Baseball is hard.
But it’s a lot harder when you hit the ball on the ground every time, something that the Blue Jays, as a team, do more than anyone else in the American League. At this point, it’s an undeniable problem. The correlation between Vladimir Guerrero’s groundball rate and his overall hitting ability couldn’t be more blatantly obvious…
We can see, that aside from a weird little run in the middle of his season, Vlad’s wRC+ seems to be the opposite of his GB%, suggesting that it could be at fault when he’s not doing well. Now, in fairness, correlation = causation is the oldest fallacy in the book. So let’s start by proving that the groundball issues are DIRECTLY responsible for the first baseman’s struggles this season.
What’s the best kind of batted ball? Let’s see…
This chart breaks down league average wRC+ based on what type of batted ball is entered. As you can see, the best specific type of batted ball is a pulled flyball. However, in general, line drives are significantly better than flyballs, which are significantly better than groundballs.
Groundballs are very significantly the worst type of batted ball, and the Blue Jays hit them more than any other American League in 2022. This is a problem that needs to be addressed. It hurt several of their biggest stars, not just Vladdy. It definitely hurt the first baseman, who saw his groundball rate jump 7% in 2021, as his wRC+ tanked more than 30 points. But it’s not just him. George Springer had a ridiculous 2021, as his groundball rate was only 32.6%. In 2022, it jumped up to 44.5%, and his wRC+ dropped 8 points.
But, let’s not kid ourselves. Vlad Jr. is a very good hitter. I’m not here to tell you about why a bad hitter could be a good one if he stopped hitting groundballs. He finished 2022 with a 132 wRC+. Nonetheless, there is so much room for improvement. Vladimir Guerrero is among the most talented hitters that the league has seen in decades. George Springer, Bo Bichette, Matt Chapman and Teoscar Hernandez are no slouches of their own. How can Vladdy unlock the (hashtag) next level?
Well, it would take fundamental change. Nothing is simple when you’re facing major league pitching.
However, let’s take Vladimir Guerrero Jr. as our example once again. This frame is from a game in Texas, during an at-bat that is just about to end, with a pulled groundball resulting in an out.
You can see that Vladdy is making contact with the baseball at the lowest point of his swing, t …
Author: Tate Kispech / Blue Jays Nation