Saturday, September 24, 2005

Cristian Guzman, Superstar!

We've heard a lot lately that Cristian Guzman is experiencing a resurgence and now we need only wait until next year when he surely will return to his historical performance and justify all the confidence The Exciteable Boy showed in him. Harper Gordek has already shown that one month's performance can't make up for five months of Friday the 13th, Part 87, but let's assume for the moment that Guzman does return to his historical level of performance. Would we jump for joy if he did?

In a word, no.

Here are Guzman's career stats:


These aren't the stats of a consistently productive player. In fact, this season isn't an outlier--Guzman has actually had a season in which he hit even worse than he has this year. His 1999 stats were frighteningly bad. The only adequate year he had was in 2001, in which his OPS was .814. If we take away that year, which he has never duplicated, and his two worst years, we get remarkably consistent performance (when we say "consistent performance," you can read that to mean "consistently bad performance"). If that's what we can expect, then Guzman will have an OPS of about .685, and we'll pay $4.2 million for it.

How does that compare to the performance of other shortstops?

Bill Hall.867$344,000
Felipe Lopez.816$415,000
Russ Adams.698$316,000
Neifi Perez.693$1,000,000
Angel Berroa.682$500,000
Royce Clayton.669$1,350,000
Adam Everett.663$445,000

In other words, even if Guzman returns to his "historical" performance, the Nationals could get the same or better performance for a fraction of the price. There simply is no argument that Guzman is worth $4.2 million, even if this year isn't representative of what he'll do in the future. That's why Minnesota was shocked when The Exciteable Boy offered Guzman that humungous contract.


section 320 said...

In other words, even if Guzman returns to his "historical" performance, the Nationals could get the same or better performance for a fraction of the price.

But the facts at the moment are that we don't have anyone who is a fraction of the cost and can play the defense needed. Sure he's overpaid, but if this guy had performed at his career average - if most of the other players had performed to their capabilities - we wouldn't be having this conversation. Guzman is not why this season went bad.

It's a guy named Frank. And another guy named Tom.

Leiv & Erik said...

I agree on one thing: if Guzman had played at his historical average, there is a good chance that the Nationals would have won the Wild Card. The problem is that Guzman's historical average is pretty much the average for shortstops, meaning that we weren't getting much for our $16.8 million. We would have been better off hiring a replacement level shortstop for the league minimum.

If you're so inclined, look at a post we put up in July about Pat Meares. The Pirates signed a disastrous contract with Meares, which was nearly identical to the contract the Nats signed with Guzman. Interestingly, Meares and Guzman are nearly identical players in terms of stats. The Meares contract was one of the contracts that got Cam Bonifay fired. I hope the Guzman contract has the same effect on Jim Bowden's job.

Is "Tom" Tom Boswell?

pt said...

I think Frank Robinson got more out of this collection of players than many managers would have. If you must blame someone for the swoon, how about the trainer for the rash of injuries?

Leiv & Erik said...

We agree that Robinson got more out of his players in the first half than anyone could reasonably have expected. As we've said before, we don't think it's a coincidence that Robinson was the manager when they were overachieving. The real tragedy is that management couldn't or wouldn't capitalize on that unexpected success and position the team more effectively for the stretch run.

We don't blame Robinson for the second half--in fact the Nationals have played as expected in the second half--but we have concluded that Robinson isn't the right manager for this team in the long run. We've reached that conclusion reluctantly because we like Frank, but the team needs a fresh start. More importantly, the team needs a new GM.

section 320 said...

Tom is Tom McCraw...the alleged batting coach.

I think you're far too gentle on Frank. I've felt all season that the team won despite Robinson. This team is exactly where one would think a Robinson-led team would be: solidly mediocre.

Frank's career record as a manager is slightly below .500 - just where this team is likely to land.

One thing I've admired about Robinson is his firey on-field demeanor when fighting for his team. The pine tar glove incident, getting the home run reversed, staring down the home plate umpire. All very cool.

However, he makes poor decisions, and likely because he knows he was a superior player to those on his roster, doesn't respect his players. He questioned Patterson's guts when the guy had bronchitis. He loves taking guys out in the middle of batters. He refuses to have his pitchers retaliate when his players are hit by pitches. This obviously comes from his days as the head of discipline in the MLB offices. (There's a reason this team leads the league in getting hit. No fear of retaliation. No respect.) The list goes on.

Frank also feels he knows it all, needs no assistance from any of the new arenas of information dissemination. Not that I feel he was ever a leading example of managerial excellence, but since he's chosen to ignore the data that can help in favor of his gut at all turns - this game has definately passed him by.

I haven't done any official research, but I think if we take a look at Hall of Fame players as manager, as a group they disappoint. It's been discussed before, but I think it's because they don't grasp what makes this game so much harder for "lesser" players and don't have the necessary patience and ability to guide.

Third string catchers are more reflective of the successful manager, I think. If you look around the league, you'll see Joe Torre standing out as a grand exception. But before he got George's money, his record was as unimpressive as Robinson's is.

Unfortunately, new ownership is likely to leave Frank in place, admiring his ball playing legend and his "gruff" charm. (I really hope they don't extend a three year contract like he's seeking.) I think they would be better served in looking at the record.

Leiv & Erik said...

I agree with much of what you say about Robinson. I remember an interesting story about Yogi Berra as a manager. He was trying to give a hitter some instruction, but instead of explaining the point, he took the bat from the hitter's hand and tried to demonstrate the point.

Berra was a great player but a terrible manager. Walter Alston--a contemporary of Berra--was a terrible player but a great manager, in part, because he was much better than Berra at understanding what his players were going through. When you're one of the very best players of your generation, like Robinson was, it's hard to relate to those who have to struggle to do what came naturally to you.

We, too, would expect Robinson to be a mediocre manager precisely because he was a great player. He has trouble understanding and relating to his players, and he isn't the right manager for a team that will feature several inexperienced players in very important roles.

Having said all of this, we doubt that changing managers will fundamentally change the team's fortunes. Yes, we think that the team should open 2006 with a new man at the helm, but the only way this team will improve dramatically is to have a new owner and a new GM.

Anonymous said...

Frank has to go. Guzman was truly dire this season, but he's not the one who put himself on the lineup card. Frank made horrible decisions, hence why the Nats went from being first to nearly finishing up in last place. We need a new manager/GM, and soon!