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May 10, 2000

Doctoring The Numbers

Triples, Colorado, and Cristian Guzman

by Rany Jazayerli

Come Back, Lance Johnson! All Is Forgiven!

Through 33 games, the Chicago Cubs had yet to hit a triple. The teams with the fewest triples in history in seasons with at least 120 games played:

Team               Year    3B

Baltimore 1998 11 New York (AL) 1988 12 Baltimore 1986 13 Oakland 1998 13 Los Angeles (NL) 1986 14 New York (NL) 1999 14 Toronto 1999 14

So This is Dan O'Dowd's Master Plan?

While Don Baylor's new team can't run 270 feet, his old team has hit 18 triples in 30 games. The Rockies are on pace for 97 triples, a number no team has reached since the 1932 Senators. While Tom Goodwin (six triples so far) is a big part of the reason, it's really a team effort: nine different players have hit a three-bagger, including Ben Petrick and Jeff Cirillo.

Coors Field (surprise!) certainly plays a role, increasing triples by 37% over the last three years, and the Rockies have finished in the top three in the NL in triples every year of their existence. The 1993 Rockies hit 59 triples, the highest total of the decade. The teams with the most triples since 1945:

Team               Year     3B

Kansas City 1979 79 Kansas City 1977 77 New York (AL) 1948 75 Washington 1948 75 New York (AL) 1947 72

The all-time record is 150 by the 1894 Brooklyn Superbas; no other team has hit more than 131.

The Surprising Mr. Guzman

The current major-league leader in triples is...Cristian Guzman, who already has seven after hitting just 16 last season--16 extra-base hits. Small sample size caveats apply, but Guzman is hitting .298/.360/.484, with a strikeout-to-walk ratio of exactly one (13/13), after posting a ratio over four (90/22) in his rookie season. Guzman was the worst-hitting regular in the majors as a rookie, but at age 21, he was also one of the youngest regulars in baseball.

How surprising is his improvement? Here's Guzman's rookie season and its five best comps (using Similarity Scores, which include age but ignore position) in history:

Name            Year  G   AB   H 2B 3B HR  R  RBI  BB  SO SB CS   AVG  OBP  SLG Age Score

Cristian Guzman 1999 131 420 95 12 3 1 47 26 22 90 9 7 .226 .267 .276 21 1000 Nyls Nyman 1975 106 327 74 6 3 2 36 28 11 34 10 4 .226 .255 .281 21 969 Wayne Garrett 1969 124 400 87 11 3 1 38 39 40 75 4 2 .218 .290 .268 21 966 Nelson Norman 1979 147 343 76 9 3 0 36 21 19 41 4 1 .222 .260 .265 21 962 Joe Lovitto 1972 117 330 74 9 1 1 23 19 37 54 13 11 .224 .306 .267 20 959 Toby Harrah 1971 127 383 88 11 3 2 45 22 40 48 10 9 .230 .300 .290 22 955

An eclectic mix of comps, which is not surprising given the nature of the list: impressive youth with distinctly unimpressive numbers. Neither Nyls Nyman nor Nelson Norman--repeat that three times fast--batted even 100 times after their ill-fated rookie seasons, while Joe Lovitto, the only outfielder on the list, was rushed to the majors by the Texas Rangers, a year before David Clyde.

Wayne Garrett played 10 years and 1,092 games in the majors, and Toby Harrah, who was a Ranger rookie (in their last year as the Senators) the year before Lovitto, made the All-Star team the following season and three more times in a career that spanned 17 years and 2,155 games.

If you're looking for a more recent comparison that might lend credence to the theory that Guzman has a chance to develop into a tough hitter, look no further than his eighth-best comp:

Name            Year  G   AB   H 2B 3B HR  R  RBI  BB  SO SB CS   AVG  OBP  SLG Age Score

Cristian Guzman 1999 131 420 95 12 3 1 47 26 22 90 9 7 .226 .267 .276 21 1000 Omar Vizquel 1989 143 387 85 7 3 1 45 20 28 40 1 4 .220 .273 .261 22 953

Rany Jazayerli, M.D., can be reached at ranyj@baseballprospectus.com.

Rany Jazayerli is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Rany's other articles. You can contact Rany by clicking here

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