Thursday, May 29, 2008

Vladimir Guerrero Draws Fire in Angels Funk

Despite sitting atop the American League West, the Angels continue to draw fire for an ongoing offensive slump, with much of the blame lain at the doorstep of All-Star outfielder Vladimir Guerrero.

Guerrero has been cited for excessive swinging at pitches outside the strike zone with resulting misses, poor contact and a batting average hovering at some 40 points below his lifetime mark, barely .260 with more than a third of the season gone.

The problem is, Guerrero has always been a bad ball hitter, so much so that it has been common for him to literally golf low outside pitches into the stands. So now fans are being asked to believe that suddenly Guerrero's difficulties are because of poor judgment at the plate?

Hopefully for the Angels, Guerrero will continue to meet or exceed the superior standards his previous statistics have targeted for him, and will carry on as the cornerstone of the middle of the lineup he always has been. But at 33, Guerrero has prompted questions as to whether he has lost a nanosecond or two off his swing, even while remaining relatively productive.

Angels coaches -- taking a nod from manager Mike Scioscia -- are treating his possible decline as a mere mental aberration as they try to jar him out of his funk. Hopefully for them they are right, for if it was not for the mediocrity of the rest of the division, the team hardly could be expected to sustain much of a lead while batting .179 and scoring just 23 runs in nine games, and scoring only 14 in 84 innings, as computed by The Los Angeles Times.