Carlos Guillen – Breakthrough Season or Peak Season?

As I often do when I’m trying to avoid doing real work, I’ll head over to Baseball Reference and start poking around on stat pages. I took a look at Carlos Guillen’s because of his remarkable season last year. One of the great features of BR, is the list of comparison players. I wanted to see who Guillen was similar to at this stage of his career. The list was far from encouraging with the likes of Julio Lugo, Adam Kennedy, Dickie Thon, and Neifi Perez among others.

One name that did catch my attention is Rich Aurilia. As Tiger fans remember, Detroit pursued Aurilia only to see him sign with Seattle. Of course, Guillen became expendable from Seattle’s viewpoint and the Tigers were the beneficiary.

The other thing that most remember about Aurilia is his tremendous season in 2001 in which he hit 37 homers, had an OPS+ of 148, and made the All Star team. Aurilia’s season came out of nowhere, and he hasn’t come close to approaching those numbers again. Considering that Carlos Guillen had a 2004 season that far surpassed what he had totaled to that point in his career, I thought it would be worthwhile to take a look at how the two compared.


Before Peak
Age Games BA OBP SLG RC RC/27
Guillen 22-27 488 .264 .331 .383 211 4.33
Aurilia 23-28 575 .270 .324 .419 260 4.74


Peak
Age Games BA OBP SLG RC RC/27
Guillen 28 136 .318 .379 .542 107 7.62
Aurilia 29 156 .324 .369 .572 134 8.00


Post Peak
Age Games BA OBP SLG RC RC/27
Guillen 29-?? ??? ??? ??? ??? ??? ???
Aurilia 30-32 386 .261 .313 .395 178 4.22

Aurilia broke in with the Giants at age 23. Guillen beat him by a year and came up at 22. Over the first 6 years of their careers, they hit for a similar batting average. Guillen was slightly better at getting on base, but Aurilia hit for more power reaching 20 homers in both 1999 and 2000.

Then came the big breakout seasons. Aurilia’s occured at age 29. His RC/27 (runs created per 27 outs, basically the number of runs a team of 9 Aurilia’s would score in a game). jumped 69% from his pre-peak seasons. His OPS jumped 27% from his career to date numbers.

Guillen’s big season (so far, hopefully there will be more) came at age 28. Like Aurilia, Guillen’s numbers for batting average, on base average, and slugging percentage all jumped tremendously. His RC/27 increased 76%, and his OPS jumped 29%.

Here’s the downer. While we don’t know what the future holds for Carlos Guillen we can look at what happened to Rich Aurilia after his big season. In the three seasons since his 2001 peak season, his numbers are actually worse than they were prior to the peak. Despite signing a brand new contract with Seattle last year, his performance was so bad, they released him midseason.

Rich Aurilia’s collapse after an All Star season doesn’t mean that the same thing will occur with Guillen. Guillen is a year younger than Aurilia was during their respective big seasons which could be a good sign. Also Guillen’s big season came after a change of scenery where Aurilia’s came in the middle of his tenure with the Giants. Guillen’s role in Seattle was never clearly defined, and when he came to Detroit he knew he’d be the starting shortstop. Also Guillen’s success wasn’t predicated on a cushy lineup spot (Aurilia was in the same lineup with Bonds and Kent who both slugged over .500). The Tigers offense was pretty good last year, but Guillen hit in all of the first 7 spots in the order.

In looking forward to next season, my guess is that Guillen won’t repeat his 2004 performance, but I also don’t see him falling off completely like Aurilia did. I’m thinking that Guillen’s power numbers will be sustained or only slip slightly because the increase in slugging came not only from home runs, but from an increase in extra base hits across the board. His average, may dip some which would drag down his on base average as well. Then again, what do I know. I thought Eric Munson was going to put it all together last year.

2 Comments

  1. phil kenny (orlando,fl)

    December 28, 2004 at 9:49 am

    I believe hitting in a spacious ballpark with the ability to hit the gaps will keep carlos’ average and slugging percentage up high. I also believe that the manager has confidence in his ability and that always helps. Let’s just hope that his knee doesn’t limit him this year and we can get a big bat in the line up so he doesn’t have the presure of “having to perform” .

  2. Ken

    December 29, 2004 at 3:47 pm

    I agree with Phil. The biggest concern is the second ACL surgery on his right knee. Certainly an interesting comparison with Aurilia. One thing about Guillen, his stats over the previous three seasons were so eerily similar with around 7 HR, 55 RBI, 72 R and 4 SB. Weird. The conventional wisdom is that players hit their peak at 27-28, so maybe that’s what happened with Guillen. He never had 500 AB in a season until last year. Also, I imagine he hit at the bottom of Seattle’s lineup and didn’t get the RBI chances he did in Detroit last season.