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Wednesday, March 17, 2010
How Franklin can make benjamins

By Mark Simon, ESPN Stats & Info

We’re guessing at this point that if you’re reading this blog, you’re familiar with the defensive prowess of Seattle Mariners outfielder Franklin Gutierrez. But what makes him interesting for 2010 will be what he can do on offense.

First, let’s clear something up. There’s no East Coast unfamiliarity at work here. The reason for that is Gutierrez bashed the ball against AL East teams in 2009, to the tune of a .372 batting average with six home runs in 38 games. Gutierrez made his mark against the Yankees, hitting .405 against them, including an 8-for-13 trip in his three games at the new Yankee Stadium.

It’s no surprise that Gutierrez felt comfortable at Yankee Stadium, but it is somewhat surprising how good he was at Safeco Field. His .317 batting average and .386 on-base percentage there ranked second on the Mariners behind Ichiro Suzuki and bested the average Mariner's performance there considerably. We’re not sure whether luck factored into play there (those who follow batting average on balls in play probably will say it did), but it definitely bears keeping an eye on in 2010.

Gutierrez had a two-month stretch during which he was very much worth watching. From June 18 to Aug. 11, there were few better hitters in baseball. Gutierrez hit .354 with 10 home runs and 31 RBIs in 178 at-bats during that stretch, bashing lefties for a .424 batting average (25-for-59) and fastballs at a .443 rate (43-for-97). And if you had the misfortune of being a lefty who threw Gutierrez a fastball, chances are you weren’t making out too great. He hit those at a .563 clip (18-for-32).

Abnormal performance tends to regress with time, and Gutierrez returned back to form soon thereafter, as at-bats ended in Gutierrez’s weak spot (at the knees and below) with greater frequency during the rest of the season. In his last 198 at-bats of 2009, he hit .253 with four home runs (but still a respectable .313 against lefties and .305 in at-bats ending with fastballs).

Gutierrez's goal should be to improve just a bit. Two more home runs and four more stolen bases in 2009 would have made Gutierrez a 20-20 player. Only five players in Mariners history have reached that mark, and it’s never a bad thing when you can be inserted into a list that includes Alex Rodriguez and Ken Griffey Jr.