Where Did This Come From?

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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Eric is an accountant and statistical analyst from Philadelphia. He also covers the Phillies at Phillies Nation and can be found here on Twitter.

13 Responses to “Where Did This Come From?”

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  1. Kincaid says:

    Guzman had Lasik surgery before the 2006 season (or what would have been his 2006 season if not for injury), so I’m sure that has something to do with it. Manny Acta has also said he believes Guzman’s seeing the ball much better since the surgery, and that he has been making better contact and, even though he still doesn’t walk much, laying off bad pitches he used to swing at, which would both help cut down on the strikeouts.

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  2. bpasinko says:

    I think Bowden knew this was going to happen, give the man some credit!

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  3. Dante Bellini says:

    Looks like he stopped bunting to me…

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  4. Michael says:

    Not having more than a menial glance at the numbers, his K% has gone back up to his career numbers, and in general his 1/3 season sandwich years showed K% that were close to values he’d been hitting the last few years before the injury. Seems like those sandwich years he’s had a higher BABIP than is expected, given the crude estimation using LD%. He may just be getting lucky right now, with a legitimately good season in between (the numbers for the middle season seem to point to a solid campaign with less luck involved). Question may be how he got that 2008; he was certainly hitting it harder, based on the LD% and HR/FB, but the short seasons before and after it don’t seem to match up.

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  5. David Pinto says:

    Wow, Knoblauch’s defense was so bad that he was negative WAR for his career? That’s tough to believe for a player with a .378 career OBP.

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  6. jmualumni says:

    As someone that has watched him the last four years, the big turnaround was the lasik surgery. The chronology works out and both he/Acta have said as much.

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  7. PhDBrian says:

    It’s Lasik surgery. He did not have 20/20 vision most of his career. Now he does. You will note his defense has not fallen as much as would be expected because of his age. Its better vision. Playing without contact lenses.

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  8. gb says:

    So what we are saying is that he had PES(Performance Enhancing Surgery)?
    Is that also a 50-game suspension?

    jk ;)

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  9. Kevin says:

    Guzman also had shoulder surgery in 2006 for an injury he said had been present for a few seasons.

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  10. Ed Nelson says:

    Didn’t we all have a laugh when we saw his PECOTA projection?

    He’s accumulated a few too many ABs to call it luck. He seems to have found his inner Placido Polanco although for how long who knows?

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  11. Alireza says:

    I really wonder how many MLB players would be better if they simply had vision issues corrected. Matt Kemp has vastly improved his pitch selection this year upon changing contact lenses and I don’t think any can doubt that Guzman’s improvement is at least partially related to his vision correction.

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  12. Steven says:

    Since this post, his OBP is .273, and his range has declined to the point that he’s a significant liability in the field. Guzman is terrible.

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