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The Franklin Gutierrez We Wanted

Steven Bisig-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire

Tuesday night, the Mariners put together a very peculiar team performance in which they both hit the Angels and didn't hit the Angels at all. They slugged nearly .600 as a team while striking out an astonishing 20 times, all while Carlos Peguero and Alex Liddi exchanged knowing glances at one another on the bench. One big story to come out of the game is that the Mariners were just the fourth team ever to strike out 20 times in nine innings, and another big story to come out of the game is that Justin Smoak looks like he's in the mood to tease us all over again. Something that's being overlooked as an understandable consequence is that Franklin Gutierrez went 2-for-5 with a pair of line-drive doubles.

Gutierrez scored a run and drove in a run, but the Mariners still lost and Smoak was the bigger offensive contributor, so it makes sense why people aren't talking about Gutierrez's Tuesday performance. But to me, it's interesting what happens when you combine Gutierrez's Tuesday performance with all of his previous 2012 game performances.

Every last one of us was feeling pretty optimistic about Franklin Gutierrez at the beginning of camp. Gutierrez had gotten over his medical issues, see, or he'd at least found a way to manage the symptoms, and he'd put back on a lot of his mass. Where in 2011 Gutierrez looked like a sexier Christian Bale from The Machinist, we were told that earlier in 2012, Gutierrez looked like a sexy and healthy Franklin Gutierrez. That's a player we all fell in love with when he first came over to the Mariners.

Gutierrez had an outstanding 2009, especially by Wins Above Replacement, which gave him mad, unfathomable credit for his defense. Clearly, Gutierrez was a fantastic defender, even if UZR overrated him a little bit. But in 2010, all we wanted was for Gutierrez to hit like he did in 2009. In 2011, all we wanted was for Gutierrez to hit like he did in 2009. It was the 2009 Franklin Gutierrez that the Mariners thought they were signing to a contract extension, and it didn't matter if Gutierrez didn't have much offensive upside beyond what he'd done in his Mariners debut; in his debut season, thanks to his offense and his defense, he was a star.

Reports of Gutierrez's increased muscle mass over last offseason were encouraging, and again we were hoping for Gutierrez to hit like he did when he first joined the team. Two years had passed, but it seemed like there was a good excuse for underperformance. Gutierrez looked to be getting on track, and then he got hurt. Then he had a setback, then he eventually got hurt again. Once more, it hasn't been a healthy season for Franklin Gutierrez, as today is September 26 and Gutierrez has batted just 149 times. But for those of you who want to see Gutierrez look like 2009 Gutierrez, which is all of us, it's worth considering this table. Yes, 149 is a small sample size for plate appearances. No, it isn't an insignificant sample size.

Statistic 2009 2012
PA 629 149
BA 0.283 0.263
OBP 0.339 0.318
SLG 0.425 0.423
wRC+ 105 110
BB% 7% 6%
K% 19% 20%
GB% 45% 45%

You want Franklin Gutierrez to hit like he hit in 2009? He's already doing it, and by wRC+ -- which is basically OPS+ but better -- he's actually been a little more productive on a rate basis this season. Yes, his batting average is down, owing to a smaller BABIP, but Gutierrez's 2009 BABIP was elevated and now he's hitting for a bit more power, at least on paper. All the other indicators are basically unchanged. Gutierrez's discipline hasn't changed, and his swing plane hasn't changed, and really not much of anything has changed. Gutierrez has been less healthy in 2012 than he was in 2009, but when he's been healthy, he's been just as good a hitter.

He's only 29 years old, and after a couple seasons lost to dwindling strength, Franklin Gutierrez sure seems to be back on course. The defensive numbers don't love him right now, as it happens, but like fun am I going to worry about small-sample outfielder UZR. Especially when you're talking about a guy with Gutierrez's track record, a group of players that includes Franklin Gutierrez and virtually no one else. If you think that Gutierrez has declined by a considerable amount as a center fielder, then watch this. I was going to embed that video highlight, but then I found out it did funny things to the article formatting. We're learning the new layout together!

When Franklin Gutierrez's gastrointestinal system was going to war with the rest of his body, we couldn't know what would become of Gutierrez as a player, and we started to wonder about his contract. That's what we do as sports fans -- we worry less about a guy's physical well-being, and more about what his physical well-being means for the sports team that we root for. We still can't trust that Franklin Gutierrez will stay healthy, not yet, but he's under contract in 2013 for $7 million, and all of a sudden that's looking like a good value again. And if Gutierrez returns, and if he stays healthy enough and performs enough, the team has a $7.5 million club option for 2014. If Franklin Gutierrez plays like a healthy Franklin Gutierrez, that's going to be an easy decision for the front office to make.

There might be salvaging this contract yet. Salvaging, and then some. All we've wanted was for Franklin Gutierrez to resemble the player he was in 2009. Sometimes dreams do come true. Not that we've necessarily been dreaming about Franklin Gutierrez having a career resurgence. Dreams tend to be more personal and less basebally than that. But, check it out, supportive platitude. Words are amazing!