Jesus and the Giant Peach

Back in late September work had overtaken me.  So much so that I was barely keeping track of what was going on with the Padres.  But I did notice that during the last series with the Giants, Jesus Guzman homered.

Apparently I have an unhealthy fixation with Jesus Guzman.  First thought:  Jeez, Guzman homered again?   Second:  Man, Guzman has OWNED the Giants this year!

The first statement is obviously true – he had, indeed, homered again.  What about the second?

Jesus Guzman hit .226/.297/.378 in 2013, with 9 HR.  Three of those HR came against the Giants; interestingly, all at AT&T Park.  The three:

  • 6/18/13 – Eighth inning, one on, off Jeremy Affeldt.  This one became mildly famous for Guzman’s reaction, and the Giants reaction to his reaction.
  • 6/19/13 – Seventh inning, off Madison Bumgarner.  The Giants made good on their pique about the day before’s events, throwing at Guzman in the second inning.  Jesus had the last laugh, homering in the seventh to give San Diego a brief lead.
  • 9/28/13 – Fourth inning, one on, off Yusmeiro Petit.  This blast gave the Padres a lead they would not relinquish.

So he must have ROBUST numbers either against the Giants, or at AT&T, right?  Not exactly.

  1. On the season he hit .204/.271/.389 against San Francisco.  Very close to his season slash line.
  2. At AT&T he hit .235/.297/.529.  Still not great.  Almost exactly his season slash line, except for all the HR.

Guzman’s a lousy glove anywhere but first base (where the Padres are chock-a-block) and maybe RF (where he played all of 22 innings).  On the Padres don’t lack for right now is outfielders.  Guzman’s on the short list of expendable guys.

So, alright – you’re YAWN-ing.  Tell me something I don’t know, you say.  Keep reading.

Here’s something interesting:  Guzman was a pretty good hitter in High Leverage situations.  All data per Baseball Reference.  Average Leverage (aLI) is defined as 1.0 for a particular game situation.  Low leverage is game situations with aLI of <0.7, medium leverage is game situations 0.7<x<1.5, and high leverage is anything over 1.5. Those definitions are applied to relievers as they enter the game, so it makes sense that the leverage rating can be applied to the hitter they face as well.

Guzman had 128 low leverage PA in 2013.  He hit .210/.266/.370.  Yep – that sucks.  In 111 medium leverage PAs, he hit .216/.279/.304.  Not much better.  Those high leveage situations?  Seventy-ning PAs, in which he hit .269/.372/.507.  His OPS split in these situations, relative to the rest of the NL (sOPS+), was 146.  That’s pretty good.

Really small sample size?  Something that he only did in 2013?  Yes; and no.  His career slash line in high leverage situations is .293/.367/.527, for an sOPS+ of 139.  It is true he’s done that in only 212 PAs over a 4-year career.  This leads into the whole  ‘is clutch hitting an actual, measurable skill’ argument which I will not start here.  The numbers do seem to reflect that Jesus Guzman takes good at-bats in situations where he can do the most damage.

If he could hit at that rate all the time he would not be the bench player he is today.

The Padres, as mentioned before, have four true outfielders under contract for 2014 – Carlos Quentin, Cameron Maybin, Will Venable, and Chris Denorfia. #WhyNotKotsay has retired.  Should the Padres keep Guzman for 2014?  This could be an argument for.  You can probably construct a better argument against.  I’ll call this my “not surprised when he returns for 2014” post.

I’ve been posting sporadically about the Padres since 2009, and have continued the sporadic here.  Posts usually occur on Tuesdays and occasionally at other times.  I have a Twitter account and even use it periodically.  Sorry no additional references to Roald Dahl’s book.

This post was edited at 1115 on 16 October.  I suck at proofreading.

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  • Sac Bunt Melvin

    Huh. I’d never paid much attention to high leverage situations as I’ve never thought of it as a repeatable skill. Don’t most high leverage situations happen with runners on base? If so, we should expect an increase in performance from just about everyone since pitching with runners on is harder, the batter knows he will see more strikes, the pitcher doesn’t want to walk anyone, etc.

    • The batter might believe he will see more strikes but if I’m a pitcher and Will Venable is up I’m throwing sliders out of the strike zone. Chase Headley too.

      • Sac Bunt Melvin

        In any case, players do hit better on a whole with runners on. Here’s a chart showing results every year with RISP, hitters have improved their OPS+ anywhere from 4% to 10% since 1945:

        This is usually my go to point when someone tries to justify their dislike for a player by saying he isn’t clutch. Just about every player hits better with runners on. Although Jesus Guzman so far in his career has absolutely thrived in those situations.

      • Don’t try to make me look at your chart. Jerk.

      • Good comments Some belated thoughts –

        It makes sense that hitters would hit better with runners on, at least to me, because the pitcher has less margin for error. Just as you say. I still don’t fully understand why ‘clutchness’ isn’t a measurable thing. I’ve taken that to mean it isn’t statistically significant, based on the studies to date that have been done by folks a lot smarter than me.

        But some guys do consistently hit better in big situations, or at least seem to. David Ortiz came up in the eighth inning a couple of nights ago, with Boston needing a grand slam to tie the game. He swung at a pitcher’s pitch and still drove it into the Red Sox bullpen. Most guys can’t do that; it’s not just noise in the sample size. Clutch hitting is an area that I want to look further into.

        The thing that jumped out at me was Guzman’s sOPS+, both in 2013 and over his career. Since the league hits better in clutch situations, his number when compared to the league average should be much closer to 100. Except it isn’t; he was top 25% of the league in high-leverage situations last year and top 40% for his career, if I’m interpreting the numbers correctly. That’s really good, especially for a part-time guy like Guzman.

        Guys who thrive like that don’t just fall off trees. It may not be enough to keep Guzman on the Padres roster, but it’s not something to just sneer at either.

      • Lonnie Brownell

        And that’s fine, it just sets a higher league average number for OPS+ with RISP than without. Players who consistently post higher than that average OPS+ with RISP, which is also higher than their OPS+ without RISP, may be said to be, uh, clutchy, if you’re in to that sort of thing.