LAKE HAVASU CITY, Ariz.–It’s hot. I don’t even want to hear that it’s a dry heat. You know what I do in this kind of dry heat? Cook things. I have an appliance in my house that creates plenty of dry heat and works very well for chicken, beef, pork…people shouldn’t be exposed to it. I’m on the annual trip to Lake Havasu, which is more or less the L.A. version of the Jersey shore. There are two types up here: “river people” (referring to the Colorado River, which flows into the lake) and others. I am most definitely others, but come up here every summer with Sophia and a dozen river people and fake it as best I can. I even got a fun column out of it once. Mostly, though, I watch my flesh burn and miss my DSL. And answer e-mail.
Up until this season, my clearest memory of Jose Guillen is as the object of some very unflattering jeering in the right field bleachers at Wrigley Field. The bleacher bums are never kind to opposing outfielders, but Guillen, being young, bad, and foreign, was a particularly vulnerable target. Guillen reacted to the taunts by alternately appearing hopelessly dejected and demonstratively angry, only making matters worse. Though he got his revenge that day–hitting a home run off crowd-favorite/headcase Turk Wendell–I’ve always had trouble watching him play without the phrase Jo-se-do-you-suck! running warbled, drunken, Francis Scott Off-Key through my head.
However cruel, the taunting had proved prescient. Back in 1997, Guillen had time and an abundance of raw talent on his side. Bouncing between four organizations and failing to demonstrate any development, Guillen had regressed to the level of benchwarmer; his career .239 EqA entering the season was below replacement level for a corner outfielder. If not for his powerful right arm (an impressive tool, but overrated in its importance) and his much-tarnished Topps All-Rookie Team trophy, Guillen might have been riding shuttles between Louisville and Chattanooga or selling real estate instead of holding down a fourth outfielder job in the bigs.
This season, of course, Guillen has had the last laugh. Easily the most productive hitter on the Reds this year, Guillen filled in admirably for Ken Griffey Jr. Now traded to the A’s, he’s been charged with the Herculean task of trying to make up for an entire outfield’s worth of mediocrity, salvaging Billy Beane’s reputation as a deadline dealer nonpareil in the process.
But what if Guillen turns back into a pumpkin?
Mark Prior returns as the Cubs hang on the fringes of the pennant race. Garrett Atkins gets his shot with the Rockies. The Tigers’ love affair with Matt Walbeck and Alex Sanchez continues. Jack Clark gets the blame for the Dodgers’ offensive incompetence. Corey Koskie returns just when the Twins need him most. These and other happenings in today’s Transaction Analysis.
A little something to take your mind off the forthcoming cinematic pantheon-dweller… In last week’s Can, I took a gander at the minor league power indicators of some of today’s most potent hitters in an effort to find the most accurate power indicators at the minor league level. The study pool (Group A) comprised the 25 active leaders in slugging percentage who had logged at least 3,000 ABs in the majors. The group included such heavies as Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez, Manny Ramirez and Vladimir Guerrero. This time around, we’ll look at Group B–those that, despite strong minor-league SLGs, have been at least vaguely disappointing in the bigs. To populate Group B, I included anyone with a career minor league SLG of at least .490, at least a 10 percent decline in their SLG in the majors (you’ll recall that almost all of today’s elite power hitters posted higher SLGs at the major league level) and at least 1,750 ABs in the majors.
By one measure, the Braves have a 99% chance of winning the East. The Twins aren’t out of the race for the AL Central yet. Travis Lee has actually learned to make himself useful. All this and much more news from Atlanta, Minnesota, and Tampa Bay in your Wednesday edition of Prospectus Triple Play.