Everyone seems to be talking center fielders these days. Colby Rasmus was traded, B.J. Upton is rumored to be on the block, the Nats are supposedly harassing the Twins and Angels about Denard Span and Peter Bourjos. Then there are the murmurs of Michael Bourn, Coco Crisp, Melky Cabrera and even Rajai Davis too. Suffice to say there are a lot of available center fielders that bring the capability to hit as well as field.
While, Franklin Gutierrez has been his old self in the field, earning his nickname by grabbing everything and anything in the air with few exceptions, his bat has done little to really help this line-up. It’s easy to look at the names being thrown around the league and think “that’s an easy upgrade for this team”. The Mariners haven’t done much at the plate over the last two years and while Gutierrez had a nice start to his 2010 campaign we’re past 2011 mid-season and looking at his .193/.236/.234 slash line is rather frustrating.
While this is kind of a sad thing to think about there has been some restless talk about moving Gutierrez and “finding” some one who could hold down the fort with the stick as well as in the field. The problem that I have with that is I still don’t think that Gutierrez is 100% healthy and I think it’s not likely that he will even be 100% until early next year.
I actually struggled last last year/early this year with a unique form of bowel problems. I won’t to go into details but when I had my issues I lost a little bit of weight (about 15 lbs). It was a tough thing to identify and even now they aren’t completely sure what is/was wrong, simply attributing it to an ambigious dietary issue. Then there was a bit of work required to get back into shape (being in the military I have minimum standards at which I have to adhere too) which took about 5-6 weeks to recover from and even now I’m not what I was prior.
Now, going through all that I’ve thought a lot about Guti’s issues and what his come back this summer would look like. What type of time table he would be on to really be fully recoverd and have his strength back. Assuming that he had it under control, and I’m even a bit skeptical about that, I figured I’d give him a pass for anything in the months leading up to the end of August and September. At the time I thought about it I wasn’t entirely sure when he’d back on the field.
Here we are at the end of July and while it’s still difficult to see any signs of improvement I encourage fans to give it more time. Looking at his monthly wOBA splits -May (.258), June (.184) and July (.237) – they aren’t anything that points towards steady recovery back to where he was in April/May last year. But up until the other night there was an uptick in his line drive percentages from month to month. There are a few other positive signs such as the accumulation of walks he’s had this month is more than what he has the previous two combined.
I find it difficult to lump Guti in with the Figgins and all the “other” veteran players that people want to blame for this offense. If next year he’s having the same issues yeah, I’ll conceed it’s time to look into start looking at the center field position. I do think that Gutierrez will be able to push that awful .218 into something closer to .300 by years end, thought I doubt it’ll break .300 but really with all the problems and getting back into everything do you really need to see him shoot over .300 to have hope? I don’t.
With his tremendous defense it’s hard to even talk about replacing him at this point. Despite being inadequete at the plate this season he’s only started one third of the games he did last year and already has nearly accumulated twice the defensive value, being worth over 11 runs defensively, as he had all of last season.
I really struggled on how to write this post. I like having something to point too in order to support my argument and I rarely am able to articulate my stance the way I want to on via this blog. Having something that can I can turn to and say “this is why I believe X, Y, and Z” helps people understand me. Statistics and analysis (I believe) can be seen beyond poor writing skills and I depend on that. But writing about Gutierrez is difficult because there is no such things.
Despite the amount (or rather lack) of evidence, I draw from personal experience where I can say it takes time to recover from this sort of thing. You can point fingers at a lot of positions that need to be delt with and fixed. Let’s wait until Franklin gets back to being 100% healthy and he can show us, one way or another, what his future is with the Mariners. I personally believe that he’s more than just an elite defensive player, he’s previously shown that he can also add value at the plate and I don’t think that part of his game is gone, merely that it needs time to be re-cultivated.