Over the past few years, we've watched Vladimir Guerrero go from one of the most feared free-swinging sluggers ever to a falling offensive star that can hardly play the field. But he's excited some with a quick start to the year in Texas, during which he's hit .405 (15-for-37) with a .425 wOBA. After a rough 2009, which saw Vlad post the worst offensive numbers of his career, is Guerrero gearing up for a comeback season at the age of 36?
Well, probably not. If you were to look up what a hollow batting average is in the big book of baseball, they'd have a list of Guerrero's 2010 statistics as a prime example. Guerrero has 15 hits, 13 of which are singles, with a double and a homer thrown in. He's been walked once and hit by a pitch once. His walk rate is 2.6% and his isolated power is .108, both of which pale in comparison to his career numbers and what you would expect from a productive designated hitter.
There are multiple concerns with Guerrero's performance that indicate that he's not really bouncing back from last season. First, his home/road splits. The Ballpark in Arlington has long been known as a park that inflates offense, and it's treated Vlad no different this season, with a .518 wOBA at home and a .260 wOBA on the road.
And then, of course, there's the whole balls-in-play thing.
Line drive BABIP, 2010 and career: .825, .752
Fly ball BABIP, 2010 and career: .100, .157
Ground ball BABIP, 2010 and career: .429, .254
Total BABIP, 2010 and career: .438, .319
Guerrero's been churning out seeing eye ground balls, but he's struggled to elevate the ball, which has led to both the lowest fly ball and HR/FB rates in his career. Considering that the things that scouts are most often concerned about with Guerrero are his knees, hitting the ball on the ground more often would seem to be pretty much the worst way for Guerrero to extend his career. Guerrero has all but stopped hitting the ball the other way this season, too, and in spite of that he's still not making contact with the same power that he was before.
If Guerrero wants to keep producing for the Rangers this season, he's going to need to go back to doing what he used to do, putting the ball in the air more often while using the entire field. My prime concern is that it appears that he's no longer capable of that, with his impatient approach and declining bat speed.