All Time All Mariner Roster: Right Field

Dave · July 18, 2008 at 11:20 am · Filed Under Mariners 


Ichiro! 2004. He hit for a ridiculous average (.372!) took his walks to get to a .414 OBP, and hit for a little (very little) power. Plus, he’s Ichiro! so he’s got that going for him. His batting average is the highest ever recorded by a Mariner regular — second place is Alex at .358 in 1996. That .414 OBP is the tenth-highest in Mariner history, behind a lot of Edgar Martinez/Alex Rodriguez seasons (and one Alvin Davis). In total contribution to his team, Ichiro’s 2004 may not be top ten, but it’s top twenty, and when he’s running up against Griffey, Edgar, and Alex, that’s amazingly good.

I wondered how to rate Ichiro’s seasons defensively in right. The 2003-2007 UZRs have him at +14, 0, +2, -1 in right for the 03-06 seasons. It would have taken a huge defensive season in 2001 combined with a defensive zero in 2004 to make up the difference in offensive contributions, and I don’t see it.

There’s so much to say here, about Ichiro, my appreciation for his play, his position on the team and in fandom, and everything else, but I would say this — Ichiro is the greatest example I’ve ever seen of how a good enough player can break roles. Someone can play outstanding defense at a position where defense isn’t valued, can play a dead-ball era game when right fielders are expected to whiff or hit the ball a long, long way.

Alex did this, but Alex followed Cal Ripken Jr, who established that shortstops could be big and hit well. Ichiro is without modern comparison, especially in the outfield — Tony Gwynn’s best years gave you the average, Ted Williams gets you average and huge walks and power, and Ichiro… we’re all lucky to have seen him play for the Mariners, in the same way that we’ve been blessed to see Alex, and Griffey, and Edgar, and I wish there was some way I could make people appreciate that.


I agree – 2004 was Ichiro’s best year, and even though he’s not the prototypical right fielder, it was the best year the M’s have ever gotten from the position. Jay Buhner had a great underrated run from 1994 to 1997, with ’97 probably being the best of that bunch, but he didn’t have any single season as good as Ichiro’s ’04. His walks and power were great, but the offensive value was at best equal to Ichiro’s best year, and while Bone had a great arm, the defensive comparison isn’t even close.

You could also make a case for ’78 Leon Roberts (an .879 OPS when the league average was .711), but not a good enough one to overcome the year with more hits in a season than any other in history. Unlike left field, there are some good performances here, and Ichiro doesn’t win by default – he was just that good.

So, with boring agreement between the two of us, let me use this space to make a quick statement on one of the common knocks people make against Ichiro now that he’s been moved back to right field – that he doesn’t hit for enough power to justify a spot in a corner OF position. There’s a well established belief among many that the correct way to build a roster is to get good defensive players up the middle (C, SS, 2B, CF) and get lumbering power hitters in the corners (3B, LF, RF, 1B). You’ll often hear comments about how offense from up the middle spots “is a bonus” and you rarely see people realizing just how much defense matters in a corner (Carlos Lee’s paycheck says hello) because of this preconceived notion of what kind of player you’re supposed to have in each position.

It’s crap. A player’s value is determined almost entirely by his ability to create and prevent runs and it doesn’t matter the way in which those runs are created or prevented. Whether you produce 30 runs of offense through death of a thousand singles or 25 home runs, the fact remains that the run creation is the same. If you have a great defender who has just an okay bat, but you already have a center fielder, that doesn’t mean you have to get rid of Defensive Stud simply because you can’t put that type of player in a corner OF spot. The 2001 to 2003 Mariners were playing three guys who were premium defenders (Winn, Cameron, Ichiro) but none of whom were classic sluggers, and they won a ton of baseball games.

Runs are runs, and you should almost never sacrifice aggregate run totals in order to fill a preconceived notion of what a certain position player should look like. The argument that the M’s should get rid of Ichiro in order to fill RF with a classic power hitter with inferior defense stems from ignorance of how baseball games are won. To the anti-Ichiro crowd – stop focusing on cliches and start focusing on production. He’s a great player, and just because most singles hitters play CF does not make him a liability in RF.


It’s funny — I started to write that in my intro, but I stopped, said “I shouldn’t rant about this, at least not in the intro” and deleted it. My take was a little different, though — I absolutely agree with what you’re saying, but moreover, Ichiro often reveals more about those who attempt to evaluate him than about Ichiro himself.

To appreciate Ichiro’s value, you have to see past traditional roles, past recent dogma favoring Adam Dunn-type power/walk/no glove lineups, past all of this to the fundamental thing everyone who seriously follows baseball has been trying to figure out: how do you win more games?

We make this point all the time about players: it’s about what a player can do, and how they can contribute, not what they can’t do, whether that’s hit home runs or whatever. And I’ve no patience for attacks on the “leadership” of someone who works so hard, so consistently. Ichiro absolutely plays, and he helps his teams win.


Yea, the leadership/chemistry thing is the last resort of a guy who doesn’t have any leg left to stand on, but refuses to admit that he was wrong. I’d love someone to explain how Ichiro’s routine that is apparently so harmful to this team now was also part of the 116 win “greatest chemistry ever” club in ’01. Or, if his personal stretching program (you know, the one that keeps him remarkably healthy and in the line-up every single day) is such a divisive issue that causes his teammates to underperform, how did last year’s team win 88 games with a massive lack of talent?

Even if you believe that chemistry is hugely important, and that Ichiro doesn’t have the right kind of personality to fit your predisposed opinion of what a good team player is, and even if we accept that you could predict good or bad chemistry ahead of time, there’s never been any kind of real position for why Ichiro’s one of the bad chemistry guys. Seriously, go through the articles where the old white guys criticize the eccentric Japanese guy, and the evidence boils down to “trust me, I’m there, I know more than you”. With guys like Bonds or Kent or Milton Bradley or David Wells or Izzy Alcantara, at least there was a stated basis for why they harmed clubhouse chemistry – so and so gets in fights with teammates, throws things at coaches, comes to the park hungover, whatever. With Ichiro, the basis is apparently “he doesn’t speak English” and “he stretches by himself”.

Sorry, but that’s not a real argument. That’s ethnocentric judgmentalism at its worst. The media is never more exposed as a biased collection of old white guys with preconceived notions (usually incorrect ones, at that) than when they write about Ichiro and clubhouse chemistry. It’s sad, really.


65 Responses to “All Time All Mariner Roster: Right Field”

  1. Rtheb on July 18th, 2008 10:58 pm

    Ichiro’s OPS is a joke. We lose so many low scoring games and the only thing this guys does is slap infield hits. For $90 million I think we should expect a player to do some real damage. Not slap infield hits and wait for the next guy to do pick up the slack. Oh wait. Ichiro steals basis when were down or up by several runs. He actually stole a base against the Tigers when in the top of the 6th when were down 8-1 earlier this season. This guy is a farse. Nick Markakis is having a far superior year. He should have been an all star. Let’s get some impact bats!

  2. gwangung on July 18th, 2008 11:26 pm

    Is fielding really half the game?

    I dunno. Where do everyday players spend the time when they’re not on offense?

    You’re not impressing me with such sloppy thinking. You’re better when you’re actually using numbers.

  3. joser on July 18th, 2008 11:36 pm

    There’s no “kind of” about it. When mouth-breathing morons need someone for their microcephalic kids to laugh at, they find people like Rtheb.

    Oh, and James T — love Manny’s play tonight. Running around in circles, losing your hat, and then falling on the ball = genius fielding. Doing the worm / limbo to try to get the ball out from under ass = comedy gold. Even by Manny ass-over-teakettle standards, that was extreme.

    All in all, though, I’ll take less humor and more Ichiro, thanks.

  4. James T on July 19th, 2008 7:09 am

    I’m not sure what Manny has to do with Suzuki, Joser. Both you and Dave seemed to think that because I identify myself as a Red Sox fan, that attacking Manny is somehow defending Suzuki.

    Why? I didn’t say Manny is better. I didn’t say Manny’s a great player. I think he might have been great for a year or two with Cleveland but has had so much negative fielding value with the Sox that, even before his decline of the last year or two, it put him below that threshold.

    As for fielding being half the game because your team is in the field half the time, that’s silly. What about pitching? Most of the time any player is standing in the field his pitcher is the prime determinant of whether runs are given up. IIRC, when Bill James was trying to figure out how to correctly value fielding, pitching and hitting, his best guess was that it was clearly a smaller value than hitting. But neither UZR, cited at the start of this thread, nor Dewan’s numbers were calling Suzuki a superlative fielder. Dewan seemed to think he was much closer to that as a right fielder, anyway.

    As to my mind being made up, well, yeah, pretty much. I think Suzuki’s a very good player and I wish he was on the Red Sox. I’d love for them to have him. But I don’t think he’s a great player. On a runs created per game basis, his numbers are very good and certainly that of someone I’d like to have on the Red Sox but not great. I’ve got the rc/game numbers from Shandler somewhere and I’ll try and dig them up.

  5. DMZ on July 19th, 2008 7:29 am

    In 2004, just on the basis of his offense, Ichiro was rated the 10th-best player in the major leagues by VORP, which doesn’t include defense.

    Are there only nine “great” players in the majors at any time?

  6. James T on July 19th, 2008 7:46 am

    Of course not, but there are certainly fewer than 35, 61, 78, 59, 40 or 49. Where’s the line? That’s very hard to say, and it’s a subjective judgement.

    Again, please don’t infer from my not wanting to put the label of “great” on him that I don’t think he’s a very good player. I’d love for him to be on the Red Sox. I think he’s an all star quality player. But there are, what, 60 all stars? They’re not all great players.

  7. andrew23 on July 19th, 2008 8:02 am

    I think you need to look at RC/27. Ichiro leads off, so he benefits from a lot of extra PAs.

    I think the standard is 15 PA for every drop down in the lineup, so if you give a guy who usually hits 3-4-5 an extra 8 years * 15 PA *(2, 3, or 4), there are probably some guys in the 11-20 range that leap ahead of Ichiro.

    Might want to take a haircut off that number (10-15%) to account for days off/injury.

    Also, I was wondering: do you plan on trying to simulate a season with the 25 man that you create?

  8. joser on July 19th, 2008 10:42 am

    Uniqueness doesn’t make you great. Being very good doesn’t make you great. But being very, very good and unique? If it doesn’t make him great, it certainly makes him legendary. Twenty years from now there are going to be a lot of people proudly saying they watched Ichiro play (and a fair number of them probably aren’t watching right now, just like all the “long-time Red Sox fans” who couldn’t tell you anything about any Red Sox team prior to 2004.)

  9. Benne on July 19th, 2008 12:03 pm

    Ichiro’s OPS is a joke. We lose so many low scoring games and the only thing this guys does is slap infield hits. For $90 million I think we should expect a player to do some real damage. Not slap infield hits and wait for the next guy to do pick up the slack. Oh wait. Ichiro steals basis when were down or up by several runs. He actually stole a base against the Tigers when in the top of the 6th when were down 8-1 earlier this season. This guy is a farse. Nick Markakis is having a far superior year. He should have been an all star. Let’s get some impact bats!

    (points and laughs)

  10. metz123 on July 19th, 2008 12:27 pm

    funny thing is….back when I was more baseball ignorant I used to say the same things about Wade Boggs when he was playing for the Sox. I used to fall for the “arguments” made by sportswriters that….

    Boggs hit a lot of home runs in BP, thus he should try to hit more during games.

    Boggs was being selfish by getting on base at a .450 clip. He should have been doing “more for the team” and “hitting for more power”.

    Boggs needed to “alter his batting strategy based on the game situation” and walk less with runners on base.

    Boggs left it to others to pick up the slack because he didn’t “go to right field and move the runner along”.

    If you don’t have the tools to analyze the game, you can really fall for these sorts of arguments because they make anecdotal sense. It’s not until you truly grasp the concept that, not making an out is the primary result of any plate appearance, that you start to really appreciate the great hitters. Lucky for me that Rob Neyer, ESPN and the web came along to open my eyes.

    Toss in Ichiro’s defense and running skills and he’s truly a superstar. He’ll just never satisfy those that think that only sluggers are superstars.

  11. metz123 on July 19th, 2008 12:34 pm

    oh yeah…btw – Boggs OPS during those years averaged around .900, he averaged 40+ doubles a year, and walked around 100 times a season. Yet, the boston sportswriters never wrote a positive thing about the guy.

  12. James T on July 19th, 2008 6:06 pm

    Actually, I think the boston writers treated Boggs very similarly to how Suzuki has been treated in some ways. At first there was a near chorus of cheers at his amazing ability to hit liner after liner. Then, the novelty of it wore off and they took for granted his 200 hits and 100 walks a season and wanted to see something different. I guess it would have been impossible to write another article about his amazing discipline at the plate. So that ability was taken for granted. But, by most accounts, he was a bit of a jerk. And he was the most annoyingly cautious baserunner in the history of MLB. He was like the opposite of what Whitey Herzog wanted to see. Boggs seemed to feel that being thrown out once canceled out 20 instances of being safe when you went for an extra base. But, still, the man was getting on base almost 300 times a year for about 5 years there.

  13. James T on July 19th, 2008 6:25 pm

    Alright. I found those runs created per game from Ron Shandler’s 2008 Baseball Forecaster. I think it’s the same as RC/27.

    Anyway, Shandler has the numbers for the last 5 years. And his formula takes into account stolen bases and caught stealing.

    Suzuki’s rc/game the last 5 years were 5.03 in 2003, then 6.07, 5.17, 5.15 and 5.62. So his average per year is 5.41.

    Going laboriously and probably stupidly (there must have been an easier way) through Shandler’s book and looking at every batter, I found 32 other players who were full time players those five years who had higher rc/game averages than Suzuki.

    There were another 25 guys who had higher rc/game averages than Suzuki but who missed significant playing time through injury or who had not arrived in MLB until the last few years (Drew, Fielder, Giambi, A. Gonzalez, Carlos Guillen, Holliday, Ryan Howard, Derek Lee, Mauer, Morneau, Hanley Ramirez, Utley and even Varitek among them.)
    Here are the 32 guys with higher rc/game than Suzuki’s 5.41 over the last 5 years who were full timers all those years(these are these guys’ averages over that 5 year period):

    Bonds – 10.53
    Albert Pujols – 8.55
    David Ortiz – 8.25
    Helton – 8.18
    Manny Ramirez – 7.94
    Berkman – 7.72
    ARod – 7.63
    Chipper Jones – 7.53
    V. Guerrero – 7.30
    Dunn – 7.18
    Miguel Cabrera – 7.16
    Abreu – 6.95
    Delgado – 6.94
    Beltran – 6.77
    Teixeira – 6.69
    Posada – 6.62
    Giles – 6.60
    Glaus – 6.37
    Aramis Ramirez – 6.31
    Burrell – 6.31
    Kent – 6.26
    Konerko – 6.05
    Carlos Lee – 5.98
    V. Martinez – 5.91
    Jeter – 5.87
    A. Jones – 5.86
    Soriano – 5.82
    Ibanez – 5.65
    Mike Lowell – 5.64
    Michael Young – 5.55
    Damon – 5.52
    Mike Cameron – 5.47(injured but included)

  14. hark on July 19th, 2008 10:04 pm


    What formula for RC does Shandler use? The basic formula…does he include stolen bases, park factor, the 2002 formula? Big question.

    Secondly, now subtract from those RC/27 RA/27. What are the defensive contributions of those players? Ortiz, Bonds, Cabrera, Giles, Glaus, Jeter, Soriano, Ibanez, Lowell, Young (and I like Young), Lee and Dunn are all average fielders at best, mediocre if we’re being honest and downright terrible if we’re being brutal. Not to mention that the contributions from regular DH’s are not on the same level as contributions from position players.

  15. James T on July 20th, 2008 6:26 am

    There’s no park adjustment in Shandler’s calculation of runs created per game. And, I’m not sure what the “2002 formula” is.

    Here’s Shandler’s formula, from the glossary of his book. It’s so long, I’m going to break it into two parts.

    (H+BB-CS)X(Total bases+(.55xSB))/(AB+BB)


    And, you’re right that a lot of those players above Suzuki aren’t great defenders. But, the UZR numbers cited for him at the start of this thread weren’t exactly great, either(0, +2 and -1 from 2004-2006). And Dewan saw him as a very good right fielder but nothing special as a centerfielder. How many of those guys would Suzuki actually pass, as it were, with an all encompassing measure of contributions?

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