Vladimir Guerrero Jr. had one amazing moment last week with a home run that was both timely and impressive in its own right, but other than that it was a slog.
He didn’t produce at the plate, showing an uncharacteristic tendency to chase bad pitches, and experienced multiple misadventures in the field. By Sunday he was sitting on the bench — ostensibly just as a rest day — after manager Charlie Montoyo publicly addressed a pair of his Saturday blunders.
"It's OK to pick on Vladdy when he doesn't do the right things,” the skipper said. “He's just a kid, he's 20 years old."
The third baseman is just 20, but that can’t be an umbrella excuse for any mistakes he makes, and the club certainly doesn’t want him to develop any bad habits. More likely than not, this week was a blip, but Guerrero Jr. certainly opened himself up to additional scrutiny with a suspect homestand.
Here’s how the phenom did last week:
The line: 5-for-20 with 1 home run, 1 walk, and 4 strikeouts.
Best at-bat: Home run vs. Zach Britton, ninth inning on Sunday.
This wasn’t a masterful at-bat so much as any amazing feat on one pitch. Before he hit a game-winning home run he took a pitch way outside and fouled off a sinker farther up than Britton would have liked.
What he did to that low sinker, though, was pretty incredible. Hitters simply don’t do anything with the hard stuff Britton puts down there. Swinging at a pitch like that is playing right into his hands.
“That’s why Vladdy’s special,” Montoyo said at the time. “Not many guys can do that against Britton. I’ve seen him deal so many years with that bowling ball sinking action that he’s got.”
Where most others would ground out to short, Guerrero Jr. put a no-doubter into the seats in left-centre:
Worst at-bat: Strikeout vs. Merrill Kelly, fourth inning on Friday.
None of Vladdy’s trips to the dish were truly egregious, but this strikeout stands out because of the “fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me” principle.
Guerrero Jr. whiffed twice in this at-bat, both on curveballs in the same spot. For bonus points he also fouled off a first-pitch cutter in that area code that he had no business swinging for.
The whole affair ended like this:
How they pitched him:
Considering Guerrero Jr. has been slugging .573 off fastballs, it’s a surprise he saw so many this week — especially seeing as the trend seemed to be sliders away. It’s hard to question the tactic considering he went .250/.286/.400, though.
At some point we may see teams targeting the top of the zone with four-seamers as their primary plan of attack and maybe this was an example of that. Both the Yankees or Diamondbacks are in the bottom half of league fastball usage, so pounding him with the hard stuff seemed to be intentional.
Defence and base running:
This is where things got hairy last week.
It started on Thursday when this error was the catalyst for the latest Edwin Jackson start gone south:
That should have been the third out of a clean 11-pitch inning for Jackson, the type of frame that’s been scarce since he joined the Blue Jays. Instead, the Yankees scored four runs in the immediate aftermath of the error. The Blue Jays ultimately lost 6-2.
Saturday included a couple of notable non-hitting blunders. After Guerrero Jr. crushed a ball off the wall in centre he was unable to get to second base as he appeared to believe the ball was gone.
"He said he lost it he told me he thought he hit the ball out and lost it. So he didn't realize he hit the wall,” Montoyo explained. “Honestly we couldn't see it from the bench if it was out or not. But you should always go hard and stop when you know what happens, but he knows that already."
Although that mistake is understandable given the difficult shadows creeping over the Rogers Centre outfield that afternoon, as Montoyo says he could have avoided the whole situation by just getting into a higher gear.
His second miscue of the day was probably worse. With the speedy Tony Locastro coming down the line, Vladdy took far too much time on an infield grounder and conceded an infield hit.
"It's player development,” Montoyo said putting a typically-positive spin on the mistake. “So he's got to learn from that. Either he needs to play shallower or if you're going to play that deep hurry up."
The defensive metrics are souring on Guerrero Jr.’s game of late, and if he can’t convert the routine plays he’ll be in trouble considering there’s a pretty firm ceiling on his range. Last week wasn’t cause for alarm so much a reminder that when it comes to Vladdy’s defence there are plenty of “development opportunities.”
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