By Tommy Rancel //
A year ago, it seemed Vladimir Guerrero‘s days of being a feared power hitter were numbered. Through a combination of injuries and age, Guerrero’s power numbers took a hit in 2009. He hit 15 home runs and totaled just 31 extra-base hits as injuries limited him to 100 games.
His 2009 slugging percentage of .460 along with his .164 ISO (Isolated power is slugging percentage minus batting average) were the lowest totals since his rookie season of 1997. With limited defensive ability, and a seemingly declining bat, Guerrero took a one-year deal with the Texas Rangers.
The deal has proved to be a blockbuster so far. Vladdy got off to a slow start with the Rangers – at least in terms of power. His .333 batting average (AVG) in April was very good, but he hit just two home runs. His slugging percentage was right back in the .460 area. An OPS of .851 is still good production from the DH spot, but April proved to be just the opening act.
In May, Guerrero exploded for a .330 average, with 10 home runs and 31 RBI. His slugging percentage for the month was a stellar .633 in 109 at-bats. In June, he has added two more home runs and is once again slugging over .630.
So what is behind Guerrero’s return to the top of the power-hitting food chain?
Our first guess would be health. Guerrero missed a game earlier this month after taking a foul ball off his eye, but the back problems that have plagued him throughout his career have been quiet in the early part of 2010. He has played in 58 of the Rangers first 62 games and has even logged some outfield innings along the way.
If you are looking for a fluke in his overall power numbers, you won’t find one. His .568 slugging percentage is identical to his career number. His .230 ISO is slightly lower than his .247 career average. In terms of batted ball data, his .322 batting average on balls in play (BABIP) is right in line with his career .319 BABIP. His line drives, groundballs, and flyballs are all within 2-3% of historical values.
Although Guerrero is swinging at 50.2% of pitches outside of the strike zone, he is striking out just 9.5% of the time – a figure that represents the second-lowest single-season total of his career.
While luck doesn’t seem to be a factor for Guerrero, the Rangers Ballpark in Arlington certainly is. Outside of being healthy, playing his home games in the offensively-friendly park has been the biggest reason for Vlad’s resurgence. Guerrero’s new home currently ranks in the top three among American League stadiums in runs scored and home runs.
In 98 plate appearances on the road, the Rangers DH is hitting .272/.306/.424. At home, the 35-year-old is hitting .381/.407/.669 with 10 of his 14 home runs and 10 of his 12 doubles in 150 PAs. In fact, a ******** 20.4% of the flyballs he hits in Arlington have left the yard.
In general, it is good to exercise caution when dealing with such extreme splits, however, because of the park’s offensive nature, Guerrero could very likely sustain the power barrage in Texas. With 47 home dates remaining, Guerrero could put up 10-15 additional longballs in that park alone.
Even if Guerrero’s batting average (which currently hovers around .340) regresses, he is on pace for his ninth career 30-home run season and his 10th 100 RBI campaign. After spending five seasons as a rival of the Rangers, Guerrero is learning that sometimes the grass is greener on the other side.
For more on Vladimir Guerrero and other sluggers, check out Bloomberg Sports’ Fantasy Kits