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Entries in Vladimir Guerrero (5)


Vladimir Guerrero Signs with Toronto

Vladimir Guerrero may be headed back to Canada, the place where his career started.  The powerful right-handed hitter has signed a minor league contract with the Toronto Blue Jays.

The Blue Jays could be hoping that Vlad starts at DH against lefties, moving hot hitter Edwin Encarnacion to first base.  However, last season with Baltimore showed that Vlad may have lost some punch against southpaws.

Click image to enlargeGuerrero batted .288 in 161 plate appearances versus lefties last season, however he hit just two home runs.  His slugging percentage against LHP was down from .536 in 2010 to .386 in 2011.

It's probably not likely that Vlad will be an everyday player for the Jays, but his numbers versus LHP are cause for concern.  Unless he shows that he can still hit for power again, he may not be much of an upgrade for the Jays in the long run, even with Adam Lind struggling.


Vlad No Longer Impaling

For a decade and a half, Vladimir Guerrero has taken thunderous cuts at near everything -- balls, strikes, passing birds, gum wrappers, errant throws from Cracker Jack vendors -- and crushed it all. The impaler, who legend has it showed up for a tryout with the Expos in the Dominican Republic on the back of a motorcycle sporting different-sized spikes, has enjoyed a borderline Cooperstown-caliber career by lashing 449 career home runs (tied with Jeff Bagwell for 35th all-time) and posting a 140 OPS+ (49th-best among hitters with 5,000+ plate appearances).

But, as ESPN's David Schoenfield laments, Vlad's days of impaling could be over:

He played with Baltimore in 2011 and while he hit .290, the reality is that he didn't provide much value. He hit just 13 home runs in 562 at-bats, grounded into 23 double plays and drew just 17 walks. The man who once led the AL four consecutive seasons in intentional walks was no longer feared; among major league regulars, only Yuniesky Betancourt had a lower walk rate. And that's basically who Guerrero has become, except he can't play the field. No team needs a player like that.

Vlad had a good, not great comeback year with the Rangers in 2010 by slugging .496 with a 119 OPS+, but his slugging percentage dropped to just .416 with the O's last year. League-average hitting (101 OPS+) from a guy who provides no defensive value just isn't playable: Guerrero was barely above replacement-level in Baltimore (0.1 Baseball-Reference WAR). Turning 37 in February, Guerrero is now a DH-only player whose bat doesn't look DH-worthy.

The biggest reason for Vlad's power decline in 2011 was his performance against the "soft stuff": curveballs, sliders and changeups. Check out his in-play slugging percentage against those pitches in 2010, and then 2011:

Guerrero's in-play slugging percentage vs. soft pitches, 2010

Guerrero's in-play slugging percentage vs. soft pitches, 2011

Vlad clobbered opponents who took a little off their pitches with the Rangers (a combined .556 slugging percentage versus soft stuff, fifth-best in the majors), but he slugged just .387 against curves, sliders and changeups in 2011. Guerrero's decline was especially sharp against curves and changeups: 

Pitch2010 SLG%2011 SLG%MLB Avg.
Curveball .533 .349 .339
Slider .510 .408 .439
Changeup .625 .383 .385


The Hardball Times' Oliver projection system has Vlad putting up a .733 OPS in 2012, well under the collective .769 OPS that DHs managed last season. And the few teams that could use a DH -- Detroit, Toronto, Baltimore and maybe New York -- don't seem like good fits. We may well have seen the last of Vlad's pine tar-gobbed batting helmet and bare-handed hammering of pitchers. But even if that's the case, this bad-ball hitter's body of work won't soon be forgotten.


Patient Pedroia

Here is a quick look at Dustin Pedroia's patience at the plate in comparison to Vladimir Guerrero. Take a look at the two heat map sequences that display "swing rate" based on count. It goes without saying, Vlad is a free swinger.

Vladimir Guerrero
Vladimir Guerrero Swing Rate Based on Count (2009 Reg Season - June 16, 2011)
Dustin Pedroia
Dustin Pedroia Swing Rate Based on Count (2009 Reg Season - June 16, 2011)