In 2004, at age 28, Carlos Guillen finally showed signs of the stardom that...wait? No one expected him to play well? Oh...
In 2004, Carlos Guillen hit .318/.379/.542 before injuring himself towards the end of the season. This came after a career line of .264/.335/.383 in 6 seasons. Also, there was nothing in his minor league track record that made you think he would be great, save one 29 game stint in the Midwest League to the tune of .330/.417/.491. Of course, Carlos Guillen is not the only player to throw a great season out there after years of mediocrity. Darin Erstad is a great example of this, with his 2000 season outlier, as well as what is starting to look like a 2003 season from Edgar Renteria. Of course there are hundreds more of these one year outliers; I have just chosen a few recent ones. Guillen has started this year off hot once again though, so it looks as if there is something to his 2004 season.
Most of that slugging average has come from his hitting triples (4 already), but if he finds his homerun stroke from last year it should stay relatively high, if not at its current level. Of course that is a big if, and alot of his value is tied up in his batting average right now, as evidenced by his 29 singles against 11 extra-base hits (27.5% for extra bases). The only reason I mention this is due to the fact that 4 of his 11 extra base hits are triples; Guillen did hit 10 triples last year, but only 16 total in his 6 seasons before that. Keeping up this pace of triples (on pace for 24 in 162 game) is nearly impossible, so Guillen has to start hoping for more doubles or homeruns. There is nothing wrong with a singles hitter, but he does not really walk enough to have immense value if he is only hitting singles and the occasional extra base hit. Last year, 40.4% of his hits fell for extra bases, so there is already a change there of over 13%. This could just be April fluke numbers rather than a real trend, but just know Guillen might not be the powerhouse he was in 2004; he definitely is better than he was in 2003 and before though, so no worries.
Melvin Mora brought up these same questions of whether or not his 2003 season was real or an outlier in a career of mediocrity. In his age 31 season, where the prime years should be stopping for many players, Mora put up a .317/.418/.503 line (which would have been much higher if he did not play injured in July, where he hit .244/.306/.372). Mora followed that season up at age 32 with a .340/.419/.562 line, and this year is off to a .302/.354/.517 start. It looks as if he may be coming down some now at age 33, but that is to be expected. He is still above his pre-2003 levels though. My point in introducing Mora into the equation is to state that some players blossom late and give you a few years of great play. Carlos Guillen, although he seems to have blossomed at age 28 rather than 31 like Mora, could be one of these players. Will he have a season as great as 2004 again? I'm not sure; not if his trend of batting average comprising most of his value continues. I believe he will remain better than his pre-2004 value for the length of his prime years though.
Sometimes people throw Mark Loretta into the conversation in regards to these two players, but I think that is unfair to him. Let's observe his stats:
Mark Loretta (1995-2005)
Age 23: .260/.327/.380
Age 24: .279/.339/.318
Age 25: .287/.354/.388
Age 26: .316/.382/.424
Age 27: .290/.354/.390
Age 28: .281/.350/.406
Age 29: .289/.346/.352
Age 30: .304/.381/.410
Age 31: .314/.372/.441
Age 32: .335/.391/.495
Age 33: .286/.384/.328
What do we see from this? Mark Loretta has been the same player since roughly his age 25 season, except for with a slight power spike in 2003 and 2004. His batting average went up some, which made everyone go nuts over him, but the key to his game was and still is (as evidenced by a .384 OBP this year) walking. To put it an even better way, my buddy Andrew and I have fought over Loretta in fantasy baseball for the better part of 4-5 years now as a backup second basemen and utility hitter due to his average and OBP help. I italicized his age 26 season to show that he had success in the past that everyone seems to have forgotten about for the most part. 2004 had the biggest power spike of his career, as he hit 16 homeruns, besting his career high of 13 set in 2003, and also hit 47 doubles, which was very unlike Loretta. Here's an interesting Loretta tidbit from 2004 for you:
Loretta actually hit 11 of his homeruns in pitcher friendly Petco Park, and 23 of his 47 doubles there as well. His ability to hit singles was suppressed in Petco, and that is where the .295 home average came from. I find it interesting that Petco gave him his power spike but took away from what he has done his entire career, which is hit singles. At age 33 in 2005, he may just be cooling down what many think of as a two-year career, which we can see is not the truth. If anyone has more information on what it is exactly that Petco suppresses I'd enjoy seeing it. If anyone does not know what I mean, Dodger's Stadium is a pitcher's park because it suppresses the ability to hit doubles and triples while allowing more homeruns than the league norm. Petco, simply by looking at Loretta anyways, seems to cut down on a player's ability to hit singles, which may be why many players batting averages looked so poor in Petco's first year.