Vlad Guerrero, FVHOFRCUH

FVHOFRCUH stands for Feared, Veteran, Hall of Fame, Real Clean-Up Hitter, by the way.

Vlad Guerrero is not having a good season. He’s hitting .282/.314/.388, with only 6 home runs. Those numbers are really not going to cut it at a position where the only qualification is “hitter”. Amongst the 14 DHs with the most plate appearances (ie, the AL starters), Vlad is 11th with his .309 wOBA. That’s right around replacement level production, but at least he isn’t last!

Now I was not a fan of the Vlad signing, but when I say less than kind things about him it’s not because I don’t want him to succeed (I’d gladly eat the crow that went along with a 35 home run season) or because I dislike him personally or anything like that. It often has less to do with Vlad himself than with the image most people seem to have of him; that of the FVHOFRCUH. But he isn’t that guy anymore. Still, even I didn’t think he was going to be as bad as he’s been in an O’s uniform.

Pre-season projected strike-out rate: 13%
Actual: 12.1%


Projected BABIP: .300
Actual: .302


Projected walk rate: 5%
Actual: 3.1%

Vlad has walked just 9 times this season, and two of those were intentional. He’s such a feared hitter that pitchers would rather put him on instead of facing about as often as with such vaunted sluggers as Chris Johnson, Michael Bourn, and Daniel Murphy.

Projected HR/FB rate: 13.5%
Actual: 7.2%

This is where the main problem is. Vlad isn’t hitting for power, and it’s dragging his whole line down. Where has the power gone?

It looks like Vlad just isn’t hitting the ball very far (duh). Here’s his rates of flyballs to the outfield as a percent of all balls in play for recent seasons:

Year OFFB%
2006 33%
2007 32%
2008 33%
2009 34%
2010 33%
2011 27%

One of these things is not like the others…

Vlad isn’t hitting the ball in the air as much as he used to overall, but the drop in balls he’s hitting deeper (which actually have a chance to leave the yard) is even more severe. Over 13% of all his balls in the air (flyballs + line-drives) and over 20% of just his flyballs have been of the infield fly variety – both marks are among the highest in the majors (and of Vlad’s career). And pop-ups tend to turn into outs at a very high rate.

Even on his home runs, the distance is down. From 2006 to 2010 Vlad’s average home run distance was in the 400-410 foot range. In 2011 that’s down to about 387. And that’s with only 6 home runs. You’d expect the lower distance with a lot of home runs (since the extra ones that just scraped over the fence would bring down the average), but no so much with only 6. Pretty much all Vlad has are the ones that had just enough juice to get out. Here’s his home runs per outfield flyball (excluding the pop-ups):

2006 18%
2007 16%
2008 17%
2009 13%
2010 16%
2011 9%

Just another point showing the same kind of thing. Vlad is grounding out a good deal of the team, and when he’s not he’s still not doing a whole lot. A Vlad Guerrero who doesn’t walk and doesn’t hit for power just isn’t a useful player. Sure he’s hitting .282, but that’s an empty batting average – devoid of much value to the team, especially coming from a non-premium defensive position.

I tried to find a guy who was similar this year – not hitting too well overall, not much in the way of walks or power but with a decent average – and the closest turned out to be Nick Markakis (.277/.329/.360). And that made me really sad. There are also some other names (Ichiro, Elvis Andrus, AJ Pierzynski), but they all add value away from the plate as well. I’m not going to say that Vlad is done, but if he’s not, it would be nice to see something positive from him sooner rather than later.

Stats: wOBA, BABIP, K% & BB%, HR/FB%, Batted Balls Types