Monday, February 12, 2007

NIH: The Comeback Trail 2: Cristian Guzman

Remember. They're not booing. They're saying "Guuuuuz."

Cristian Guzman is in the need for a serious rebound coming into the 2007 season, as he has now had one month shy of two lost seasons with this organization. In 2006 he was sidelined for the entire season. In 2005, save for September, he was flirting with the Mendoza Line at the plate, dragging down what had been a career batting average of .265 I'm not going to pretend that those are numbers that would light the world on fire, but they would have been quite welcome as a relief from offense that was occasionally dwarfed by the pitching staff.

Still, NIH is an injury blog, so the 2005 season isn't what I'm quite as concerned about as the 2006 season. Before the season even started, it was revealed that Guzman would require shoulder surgery that would sideline him for the entire 2006 season. That was it, over and done, with Guzman's potential comeback year put on hold while he slowly recovered.

This season he's coming back, and he is entrenched enough in the shortstop position that he's pushing late season acquisition Felipe Lopez over to second base to fill the hole left by the timely trade of Jose Vidro. That was setting up to provide some interesting drama going into the spring with three big league middle infielders fighting over two spots. So we've been spared that, which is great, as I doubt this team is looking for another Spring Training position controversy after last year's drama with Alfonso Soriano. Not that that necessarily turned out for the worse.

Guzman has a certain skill set, one that was honed on the artifical terf of Minneapolis, where a chopper in the infield won't come down before a fast enough runner can get to first base. He's known the All Star game, and has even had MVP votes during that magical 2001 season where he got his average up above 300 and an OPS+ of 111 (while I don't understand OPS+, I am led to believe that triple digits are good).

So. What will 2007 bring? Which was the fluke, 2001 Guzman or 2005 Guzman? In many ways, there are more questions about Guzman than about Patterson, as Patterson has at least displayed a certain level of competence between his DL trips. Guzman...he's still going to have his 2005 season hanging heavy in the memories of many fans of this team. Can the man who has thrice led the league in Triples get his swing back in a park that love the three bagger? Obviously time will tell, and Guzman is going to be due for some close evaluation as the season progresses.

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