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Milestone puts Vlad's game into focus

Milestone puts Vlad's game into focus

DETROIT -- Vladimir Guerrero's extraordinary qualities as a total hitter come into focus with his arrival at 2,000 career hits, a plateau the Angels' right fielder reached on Saturday when he doubled and tripled in a loss to the Tigers at Comerica Park.

Since 1950, only three hitters came to 2,000 lifetime hits with fewer at-bats than Guerrero's 6,171. Wade Boggs made it with 5,832 at-bats, Rod Carew with 5,965 and Tony Gwynn with 6,094.

What distinguishes Guerrero from this company is obvious. Hall of Famers Boggs, Carew and Gwynn were primarily singles and doubles hitters. Vlad swings from the heels and launches tape-measure blasts.

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Guerrero, with 368, has 23 more career homers than Gwynn (135), Boggs (118) and Carew (92) combined. Vlad's career slugging average is .578. Gwynn slugged at a .459 clip, Boggs .443 and Carew .429.

"Vladimir is an amazing hitter, an amazing player," new teammate Torii Hunter said. "It's an honor to be on the same team with the guy."

Unlike many big swingers, Guerrero, a .324 career hitter, makes consistent contact. He has never struck out 100 times in a season -- 95 is his high, in 1998. He has struck out 752 times in his career while walking 625 times.

In the past 50 years, only Gwynn, with 17, and Carew, with 13, have batted at least .300 in more consecutive seasons than Guerrero, who has done it the past 11 seasons.

Having spent some extra time in the batting cage lately ironing out a few flaws, Guerrero has emerged to go 4-for-8 in the Tigers series this weekend, raising his average to .295.

"I still love to play as much as when I was younger," Guerrero said, his passion for the game evident in his aggressive baserunning and defense. "The only thing I miss is stealing bases like I did when I was in Montreal -- 40 one year [2002] and 37 [in 2001]."

After stealing 15, 13 and 15 bases his first three seasons with the Angels, Guerrero managed only two steals last season. He almost had two steals in one game in Boston, losing the second when Chone Figgins whistled a base-hit as he was about to steal third.

Guerrero missed becoming a 40-40 man in '02 by one homer. He had 206 hits that year, batting .336.

Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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