George Springer remains out of the Blue Jays lineup with illness, earning a much needed reset
By Edward Eng
Toronto Blue Jays outfielder George Springer was once again out of the starting lineup against the Philadelphia Phillies for a second consecutive day due to a viral illness. His illness had been persistent ever since the beginning of the Boston Red Sox series last week, which also saw him miss the opener of that series too. At one time, it was thought he had put the illness behind him already entering the series against the Pittsburgh Pirates, but the struggle was evident in his pinch hit at-bat on Tuesday night in which he struck out against the Phillies, showing that he has not totally gotten over it yet.
Springer has been having an uncharacteristic type season thus far in 2023. He is currently hitting only .209, with 17 runs scored, four home runs, and 13 RBI. For what it's worth, he does have five stolen bases, so his speed is still intact. Much more concerning at the moment though are his OPS at .574 and OPS+ at only 61, which are both substantially lower than his career numbers. In particular, during the current stretch in which he was battling through the viral infection, he has hit only .143, with an OPS of .476, but managed to somehow still pop one home run with three RBI in the process. In addition, according to Baseball Savant, he currently ranks in the 17th percentile in average EV, 12th percentile in outs above average, 30th percentile in hard hit %, and only 48th percentile in xwOBA.
It has been great that throughout his time with the Jays, Springer has always been a fighter in that he would battle through any minor injuries or illnesses to remain as a contributor in the lineup. Both the Jays and the fans truly appreciate such determination and competitiveness, which is usually exemplified by a true team leader. So for Springer to be out of the starting lineup beyond a single day’s rest usually meant he was dealing with something that must be bothering him a lot.
Currently, including the two off days this week, Springer has earned a much needed four days of rest to fully recharge and reset. This may be a blessing in disguise, despite his illness, as the Jays hope a healthy Springer that is back to 100% will be able to bounce back and regain his dominant form shown throughout his career and turn around what has been a disappointing season thus far.
Looking back at the last time Springer had more than three days off, it would date back to last August when he was dealing with elbow inflammation and was placed on the 10-day IL. After coming back from the injury rest, he would go on to hit .475 in the following 11 games with an OPS of 1.208 to go along with a double, a triple, one home run, eight RBI and seven runs scored. So the Jays certainly hope the same type of resurgence would arise this time around as well.
With both Daulton Varsho and Brandon Belt showing signs of life with their play recently after getting off to miserable starts, we should also trust that Springer will eventually break through as well, because if anyone was going to do it, it would be him.