Thursday, September 17, 2009

Guzman's Range Isn't Declining (It Just Was Never Very Good in the First Place)

There's a funny thing about the team's plan to move Cristian Guzman to second base because of his declining range. His range isn't really declining.

Check it out. Here are some stats to chew on.
Revised Zone Rating (RZR) and Out of Zone plays (OOZ) are John Dewan stats. RZR tells us the percentage of plays within the player's zone that are made. RZR is primarily a measure of how well a fielder does on the routine plays, but if a fielder has really bad range that'll show up. OOZ is the number of plays out of the zone made. Range Runs (RngR) is a Mitchel Lichtman stat that tells us the number of runs a fielder prevents compared to an average fielder, just based on range (excluding arm, errors, and double plays turned):

Year Age Inn RZR OOZ RngR
2005 28 1161 0.806 47 -1
2007 29 376 0.786 11 0.2
2008 30 1174 0.838 50 -1.6
2009 31 946 0.785 41 1.6

If you aren't interested in the detaily mumbo-jumbo, just observe that his stats really haven't declined at all since he came to DC. Nor was he ever all that impressive to begin with, but he's basically the same below-average, basically adequate fielder that he's always been.

Guzzy's problem is that Rizzo doesn't want below-average adequate at shortstop. He want defensive whizzes who will help his army of groundball pitchers. If the infield is good enough, he thinks, maybe, just maybe, Trevor Holder won't be a total waste of time and money.

Yeah, it's possible that the Nationals see something that the stats don't. Guzman IS at the age that you start to think that his range might decline next year. But I've obsessed over Guzman's defense an awful lot over the last five years, and I don't see it. And like Rizzo says, you really feel confident when the stats confirm what your own eyes tell you.

Some of you are probably thinking, "what?? Guzman is terrible!! And you hate him!!!" Well, I don't think Guzman is terrible. He's just not nearly good enough to justify $32 million in six years and Brian Duensing. And I get annoyed at how his batting average gets too much attention (and OBP not enough) from some in the media. (And I find his approach at the plate aesthetically unpleasing, but that's just me.)

But I kind of doubt that the "Guzman is declining" line is the real story. The reality, I bet, is that last GM didn't care about fielding, and Rizzo does. But it's hard to say, "yeah, we negotiated a contract with you, and you've been exactly the guy we expected you to be, but we're just changing our minds. Now you need to play a different position.

Sure, they could say that. Meet the new boss. Not the same as the old boss. Tough luck, buddy. Wipe your tears with one of your $32 million undeserved bucks.

But most likely Guzman's gonna pout, thinking, "dang, I never would have resigned here if I knew you were going to make me play a new position." And if he's a malcontent, that's probably not good for the Nationals.

Personally, I think it would make the team (marginally) better to move him to second, so I'm ok with it. But I don't quite buy what they're selling, and I wonder how Guzman is reacting in the clubhouse. It might be better to just trade him this winter before he becomes the next Felipe Lopez.


Sasskuash said...

I've never heard of the RZR or OOZ stats you used in this post. I get the gist, but I need some context for these stats. What is bad, average, good and great scores for these measures?

Also, why do you think Guzman will pout and be a problem in the clubhouse? I've never been a fan of Guzzie, but I've never heard any talk of him being a problem in the clubhouse. He could take the switch like a pro similar to how Josh Willingham took his reserve role early in this season. I think we should trade him because there are still some GMs who value his empty batting average, so we can get something of value for him, and it's a terrible contract. But I don't think there's any reason to assume he'll be a problem if they can't/choose not to trade him.

Steven said...

You can read all about OOZ and RZR here.

UZR is getting a lot of play since they started updating weekly during the season on Fangraphs, but these are all valuable stats.

I don't necessarily think Guzman will be a problem. But the team sure is tip-toeing around him now. And frankly if I was in his shoes I'd be annoyed. Wouldn't you? He was a free agent, signed to play SS, now they're forcing him to move. Taht wasn't the situation with Willingham.

flippin said...

I may be reading too much into it, but an infield fly over second base brought Desmond over from 2nd and Guz from short. Des stepped in front of Guz on the SS side of 2nd to get the PO, Guz looked pretty pissed as they jogged off the field. Of course that may have been the lingering effects of Bergmann's gofer ball a few pitches earlier, but still, not a kumbaya moment.

estuartj said...

A lot depends on what Guz agent is telling him. A move to 2nd might be a good financial move since he isn't likely to get decent contract as a SS next off-season.

This is especially true if we can expect to see a slew of all gove-no bat SSs in the post-steroid era.

That brings me to another issue, what Rizzo says vs what Rizzo REALLY says. In this case Guz range may not be declining vs past performance, but is likely in serious decline vs league average and team expectations.

I also thing Riggs comments about sticking with vets and not playing him at 2B this year are moves meant to lessen the ego blow of the pending position move.

phil dunn said...

"It might be better to just trade him this winter before he becomes the next Felipe Lopez."

In your wildest imagination, do you really think any team would take Guzman and his $8 million salary? I propose we give him away and pay half his salary on the condition that the receiving team also take Logan Kensing, Jason Bergman and Marco Estrada.

HH said...

I can understand how Guzman would feel. He's hitting .290 and playing the same defense he's always played. In his mind, he's doing a great job and can't figure out why he's losing his position.

He doesn't know anything about OBP and UZR and wouldn't think anything of them if he did.

In any case, I'd much rather see Willie Harris play 2B with a platoon partner next year than Guzman. I'll never understand why they insist on playing him in the OF.

I'd just use Guzman as a utility player if they can't trade him and dump the salary.

He might be needed if Desmond flunks the course next year.

Anonymous said...

Before he becomes the next Felipe Lopez? I think we've passed THAT point, thank you very much.

Deacon Drake said...

Guzman moves much better to his right than his left, so some of his range woes will be hidden at second. Guzman's strength is often wasted, as Zim covers that side better than any 3B in the league.

The Nats need somebody who can get those balls up the middle. Desmond is a better option.

Sasskuash said...

RE: Guzman's feelings being hurt- I have to disagree that he has any "right" to be upset with the Nationals asking him to move positions. He signed an extension with the Nats that was likely WELL above what he would have gotten on the market. It seemed high even at the time of the signing, and that was before the market crashed and before the movement to defense-first thinking was in full force around MLB (both of those would hurt Guzman's marketability as a FA). Second of all, this extension comes after he played 1 year of a 4 year, $16 mill. contract. So, he already has a little under $12 mill. of the Nats money for sitting on the bench (or batting .219 and hurting the team more than helping before lasik). He should be thankful to have the Nats around and do whatever they want.

Thanks for the link to that site on these stats.

HH said...

I wouldn't argue that he has any right and I don't think that case has been made.

I just understand why he would be down in the dumps from his perspective and I understand why the Nationals are trying to be easy with him.

He's been a trooper for the franchise and hit well. If you didn't know anything about sabermetrics, you'd think he was a pretty good SS. And that would be his point of view. It would be tough to sit him down and say otherwise.

He probably will do what is asked of him, but he doesn't have to like it. I'll give him a bit of a break for not taking to the idea. I'm sure I wouldn't if I was in his position.

Steven said...

I didn't say he had a right to feel bad. I didn't say he WOULD be right to feel bad. I just said if I was in his shoes I'd probably feel bad, whether I was right or not. We'll see. Maybe he's a more flexible mature guy than I am. Not that hard to imagine, actually.