In the early part of this decade, Cristian Guzman was known more for his inclusion in the Chuck Knoblauch trade than anything else. Debuting as a 21-yr old in 1999 and throughout his sophomore season, Guzman rarely walked, struck out too often especially relative to the walks, and thus fell well below average in the wOBA department.
In 2001, however, everything seemed to come together as Guzman put up a .302/.337/.477 line, good for a .352 wOBA and 11 batting runs above average. His success would be short lived as the next very season saw a severe regression, with Guzman producing a paltry .287 wOBA, 23 runs below average. His +2.5 UZR and playing time certainly helped, but this was definitely a massive step back.
From 2003-05, things stayed particularly stagnant, with Guzman putting up wOBAs of .297, .300, and .247. His defense hovered around the league average mark, deviating each season, making it difficult to peg down his talent level. It seems safe to assume he was playing league average or slightly worse defense, though, based on the all data we have.
Guzman then missed the entire 2006 season with injuries, and upon returning, looks like a completely different player. It is really confusing, because his offensive surge came out of nowhere. Sure, he only played 46 games in 2007, and has only taken part in 42 more this season, sandwiching the 138 games last season, but he does seem to have established a new talent level on offense.
The walks are still absent but Guzman is whiffing a lot less often, and has apparently started hitting the ball harder and where the defense is not positioned. After several seasons of BABIPs around the .280-.305 range, Guzman has been at .364, .339, .374 since returning in 2007. Because of this massive uptick, his wOBA marks have settled around the .340 range. No, it isn’t necessarily lighting the world on fire, but he has transformed into a legitimate threat in a lineup, as opposed to the kind of hitter that fans feel confident their pitcher can easily retire.
The biggest change can be found in his production against fastballs. From 2002-05, Guzman averaged around 15 runs below average against heaters. Since his return: +5.6, +17.0, +3.6, and keep in mind that the sandwiching seasons have only comprised about one-third of a full year. His defense negates some of the offensive value, but Guzman is almost unrecognizable from his pre-injury self, save for the lack of patience.
I’m not sure what happened between 2005 and 2007, or if Guzman had been hurt for quite some time before missing the entire 2006 season, but he is certainly serving as an example of a player whose past results really do not help all that much given the missed time, the injury, and the apparent newly found abilities. Anyone have any other ideas as to how this offensive turnaround occurred?
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