Well, way back in the Bible…
The Teahen Trade Tease, as it shall now be known (although “tease” implies that Indians fans wanted the trade to happen, and I don’t think that was the case with the majority of you… but you have to like the alliteration, if nothing else) forced some of us with nothing better to do to take a good, hard look at the Indians’ outfield depth.
If the Indians were to trade one of their outfielders, who would you feel most comfortable with letting go? Grady Sizemore, obviously, isn’t going anywhere, and it’s pretty safe to assume the Tribe wouldn’t get rid of the two high-profile acquisitions of the CC trade — Matt LaPorta and Michael Brantley. And David Dellucci is pretty much untradeable.
So… Shin-Soo Choo? Ben Francisco? Franklin Gutierrez? Trevor Crowe? None of the above?
“Big League” Choo and Francisco strike me as the most likely to be everyday Major League outfielders. Crowe has potential, but he’s unproven, and you have to be concerned with his slow starts the past two seasons at Double-A Akron.
And then there’s Gutierrez, who the Indians remain enamored with, even after a disappointing ’08 in which he hit .248 with eight homers and 41 RBIs in 134 games.
This is what Mark Shapiro had to say about Gutierrez earlier this month:
“He has the ability to impact the game defensively in center, right or left. He saves runs. When he does struggle offensively, that offsets some of the downside he can have offensively. As the season went on, he made some fundamental adjustments in his swing and got better offensively. He is certainly a valuable Major League outfielder. I have no doubt Franklin Gutierrez is a Major League outfielder, and one we feel good about having on this team.”
With all due respect to Shapiro, I have my doubts. Gutierrez has been in professional baseball for eight years and has spent the better part of the last two and a half years in the big leagues, and he still can’t hit a breaking ball.
But the point about his defense is spot-on, and that’s backed up by the announcement today that Gutierrez has won a 2008 Fielding Bible Award for his work in right field. A panel of 10 experts, including Bill James and John Dewan, the author of The Fielding Bible, chose Gutierrez and eight others for the award, which is announced in the forthcoming Bill James Handbook.
For those unfamiliar with the Fielding Bible, Dewan analyzes every ball put into play and determines whether it is reasonable to expect the fielder to make the play. According to Dewan’s calculations, Gutierrez made 29 above-average plays in 97 games in right field last season — the most of any right fielder in baseball.
The other Fielding Bible Award winners are: 1B Albert Pujols (Cardinals), 2B Brandon Phillips (Reds), SS Jimmy Rollins (Phillies), 3B Adrian Beltre (Mariners), LF Carl Crawford (Rays), CF Carlos Beltran (CF), C Yadier Molina (Cards), P Kenny Rogers (Tigers).
The Gold Glove winners will be announced next week, and you have to figure Sizemore is a prime candidate to be a repeat receiver of that award. For my money, though, Dewan’s award is a bit more legit, because it involves actual analysis, rather than sheer reputation.
So, congrats to Gutierrez. Now, get in the cage and work on those breaking balls, will ya?