Toronto Blue Jays: George Springer’s impact keeping team in contention

Toronto Blue Jays designated hitter George Springer (4) celebrates after hitting a home run. Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
Toronto Blue Jays designated hitter George Springer (4) celebrates after hitting a home run. Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports /

The hitting barrage for the Toronto Blue Jays continues and is now being led by their star centre fielder. The two-time silver slugger is racking up huge numbers with his recent tear.

After signing a massive free-agent deal with Toronto in the offseason, the prized signing was frustrated by injuries, appearing in only four of the team’s first 70 games. Since getting healthy and returning to the Jays on June 22nd, the former first-round pick is mashing the baseball. Manager Charlie Montoyo has found magic with George Springer leading off.

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After a promising start in the Spring, injuries were hampering the slugger, but he is showing his elite talent now. Springer is especially enjoying the return to the Rogers Centre, where he has put up staggering statistics in the six games played there. The former Houston Astro seems to be relishing his time in Toronto.

"“We’re for sure energized to have the guys that we do on our roster now,” Springer said to reporters. “To be back home in our home ballpark with our home fans is obviously huge. Our team understands that every game is important and we’re playing for our life every single day. We have to bring the same attitude, the same aggression every single day and whatever happens at the end of the day happens.”"

Springer has been delighting the fans in the ballpark with his bat engulfed in flames. The 31-year-old has been providing a jolt in the leadoff spot, sometimes as early as the first pitch. The home run he smacked to open the game on Wednesday rattled all confidence in Cleveland starter J.C. Mejia.

Toronto is getting the version of Springer that they hoped for when inking him to the lucrative offseason contract. A city starved for live sports is getting a front-row seat to the most exciting team in the majors.

There are numerous impressive stats to comb through since Springer started playing regularly again. Statistics can be used to tell different stories but when they line up with the eye test like this, it is hard to dispute.

George Springer leading MLB position players in WAR since July 18th

It is a small sample size of 17 games and 75 plate appearances, but it illustrates where the three-time All-Star began ascending. On July 18th, Toronto played a doubleheader against Texas and Springer racked up three hits on six at-bats. This boosted his batting average from .184 to .210 and was a harbinger of things to come.

From that day through Wednesday, Springer has produced the highest Wins Above Replacement (WAR) of any position player, according to Fangraphs. WAR is a metric that approximates a player’s value over someone at replacement level (like a fringe major-leaguer or overqualified minor-leaguer).

The 2017 World Series MVP has hit for a .424 average with eight home runs, 16 RBI, and 21 runs scored during that stretch. Only Bryce Harper of the Philadelphia Phillies and Joey Votto of the Cincinnati Reds have been in the same stratosphere as Springer during that period.

The Rogers Centre has been rocking with George Springer leading off

The sample size is admittedly tiny since the team returned home, but in the six games back in Toronto, Springer has been electric. Over that time, the righty has gone 14-for-25 with four homers, eight runs scored, and 10 RBI. The Connecticut native has hit safely in every game in Toronto, including four hits in Wednesday’s win. He feels comfortable hitting leadoff and the results are showing.

"“I was groomed to hit first my whole career,” Springer said to reporters. “I understand how to navigate it a little bit. I know I may get myself out sometimes or not have the at-bat I want to have, but I just understand it’s the same thing as any other at-bat. I just happen to be hitting first.”"

The numbers in Toronto should not come as a shock as Springer has performed well at Rogers Centre in his career. In 88 career plate appearances in the dome, he has hit for a gaudy .397 average with six long balls. As long as Springer stays healthy, the Blue Jays are going to get an impressive return on their investment, especially during home games. If you are going to the ballpark, make sure you are in your seat for the first pitch in the bottom half of the first.

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What do you think of George Springer leading off for the Blue Jays? Can the team make a run to the postseason? Let us know in the comment below.