Franklin Gutierrez' 422-footer

You might want to make sure you're sitting down :- )


Q.  Coming around on Gutierrez' bat at all?

A.  I am!

The fact that Gutierrez hit ANOTHER 422-foot bomb on Tuesday served as Dr. D's wakeup call.   That ball was crushed Buhner-style, and Franklin did it effortlessly, and it was not the first time.


As you know, we've always admired Gutierrez' swing:  it's quiet, no extra moving parts ... it's very torque-y ... the body control and weight movement, the swing itself has always been star-potential.

We thought he had a chance to be Mike Cameron without the speed, but it is becoming clear that Franklin Gutierrez has more applied power than Mike Cameron ever thought of having.

I remember Bill James writing about Bret Boone at one point, "Hit seven homers from Aug. 15 to the end of the season.  He might hit seven a month from now on," or somesuch.   That is what Gutierrez' last 30 days has looked like to the poor misguided Dr. D.  Gutierrez gets his pitch, he turns on it and tears the stitching off it.  

He has been impressive.   I'm not married to my positions.  Gutierrez is stuffing my skepticism right down my throat.


Q.  What does Shandler mean when he says a player has "opened up his swing"?

A.  I don't see Franklin "progressing" in the sense of reading pitches better.  I see him opening up his swing.

The last 28 days, Franklin has fanned 20 times and walked only 5.   But he has hit .350/.400/.600 the last month.  

When a player's BB/K go down and his PX goes way up, he is making a conscious decision to attack his pitch when he gets it.   Such an approach is RISKY but NOT INCORRECT.   Some hitters do this, and the homers fade, and the lousy average remains, and then they get busted.   But other guys start looking to hit the 2-0 pitch to Spokane, and they simply become 35-home run hitters.

Bret Boone himself never had a good eye ratio -- was always so aggressive that his managers got mad at him for it.   But when he got his pitch, he did something with it.

Boone's batting line in 2001 is suggestive for Gutierrez fans -- only 40 walks all season, but with the 40/110 eye ratio came 37 homers, 140 RBI, and the same .330/.370/.580 line (no SB's) that Gutierrez has been running for a month.


Q.  But Gutierrez is right-handed in Safeco.

A.  I'm coming around there, too.

I have to admit that Gutierrez hits plenty of topspin ground balls -- just like Richie Sexson and Raul Ibanez did.  Gutierrez' G/F ratio is MUCH higher than Mike Cameron's was, and into the bargain, Gutierrez topspins them.

You just can't overstate the value of topspin at Safeco Field. It defeats the "floating ball" effect that Cameron pointed out.

Over the last few weeks, with youse guys hounding me constantly, I've started to notice the uncomfortable fact that Gutierrez actually hits in the anti-Safeco manner.


Also like Sexson, Boone, and Ibanez, Gutierrez has plenty enough power to carry the Safeco fences.

Mike Cameron's fly balls hit the warning track a lot.  But Gutierrez has an extra club in his golf bag.  The result has been a Sexson-like transcension of the home park:  Gutierrez' OPS+ is 127 in Safeco and 96 away.


A few RH players are comfortable in Safeco.  Jose Lopez never DID figure out that he wasn't supposed to hit here.


Q.  So he does look like he'll be as good as Cameron?

A.  :shifts in seat uncomfortably:

He *is* Cameron (1) minus the speed, but (2) plus the CRITICAL extra club in his golf bag, and (3) plus the topspin grounders.

That's a tradeoff hugely in Gutierrez' favor, but let's also remember (4) Cammy walked 70-80 times a year and with his speed, that was 90-100 runs a year.

As of today, I've got to admit that I'd prefer the current Gutierrez to the Mike Cameron that we acquired in 2000.


Q.  The upside?

A.  :- /   hems, haws

At this point it's hard to see why he WOULDN'T be as good a hitter as, say, Torii Hunter, who was an HR-heavy 5.0 runs per game in his 20's and who got better later on.

The upside player I like is Toronto's Joe Carter:

1) Needed 3 seasons and 800 AB's to find his power

2) Hit 15 home runs at age 25 in a full season (Gutierrez has averaged 15 homers per full season)

3) Had an eye ratio similar to Gutierrez, though (even) worse

4) Hit 30-35 homers per year

5) Was physically similar to Gutierrez -- and could run about as well as an average CF could run

Joe in his prime was a great RBI man.  He would hit 35 homers, knock in 115, OPS+ 120 or so, create 5.5 runs per game -- and start the All-Star game.

Andres Galarraga, Bret Boone and Miguel Tejada are all in this category:  powerful RH hitters who weren't so talented that they exploded on the majors at 21, but guys who advanced steadily and eventually became cleanup hitters with 5.5 RC/27 and 110-120 RBI.

RBI men aren't much in favor with sabermetricians these days, since BB's look so good in the formulas that we favor.  But it's nice to change the scoreboard, too, and some guys get 110 RBI year in and year out.


Not sure that Frankie is going to pull a Tejada or Carter *this* season, but ... to wind up there in a few years?  Why not?  The kid is flashing bigtime plus power.   His swing is 30+ homers, his body is 30+ homers, and he's showing the 420-foot tee shots.  It's time to admit that 100 RBI could be in his future.


Q.  How good is Frankie if he's hitting like Miguel Tejada and winning gold gloves in CF?

A.  I'll let you guys hound me with that the rest of the summer.  :- )

At this point, I'm wondering whether Gutierrez isn't going to be able to keep Ackley out of center field...


Dr D


Sandy - Raleigh's picture

I'm a fan of F-Gut.  I was cautiously optimistic when he was acquired.  I'm thinking he's a legit .800 "threat".  I like your Joe Carter projection.
All that said - the discussion of Safeco impact on him made me wonder ... what are his splits this year, anyway?  The results are mind-boggling.  (thru 7/8/9)
Home: .327/.412/.451/.864 -- BABIP .420!!!
Away: .267/.305/.411/.716 -- BABIP .298
What number above looks REALLY out of place?  At this point, he's got 5 extra road games, 158-PAs on the road, 135 PAs at home.  Hits are nearly identical.  But, his home/road split for power stuff is strange:  3-1-3 at home for 2b/3b/HR -- 6-0-5 on the road.  That's a .124 ISO at home and a .149 on the road.  I'm actually beginning to think the reality of Safeco is that it's not that it prevents hits, so much as it converts HRs into doubles and 2Bs into singles.
So, power suffers at Safeco, (hardly news).  Except, wait a second.  His actual slugging is 40 points higher at home!  This is where I think the analysis gets harder.  If you stop at slugging, you miss that 60 point edge in BA in Safeco.  But, a skew nearly as big is his walk rate.  BB/SO numbers:  Home: 16/30 ... Away: 8/27.  Same K rate - but LITERALLY double the walk rate?!?  85 points of patience at home, only 38 on the road!!! 
Conclusions?  None.  At home, the line reads like a guy stalking his pitch ... except when he gets it, he's hitting more singles than anything else.  On the road, he looks like an impatient hacker, but his power numbers soar.  At best, I see a kid whose game is STILL developing, so the small sample and continuing development as a hitter is simply making any rational analysis effectively impossible.  He's a moving target.  But, is this just because he's streaky, or is it because he's putting things together that are sticking?  Only time can answer that question.


Three huge calls in his first nine months:
1. Don Wakamatsu
2. Insisting on getting Gutierrez back in the Putz trade
3. Giving the OK to send Silva to purgatory
Dude is 3-for-3 and he'll be at bat to hit for the cycle on July 31.  Pretty good for a rook GM.

OOBF's picture

Don't forget that THREE (3) of his amway homers are at Petco Park, a park that is arguably WORSE than SafeCo on right handed power hitters.  I am not sure that that really changes anything in terms of analysis other than pure power to get it out of a spacious park is not and will not be Gutz' problem.  
What I see is similar to you though, Sandy.  I see a guy that is still young (only 25) and still finding his way at a hitter, this is really only his first season as a true starter, BTW.  He looks more comfortable at home and so his eye perks up a bit, and it also looks to have a calming effect in terms of how hard he trys to swing.  And hey maybe Franklin is one of those smart baseball players that actually adjusts his swing given the context.  In SafeCo?  I'll be more patient and hit it up the middle (getting singles).  Away?  Now is my change to swing for the fences!
Over all I am very VERY bullish on mr. Gutz and excited to see the player he becomes.  The Mariner out filed for the forseeable future is now firmly Ackly/Gutz/Ichiro.  Saunders, Halman, Langerhans, Wlad, Gillies, they all get to fight for 4th OF, hope to replace Ichiro in a few years, or get to be trade bait.
Now if we could just find some MIF!


How can you NOT list Russell Branyan as a huge positive call by Z?
1) Wakamatsu
2) Gutierrez
3) Russell Branyan as a starter
4) Silva in exile
5) Ryan Langerhans
He's at least 5 for 5.


But as I recall, Safeco amputates about 40 points off batting average in the long run.
Personally, my guess isn't that Gutierrez is in a better state-of-mind at Safeco. 
He visibly topspins the ball, and Ibanez/Sexson have already demonstrated how wonderfully that works in the park.
The crazy 420 BABIP so far this year will even out, of course, but it's hard to rule out Gutierrez running better home splits than road.
Which, for me, is very exciting.  Players who defeat Safeco are huge finds for the M's.


Y'know...the one that single-handed won one of the biggest games of the year so far for the Ms? :D
I would like to officially announce that I have an inappropriate amount of manlove for Gutierrez. :D

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