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Vladimir Guerrero Jr. might make a run at the triple crown
The end of May is about the time we can start taking baseball stats seriously. Most teams have completed close to a third of their 162-game schedule — enough to sift out much of the noise caused by, say, a hot week at the plate. Yes, it’s still early, but the cream has started rising to the top. And the best hitter in baseball right now is the Toronto Blue Jays’ Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
It’s been 25 months since Guerrero, only 20 years old at the time, arrived in the majors as the most-hyped callup in Jays history. Considering his age (in baseball, even the best hitting prospects usually need a few years of seasoning in the minors), Guerrero’s first two big-league seasons were fine. He finished those with an OPS+ of 106 and 116 (100 is average) and hit a combined 24 homers in 183 games. But now, he’s suddenly become everything Jays fans dreamed about when he was tearing up minor-league pitching a few years ago.
Guerrero’s numbers through 47 games are staggering. He’s tied for the major-league lead in home runs (16), tied for third in RBIs (41) and ranks fourth in batting average (.337). Again, it’s early, but if Guerrero were to win the American League batting, home run and RBI titles, he’d become just the second player since 1968 to win the triple crown in either league (Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera did it in 2012). The 22-year-old would also be the youngest triple crown winner since Ty Cobb pulled it off at the same age in 1909.
If you prefer less-traditional stats, Guerrero can wow you there too. He leads the majors in slugging percentage (.674) and total bases (116), and ranks second in on-base percentage (.447). His OPS+ (a modified measure of on-base and slugging percentage) is a majors-leading 207 — meaning Guerrero has been more than twice as good as the average hitter once you adjust for ballparks. At a time when batters are striking out more often than at any time in baseball history, Guerrero has fanned in just 14.1 per cent of his trips to the plate. That’s easily the lowest strikeout rate among the top 12 hitters in Fangraphs’ Wins Above Replacement stat.
Speaking of Fangraphs’ WAR, Guerrero leads all major-league hitters with 3.2 — half a win more than second-place Nick Castellanos of Cincinnati. And if you’ve noticed he’s just getting better wood on the ball this year, the numbers back up that observation too. Guerrero’s Barrel% (without getting too technical, basically how often he puts the barrel of his bat on the ball and makes good, solid contact) is up to 16.1 per cent this year — close to double what it was in 2020.
So whether you use old-school numbers, advanced stats or the good old eye test, it’s clear that Guerrero is crushing the ball this year and has made the leap to elite big-league hitter. And he might be on his way to a historic season.
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Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is not on the roster for Canada’s Olympic qualifier training camp. Not long ago, it looked like Canada would have a top-notch backcourt for its last-chance, must-win qualifying tournament in Victoria, where it can earn its first Olympic men’s basketball berth since 2000. Gilgeous-Alexander and Jamal Murray are two of the best young guards in the NBA, and both had expressed interest in suiting up for Canada this summer in Victoria and, hopefully, Tokyo. But Murray tore an ACL in mid-April, ruling him out, and SGA missed the final 29 games with a foot injury, making him a question mark. Today, Canada Basketball revealed the list of 21 players who have accepted invitations to its pre-qualifier camp, and Gilgeous-Alexander’s name wasn’t on it. Also absent was Raptors big man Chris Boucher, who sat out 12 of the team’s final 13 games after suffering a knee injury. But the team will still have many more NBA players than any of its opponents in Victoria (Greece, China, Uruguay, Czech Republic and Turkey). Fourteen of the 21 guys committed to the camp are currently with NBA teams, including eight who averaged at least 10 points per game this season: Andrew Wiggins (Warriors, 18.6 PPG), RJ Barrett (Knicks, 17.6), Dillon Brooks (Grizzlies, 17.2), Lu Dort (Thunder, 14.0), Kelly Olynyk (Heat/Rockets, 13.5), Nickeil Alexander-Walker (Pelicans, 11.0), Oshae Brissett (Pacers, 10.9) and Brandon Clarke (Grizzlies, 10.3). Also on the roster are 2016 NBA Finals standout Tristan Thompson (now with Boston) and Raptors centre Khem Birch, who averaged 11.9 points and 7.6 rebounds for Toronto after Orlando waived him. Read more about the Canadian squad here.
Andre De Grasse is back on the track tomorrow. Five days after placing third in his 200-metre season debut in rainy England, De Grasse will again run the 200 at Friday’s Diamond League meet in Doha, where he took silver at the 2019 world championships. Fellow Canadian Aaron Brown, who beat De Grasse last Sunday to finish second, will also race. They’ll face an interesting field that includes former 200- and 100-metre world champ Justin Gatlin of the U.S. and talented American Kenny Bednarek, who beat Brown and De Grasse to win gold last weekend and has already gone under 20 seconds with a legal wind twice this year. Two other Canadians are competing at the Doha meet. 2016 Olympic high jump champion Derek Drouin will make his first Diamond League appearance in four years — an injury-plagued span in which he tore his left and right Achilles and had a herniated disc in his neck. Canadian women’s pole vault record holder Alysha Newman, ranked third in the world, will face an Olympic-calibre field that includes the world’s top six vaulters. Read more about Newman, Drouin and the men’s 200-metre race in this Diamond League Doha preview by CBC Sports’ Doug Harrison. Watch every event live Friday from noon-2 p.m. ET here.
The second round of the NHL playoffs is taking shape. The Islanders eliminated Sidney Crosby’s Penguins for the second time in three years last night, and will now face Boston in the East Division final. The other three second-round matchups will be decided soon. Toronto, which had captain John Tavares back skating on his own today, could join Winnipeg in the North final by defeating Montreal tonight. Carolina can meet Tampa Bay in the Central final with a win over Nashville tonight (9:30 p.m. ET). In the West, Colorado awaits the winner of Game 7 between Minnesota and Vegas tomorrow night.
Coming up on CBC Sports
Besides the aforementioned Diamond League track and field meet (noon-2 p.m. ET), here’s what you can live stream Friday on CBCSports.ca and the CBC Sports app:
3-on-3 basketball Olympic qualifier: Canada can take part in the game’s Olympic debut this summer by finishing in the top three of the men’s qualifying tournament in Austria. The Canadians defeated Croatia today in their tournament opener, and their other scheduled game (vs. the Netherlands) was postponed due to bad weather (3-on-3 is played outdoors). It’ll now be played Friday at 3:30 a.m. ET. You can watch it here, along with a full day’s worth of games in both the men’s and women’s tournaments.
Volleyball: Watch Canada play the United States in the men’s Nations League tournament in Italy on Friday at 11:45 a.m. ET.
You’re up to speed.