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5/17/2007 09:26:00 AM

AL West: Mad About Vlad

Vladimir Guerrero
Vladimir Guerrero has a strong case for being the best right-handed hitter of his era.
Chuck Rydlewski/WireImage.com
By Gennaro Filice

At-bat for at-bat, nobody's more entertaining than Vladimir Guerrero.

Not only does Big Daddy Vladdy annually manufacture some of the gaudiest hitting stats in the game, but he does so while employing a free-swinging approach that defies all conventional hitting wisdom. Vlad's hyper-aggressive dominance makes for must-see TV every time he steps up to the plate (his at-bats alone make the $160 MLB Extra Innings package worthwhile).

Simply put, Vlad Guerrero is, bar-none, the most exciting hitter in the world.

But you already know this. One thing you may not know is that Vlad is also the best all-around right-handed hitter of his era.

Currently hitting .341 with nine home runs, 33 RBIs and an AL-high .455 on-base percentage, Vladdy's well on his way on his way to another stellar season in a Hall of Fame career. Guerrero holds a lifetime .325 batting average with a .391 on-base percentage and .584 slugging percentage. He has compiled 347 homers, 1,085 RBIs, 972 runs and a ridiculously low 688 strikeouts.

Now, I understand that these absurd numbers alone aren't going to convince some folks that Vlad's truly the best all-around right-handed hitter of his era. To prove that point, I must address the three players that most closely challenge Guerrero for said title: Albert Pujols, Alex Rodriguez and Manny Ramirez.

Vlad vs. Pujols: Over his short career, Pujols boasts a higher batting average (.329), on-base percentage (.416) and slugging percentage (.620). But the key word in that sentence is "short." While Pujols is in just his 7th season in the bigs, Vlad has kept up his averages for 11 strong. Longevity is essential to this title. Albert, who has struggled a bit this season, must continue at this pace for at least a decade before he thinks about supplanting Vlad The Impaler.

Vlad vs. A-Rod: No question about it, A-Rod is a more prolific home run hitter. (With 479 jacks at the age of 31, he's en route to becoming the home run king.) But I specifically stated that Vlad is the top "all-around" right-handed batter. Juxtaposed with with A-Rod, Vlad sweeps the three biggest categories in hitting, easily cleaning up in average (.325 to .306) and holding a slight edge in on-base percentage (.391 to .386) and slugging percentage (.584 to .576). Vlad is also more proven in the clutch, with a .323 average with runners in scoring position to A-Rod's .304 mark. Also, like anyone else, I'm a believer that good hitters simply put the ball in play. While A-Rod has struck out every 4.8 at-bats over his career, Vlad only fans every 8.1 at-bats.

Vlad vs. Manny: Manny is definitely Vlad's toughest competition. This matchup is basically a toss-up, but I do think Vlad reigns supreme as an all-around threat at the plate. There may only be a .12 discrepancy between the career averages of Vlad (.325) and Manny (.313), but that's a world of difference. (Think: averaging 25 points in basketball vs. averaging 19.) Vlad has never struck out 100 times in a season, but Manny has done so 10 times (including 147 in 2001). To Manny's credit, he holds advantages in on-base percentage (.410 to .391), slugging percentage (.596 to .584) and hitting with runners in scoring position (.330). But throughout his career, Manny has enjoyed a luxury Vlad can only dream of: lineup support. As an Indian, Manny played on some of the most ridiculous offensive teams in recent memory, and during his days in Boston, he's enjoyed the company of Nomar Garciaparra and David Ortiz. Playing on underwhelming Expos and Angels lineups every year, Vlad has always been the lone big bopper. While Manny has played alongside 17 100-RBI players, Vlad has been graced with just one (Jose Guillen had 104 RBIs in 2004.) Like I said before, this Manny-Vlad matchup is extremely tight, but how close would it be if they swapped career lineups?

  • On Monday, the A's wasted yet another dominant outing by Dan Haren (eight innings of shutout ball with eight strikeouts), managing just a single run in the ninth inning of a 2-1 loss. Haren boasts the American League's lowest ERA (1.64), but thanks to poor run support and an unreliable bullpen, Oakland's ace holds just a 3-2 mark. Athletics Nation notes that Haren, who switched his number from 24 to 15 before the season began, is facing the same misfortune as Oakland's old No. 15, Tim Hudson.

  • Ranked second in the AL with a 3.05 ERA, Seattle's bullpen features a number of talented relievers. One guy I'm really digging as of late is rookie reliever Brandon Morrow. Just like fireballing closer J.J. Putz, Morrow's bread-and-butter pitch is a live fastball. This heater was on display in a key situation against the Yankees last Sunday. Clinging to a 2-1 lead with two outs in the top of the eighth, Morrow faced Alex Rodriguez with runners on first and second. The Seattlest chronicles the entire showdown here. Long story short, Morrow pounded A-Rod with fastball after fastball and fanned him with a perfectly placed (low and away), 95 MPH heater on a 3-2 count. If you didn't know about Morrow, now you know.

  • A bit of advice for the sound folks at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington: don't blare the score from The Natural after a home run that still leaves you trailing by five runs in the bottom of the ninth (See: Monday's 7-2 loss to Los Angeles). That beautiful arrangement is only meant for special occasions, when hopes and dreams collide in one emphatic eruption of triumph. Like this.
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    posted by SI.com | View comments |  


    Posted: May 17, 2007 12:20 PM   by jeff
    Thank you. For years Vlad has been over looked as one of, if not the, best hitten in baseball. As you point out, he has done it on teams with little or no supporting cast. There is an excitement whenever he comes to the plate becuase everyone knows there is no place to pitch him without it potentially being a hit. How many times have you seen him hit a ball thrown eye high or off his shoe tops? He is without a doubt the best all round hitter the past ten years. Thanks for acknowledging it.
    Let me see if I understand.

    Vlad edges Pujols despite Albert's higher OBP and SLG because he's played longer.

    Vlad edges ARod because he's more "clutch".

    Vlad edges Manny (who leads Vlad in OBP, SLG, "clutch" and longevity) because Vlad's teammates have sucked.

    Puleeeeeze!!! Try to be a little consistent in your qualifications. Why not just say that Vlad is second (or third or fourth best), which isn't insulting in the least, whose wild and energetic swings are more exciting for you to watch.

    It is clear you have a point you want to make, but if the facts don't back it up, show some integrity in your reporting.
    Vlad also plays some stellar defense, which should never be scoffed at. He may play it weird, but his arm is a freaking cannon.

    Also, how in hell does he keep Strikeouts so low? I think the dude would swing at an intentional walk (a la Miguel Cabrera). I think I saw him take a hack at a ball that bounced in the dirt (like a golf swing) once and knock it into center field for a single...

    As for most entertaining Right Handed Hitter of his generation... I don't know. He may not have the gaudy stats of Vlad, but anybody who has seen Gary Sheffield bat is getting a show.

    And as for great teammates, I wonder if Vlad will be getting to bat with A-Rod next year... heck, when his contract ends, maybe he'll consider the Yankees - Abreu is probably going after this season, and if A-Rod does too, they'll be missing a big Righty batter.
    Posted: May 18, 2007 11:28 AM   by Anonymous
    Vlad is my favorite player, ever, and I was happy to see him get some love in this article, but steve is absolutely right. You arguments are inconsistent, use meaningless metrics like "Clutch" hitting, and probably overstate the importance of strikeouts. I am actually more impressed with A-Rod after reading this. I agree though, that with any kind of lineup support, Vlad's numbers would be unreal.

    Let's just stick with the fact that we all stop what we are doing and watch with our mouths wide open when he comes up to the plate.
    Posted: May 18, 2007 2:59 PM   by Anonymous
    maybe I'm stupid, but what's with your manny->vlad basketball numbers?

    if .325 is "25 points per game" , then assuming the same number of attempted shots, .313 would be 25*.313/.325 = 24.1 points per game. the delta in BA is .012, not .12, and is ~6 hits in 500 AB. not too significant - it's less than a 4% difference...

    I definitely love vlad, but at least get your math right. as a sox fan I have to go with manny, but I will gladly admit to watching angels games solely to see vlad's at bats.
    Posted: May 19, 2007 3:37 PM   by Anonymous
    wow can you be any more obvious in sucking up to the angels? everyone knows vlad is an "exciting" hitter. please stop wasting our time with utterly pointless articles and be original for once.
    Posted: May 20, 2007 7:29 PM   by Anonymous
    Could not agree more with the above poster's critique of the basketball analogy. Saying hitting .325 is akin to scoring 25 points a game and hitting .313 is like scoring 19 points a game is ridiculous. I'd like the guy who wrote this article to defend that comparison, even though I'd say its indefensible.
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