Earlier this spring we looked at who was the best option for the Nationals to bat in the leadoff spot. After much analysis, looking at all possibilities including Lastings Milledge and even Adam Dunn, we reluctantly decided that Cristian Guzman was the guy for the job.
Guzman historically had been the type of player to swing freely, and while this hack-attack mentality results in a lot of hits and a decent average, it doesn't really translate well to the leadoff role. Leadoff hitters need to be selective in their approach. The more pitches they see in an opening at bat shows the rest of the line up what a pitcher is bringing on a given day. Most importantly, a leadoff hitter must be able to get on base. While one way of doing this is obviously getting hits, even the best hitters in baseball can only get a hit 33% of the time. The most efficient way any ball player can get on base is by using the threat of drawing the walk to his ability. The best players in the league can get on base above 40% of the time, but all of them use the power of the walk.
This is a problem. Because through 10 games and 31 at bats this spring, Guzman has walked a grand total of 0 times.
I'll repeat that, Cristian Guzman has 0 walks this spring. The player who's job it is to get on base better than just about anyone on the team is doing the worst job thus far. Now some may argue its a small sample size, that it's only spring training and he may just be trying to get his hacks in. But isn't this the time that a traditional hack-attack guy should be working on his new patient approach?
We were sold the idea of a new Cristian Guzman. One that had laser eye surgery, one that would walk at a higher rate, and one that would play the field like he actually looked like he wanted to be there. Let's hope that this poor spring showing is just an apparition and that Guzman will be the Guzman we saw in 2008.