Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Cristian Guzman: An Everyday Player

When the season began, Ian Desmond was on a tear coming out of spring training. He was batting .279 with an OBP of .338 and had a slugging rating of .463. According to Manager Jim Riggleman, that was enough to earn him the starting shortstop job. And with good reason. The Nats were looking ahead to the future of the ball club when 2010 began. They wanted to throw out the old and bring in the new. Speaking of the old: At the start of 2010, there was only 1 player left from the Opening Day 2005 roster. His name was Cristian Guzman. That alone probably did not help his cause for the starting spot.

Instead, Guzman started the season as a utility guy, making some appearances at 2nd base and right field, with a few starts at shortstop for Desmond to get a day's rest. The results have been staggering for Cristian. He's batting .327 with a .412 slugging %. His OBP is only .026 above his batting average, but that's what we've come to expect from Guzzie. He's going to swing a lot, but he's going to make contact enough to satisfy. He is on base 1 out of every 3 at bats because of contact alone. He's a threat as a switch hitter, too: batting .400 from the right and a very respectable .279 from the left. People have made the argument that Guzman has lost range and is a liability in the field. At the end of 2009, I'd probably agree with you, but in 176 chances at 3 separate positions this season, Guzman has made only 2 errors for a .989 fielding percentage.

Meanwhile, Adam Kennedy still holds the role as the official starting 2nd baseman. He enters today with a meagre .250 batting average and a .352 slugging %. Both significantly lower numbers than Guzman. Kennedy often enters the game as a defensive upgrade, but with only a few more chances than Guzman (196) he's made more than double the number of errors (5) for a disappointing .974 fielding percentage. Kennedy is a lefty batting .250, and when Guzman bats lefty he is hitting .279. What this means, exactly? Even as a spot starter against righties Kennedy, no longer makes sense.

Guzman should be playing every single day for the Nats to continue competing. It makes no sense to have a guy that can compete at this level day in and day out to be sitting on the bench. Guzman is commanding $8 million this season, and he's earning it so far. I'm the last guy to say "well they're paying him so much, so he might as well play," but in this case it's true. Production earns playing time, and there is no good reason to not play Guzman every day.

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