Vlad Jr. Is Smashin’ Baseballs
9:01 AM EDT on August 31, 2021
Here's a good quote from Orioles pitcher Chris Ellis, who in the fourth inning Monday night served up the first of two loud and humongous taters smashed by young Vladimir Guerrero Jr. It's full of delightful baseball-isms, like it was produced by an algorithm fed a steady diet of old-timey scouting cliches:
"He's a really good hitter. He's putting up an MVP-type season. He's smashin' baseballs. I tried to throw him a fastball away, it leaked over the middle of the plate and he turned and burned on it. That's what good hitters do, and he's one of the best in the league. Hats off to him."MLB.com
Vlad truly is smashin' baseballs. His remarkable production tailed off a little over the last month—he socked just three dingers in the first four weeks of August—but as Keegan Matheson of MLB.com points out, even after a late-summer brownout it took all the way until this past weekend for Vlad's OPS to dip below 1.000 for the first time since mid-May. Even when he's not actively smashin' baseballs, the thwack of previously smashed baseballs echoes over the land.
What stinks is—and this is no one individual's fault, although it feels right and pleasant to blame Rob Manfred, the fucker—like Shohei Ohtani out West, Vlad's baseball-smashin' is likely to cease for the year in the first week of October, short of a postseason berth. The Blue Jays have won at a proud .558 clip over the second half of the season, but the ancient ordering of the AL East persists, and so they can rise no higher than fourth in their division. They sit 4.5 games back of the final American League wild card spot, and certainly there's time for a push— one of the teams cluttering up their wild card chase is Seattle, with a hysterical minus-61 run differential—but they will need lots of things to stack up in their favor over the season's remaining month-plus, and baseball has a way of making sure things never stack up in favor of the other two teams in this damn division.
Now I'm just bumming myself out. The Blue Jays could go on a run. That is a problem for tomorrow. For now, let us appreciate how young Vlad "turned and burned" on this poor baseball Monday night as it leaked over the plate, and absolutely powderized it:
This 423-foot, 109-mph bomb tied the game in the fourth inning Monday night. Three innings later, with two away and the Blue Jays up a pair, Orioles reliever Marcos Diplán left a 79-mph curve up in the zone on a hitter's count, and Vlad turned and burned on it like you wouldn't believe. This is maximum turn-and-burnage:
This was the hardest hit ball of the night across the majors, and left Vlad's bat at a blistering 112.1 miles per hour. That's not his hardest hit ball of the season (117.4 mph on a 461-foot shot back in May) but all the same I must urge you not to attempt to catch a baseball moving 112.1 miles per hour with your bare hands, because they will in all probability explode and send fingers flying all over like hot shrapnel.
Vlad's up to 38 dingers on the year, tied for second in the majors. That OPS, tops in the American League, is back over 1.000. The Blue Jays have a chance. George Springer returned to action after spraining his knee in an outfield collision in mid-August, which will help the top of their lineup get back to terrorizing opposing pitchers. The team is reportedly hopeful that Cavan Biggio—whose hitting hasn't been great but who is a reliable on-base pest—will return soon, as well. This series against the historically atrocious Orioles certainly won't hurt—the Blue Jays have two series left against Baltimore before the close of the regular season, and who can even imagine how miserable and bleak the O's will get before it's all said and done. And this weekend the Blue Jays host the Athletics, one of two teams ahead of them in the wild card chase.
We may yet have a chance to see Toronto's cool youths in the playoffs. The possibility may feel remote, and the cosmos may yet line up against it, but a solid bet in the meantime is that young Vlad will continue to pound the bejeezus out of the baseball. Turn and burn. Grip and rip. Smash and, ah, hmm. Dash? Bash. Smash and bash, baby. Hell yeah.