Guyer’s Contributions Underrated in Indians’ Second Half and Playoff Run
Bob Toth | On 26, Dec 2016
It is okay to acknowledge that you knew little to nothing about Brandon Guyer when the Cleveland Indians picked up the fifth-year outfielder from the Tampa Bay Rays at the trade deadline on August 1 this past season.
Chances are, however, that if you followed the Indians’ run to the final game of the 2016 season, you learned quite a bit about what the lefty mashing “human piñata” could do to impact a baseball game.
For a cost of minor league outfielder Nathan Lukes and pitcher Jhonleider Salinas, the Indians filled a void in their outfield created by the season-long injury to Michael Brantley and the pending absence of Abraham Almonte for the playoffs due to his spring training suspension for performance enhancing drugs. With an unknown commodity in center field in rookie Tyler Naquin, utility man Jose Ramirez in left, and veterans Rajai Davis and Lonnie Chisenhall filling up the roster, the addition of Guyer allowed Cleveland to cut ties with the struggling Juan Uribe and move Ramirez in to third base permanently.
The acquisition of Guyer was not the type of big splash move to fill the hole in the outfield, but it was a small price to pay for another role player. Guyer played a big role the rest of the season as manager Terry Francona used him to his strength – a strong bat against left-handed pitchers.
At first glance, the move might not have been an eye-opener on paper. Guyer owned a career .255/.341/.396 slash through parts of five seasons in the Bigs with the Rays and had a .241/.347/.406 hitting line through 63 games with Tampa at the time of the trade after filling in at several outfield positions in an injury-depleted Rays lineup.
Guyer began splitting time in the corner outfield spots for Cleveland, seeing steady work in left field against southpaws, allowing Davis to man center and Almonte to see work for Chisenhall in right. And in his new role with a new team and being utilized as a platoon piece, he had 15 hits in 50 at bats (.300 average) over his first month, adding three doubles, a homer, five walks, and six hit by pitches (for a .426 on-base percentage). Seventeen of his 21 games played came in a starting role.
In the final month of the regular season and with Coco Crisp added to the roster at the end of August from Oakland to help the playoff push, Guyer’s role shifted to more of that of a bench contributor. He played in 17 games, making eight starts, and continued to contribute at the plate. He added 12 more hits in 31 at bats (.387), hitting two doubles and a homer while driving in six. With two more hit by pitches and two more walks, he had a .457 OBP for the month as the season closed.
Making his first postseason appearance of his career in October, Guyer made the most of his opportunities. He got one start in the ALDS against Boston and ripped three singles, scored two runs, and drove in a run in four trips to the plate. After going hitless over two games in the ALCS against Toronto, he got back to work in the World Series. He played in all seven games of the series against Chicago, going 3-for-10 with two singles and a double while driving in two. Two of his four runs scored came in the final three innings of Game 7 in crunch time – his two-out RBI-double plated Ramirez before he got to finish his trip around the bases on Davis’ two-run blast off of closer Aroldis Chapman to tie the game at six in the bottom of the eighth, and he drew a two-out walk to keep the game alive in the tenth before moving to second on indifference and scoring on a single by Davis.
In 38 games with Cleveland, he slashed .333/.438/.469 with five doubles, two homers, and 14 RBI. He led the team with eight hit by pitches and coupled with the 23 he had in 63 games with the Rays, he led baseball with 31 for the season and etched his named into second place on the American League’s single-season record list for most times hit by a pitch in a season (trailing only Don Baylor’s 35 in 1986).
Francona played Guyer to his platoon splits, but while in Cleveland, those splits were not as significantly different as other times in his career. He saw 69 plate appearances against left-handers and slashed .328/.435/.517 after coming over to the Indians. During his 82 plate appearances against lefties while with the Rays, he slashed .344/.488/.594.
The more significant difference in his numbers was how he was used between the two clubs. The right-handed hitter saw more than twice as many plate appearances against righties while with Tampa than he did against lefties. He had a .196 average, a .277 OBP, and a .324 slugging mark against right-handers in 167 plate appearances. With Cleveland, he made just 27 trips to the plate against those righties, but hit .348 with a .444 OBP and .348 slugging.
He owned a .246 average and .311 OBP in his career against righties entering 2016, while he posted a .272 average and .362 OBP against southpaws.
The West Chester, Pennsylvania, native entered the pro game in 2007 when he was selected by the Chicago Cubs in the fifth round of the amateur draft. He was moved to the Rays in January of 2011 as part of a seven-player swap, one that sent Chris Archer, Robinson Chirinos, Sam Fuld, and Hak-Ju Lee to Tampa for Matt Garza, Fernando Perez, and Zac Rosscup.
As the Indians look towards the 2017 season, Guyer could play a big role in giving the club flexibility on its roster. His ability to play all three outfield spots could come in handy while Brantley, Naquin, and Chisenhall are fairly locked in at just one defensive position in the outfield. Guyer and Almonte give the Indians some variety off of the bench and it provides Francona with the pieces necessary to match up against opposing pitchers to the best of his ability, allowing him to maximize what he can get from every portion of his 25-man roster.
Photo: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images