June 9, 2007

The Return of GUZMANIA!

Revenge is a dish best served in cold climates. And even though Minneapolis in June will never be mistaken for Minsk in January, it's fitting that a relocated player and his relocated franchise converged on the Metrodome last night. Even more fitting that Cristian Guzman put on one heck of a show as the third Washington franchise beat up on the first Washington franchise in a game that wasn't nearly as close as its 8-5 final score.

Before last month, Cristian's tenure in DC was almost uniformly terrible. Leaving aside a hot September of 2005, if he wasn't a Mendoza-line hitting drain on the offense he wasn't contributing at all, missing all of 2006 to rehab from shoulder surgery. And to make matters worse, after a solid spring he pulled a hammy Opening Day and missed the entire month of April. Needless to say, these were trying times for Guzmaniacs. But Goooz's performance over the last 5+ weeks has justified our continued faith.

In the month of May Guzie hit .299, got on base at a .354 clip and slugged .425, good for a .779 OPS. Not All-Star numbers, but solidly above average and certainly more than anyone was expecting from our #2 hitter. He slapped singles through the infield, doubles into the gaps, triples into the corners. He even swatted one memorable homerun at the Great American Matchbox. Was it a $4M month? No. But it was worlds better than what we'd seen previously.

It might have been just another tantalizingly hot month to punctuate an otherwise dismal contract. But improbably, teh Guz just keeps getting hotter. Over 31 June at-bats his line is .484/.500/.677 with two doubles and two triples. Were it not for Da Meat Hook's equally under-appreciated
hot streak, Guzman would be the talk of Nationals baseball. Has Cristian, at age 29, turned the corner, figured it out, and put himself on the road to becoming a consistent contributor with the bat? Don't know, don't care. I've taken a lot of grief for my particular case of GUZMANIA! and now that even the hardcore skeptics are beginning to come around, I'm going to take this opportunity to wallow in it.

One difference I've noticed in Guzman v. 2007 is an improved batting eye. For his career Cristian has averaged one strikeout every 6.9 plate appearances. Not bad, he's always been a bat-on-ball type of guy. But this season, that ratio is down to 1 K every 9.3 plate appearances. And there's been a corresponding increase in his walk rate as well. After drawing a free pass once every 20.5 trips to the plate for his career, Guzman's taking a walk every 14.4 plate appearances this season.

It was overshadowed by his Spring Training shoulder injury and the subsequent lost 2006 campaign, but Guzie did have
laser vision corrective surgery after the 2005 season. And he was swinging the bat pretty well in the first few days of '06 before he was shut down. So maybe something fundamental has changed for Cristian. Maybe he's seeing the ball better, laying off those bad pitches and jumping on the mistakes. Or maybe not. Time will tell. But Guzman's 2007 stats are a lot closer to his 2001 All-Star campaign in Minnesota than they are to the black hole of 2005. It's a new month, a new GOOOZ! and there's still plenty of room on the bandwagon. You know what you have to do...

2007: The All-Star Campaign! Vote early, vote often, vote here!


Harper said...

He's totally sticking it to me!

Ow stop sticking me!

(However - I'm totally impressed with him so far. Even if this is just a burst of goodness, you have to be happy getting a great month out of him)

Atlanta said...

I've voted 1100 times in the All Star Game, for ever National except Nook Logan. Do I get a special prize for that?

Watson said...

Congratulations Atlanta, you get an autographed Nook Logan Jersey!