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Monday, November 15, 2004

With Omar Vizquel removed from the White Sox off-season plans, Bruce Levine is reporting that KW will turn his attention to two other Clayton-like replacements, Christian Guzman and Pokey Reese.

Christian Guzman and Pokey Reese!!! If one of those two players are what you are hinging your off-season on, you're in trouble.

Guzman signed a long-term contract back in 2000. He delivered in his first season of the new contract with a .302/.337/.477 season. Since then, he has failed to record a season with an OBP above .311 or a slugging percentage above .388. His career year in 2001 was fueled by the ability to hit away from home(.315/.348/.470), something he has failed to do in every other season of his career. Here's his career splits, which include his career year.
        AVG  OBP  SLG  OPS   

Home .282 .321 .413 .735
Away .249 .284 .350 .634
I think the problem stems from Guzman's style of hitting. He's a slap hitter who hits a lot of ground balls, with a career 1.98 GB:FB ratio, taking advantage of the quick turf at the Rollerdome. His splits on turf, obviously, are very similar to his road splits.
        AVG  OBP  SLG  OPS   

Grass .255 .287 .353 .639
Turf .274 .315 .404 .719
If the sox were to sign him, he would be playing 150 games a year on grass, where he posts just a .639 OPS on his career. I would hope that the Sox would sign a guy who is more likely to succeed at USCF. A guy who has some HR's and lots of doubles would probably turn into a lot of HR's in 2005.

Here's a comparison of the White Sox two main shortstop targets, along with the two players who filled that position in 2004. EqA, equivalent Average, is an all inclusive offensive statistic. FRAA, Fielding Runs Above Average, is a measure of how many runs a player saves with his defense, as compared to an average defender. WARP, Wins Above Replacement Player, is a measure of how many more wins a player provides above what a replacement player would give. WARP is a cumulative stat, that is, the more seasons a player has played, the higher their WARP would be expected to be. Each players years of service is listed in parentheses to aid in understanding their WARP.
Jaun Uribe(4)                   Christian Guzman(6)


2002 .210 17 3.0 2002 .227 -1 2.0
2003 .236 8 2.4 2003 .234 -5 2.0
2004 .264 9 5.3 2004 .233 17 4.5
Career .241 31 12.3 Career .229 -24 10.3

Pokey Reese(8) Jose Valentin(11)

2000 .244 14 4.6 2000 .269 1 5.5
2001 .226 -5 1.3 2001 .274 0 4.0
2002 .249 10 4.0 2002 .261 3 3.8
2003 .208 4 .7 2003 .257 8 4.8
2004 .194 4 .7 2004 .244 9 3.8
Career .235 53 20.5 Career .255 10 38.4
You can see that despite his reputation as a poor defender, Jose Valentin has actually been above average on his career. Similarly, despite his reputation as a good defender, Christian Guzman has actually been a below average defender.

Guzman had just the first above average season defensively of his career in 2004, when he ranked as one of the top shortstops in baseball. This has to be tempered with him ranking as one of the worst shortstops in baseball in 1999 and 2000, and below average in 2001-2003. I have a feeling that Guzman benefited from the new turf, which supposedly played marginally slower, in 2004. This can't be the sole explanation for his suddenly improved defense. I can't make a definitive conclusion that Guzman is a bad fielder, even Derek Jeter had a decent season this year(which won him a Gold Glove), but I know he's been overrated.

The number one priority for the White Sox this off-season should be increasing their OBP. This is a team who, while ranking #1 in baseball in batting average with RISP was last in the AL in opportunities with RISP. The easiest way to increase opportunities is to systematically increase the teams overall OBP. You don't do that by signing a guy who has a career .303 OBP, and a career high three years ago of .333.

They should be looking to build a team who is solid defensively up the middle. Juan Uribe and Willie Harris are among the best in baseball at their respective positions. I can't make a case for Guzman being an upgrade over Uribe, or even Valentin defensively. Christian Guzman is not the answer for this team at $1, nevermind $5M. There's no reason to belive that he'd be an upgrade in any way over Uribe, or even Valentin, and thus his signing would be wasted money. The Sox should spend their money elsewhere.

There was a report across the wire that had the White Sox "settling" for Placido Polanco instead of Guzman, though any article that rates Guzman higher than Polanco loses some credibility.
The White Sox could go after Minnesota free agent Christian Guzman but more likely will settle for someone like Placido Polanco, who most teams see as a backup shortstop. Last season he hit a career-high 17 home runs to go with 55 RBIs for Philadelphia, playing 109 games at second base, 13 at third and none at shortstop
While Polanco may be a "backup shortstop", he's a top notch second baseman, both offensively and defensively. I highly doubt the validity of the above quote. It seems more like the speculation of one writer.

KW will be acting more under the radar now that it appears that his top free agent target was snatched out from under his nose. He's going to remain mum on the subject and we should expect these speculative articles to carry less and less weight.

Just for fun, here's Polanco's numbers from the same categories as listed above.
Year     EqA   FRAA    WARP

2000 .256 7 3.0
2001 .256 21 5.8
2002 .259 17 5.6
2003 .284 6 6.3
2004 .268 17 6.3
Career .261 70 28.7
I'd hate to have to settle for Polanco. :p