I remember when I heard the Orioles acquired the hot-slugging, right fielder Vladimir Guerrero, who made his name heard by hitting monster homeruns and gunning down numerous runners on the base paths for the former Montreal Expos; I was sure this season was going to be one to remember.
But, it seems that this could be yet again another memorable season for the Birds, but for all the wrong reasons. Vlad has not played up to his standards and he’s putting together his worst season in the majors. We’ve seen this before from superstars who have passed their prime; Sammy Sosa and Rafael Palmiero (the second time) are great examples of that.
Guerrero is 35 years old and his production numbers have declined over the years, but he had a great resurgent season last year for the Rangers and I’m sure Baltimore fans expected him to produce more than he has this season. So, was it worth it to sign Guerrero and pay him $8 million dollars when he’s in the midst of his worst season as a major-leaguer?
Fantasy Baseball Insiders (FBI) projected Vlad to jolt 25 homeruns, 100 RBI and 60 runs while hitting at a .303 clip in 600 plate appearances. Right now, he is only on pace to break one of those marks, and that is number of plate appearances as he has 300 in only 73 games and there are 84 games left on the year.
Vlad began the season with a bang in the power department as he knocked four homeruns out of the park and drove in 13 RBIS in the first month of the spring, but hit at an uncharacteristically low average of .269 after collecting 28 hits in 25 games. Usually, Guerrero hits right around the .300 mark in April.
As the weather heated up around the Inner Harbor, so did Vlad’s bat. In May, Guerrero recorded 33 hits in 26 games and batted at a .308 clip, but his power numbers took a plunge in the second month of the season. Vlad only hit one homerun, and drove in 10 runners in the month. He was seeing the ball well and finding holes in the field, but he just couldn’t find his homerun stroke.
He did pick up more the most doubles in a month so far this season as he collected seven doubles in the month, which is one more than he averages per month before this season. On average, Guerrero lines 36 doubles per season, and this year, he’s only recorded 11 on the year (seven below average).
Vlad is happy to see the calendar pages of June turn to July because he hit only .253 in the month with one homerun and five RBI. He has not driven in five runners or less since May of 2009 when he drove in only two runners in a single month. Last season, his lowest monthly RBI total was 13 in April (which ties his monthly-high this year).
For his career, Guerrero averages 35 homeruns and 114 RBIs while batting .318 over his 16 years in the major leagues. This season, if he continues at the pace he is on, Vlad will only smash 14 homeruns, drive in 64 runners and hit at the lowest average in his career, .280.
He is on pace for the worst season of his career, and only really his second off-year as a major-league hitter. His last season with the Angels in 2009 was a tough year as he only collected 15 homeruns and 50 RBIs, both are the lowest totals in his career. Not to mention, he failed to hit over .300 for the first time since he played nine games as a rookie in 1996.
Vlad averages one homerun every 19.56 plate appearances in his career and this season, he is averaging only one homerun every 50 plate appearances. As for RBIs, he averages an RBI every six plate appearances, but this season it’s risen to one RBI every 10.7 plate appearances.
Another hitting category that Guerrero is struggling with is total bases; this season, Vlad’s collected 109 total bases and he averages 342 per season. Guerrero is on pace for only 249 this year, which would be the second lowest in his career (the lowest was in 2009 with the Angels).
Not only is he struggling hitting for power this season, his runs scored have dropped considerably from his career average. Normally, Guerrero touches the plate around or over 100 times and this season, he’s only crossed home plate 25 times and we’re almost half way through the season! He’s on pace to score only 57 runs, which would be career low as well.
Although Guerrero has not been able to drive in as many runners as Orioles fans hoped for, or crushed as many homeruns we thought we would be getting, he has been able to collect his share of hits.
Vlad has played in 73 of the 78 games this season for the Birds and has 80 hits; he is on pace for 182 this season, but he averages 196 hits per year. Over his career, Guerrero has recorded more than 200 hits in three seasons, and above 180 hits seven times.
Baltimore snagged Guerrero in the off-season to help the Orioles offense rebuild itself and produce more than last season after the 2010 Birds finished 13th out of 14 teams in the American League in runs scored. This season, the Orioles are ranked 10th with 322 runs on the year.
So far, Guerrero has not been the answer to the Orioles offense woes that fans have endured since the mid-to-late 1990s when they competed with the top contenders in the American League. I thought he would have a breakout season with the Birds since Oriole Park at Camden Yards is such a hitter-friendly park.
I alluded earlier that the Birds have acquired superstars who are past their prime and expect them to produce with the best of them. A good example of this is the acquisition of one of the most prolific homerun hitters in MLB history, Sammy Sosa in 2005 at the age of 36.
Sosa had not hit less than 35 homeruns since 1994 before leaving Chicago and relocating to Baltimore, but he only recorded 14 homeruns and 45 RBIs on the year while hitting .221 in 102 games on the season. Sosa averaged 45 homeruns and 115 RBIs in 18 seasons in the majors.
Another good example of a former star who is nearing 40 years old and brought in to put a jolt and rejuvenate the Orioles offense is Rafael Palmeiro’s second tenure with the Birds in 2004 and 2005 (he was 39 when he returned to the Orioles lineup).
Palmeiro averaged 33 homeruns, 105 RBIs and a .288 batting average in his 20 seasons in the majors and he compiled five great seasons for the Birds in the 1990s and 10 outstanding years with the Rangers in his career.
In 2004 and 2005, Palmeiro hit .258 and .266 respectively with only 41 homeruns combined and 148 RBIs. In 1999 with Texas, Palmeiro drove in 148 runners…and that was just in a single season and he knocked more than 41 homeruns out of the park in a single season four times in his career before returning to Baltimore in 2004.
So, I wish I was wrong and didn’t have to say this, but I think Guerrero is almost at the end of his career as the last three seasons he’s averaged 24 homeruns, 85 RBIs and a .300 average. I’m not saying that those aren’t productive numbers by any means, but they aren’t up to his standards; plus he probably won’t even break any of those numbers this season.
Vlad signed only a one-year deal with the Orioles, so whether or not he resigns with the Birds for a second year, but if he continues to struggle throughout the rest of the season, like Palmeiro and Sosa, he won’t last very long in Baltimore.
Palmeiro finished his career in 2005 with the Birds and Sosa finished his career in 2007 with the Rangers after he took a year off in 2006 and left Baltimore in 2005.
If the Orioles are going to have any shot at contention in the American League East, they need Guerrero to drive in 50 plus runners and hit 15 to 20 homeruns over the second half. Yes, J.J. Hardy and Mark Reynolds had great months of June, but as everyone knows, you can’t stay hot for the entire season, so once they cool down, Vlad is going to need to pick up the slack.
So, as of right now, it’s hard to tell whether it was worth it to sign Guerrero to a one-year deal. He could have a great second half and put this article to shame, but he’s getting older, he’s really struggling and if June was any indication of his future, it doesn’t look good for Vlad.
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About the Author
Written by Alex Van Rees
I am 22 years old and I recently graduated from James Madison University this May with a BA degree and a major in journalism. I live in Reston, VA, about 20 minutes outside of Washington. I am looking for an entry-level position with a sports media company where I can demonstrate my writing, interviewing and technical skills to better the organization.