Ichiro 2.0

marc w · February 21, 2012 at 1:25 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Today, Eric Wedge confirmed the rumors that have been swirling for the past week: Ichiro’s no longer the lead-off man. Ichiro will move down to third, with Ackley in 2nd and Figgins in the lead-off spot. In addition, Larry Stone mentions that Ichiro’s got a new batting stance to go along with a new line-up spot.

I think everyone’s got an opinion of the move and the way it’s happened. I’m actually OK with moving Ichiro to 3rd, and look forward to seeing his new approach at the plate. If this was announced to give Ichiro more time to prepare in his new role, I suppose I can’t argue with that. More to come, undoubtedly.

Comments

37 Responses to “Ichiro 2.0”

  1. Violinguy72 on February 21st, 2012 1:41 pm

    So now we find out if Ichiro can hit for a little more power, like people have been saying he is capable of for years?

  2. Coolalvin206 on February 21st, 2012 1:55 pm

    What does the optimal lineup look like now with the top set?

    1.Figgins
    2.Ackley
    3.Ichiro
    4.Smoak
    5.Montero
    6.Carp
    7.Wells
    8.Guti
    9.Ryan

  3. MrZDevotee on February 21st, 2012 1:55 pm

    I spit up a little just reading the words “Today, Eric Wedge confirmed”… That’s all it took.

    So the experiment is officially underway.

    Hopefully, Figgins puts it together, or falls apart, as quickly as possible, so the mystery is minimal and the lineup can be reshuffled appropriately if necessary.

    Gotta say, I’m hoping for good results. No reason to believe in good results, given his past few seasons, sure… But if guys do what expectations have been for them, it would sure be a different team offensively (with just career avgs from the veterans)…

    Figgins
    Ackley
    Ichiro
    Montero (DH/C)
    Smoak
    Carp (LF/DH)
    Guty
    Wells/Jaso (LF/C)
    Ryan

    Every guy there has a reasonable ability to put the bat on the ball more often than not. And honestly, best case scenario has Guty back to his 2009 form and the order then shuffles to…

    Ackley
    Guty
    Ichiro
    Montero (DH/C)
    Smoak
    Carp (LF/DH)
    Wells/Jaso (LF/C)
    Ryan
    Figgins

    Could be (and HAS been) worse…

    And dare I say that’s even a watchable lineup at the plate?

  4. johndango on February 21st, 2012 1:55 pm

    Do not want. Put him back at leadoff. The last thing I want to see first at every game I attend is Figgins. Plus I just believe in tradition. Ichrio is leadoff. He could hit 40 HRs this year at 3rd and my perception of him will still be leadoff.

  5. marc w on February 21st, 2012 2:04 pm

    Larry Stone mentions that part of the reason for the shift is to generate more power. That’d be nice, I suppose.
    I just want to see this. I can’t really imagine Ichiro without his iconic batting stance.

  6. Leroy Stanton on February 21st, 2012 2:07 pm

    Maybe I’m just in denial, but I can’t get too worked up about any of this. I mean, it’s February! Too much can happen and probably will. But even if it does end up Figgins leading off and Ichiro hitting third, so what? Does it even matter?

  7. marc w on February 21st, 2012 2:08 pm

    MrZD –
    I think we’ll do some line-up posts a bit later. I guess it hasn’t been an easy task for the past few years, but if you’re trying to put together the best line-up on paper (as opposed to structuring the order as a confidence-booster), there are so many unknowns. Is Figgins toast? That is, do you go by his projections (which aren’t great but aren’t awful) or by his past two seasons (which were quite awful)? Is Gutierrez fully back, or will his contact and timing issues persist, regardless of how much muscle he has?
    Do you need Carp in the line-ups against LHP as well as RHP, or can you get by without him? Is Montero a catcher? Etc.

  8. MrZDevotee on February 21st, 2012 2:35 pm

    Marc-
    Yeah, I was just sort of peaking at who might be in play, and at the very least (allowing for huge “?” in Guty/Figgins) it doesn’t feel like gaping holes up and down the lineup, as say a lineup with the swings of Junior, Adam Moore, Jose Lopez, Carlos Peguero/Trayvon/Saunders, et.al presents.

    If Figgins can at least get back over .300 for OBP, that’s 3 guys in a row that will be on base roughly 1/3 of the time they’re up to bat, which also means roughly 1/6 of the time TWO of them should be on base when Smoak/Montero/Carp take their hacks.

    It feels more idyllic than the past two years of praying “if _______ can loop one down the line for a double… and then ________ can bounce a slow dribbler in the hole, right after (Peguero/Griffey/Robinson/Saunders/Olivo) strikes out– WE’LL HAVE A RUN!!!!! Hallelujah!!!”

    Which was pretty much our high water mark of a productive inning these past few years.

    It’s much more plausible to see a few more regular 3 or 4 run innings with the order of…

    Figgins
    Ackley
    Ichiro
    Montero
    Smoak
    Carp
    Guty….

    But heck, every weed is a flower this time of year– so I’m just happy to see some blooming going on. *laugh*

  9. kinickers77 on February 21st, 2012 3:40 pm

    As long as Ichiro’s new approach at the plate limits his “infield singles” that will now turn into easy outs at 2B, I’m all for it. I always heard Ichiro had untapped power, so I’m excited to see what this does.

    Even from a marketing standpoint, this gives reason for people to buy tickets initially. They’ll wanna come see Ichiro 2.0.

  10. ivan on February 21st, 2012 4:47 pm

    BFD! This is what spring training is for.

  11. gag harbor on February 21st, 2012 4:49 pm

    The Japanese press considers the third spot in the order a very prestigious position and everyone’s anxious to see him with RISP. His RBIs will jump even if only Ackley is getting on base actively.

    It’s worth it just to see if Figgins can get a decent first half in and get flipped for something useful allowing Seager to play 3rd at some point this year.

  12. smb on February 21st, 2012 5:03 pm

    I have a strange inkling/hunch that Figgins is just insane enough to suddenly be good again just because he’s back to hitting leadoff. Let’s hope so.

  13. Mariners35 on February 21st, 2012 5:22 pm

    MrZD, never fear… I am pretty sure we will see that optimal batting order with Guti hitting second by about May or so, when Figgins has tanked for a month and gets DFA’d.

  14. TherzAlwaysHope on February 21st, 2012 5:33 pm

    What are the chances this is going to work out?

    Just watch this :33 second video. YES!!!!!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KX5jNnDMfxA

  15. John D. on February 21st, 2012 7:03 pm

    Hope this shift will stop ICHIRO from bunting for a base hit with the winning run on 2nd.

  16. Auggeydog on February 21st, 2012 7:09 pm

    Brian Kenny talked about the 3 hitter on Clubhouse Confidential the other day. I found his take on it interesting. He basically said if I remember right, with speed at 1 you want contact at 3, with contact at 1 you want power at 3. I know I am really boiling this down, but was wondering what all the smarter sabr guys think about it? I hear many people complain about this because Ichiro is not a power hitter, and does not deserve to hit 3rd. They felt he should be 2 or 9th. I don’t see 9th because he would lose too many AB’s. What do you all think?

  17. stevemotivateir on February 21st, 2012 7:42 pm

    I don’t like it, but it’s not like anything is set in stone for the whole season. I’m still not convinced the Mariners actually want to keep Figgins beyond spring, regardless of what he does leading off. Having said that, I’m still excited to see these spring games!

  18. Westside guy on February 21st, 2012 7:53 pm

    I’m not as concerned about batting order as I am with not wanting to see 7 craptacularly bad hitters out of 9 available slots.

    So, with this news, my fervent wish is that “Figgins hitting leadoff” has a short leash. If he still sucks after 100 plate appearances, the experiment needs to end. But, in truth, I don’t know why they’re bothering. As has already been said by others, there is basically zero chance that Figgins will be around to “contribute” on the next competitive Mariners team, even if he rebounds – so why waste time giving him any more at-bats?

  19. kinbote on February 21st, 2012 9:30 pm

    I don’t count seven bad hitters. In fact, #2-#5 could be decent with Carp & Guti wild cards lower down.

  20. Westside guy on February 21st, 2012 10:48 pm

    I was referring to last year, not what I expect this year – sorry that wasn’t clear. My attempted point was that if the hitters are better, I couldn’t care less what order they’re being rearranged into.

    But still… seeing Figgins in the leadoff spot leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Especially given that he might rebound 20 points or so, just because he’s been both awful AND unlucky – which will lead some people to say “see? it worked!” as if a slightly better-than-2010/2011 Figgins isn’t still awful.

  21. Brantid on February 22nd, 2012 3:54 am

    If Ichiro has slowed a bit, even by immortal standards, this move makes a lot of sense. This is about getting the most out of an aging superstar. If he has lost a step, a lot of his value will be to make contact and hit line drives out of the infield. I wouldn’t expect him to have 200 hits again, but that streak is over. But I am thinking a .290/.360/.475-.500 line is very possible. Oh, and I did make the assumption that if Ichiro is giving up on the 200 hits he’ll walk more. I can hope, right?

  22. djw on February 22nd, 2012 6:11 am

    Is there any empirical justification for the belief that moving people around the lineup actually matters?

    The news here isn’t about Ichiro–my answer to the question of whether he should hit first of third has always been “who cares?” The news is that the dessicated corpse of Chone Figgins is allegedly going to play every day, which is a breathtakingly bad idea.

  23. AlvinDavisEyes on February 22nd, 2012 7:38 am

    This sounds like a last-ditch effort to see if they can coax any productivity out of Figgins. Either way it goes I’d guess he doesn’t see Safeco in June. If he sucks he gets DFA’d, if he’s productive they move him.

  24. Jack Howland on February 22nd, 2012 7:44 am

    This had me wondering who might be the worst Mariners lead off hitter ever. Off the top of my head:

    Brian Hunter 240/285/318
    Julio Cruz 217/309/271
    H. Reynolds 257/331/329

  25. 6-4-3 on February 22nd, 2012 9:08 am

    MrZDevotee said: Hopefully, Figgins puts it together, or falls apart, as quickly as possible, so the mystery is minimal and the lineup can be reshuffled appropriately if necessary.

    Totally agree. I sort of doubt Figgins is going to tear it up batting leadoff, but it’s worth a shot. Just don’t let the experiment go on too long if he isn’t reaching base.

  26. Badbadger on February 22nd, 2012 9:18 am

    Why on God’s green earth would anyone let Figgins bat leadoff? Why is he even still on the team?

  27. JoshJones on February 22nd, 2012 11:42 am

    @Badbadger
    “Why on God’s green earth would anyone let Figgins bat leadoff? Why is he even still on the team?”

    I’m seeing a lot of people across the blog-o-sphere who seem to feel the same way.

    So answer this for me. If Figgins is hitting .280 with a OBP of .352 and he’s playing above replacement level defense 30 games into the season would you retract your statement? Because those are all his career averages.
    .280AVG and .352OBP isn’t THAT unattainable. If he does do that there’s a good chance the M’s are able to get someone to eat a good chunk of his remaining contract. That seems like a very low risk HIGH reward opportunity.

  28. Badbadger on February 22nd, 2012 1:07 pm

    I disagree that his career averages should be seen as attainable despite his pathetic last two years. His skills have deteriorated greatly across the board, I don’t see any particular reason to hope they’ll come back just because they bat him first.

    The M’s have been nearly unwatchable the last two years, I don’t need to see any more of Figgins as a starter. Would I retract my statement based on him having a good month? Only if they parlay that month into a significantly cost-saving trade, otherwise he needs to show me more than a month to believe in him. I sure as heck wouldn’t trade for Figgins based on a hot month.

  29. Jay R. on February 22nd, 2012 1:59 pm

    Hopefully this is just a spring training thing, and Figgins will be on the bench or off the team before games start counting. My worst nightmare is for Figgins to have a hot streak in ST and then utterly tank in April…Wedge would leave him in there until Memorial Day and destroy what little hope we might enjoy for a competitive season.

    BTW- whichever of you commenters (or writers? Heh) is responsible for @NotGeoffBaker has my undying love.

  30. djw on February 22nd, 2012 2:03 pm

    If Figgins is hitting .280 with a OBP of .352 and he’s playing above replacement level defense 30 games into the season would you retract your statement? Because those are all his career averages.

    Josh, that’s probably something like his 90th percentile outcome on a probability chart. So no, it’s not wildly implausible, and it wouldn’t shock me if it occurred, but in the grand scheme of things a replacement level (or slightly below) performance is considerably more likely. Lots of players who don’t deserve to start will look OK if they hit their 90th percentile projection.

    There’s a long history of evidence that the best way to project a player is to look at his last three years, weighted toward more recent years, and adjust for age. This is tried and true. Why should we throw this out the window in Figgins’ case?

  31. BLYKMYK44 on February 22nd, 2012 2:55 pm

    “Because those are all his career averages.
    .280AVG and .352OBP isn’t THAT unattainable. If he does do that there’s a good chance the M’s are able to get someone to eat a good chunk of his remaining contract. That seems like a very low risk HIGH reward opportunity”

    - My question is what would that have to do with him batting lead off? Why wouldn’t he do that if he batted 7th, 8th or 9th?

  32. eponymous coward on February 22nd, 2012 3:05 pm

    You know, this is what doesn’t make sense about the “Well, let’s hope Figgins will bounce back so we can dump his ass in July” theory:

    If Figgins IS hitting .280 with a .352 OBP, and performing well, why are the Mariners going to be trading him? It’s not like this organization has a ZOMG BEST.PROSPECT.EVAR!11!! at 3B that’s beating down the doors in AAA- you have Seager (did OK, probably is ~Figgins or better at a similar age as a player), you have Liddi (needs work), Catricala (also needs work, hasn’t gotten any real time in at AAA, might go to the OF anyway and not be an issue at 3B), and Francisco Martinez (needs LOTS of work).

    It’s also not like the team desperately needs to dump salary for 2013- they already dumped salary this year by not backfilling the money wasted on Milton Bradley, and the only veterans under contract who make significant salary for 2013 basically consist of Felix, Guti and Figgins (Vargas could be brought back, but could also walk if his arm goes pfft and the M’s decline arbitration, or if the M’s just think paying $8 million for a 2-3 WAR pitcher isn’t worth it, League and Ichiro are FAs- between just the three of them that would be ~30 million off next year’s books. Brendan Ryan is in a similar boat, still has a year of arbitration left, but I’d be shocked if he makes more than 3-5 million if he goes to arbitration in 2013).

    So IF Figgins DOES recover value and becomes a 3 WAR player, maybe you actually keep the guy- a 3 WAR player making 9 million in 2013 on a one year deal isn’t a horrible deal for you, someone you need to dump for a ham sandwich and a no-hit A-ball organizational fodder SS for salary relief. Not when realistically, this organization could probably dump 10 million of salary off and not take a huge hit, talent-wise, assuming a couple arms develop to replace League and Vargas (and the guy to move if you really DO want to dump salary and improve the M’s down the road isn’t Figgins, it’s Felix, who would actually fetch serious talent in return).

    Sure, you’d listen to offers… but even if Figgins IS hitting OK in July, is there much market for a guy who’ll be 35, has some bad years in recent history, has injury history plus a record of being a clubhouse distraction, and represents 12 million in salary commitment? Is the return worth dumping a player who’s bounced back and is apparently doing the job you initially signed him to do? I doubt it- I tend to think you’d get salary relief without a lot of talent in return, or you’d probably swap one veteran for another. So how much salary relief does this team need for 2013? They’re already below average at $85 million or so in 2012 salary.

  33. stevemotivateir on February 22nd, 2012 3:17 pm

    Of course he could hit .188 in spring and get dumped before the regular season.

  34. MrZDevotee on February 22nd, 2012 3:46 pm

    stevemotivateir-
    HEY! The realist’s section is over there—->

    (pointing to imaginary different place, where things get to actually make sense)


    Oh man, Olivo almost pulled a Yuni today…

    “The Mariners escaped the (popup drills) without injury despite a collision at one point between big first baseman Justin Smoak and rock-solid catcher Miguel Olivo that left Smoak on his back…”

    Nice.

  35. Badbadger on February 22nd, 2012 4:07 pm

    I thought last year was the year we were going to see if Figgins bounced back so we could dump him, although back then the story was it was his move from 3rd base that killed his offense. How many tries do we need to make before we dump him already?

  36. kearly on February 22nd, 2012 5:59 pm

    I have two problems with this:

    1st: Had Chone Figgins played a full season last year, its likely he would have set the all time record for -WAR. Now granted, players with -WAR usually don’t play full seasons, but the point is that Figgins was an awful player last year and most of that negative value came from his putrid bat. I think its safe to say that Figgins was one of the worst non-pitcher bats last season.

    Further, people like Bill James have said that teams would produce the most runs if they had their best hitter #1. The #1 batter will get a lot more at bats over a season, so that negative/positive value is amplified. I think by taking one of the very worst bats in 2011 and putting him into the #1 slot would be quite possibly the worst baseball move imaginable for this team. The team should probably just release Figgins. But if they insist on keeping him around to rehab his value… fine. Just don’t be stupid by batting him leadoff. Bat him 8th or 9th.

    2nd: A big chunk of Ichiro’s effectiveness comes from infield hits. A lot of infield hits would become fielder’s choice plays with men on base. By having Ichiro bat 3rd, you are guaranteed to lower his AVG/OBP by some degree. Ichiro struggled last year, and if the team is moving him to 3rd in the order because they think it will rejuvenate him, they probably have it exactly backwards.

  37. TherzAlwaysHope on February 22nd, 2012 7:32 pm

    kearly: The way I read this, Ichiro has changed his stance and has conceded that he has lost a step. My guess is that he is going to have to transform into normal human. That is, he is going to have to battle the pitcher, take walks, and try to get a good pitch to square up. It will be very interesting to see what happens. Only an Ichiro could pull this off and make it work.

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