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Dropping Ichiro in order not the answer for the Mariners

Jan 26, 2012, 6:55 PM EDT

Ichiro Suzuki AP

Manager Eric Wedge said Thursday that he’s probably going to try Ichiro Suzuki somewhere other than at the top of the order this season.

“It’s as much to do with his teammates as it has to do with him with regard to the collective nine that we’re putting down on paper,” Wedge said. “I haven’t made any firm decisions. I made it very clear over the winter I was thinking about it. I’m even further down the road to where I’m leaning in that direction to have (Suzuki) hit somewhere else.”

Trying Ichiro as a No. 3 hitter was a popular topic for debate in Seattle when he was in his prime. Back when he was slugging .420-.450 each season, it would have made a lot of sense to put him in a position to drive in more runs.

Now, though, it’s hard to see how Ichiro would be of use anywhere except the leadoff spot. Since his strong 2009 season, he slipped to .315/.369/.394 in 2010 and .272/.310/.335 last year.

Wedge mentioned Dustin Ackley, Franklin Gutierrez and Chone Figgins as other possibilities to hit leadoff for the Mariners. Ackley is the only one of the three likely to be more productive than Ichiro, and given that he actually has some power, he’d seem to make a whole lot more sense hitting second or third.

That’s particularly the case given that the Mariners have routinely trotted out the weakest bottom of the orders of any AL squad the last few years. Shortstop Brendan Ryan stands as the likely No. 9 hitter at the moment. The third baseman — either Figgins or, preferably, Kyle Seager — could hit eighth. Mariners leadoff hitters so rarely come up with men on base that their RBI potential is wasted. Consider that Ichiro hasn’t driven in even 50 runs in a year since 2007. He had at least 60 RBI in five of his first seven seasons.

The only reason for Wedge to shift Ichiro now is for appearances. What the Mariners need is for Ichiro to at least bounce back to 2010 form and set the table for Ackley, Jesus Montero and Justin Smoak below him.

  1. 78mu - Jan 26, 2012 at 7:28 PM

    Figgins in the leadoff spot – not exactly the second coming of Ricky Henderson. More like Florence Henderson with his sub 250 OBP.

    • bobwsc - Jan 27, 2012 at 10:55 AM

      but does Florence refer to herself in the 3rd person?

  2. Ari Collins - Jan 26, 2012 at 7:33 PM

    Couldn’t disagree more, Matt. If Ichiro! is only a .650-.700 OPS guy now, putting him down in the order will give more PAs to the better hitters. (And perhaps there will be good hitters in Seattle this year. They can’t be any worse!) It doesn’t make a huge difference, no, but it could add a run or five over the course of the season, and it’s the best decision lineup-wise for him.

  3. jdd428 - Jan 26, 2012 at 7:58 PM

    I couldn’t disagree more, Ari. Matt’s point is simple: Aside from Ackley, who is better suited as a No. 2 hitter, there aren’t any better options to Ichiro for the leadoff spot.

    If you do bat Ackley first, you face two new questions: Who bats second and how far down are you moving Ichiro? However you answer those questions, you’re still just weakening the No. 2 spot and making any improvement at No. 1 a moot point.

    If you agree with Matt’s premise that Gutierrez or Figgins would be a downgrade at leadoff (and I do agree), then still the best option is to keep Ichiro first, followed by Ackley, and hope for some moderate reversal in his recent decline.

    • Ari Collins - Jan 26, 2012 at 8:10 PM

      Where someone bats exactly is less important than how far down the order they are, since that changes how many PAs there are. An order where the best hitters are in the top half is better than one that has everyone in their “role” (speedy guy, slap-happy guy, then sluggers).

      Ackley is the perfect leadoff guy, with his patience. You could easily do something like Ackley-Smoak-Montero. Many guys could do better than Guitierrez in #2 spot, who needs to prove he’s healthy and can hit at all again before he’s in the top half of the order.

      The issue isn’t really that the Mariners don’t have an ideal 1-2 combination at the top of hte order. It’s that they don’t have ideal hitters. Here’s hoping Smoak takes a step forward and the older hitters find some new life.

      • Matthew Pouliot - Jan 26, 2012 at 8:15 PM

        Sure, you could, and if this were scoresheet, that’s probably how I’d do it… Ackley, Montero and Smoak at the top. But Wedge isn’t going to do that regardless. If not Ichiro, then someone lousy is going to be hitting first or second, with Ackley occupying the other spot.

    • Matthew Pouliot - Jan 26, 2012 at 8:11 PM

      Yeah, that’s my view. If Ichiro played for the Yankees, then it’d definitely be time to move him to the bottom of the order. But on these Mariners? With no attractive alternatives to replace him?

      • Ari Collins - Jan 26, 2012 at 8:21 PM

        Fair enough. If Ichiro! is one of the better hitters on the team (and I guess if he doesn’t bounce back, they’re in trouble regardless), then he should hit high in the order.

        About the only other argument I’d make is that his SBs would be more valuable lower in the order. But other than that, I concede.

      • KC Downey - Jan 26, 2012 at 10:07 PM

        Matthew – I’m glad you actually take the time to respond to your comments.

  4. buffalomafia - Jan 26, 2012 at 8:10 PM

    Seattle seems like they cant get there shit together!

    Dont be surprised King Felix gets traded next!

  5. paperlions - Jan 26, 2012 at 8:43 PM

    Their lineup is pretty pathetic, but there is no reason not to have their few good hitters at the top of the lineup….and unless Ichiro has a dramatic turnaround….that ain’t him any more. Last year he was so bad that Brendan Ryan was more productive offensively….Brendan Freaking Ryan.

    • 78mu - Jan 26, 2012 at 9:29 PM

      Hey, don’t knock Brendan Ryan. There are a lot of us in St. Louis that still like him and last year when Theriot was trying to figure out what to do with that round white thing people kept hitting at him we longed for Ryan to be back at Busch.

      Of course with Furcal the Brenda Ryan fan club can meet in a phonebooth instead of my mom’s basement. But when Furcal’s contract is up………

      • paperlions - Jan 26, 2012 at 10:36 PM

        I hated to see him go, his defense was fantastic…knowing it was going to be replaced by Erriot made it doubly painful….but the guy can’t hit….if your offensive production is on par with Ryan and you play a corner OF position…you had a freaking horrible year….not a bad year, a completely shitty one.

    • jwbiii - Jan 26, 2012 at 9:35 PM

      Suzuki 84 OPS+, .296 wOBA
      Ryan 83 OPS+, .298 wOBA

      Yikes! You’re right. wOBAs from Stat Corner because Fan Graphs doesn’t park adjust theirs, so to them a double for a SafeCo dweller is worth the same as one for a Fenway dweller, which is nonsensical to me.

      • Ari Collins - Jan 26, 2012 at 9:44 PM

        I use wRC+ (on FG) for park-adjusted offensive performance.

        You get points for “dweller”. Makes me picture someone hiding in the Green Monster. (Manny? Are you still back there?)

      • jwbiii - Jan 27, 2012 at 12:22 AM

        I’ll be out as soon as I’m done pissing, dammit!

  6. dirtyharry1971 - Jan 26, 2012 at 10:21 PM

    ichiro is known to be a problem in the clubhouse and good friends with the m’s owner, he got hargrove fired i believe and if wedge dont do what he wants he probably will have him fired next

  7. farvite - Jan 27, 2012 at 1:14 AM

    Most overrated player I’ve seen in any sport.

  8. muckthefets23 - Jan 27, 2012 at 2:44 AM

    Who’s over rated?? Ichiro?? You’re insane, I’d like to see you string together 10 major league seasons of 200+ hits. Might I add he holds the single season hit record as well in case you forgot. Just sayin…

  9. Jonny 5 - Jan 27, 2012 at 9:58 AM

    I’m definitely with Matt on this one. I’d give Ichiro at least a couple months to prove himself unworthy of the leadoff spot. He still steals the bags ok, and his large drop for last season tells me it could be a fluky thing really.

  10. gnrfan8804 - Jan 27, 2012 at 10:54 AM

    hey ‘dirtyharry1971’….he didn’t get Hargrove ‘fired’. Hargrove resigned mid-season because he didn’t want to manage anymore, a decision he battled with for a few weeks leading up to it. Proof could be that he hasn’t managed since.

  11. farvite - Jan 27, 2012 at 11:19 AM

    Name a single meaningful hit or run scored in this guys career?

    HOF?? Laughable. He doesn’t deserve it.

    • jwbiii - Jan 27, 2012 at 12:00 PM

      I’m sure you have excellent reasons for saying that, but his .421/.488/.474 postseason batting line would suggest otherwise.

  12. farvite - Jan 27, 2012 at 12:49 PM

    Selfish singles hitter that won’t move down in the order beacuse he would get less ABs.

    .. Actually glad he plays in Seattle.

    Lousy organization + selfish player = made 4 eachother.

  13. disableme - Jan 27, 2012 at 3:36 PM

    >10 years in a row Golden Glove just as an outfielder alone he is legendary.
    >Singles are not selfish when you steal 400 plus bases.
    > second player to ever get ROY and MVP in the same season.

    farvit you said… “Name a single meaningful hit or run scored in this guys career?”

    How is he supposed to get a meaningful hit as a Mariner. If you say he is on a bad team you cant expect him to be in the “meaningful situations”

    Do you consider a .421 post season batting average and a .488 OBP overrated?

    Are you either racist, ignorant or Joey Cora.

  14. farvite - Jan 27, 2012 at 6:32 PM

    ROY and MVP..

    Yeah.. As if he wasn’t a pro before he arrived in Seattle?? LOL!

    Another insignificant accomplishment by an insignificant player.

    • jdd428 - Feb 10, 2012 at 9:49 PM

      I have read comments from a lot of outrageous, idiotic posters. But you, farvite, have taken the cake as most idiotic for your invalid Ichiro bashing. Not only did he win (deservedly) the ROY and MVP in 2000, he has two batting titles, has hit over .350 four times in 11 seasons and was over .300 in each season except his miserable 2011 (at age 37). He also has 10 Gold Gloves. And, while he wasn’t the first Japanese player to come to MLB and fare well, his success led to the increased influx of Japanese talent. Without Ichiro, players like (for better or worse) Hideki Matsui, Diasuke Matsuzaka, Kosuke Fukudome and Yu Darvish may never have played States-side. All that plus 2428 hits in 11 seasons? To call that insignificant shows how insignificant your opinion is. He is a Hall of Famer without question.

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