Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Wrapping Up the Vladimir Guerrero Era

The Orioles made it official a couple of weeks ago and announced that they were not offering Vladimir Guerrero arbitration this winter.

This was not a big surprise as Guerrero had the worst season of his career and was generally one of the most disappointing free agent signings by the O's in recent years. Of course, most of this was forseen.

Not by the mainstream media who cover the team. His signing was hailed by most of the final cog in what would be a formidable offensive lineup for Baltimore, one that might just lead them to a winning season. Obviously, that was not the case.

But most of my fellow bloggers viewed this move with extreme skepticism or downright outrage. That's not me tooting my own horn (though I certainly hated the signing) because many, many of my colleagues pointed out the same poor logic and risks that went in to bringing Vlad on board.

There was something about Vlad that the fans loved though. At least the concept. Signing a veteran slugger who is on his way to the Hall of Fame seemed sexy and signaled a shift in the teams committment to winning. Unfortunately, that didn't generate results on the field.

It was a divisive signing from the start. I have never received such backlash as I did to my posts (or tweets) opining that Baltimore would be better served, for 2011 and for the future, to let Vlad sign elsewhere and have LF Nolan Reimold get regular playing time instead.

But the O's did sign him. For $8 million, even when it was doubtful that there was any other place for him to play.

The jury is in. It was pretty much a disaster.

How bad was he? Of all the Orioles players who played in more than half of their games, only Felix Pie was worse.

Pie     -2.1
Guerrero 0.0
Reynolds 0.3
Lee      0.5
Reimold  1.5

Yes, Vladimir Guerrero was a replacement level player last season. And Baltimore paid him $8M for that.

In more traditional terms, Guerrero failed as well. Billed as a "proven cleanup hitter", Guerrero was dead last in home runs and RBI among Orioles who appeared in at least 100 games. His slugging percentage and ISO was third lowest among Oriole regulars (only Nick Marakkis and Robert Andino proved more punchless). Guerrero, the "proven cleanup hitter" and "RBI machine" failed on all fronts, by any measure you want to use.

(As an aside, Vlad was supposed to have all these magic RBI in his equipment bag but in 14 more games played, he came up 9 RBI short of Luke Scott's 2010 total. Sure, most of us understand that RBI sucks as an individual stat but if you have not been convinced yet, look at this example. Lineup, lineup, lineup. That's what produces RBI, not individual players. Of course, if you want to drive in runs, it also helps if you don't suck as a hitter in general...)

Despite this, Buck Showalter kept trotting him out there and letting him hit cleanup. In 87.5% of the games Guerrero played, he was #4 in your lineup. This fact alone has to make you suspect of Showalter's managing skills.

With Guerrero on the roster (coupled with the signing of Derrek Lee), Reimold was relegated to AAA. Nolan eventually returned from exile and acquitted himself well but I am still not sure we saw exactly what he can or can't do as a majpr leaguer as he only appeared in 87 games. It would have been much more beneficial for Reimold to play in 150+ to see if he has a future in Baltimore.

Finally, Guerrero brought back no prospects at the trading deadline as many fans thought he might. Nobody wanted him before the season and his poor performance did nothing to change that.

So when the team is rumored to be kicking the tires on an aging slugger this offseason, remember old Vlad. Thankfully it's all over now. But it could happen again!


Anonymous said...

Wah wah wah. Boo hoo, the O's signed a play who did OK but had injuries that everyone overlooks, so what are the REAL loser's excuses? You know, million failure Reynolds, I can't catch Pie, I'm not a team player Reynolds, left field is for losers....

DempseysArmy said...

You know, one of the things that keep me writing is the insightful, thoughtful commentary of my readers.