Monday, April 25, 2005

Making up for lost time

"Guzman" and "average": so happy together

So you might have noticed that Cristian Guzman is off to one heck of an excreble start. Going into tonight's game, he's hitting a rousing .171 (12-for-70)---and that's on the wings of, what, a three game hitting streak?

Have you ever fooled around with a calculator and come up with "imaginary" batting averages or earned run averages (or on-base percentages or slugging averages)? If so, like me, you've got a problem. (If you're deriving VORPs just for the hell of it, to take stat-obsession to another level, Morningwood Santiarium is beckoning.)

Well, I was fooling around with the calculator during an off moment, and I started figuring what Guzman would need to hit, from this point onward, to achieve certain goals.

Let's take his career batting average, for instance; it's .266. What would he need to do in order to hit .266 over the course of 546 at-bats? And why 546 ABs? Because that's his "average season": 3277 at-bats, divided by six big league seasons; it's a crude way of doing it, yes, but it's at least somewhat fair---since it includes no cups o' coffee and, while it includes a rough rookie season, it also includes a heretofore over-his-head third season. If you do it this way, you get 145 hits in 546 at-bats, or a .266 batting average.

In order to match a .266 average, Guzman would have to go 133-for-476 the rest of the way, which computes to a .279 batting average.

What about a .266 average in 600 ABs? (I don't think he'll get more than that, even if he were to start every game, what with hitting eighth a good bit and sacrificing whenever he gets the chance.) That's 160-for-600 on the season, rounding up a smidge. He'd need to go 148-for-530 the rest of the way, also a .279 average. (In case you're wondering, given a 500 AB season, he'd need to hit .281 the rest of the way. Once we get beyond 100, 200, 300 at-bats remaining, the numbers start flattening out a bit, of course.)

Well, that's a .266 batting average. Are you happy with that, given Guzman's "Isolated Patience" is historically about .40? Let's dream a bit, okay?

What about last season's .274 average? Or a pretty good .285 average? Or something to match his .302 career high, back in 2001? Or a neat, age-27 career year of about .320?

Just for the heck of it, let's arbitrarily use 570 at-bats as our measure, primarily because a) it seems a reasonable estimate, based on Guzman's historical numbers; and b) 570-70=500, and that's a pretty easy jumping-off-point:

[Edit: Got rid of the table. It was messing things up. Sorry.]

Okay, some of those were just for fun.

At any rate, there was a long and tedious discussion on the general subject of "the statistically correct way to view 'overcoming' a bad start" last week at Baseball Primer. I see no need to rehash that, except to say that, within a "reasonable range of performance," Guzman's 70 at-bats haven't killed his chances. You could have probably figured that out already.

On the other hand, if we're expecting something exemplary out of Guzman this season, he'll have to cop an age-27 posture toot sweet. (I'd run similar analyses for on-base and slugging percentage, except---other than a small dip in Isolated Power---Guzman is roughly tracking his career variances from batting average.)

During the offseason, Pravda beat writer Bill Ladson become something of an object of humor among us, the Nats bloggers, for continually referring to players (especially the ones just-acquired by Jim Bowden) by the same, rehashed descriptions. For Cristian Guzman, it was something along the lines of "a franchise cornerstone." I've long wondered what, exactly, Bowden and/or Robinson originally meant with this description. Presumably, it means "defensive steadiness." That's fine, even if, historically, Guzman's advanced defensive stats have been uneven, to put it kindly. But was there an offensive component to it, too? If so, the front office couldn't have honestly been referring to a .266 average, or a .274 one, right? It had to be something more.

The moral of the story is that, unless Guzman really hustles from here on out, we'll likely be looking at the "regular old Cristian Guzman"---a fine player by reputation, yes, and those guys do in statheads on occasion. But the "regular old Cristian Guzman" is not a franchise cornerstone, in my opinion.

But then, we already knew that, I suppose.

[Addendum: I guess Guzman could be a historically slow starter; if he is, well . . . it's Cristian Guzman. I'm not going to look it up. ;-) ]

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