Guillen’s Injury A Blessing?

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It wasn’t much. Just a quick move to his left on a ground ball, and Carlos Guillen helped make the Detroit Tigers management’s decision easier. On Sunday, Guillen left the game with a strained calf muscle on a play he wasn’t even involved in. With some tough decisions coming up on the roster, the injury makes it easier on Jim Leyland to go ahead and play the guys he should be at 2nd base, Ramon Santiago and Ryan Raburn. One could argue that the switch and decision had already been made, as Guillen’s playing time already decreased. I just don’t see how Leyland would keep him out of the lineup in the playoffs though, given his veteran status and history with the Tigers.

I was curious to see how the Tigers were going to handle this one. For the past couple years, it seems that Carlos, when healthy enough to play, is always bumping someone out of the lineup. The Tigers have given veterans like Guillen and Ordonez quite a bit of deference in the past, but at this point, finding a way to get Carlos in the lineup is counter-productive. The Tigers have moved Guillen around to several different positions to do so, playing him at 3B, LF, and 2B. Terms like “professional hitter” get thrown around when discussing Guillen, but not only has his body been deteriorating for several years, so have his baseball skills and his offensive production.

Since 2007, Guillen has seen a drop in his OPS every year. While he does only have 95 at-bats this season, Guillen is hitting a paltry .232 with an OPS of .633, his lowest OPS by over 100 points since becoming a Detroit Tiger. That isn’t the most concerning aspect of his offensive game in my opinion however, it’s his lack of on-base ability. Guillen has only drawn 5 walks this season. For a veteran hitter who is known for being able to control the zone well, it is more than a little concerning. His OBP of just .265 isn’t going to cut it as an everyday player in the lineup.

Guillen is also a liability defensively. His range has diminished, and while he has made the occasional fancy play, the lack of range hurts the Tigers ground ball pitchers like Doug Fister and Rick Porcello. He certainly isn’t as steady as Ramon Santiago and Danny Worth, whose younger legs allow them to get to more baseballs.

While Guillen has struggled, the opposite has been true of the Tigers new semi-regular 2B Ramon Santiago. Santiago has always had the tag as a guy that is much better when he is used in small doses, but there is evidence to the contrary this season. Santiago has been stellar in the 2nd half of the season, hitting .315, with an outstanding OPS of .891. That is out of the norm for Santiago, but the little guy has been showing some pop lately. Defensively, he is above average as well. Santiago has earned the right to play 2B in the playoffs, maybe sitting when the Tigers face a left-handed pitcher for a more offensive option Ryan Raburn.

Raburn is a contrast to Santiago in that he doesn’t provide the defense, but offensively he can provide a guy who can do some damage against left-handed pitchers in the playoffs. Unless you live under a rock; as a Tigers fan, you know the damage that Raburn does in the 2nd half of the season. His bat alone, makes him a more viable option than the aging Carlos Guillen. His .949 2nd half OPS would easily put him in the top tier 2nd baseman and LF if he could produce those numbers over a whole season. Raburn has delivered some very big home runs down the stretch, and could very well do so in the playoffs.

This is probably an awful thing to say. The Carlos Guillen injury allows the Tigers to put their best players on the field come playoff time. That isn’t to say that Guillen doesn’t have a role with this team in October though. Guillen is widely known as being one of the leaders on that team, and even if he can’t play, he can still serve in that role by providing information from the bench. The team may miss Guillen as a pinch-hitter, but I am not sure he would want to accept that role.

Carlos Guillen has long been one of my favorite Tigers, but even I have know that for 3 years he hasn’t been the player he used to be. I would like to see him get a ring before he leaves the Tigers, and unfortunately, the best way to do that is with Guillen on the bench.

Somewhere, Jim Leyland is blowing a small sigh of relief.

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