Springer wants to be part of the solution: 'I believe in myself'

June 15th, 2024

TORONTO -- For the Blue Jays to get where they want to go, they need more 's hands back on the wheel.

Nothing has come easily this season. Springer looked rejuvenated in the bright, early days of Spring Training, but he’s hit just .198 with a .584 OPS. Among 151 qualified MLB hitters this season, that OPS ranks him 149th.

When you put those numbers alongside the biggest contract in the history of the Blue Jays, it can feel uncomfortable. Those expectations frame this reality, but Springer can’t rewrite the first 70 games of the season. What he can do -- and his RBI single and two runs in Saturday’s 5-0 win were a fine start to that -- is write a different story over the remaining three-and-a-half months.

“At the end of the day, results are key. I understand that. I will own the fact that I have not held up my end of the bargain,” Springer said from his locker at Rogers Centre. “For me, it’s about what gets preached in here, which is to do something that helps us win every single day. You can’t try to hit a five-run homer. You can’t try to gain all of it back in a day.”

This comes with experience and confidence.

Springer isn’t going anywhere. He’s in year four of a six-year, $150 million contract that positioned him as one of the faces of the franchise when he came to Canada with a reputation as one of the game’s elite postseason performers.

The 34-year-old Springer has a ring. He has a World Series MVP Award. He’s going to get all the patience a player can get, but he doesn’t want to need that patience anymore.

“I believe in myself,” Springer said.

Here’s the short version: Springer is walking more than he usually does and striking out less, which should put him in a great position. But the balls he’s putting in play haven’t been threatening enough. His average exit velocity (86.2 mph) and average launch angle (8.4) this season are both career lows.

All of this adds up to Springer not driving the ball in the air enough. When he was at his best in Houston, then through his first two seasons in Toronto, that was a vibrant part of his game. Springer was the leadoff hitter who could do almost everything.

“There’s definitely some bad luck involved with George’s season,” manager John Schneider said. “He’s missing his pitches. It’s not for a lack of effort, intent or prep. It’s one of those stretches that everyone goes through. No one puts more pressure on themselves than George, like a few of our guys in the lineup, but there have been some underlying things that are really encouraging about his at-bats lately. George is a huge part of what we’re doing here.”

Let’s be fair to Springer here, because Schneider speaks some truth. The quality of Springer’s contact is a factor in this, but of those same 151 qualified hitters, Springer’s .220 batting average per balls in play (BABIP) ranks him 146th. This isn’t a new conversation, as Springer was plagued by the same thing in 2023.

“I feel like I’ve hit the ball better than the scoreboard shows, but I’m not going to make excuses,” Springer said. “That’s the name of the game. The only thing I can control is the pitch I swing at and the quality of my at-bat. I play for us, I don’t play for me. Obviously, I would like to see the results be better and so would everybody else, but again, I believe in myself and I know that I will come out of this.”

This season has already been such a journey for Springer, and we’re still 11 games shy of the midway point. He opened as the leadoff man, but his struggles led to a drop down the lineup. The Blue Jays are now trying to make him part of the solution there, in the heart of the order.

That group, along with Justin Turner and the recently DFA’d Daniel Vogelbach, hasn’t provided much thump. Springer is this organization’s best bet to change that, even if it needs to look completely different from what we’ve seen so far.

“George has been one of the best players in the league for the majority of his career, and we’re going to count on him to be productive,” Schneider said.

The Blue Jays continue to bet on Springer, and he is, without question, betting on himself. No one knows what the payoff looks like better than him.