Close your mind to names for a moment, and imagine yourself as a member of the Dodgers Front Office who is trying to piece together the final parts of the roster for the 2012 season.
A name pops up on the computer. At this point names are meaningless though. Still, this player has his ups and downs and might be worth a shot.
Taking a further look, he is right-hander who is 30 years old and hails from Venezuela. He has played four seasons at the big league level with the Chicago Cubs. He stands 6’3″ and weighs 200 lbs.
Following the information down to the statistics you find out that he has not pitched since 2009. He sat out the 2010 season after undergoing shoulder surgery and would return in 2011, but only reach Class-A in the Minors.
His career record of 3-10 includes victories that were not realized until that fourth season. His career ERA of 4.82 garners thoughts of screaming fans to stay away.
But a positive does come out, he started in 55 games in 2009, compiling an ERA of 2.95. Suddenly this is starting to look good. Turning your head right you discover a WHIP (walks plus hits allowed per innings pitched) of 1.049. Upon doing a double-take at that number you quickly research the numbers of Javy Guerra and Kenley Jansen, two pitchers likely set forth to close for the team and unveil that in 47 games Guerra had a WHIP of 1.179. Jansen meanwhile is a little closer to home, a number of 1.043. Compare that to fellow Dodger pitcher Ramon Troncoso who at one point had a WHIP of 1.289 in 2008, but has seen his production falter all the way down to the 1.853 WHIP of 2011.
Suddenly this is looking to be very good. There is still the disclaimer about his injury. But at this point there is nothing to lose, and a decision is made to bring Angel Guzman to Spring Training with a minor league contract.
The season is just two weeks and a day away from starting in San Diego against the Padres. How has this gamble paid off? Quite well as a matter of fact. Guzman has appeared in five games (tops for the Dodgers), allowing no runs and just one hit in 5 1/3 innings pitched. He converted a save when the Dodgers were in a tight spot (a one-run victory over the Milwaukee Brewers on March 20th). His WHIP of 0.38 leads all Dodger pitchers during the spring. Only Matt Guerrier has allowed a lower batting average to opponents. Angel is holding the opposition to a .059 average.
What has happened here is a case of a player that was looking for a second chance. Dodger fans have seen this before with several pitchers including Troncoso and Ronald Belisario. Most recently the team signed Mike MacDougal last season, and saw him enjoy a re-birth, improving his ERA from 7.23 with the Cardinals in 2010 to 2.05 with the Dodgers in 2011 in 69 games.
Guzman very much appears to be following in MacDougal, Troncoso and Belisario’s footsteps and might in fact cost one of the latter two from claiming a roster spot. Considering that they are currently combining to post an ERA of 6.75 this spring, it may not come as much of a surprise.