'Unbelievable' Gutierrez is center field centerpiece of M's A+ 'D'
PEORIA, Ariz. -- It was Tuesday, Feb. 23, and that meant that it was the day on which the Seattle Mariners conducted their first full-squad workout of the spring, and that meant that it was finally time for
His outfield-mates approached the morning's first drill with varying degrees of vigor, some easing back into the game's rhythms after a long winter, but from the first crack of the first ball off first base coach
The 27-year-old Gutierrez's never-waning alertness, defensive intelligence and lithe and speedy 6'2", 190-pound body helped him reset the bar last season for the degree to which an individual player can help his team win games by his fielding alone, something which still-new defensive metrics have only just begun to enable us to understand, and to quantify. Gutierrez's 2009 Ultimate Zone Rating -- a statistic that measures how many runs a fielder saves his club in comparison to an average player -- was 29.1. Not only was Gutierrez's UZR more than 18 runs better than that of the league's second-best center fielder,
That Gutierrez did not win an AL Gold Glove award (the winners were
Peer reviews of Gutierrez's job performance are impressive. "A lot of times, he saved me last year," says
Gutierrez's fielding prowess was well known to the Indians, who acquired him as a minor leaguer from the Dodgers in 2004, but his progress in Cleveland was always blocked by three-time All-Star center fielder
"With Grady over there in Cleveland, he was kind of in a tough spot as far as playing center field," says Mariners starter
Gutierrez, in fact, represented one of the first major acquisitions made by
Everything, however, runs through Gutierrez in center. "We're just happy about our center fielder," says Zduriencik. "He is..." -- and here the GM has to think for a few moments for an appropriate adjective to describe Gutierrez -- "superb." Even then Zduriencik doesn't seem entirely satisfied that he has chosen a strong enough adjective. Neither words nor numbers, it seems, can do justice to Gutierrez's defensive brilliance.