Carlos Guillen is Not Benjamin Button

GuillenHead.jpgFour weeks into the 2009 season, Tigers left fielder Carlos Guillen is batting dead last among his peers at the position — an anemic .198 average and .268 OBP for a guy Detroit counts on for big-time production. The next worst is the A’s prized offseason acquisition, Matt Holliday, and he’s still hitting 35 points higher.

(While it’s still early and Holliday is much more likely to regain his near-MVP, three-time-All-Star form than Guillen, we must give credit to Craig Calcaterra — Shyster of ShysterBall — for declaring in June 2008 that Holliday is nothing more than a product of Coors Field. We shall see.)

Right now, left field isn’t providing much offense for any of the A.L. Central clubs. Chicago’s Carlos Quentin is hitting only .244 but at least he has eight homers (Guillen has zippo); Kansas City’s David DeJesus is at .241, and Cleveland’s Ben Francisco is hitting just .239. Only Minnesota’s Delmon Young is hitting over .250 — he’s at .271.

So when do the Tigers (and Tigers fans) push the panic button on Guillen? Well, given his inability to stay healthy and advancing baseball age, perhaps we should be pushing it right now. But let’s think about this for a moment.

A couple of things jump out at me about Guillen, one makes me nervous, the other makes me think he’ll be okay. Well, at least I think that I think he’ll be okay:

  1. As much as the World Baseball Classic seemed to help Miguel Cabrera get his groove on much earlier than he did last year, I’m wondering if Guillen wouldn’t have benefited more from skipping the boondoggle altogether. I mean, the more games he plays, the more likely he is to pull something, strain something, dislocate something, right?

  2. Guillen has come out of the gate quickly for the Tigers since he arrived in 2004. Here are his numbers in April since then:
    • 2004: .309 Avg. / .396 OBP / .444 SLG
    • 2005: .385 / .467 / .526
    • 2006: .315 / .398 / .596
    • 2007: .300 / .396 / .467
    • 2008: .304 / .404 / .468
    • 2009: .230 / .310 / .284

Can we chalk it up to a once-in-a-contract, molasses-like start or the trend of something more chilling — i.e., Higginsonesque? For the answer, I turned to BaseballProspectus.com to see how they envision the future of Carlos Guillen. Here’s what I found.

The folks at BP have him projected at .271 this season with 14 homers and 61 RBI. (Wouldn’t you be delighted with those numbers after a start like this? I would.) Not exactly the production you want from a $10 million guy, but not Jacque Jones either. In fact, the Baseball Prospectus crew sees Guillen as a .270ish guy for the rest of his career. If they’re right, and more often than not, they are, Guillen could be given the Damion Easley/Gary Sheffield treatment in about 10 months or so — if not sooner.

Then again, we might look back and laugh at all the handwringing about his sluggish April and think of him as Baseball Prospectus did in 2007:

Guillen is perhaps the most underrated player in baseball, and the crown jewel of Dave Dombrowki’s rebuilding job. Guillen’s strength is his ability to take multiple approaches at the plate, taking power cuts early in an at-bat, choking up and leveraging his slap-hitting ability when behind in the count, and working a walk when ahead.

Or, we’ll lament another ill-advised contract under Dombrowski’s reign and see what BP saw in 1997:

Guillen is an injury-prone shortstop prospect —1994, left shoulder; 1995, right elbow —but he’s a good hitter and defensive shortstop. Another product of the Venezuelan factory. Health is the only question, but it’s a massive one.

My gut tells me it’s the latter.

Discuss.

Author: Mike McClary

Upbeat guy.

9 thoughts on “Carlos Guillen is Not Benjamin Button”

  1. I am very worried about Guillen and fear that his productive days could be behind him. Maybe he needs to be played a like an aging catcher? Just give 3 starts a week and let the young guys play the rest. I’m not saying he’s in LF only three games a week, I’m saying play him only three days a week.

    He just looks really bad and really slow. He seems to move like he’s hurt all of time or about to get hurt.

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  2. He’s done; has been for the latter half of last season as well.

    Playing left field on opening day for the Tigers is not something anyone should aspire to as it quickly leads you to the game’s fringes and most assuredly out of the CoPa. Witness Craig Monroe 2007 and Jacque Jones 2008.

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  3. I don’t know what to say anymore. Im worried because we need his bat badly, even if he hits .270, but he has no place in LF@CoPa. He should only DH, but he’s hogging that spot. Anderson should play there everyday regardless if a lefty is pitching. I thought Larish could play LF. Larish could play 1st when Maggs/Miggy DH. Larish could play 3rd occasionally as well, letting Inge play OF- but that might not be a good idea but better than Raburn. I don’t like Raburn @ all. I hope this ends okay, but I have a feeling it won’t. Guillen is injury prone, and we can’t wait for him to hit or get healthy forever. Should they put him on the DL day to day and call up Larish/Clevlen/or someone? I don’t know what to think or do, this is really bothering me.

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  4. After watching last night’s game in person and seeing Guillen mis-play several balls, get bailed out by Granderson once, I have to agree he has no place in the field.

    He’s still got the bat, so I’m ok with him as the DH, but he’s way too slow to play the outfield at CoPa. Let him play first every once in a while to spell Cabrera, but get him out of LF before he costs the Tigers any more runs.

    Anderson is serviceable and when Thames gets back they can platoon out there.

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  5. It’s been ugly so far (yes, I have a PhD in Obviousology). However, having watched Raburn and Anderson “play” left field I’m convinced that there’s a Bermuda Triangle-like vortex in that area of Comerica Park that affects anyone wearing the Olde English D so maybe we shouldn’t be too worried about the defense. His bat should come around at some point. He did tonk 3 HR in the WBC so it’s not like his power has completely evaporated. The panic button is at the ready, though.

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  6. Sorry for the double-post. I had a thought and went to look at Guillen’s splits to see if he’s had any months comparable to April’s stinkbomb. It turns out, he’s had one sub-par month each season (though not this bad) so maybe we shouldn’t freak out too much just yet.

    August ’04 – .260/.312/.440
    June ’05 (injury shortened) – .241/.281/.310
    September ’07 – .263/.333/.404
    May ’08 – .266/.327/.394

    Granted, these aren’t nearly as bad as what we’ve been seeing thus far, but compared to the numbers he put up those seasons in total they are significantly down months. He’s hit a few balls hard lately, so maybe he’s starting to get it together (if you wish for something enough, it happens…right?)

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  7. If Edwin Jackson wasn’t pitching so well, this would be the spot where someone would say that Matt Joyce would look pretty good in LF right now.

    I also hope Guillen finds his stroke, but it is abundantly clear that he can no longer be considered even an adequate fielder right now.

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  8. Turns out he’s bound for the DL and Fleet Clete is back.

    Anderson leading off tonight and Thomas hitting third? Really? Way to support that rookie phenom on the hill Jimmy.

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