any pressure. It may seem strange that a player who in the past has never seemed to let the pressure get to him, but it's certainly a possibility. The other explanation is a simple case of bad luck. This might sound like a cop-out, but 69 games out of 162 is still a relatively small sample size, and sometimes it can take the full season for a player's number to reflect how good they truly are. We saw this on a smaller scale with George Springer early this season, who got off to a brutal start before turning this around as of late. One thing you can be sure about though is that there's no way his splits can stay like this. He's too good of a hitter to struggle so much in front of the home crowd, and you would have to expect he turns things around at some point.

What makes all of this the most confusing is that on the whole, his underlying numbers are excellent. His average exit velocity, hard hit%, xwOBA, xBA, and xSLUG are all in the 94th percentile or higher, but his raw number is the worst they've been since 2020. Guerrero clearly isn't having the season he or anyone would have hoped for so far, but if you watch his at-bats it's clear that he's close. The Blue Jays won't be home again for over a week, so hopefully by the time they return to Toronto, things are looking different for Vladdy.