Carlos Guillen Named Detroit’s Starting Left Fielder

Carlos Guillen was not happy with his role last season. After accruing 17.2 wins as Detroit’s SS from 2004-2007, he has since spent games bouncing between 1B, 3B, LF and the DL. Guillen’s move off of SS came in the wake of a -10 UZR season at SS. Although he put up 1.2 WAR in limited time in 2008, his wOBA dropped 30 points and he lost even more time to injury in 2009. As such, the Tigers saw themselves left with the very definition of a replacement player.

This leaves the Tigers with a dilemma. Although it’s not likely that Guillen’s true talent has dipped below replacement level, it certainly is not at the six win level of 2006 and probably not at the three win level of 2003, either. With Ryan Raburn waiting in the wings, it makes little sense to commit to a 33-year-old declining hitter over the team-controlled player. Unfortunately, Guillen’s contract calls for $13 million in both 2010 and 2011.

Naturally, Jim Leyland’s response was to name Carlos Guillen the starting left fielder for 2010. The Tigers, having reached a 163rd game playoff with the Minnesota Twins this year, likely have playoff aspirations.

Their best bet to reach the playoffs, of course, is to field the best team. Ryan Raburn put up a .378 wOBA last year vs. Guillen’s .328. Guillen ranks as a 2.46 in the Fan’s Scouting Report, and has a -3 UZR in a small sample. Raburn only ranks slightly better, and has a +1 UZR in LF in a 110 game sample – again, not big enough to draw conclusions. The 50 point wOBA difference is akin to the difference between Lance Berkman and James Loney, and there’s no reason to believe Guillen’s defense outweighs this copious gap in offensive production.

The counterpoint is that Guillen’s BABIP was a precipitous .267 in his shortened 2009. With a career BABIP of .325, this is especially low, and we should expect regression. The question is, though, can Guillen recover from injuries at age 33, learn how to play a relatively new position, and put up a wOBA over .350 like he has in the past?

It seems like a rather large gamble to take for Detroit. Raburn is young but has very solid minor league numbers to support his first ML season. Apparently, money talks. This is just yet another example of the veteran with the big contract getting playing time over an equally skilled or possibly better young player because the team is unwilling to cut its losses and admit its mistake.



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Eric Cioe
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Eric Cioe
6 years 10 months ago

Also heard from Leyland: “Brandon Inge is our 2009 catcher.” “Miguel Cabrera is our third baseman.” When the chips are down, he seems to have no trouble going back on his “word.” I expect that this was simply encouragement for Guillen to work out and make sure he can actually play the field next season. Raburn will get his ABs, and he should. He’s not a .375 wOBA guy, I don’t think, but he’s not chopped liver, either, and he’s likely as good or better than Guillen at the plate and he definitely has more range than Guillen in the field.

I think Guillen will end up DHing more often than not next season with Raburn in left. I also think Jim Leyland thinks this.

LeeTro
Member
Member
LeeTro
6 years 10 months ago

While Raburn is younger, he will still turn 29 next April, so he’s not that young. His career wOBA is .341, and there are a few things that make me think he’ll regress back towards that number. He started to hit more flyballs, yet doubled his career HR/FB%, which probably won’t be sustained. He really feasted on fastballs, with all breaking balls being at negative values, so he’ll probably see less fastballs this coming year. He only had 134 PA vs. righties, with an BABIP-inflated average, no plate discipline, and an ok ISO. Defensively, I know he has a very strong arm, but that’s about it for value. There’s probably a platoon waiting again in LF in 2010.

Steve
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Steve
6 years 10 months ago

isn’t it still October? i wouldn’t put a ton of stock in this. maybe they eat some of Magglio’s salary and move him, then put one of these guy in RF. loooong time until Opening Day…

Seideberg
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Seideberg
6 years 10 months ago

Why do teams name starters for next season in October? Wouldn’t it make more sense to keep them motivated over the winter to win their playing time, thus giving them incentive to work hard this offseason? What if Guillen doesn’t pick up a ball or bat until March? Leyland would be going back on his “word” if he still didn’t start Guillen?

Bill
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Bill
6 years 10 months ago

I don’t get it either, but Leyland’s been doing this a long time. His track record indicates that he tends to get the most out of the talent he has. Perhaps, like Eric said, he believes this will encourage Guillen to train harder. Rayburn hasn’t gotten paid yet, so he’ll probably bust his ass regardless.

Rob in CT
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Rob in CT
6 years 10 months ago

I’d say Guillen’s a decent bounce-back candidate. Is there a reason to think that Rayburn is a true talent .378 wOBA guy? Guillen has been a pretty good hitter in the past. It’s true he’s aging now, but the BABIP thing suggests he was unlucky more than he was cooked.

Larry Smith Jr.
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Larry Smith Jr.
6 years 10 months ago

I don’t know if the author follows the Tigers or not, but one thing missing in the analysis of Guillen is that he played through a severe shoulder problem early in the season and put up terrible offensive numbers as a result. Even when he came off the DL, he’s a switch hitter who could not bat against LHP for the most part because he was still having trouble batting right handed. At the time he went on the DL on May 5th his OPS was .512.

From July 24th (when he came off the DL) to the end of the season, he was 262/371/503 in 221 PAs. In his previous five seasons in Detroit, he has never had a BA below .286, OBP below .357, or SLG below .434. All three of those numbers were in three separate seasons, for what its worth.

My point is, while he’ll almost certainly never be the hitter he was in 2006 ever again, I think its simplifying the matter to say “He had a .328 wOBA last year, clearly he’s on the way down”. There’s more to it than that……notably a whole month of the season when he was terrible while trying to play through an injury.

It is also true that he is an incredibly injury prone player (I often joke that he’s SO injury-prone that he had to miss time in 2008 because his wife got hurt. Which did actually happen, by the way) and so it is reasonable to worry about that as he ages and to not necessarily count on him to be there for 162 games.

However, IF he is healthy, I wouldn’t be so quick to just dismiss him as a declining veteran who gets a nod that he doesn’t deserve over a more deserving player. Guillen is a good hitter in his own right when healthy.

The Tigers could solve all these problems by starting Raburn at LF and Guillen at DH, but thats another story entirely.

kranepool
Member
6 years 10 months ago

Rayburn would be perfect for what ails the NY Mets. A deal of Palanco/Rayburn should be what Omar Minaya looks to do this off season bur since he is Omar Minaya, it won’t happen unless John Ricco gets more authority in the Mets front office

Larry Smith Jr.
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Larry Smith Jr.
6 years 10 months ago

Polanco is a free agent, the Tigers couldn’t trade him without first re-signing him.

Also, if the Tigers re-signed him, I think he’d be 10-and-5 (he’s been with the Tigers 4 full years and one partial year…..not sure how that works in terms of the “5” classification).

Another thing I’m not sure about: I thought free agents who were signed to contracts couldn’t be traded until June or July 1st. But I don’t know how it works with players who were re-signed by their previous teams. Also, by June or July 1st, would Polanco then have the “5” years necessary to acquire a no-trade clause, if he doesn’t already?

In any event, its safe to say that there are all sorts of problems with suggesting the Tigers trade him to the Mets. lol

wolverine119
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6 years 10 months ago

trade guillen for fransico cordero.. mags for derick lowe.. inge for jermey affelt +…. bonderman galaraga bonnie and 5 milllion for hardy.. tade santiago.. non-tender thames.. sign figgins(4 @ 11 per.) & jamey carrol(1 @2.5) w the 14 million saved in prev. mention trades… thomas rayburn striebly ramierez larish used in platoons @ DH.. RF…& LF .. that team plays great defense.. goes first 2 third.. and doesn’t gidp 10’000 times.. 95 wins if they fire leyeland.. any manager that fields an outfield of thames rayburn & ordonez multiple times w a flyball pitcher on the mound should sit inn a broadcast booth nxt. to joe morgan

Sean
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Sean
6 years 10 months ago

first…Braves would never trade Lowe for Magglio, and second Leyland only has 1,412 wins 2 pennants and a world series but ya we should fire him because we were supposed to make the playoffs this year (sarcasm). Leyland didn’t choke, the team did, especially Cabrera’s last weekend series against the white sox when he went out drinking with Ozzie Guillen 12 hours before the game and then proceeds to go 0-11 in the series. I’m not saying he cost us the playoffs because w/o him we wouldn’t be even close, but he could have made some better decisions when we needed to win two of those games to clinch.

Larry Smith Jr.
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Larry Smith Jr.
6 years 10 months ago

There is alot wrong with w119’s post and yet you chose to chastize him on one of the things he kinda had right? I sincerely doubt they’d win 95 games just by firing Leyland, but it would likely be some form of improvement. His insistance on starting Aubrey Huff so often down the stretch was appalling. While the impact of lineups is often overstated, there’s nobody that can convince me that batting Clete Thomas third on a relatively regular basis is a good thing. He continually kept Granderson high in the order against left-handed pitching as the season dragged on and on and on with him being unable to raise his OPS above .525 in the situation. Finally late in the year he dropped him to 7th vs. LHP, but REFUSED to lift him late in games against LOOGYs, even when the team was behind and occassionally when they were behind with runners on base and desperately needed runs, defense be damned.

He underutilized Raburn for most of the season, not giving him regular playing time until late in the year, even though he has a very solid minor league hitting track record and had a good year at the plate in limited PAs in the MLB in 2007.

He underutilized Wilkin Ramirez in September when rosters expanded and teams were clearly throwing lefties at the Tigers by the bunches because their lineup was far less potent against LHP than against RHP. Ramirez KILLED LHP in Toledo this season and had success against them on the three or four times Leyland let him see the field for Detroit this year, yet for some reason Leyland seemed convinced that the only thing he was good for was pinch-hitter, all-the-while the team consistently is stranding base runners and failing to score.

And that’s just 2009. A sound argument for allowing Leyland to stay aboard is that the Tigers may not elect to hire anyone who is any different, but I’ve just named a number of reasons why Leyland should not return in 2010.

wolverine119
Guest
6 years 10 months ago

sizemore/carrol platoon @ 2nd

wolverine119
Guest
6 years 10 months ago

firing leyland wasn’t the only reason for an improvement to 95 wins…. but getting rid of our DH types so that he cannot butcher our outfield defense @ times is immperitive.. rayburn is a good athlete and has good range.. you can’t teach that.. his jumps and routes will improve and he’ll be an above average outfielder… why all the distain for clete thomas.. he had an 800 o.p.s. pre allstar break.. he walks over 10% of the time..he’ll figure it out.. he’s one of the top 3 defensive rightfielders.. he’s now a full year removed from tommy john.. he’s a 2.5-3 win player rt. now… with 5 win potential heading forward.. his immense hidden defensive value will cause him 2 be severely underpaid throught his arbitration years.. a true assest

smith i do agree w the crazy decscion to play aubrey huff against lefties… when he would start thames inn left rayburn inn center and DH huff against lefties .. that was insane… you butchered your whole ourfield defense just 2 keep huff inn over wilken..

btw.. atlanta would do the derrick lowe for mags deal for sure.. maglio would be a 4 win upgrade over garret anderson.. and they are talking extension with tim hudson.. so he would replace lowe.. still leaving them w Jurrjens Hanson Vasquez and Hudson… mags might even turn on a few more fastballs in the AAAA league

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