Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Cristian Guzman isn't producing like a typical bench player.
Except, that's not at all how this has played out. As the Nationals enter the second quarter of the season, they are more and more counting on Guzman as one of their top offensive contributors.
Really, you ask? Yes. Just look at the numbers. The man who currently leads the Nats in hits is not named Zimmerman, Dunn, Rodriguez or Morgan. His name is Guzman, and he has 42 hits (four more than anyone else on the roster).
Guzman also ranks third on the Nationals in runs (19), doubles (seven) and, get this, at-bats (128). Only Nyjer Morgan (150) and Adam Dunn (133) have more. At this rate, Guzie will wind up with 512 at-bats this season, only 19 fewer than he had in 2009 when he was the everyday shortstop.
It wasn't supposed to happen this way. Riggleman planned to get Guzman as many plate appearances as possible, but Desmond and Kennedy would get the lion's share. And it's not as if those two are playing poorly. Not at all.
But a funny thing happened somewhere along the way: Guzman started hitting at a level we hadn't seen in a couple of years. And he's hitting left-handers at a rate we've never seen. He's currently batting .422 (19-for-45) against lefties, with five extra-base hits and a stout 1.005 OPS. That means when he bats right-handed, Guzman is the equivalent of Manny Ramirez.
Now, Guzman's .663 OPS against right-handers makes him the equivalent of Augie Ojeda, so let's not jump on the bandwagon and anoint him an everyday player again quite yet. But his gaudy numbers against lefties suggest he deserves the playing time he's getting and deserves to keep getting more.
If Riggleman plays his cards right, he'll find a way to get Guzman in the lineup every time the Nats face a lefty. And on nights they don't, he'll find a way to get Guzman a key pinch-hitting appearance against a lefty reliever.
Whether that ultimately leads to 512 at-bats for the season, we'll see. But if nothing else, Guzman has proven he deserves to get more chances than the typical bench player.
Speaking of at-bats, I recorded a video segment yesterday afternoon for CSNwashington.com about the Nats' recent offensive woes, and the role Dunn's return would play in getting the club back on track at the plate. Thanks to the technical whizzes over there, I am able to offer you a chance to watch the segment right here...