Montero’s Platoon Splits, Capps’ Call-up

July 28, 2012 · Filed Under Mariners · 15 Comments 

Jesus Montero’s struggled against right-handed pitching, except tonight. Also, the M’s now have their hardest-throwing relief prospect at AAA Tacoma – and it’s not Stephen Pryor.

1: This article at The Hardball Times got a lot of attention today, and with good reason. Jesus Montero’s struggles at the plate have been newsworthy given the expectations placed on him and given the high profile nature of his acquisition. Jesse Sakstrup points out that Montero has the 2nd lowest wOBA against right-handers in baseball, and argues that his problems lie in his inability to lay off breaking balls thrown by right-handed pitchers. As the M’s are counting on Jesus Montero to be an offensive cog in the near future, this argument merits some attention. Let’s examine it.

First of all, it’s worth pointing out right from the start that we’re dealing with very little data. Montero simply hasn’t had enough plate appearances to make any definitive statements, and adding in his minor league splits doesn’t add a whole lot of clarity. In 2011, Montero had similarly large platoon splits in AAA, putting up a .728 OPS against righties versus a 1.039 against lefties (as with every split in this post, “small sample size” warnings apply). But in 2010 in the same league, he was at .858 against righties and .903 against lefties. That looks positively normal. From the Sally League (A) to the Eastern League (AA), Montero hit *better* against righties than lefties. It may yet be true that an inability to hit righties will doom Jesus Montero’s chances to add value in Seattle, but we don’t have anywhere near enough evidence to conclude that at this point.

The second, and more specific, claim in the article is that Montero’s struggles against breaking balls from right-handed pitchers are a particular problem, and a possible cause for his overall platoon splits. The evidence for this are pitch-type whiff rates and swing rates – the former apparently coming from Joe Lefkowitz’ pitch fx site, and the latter coming from texasleaguers. Using these different data sources can be problematic, as each site differs in its definition of a whiff and the number of breaking balls Montero’s seen. Just to focus on texas leaguers, since that’s the source of the swing graphic, Montero’s whiff rate comes out at 21.9%, which is high, but not altogether different from Casper Wells’ 18.7% or Prince Fielder’s 20.7% (from lefties, obviously). The swing graphs for just about any hitter look ludicrous, as hitters misread the ball as a fastball and swing away, following the break to some bizarre locations. Take a look at Miguel Cabrera’s 2012 chart here. Here’s Mike Trout’s from this year – and not the point that’s just above the 2nd ‘P’ in ‘perspective’ – that’s a bad swing. The point here isn’t that Montero’s doing something right by being similar to these great hitters, it’s that swinging at low and away sliders like this is common to just about everyone. Adrian Beltre was not alone.

Does Montero swing at *more* low sliders than other right-handed batters? Thanks to Dan Brooks’ new tool, we can normalize for all right-handers and see where/if Montero’s abnormal. Here’s Montero’s chart for curves/sliders thrown by righties. What you see is that he’s above 100% in the low/away zones, which is good evidence that this is his problem. But what if we only look at whiffs? Now he’s essentially dead-on average, and once again I’ll remind you that the samples in each zone are absurdly small. I could point out that this chart implies he’s got more of a problem with away fastballs than sliders, but that’d be disingenuous. The overall point is that swing/whiff rates by pitch types are only meaningful to the degree that they’re measured against a baseline. Do Montero’s swing rates look anything like, say, Miguel Olivo’s against similar pitches? Well, no, they don’t.

None of this is to suggest that Montero has done average-y, to say nothing of ‘well,’ against breaking balls thrown by righties. He hasn’t. Tonight’s line-drive single off a Jeremy Guthrie slider notwithstanding, it’s been concerning to watch him struggle against righties this season. But the focus on whiffs on particular pitch-types misses the real story. Montero doesn’t have an absurd K rate, and he doesn’t appear to have a remarkable whiff rate on breaking balls. The story of Jesus Montero’s disappointing season in 2012 – and the Mariner hitters’ disappointing season in 2012 – isn’t about whiffs. The problems, or at least the variance from the population mean, occurs once Montero makes contact. The M’s are 10th in the league in swinging strikes, and 7th in K% (behind such losers as the Athletics, Pirates and Nationals). These numbers aren’t what’s driving the M’s worst-in-baseball wOBA. Pitch-type whiff rates aren’t going to help us understand how *that* wOBA follows from *those* whiff rates. Hit FX might, but we don’t have access to it. In the meantime, don’t worry so much about Jesus Montero’s whiffs – worry about how the M’s preaching of aggressiveness at the plate produces so little in the way of tangible results.

2: Carter Capps was called up to Tacoma today after putting up ridiculous numbers with AA Jackson – 50 innings pitched, 40 hits, 8 runs, 12 walks and 72 strikeouts. The right-hander the M’s drafted out of D2 Mount Olive College has routinely hit triple-digits on the radar, and uses an odd, side-arming delivery to hide the ball from hitters (which just seems unfair).

I’d expected the M’s to call him up once Stephen Pryor’s rehab assignment ended, but they’re getting a jump on things. That’s fine by me, as Capps has the ceiling to be a closer at the big league level. Jeff Sullivan hightlights just how different his delivery is from Pryor’s in his post on the call-up; I wonder if part of the timing here isn’t to get a look at what it does to hitters to face the side-winding Capps and his above average horizontal movement following/before the over-the-top Pryor with his abnormally low horizontal fastball movement. It may mean nothing, and given that set-up men and closers would very rarely face the same hitters, it’s probably a non-starter, but think of how tough that’s got to be for hitters – one guy throws 99 with an odd 3/4 delivery, making the ball sweep (very quickly) through the hitting zone, while the other throws 97 moving nearly straight down through the strike zone.

Capps will undoubtedly make his Rainiers debut in Tucson against the Padres; he didn’t pitch in tonight’s game in Tacoma, which concluded a homestand. I’ll try to get out and see him when they return, but it’s entirely possible he’ll make an appearance in Seattle in September. No, he’s not on the 40-man, but the M’s will make several changes between now and then, and if he pitches anywhere near as effectively in AAA as he did in AA, he’ll be in line for a 40-man spot. It’s not the same delivery as Danny Hultzen’s at all, but the release point’s similar enough that everyone’s going to be watching how Capps’ stellar command translates to AAA. Hultzen’s obviously stumbled a bit, but Capps is a very different pitcher in a different role, but it’s something to watch.

Game 102, Royals at Mariners

July 27, 2012 · Filed Under Mariners · 49 Comments 

Blake Beavan vs. Jeremy Guthrie, 7:10pm

Today, the Angels acquired Zach Greinke in exchange for young SS Jean Segura, towering RHP prospect Johnny Hellweg and less-towering-but-more-polished RHP prospect Ariel Pena. Tonight, the Mariners take on the Royals in a pitching match-up between a recently demoted guy and a recent DFA candidate cum reclamation “project.” Intellectually, I understand that the Rangers, say, have had fundamentally different objectives requiring different strategies to the M’s these past two years. Today’s dichotomy sort of obliterates that intellectual, rational thinking and leaves me stunned that the Angels and Mariners can be said to be in the same business. Today, Zach Greinke will shake hands with Albert Pujols and Mike Trout in the Angels clubhouse, and today we will watch Jeremy Guthrie pitch to Brendan Ryan. Baseball!

I’ll say this: I’m actually kind of curious to see how the 2012 weird run-dampening park effects deal with Guthrie, and, to a lesser extent, Beavan.

1: Ackley
2: Saunders
3: Montero (DH)
4: Jaso (C)
5: Seager
6: Wells
7: Carp
8: Peguero
9: Ryan
SP: Blake Beavan

Game 101, Royals at Mariners

July 26, 2012 · Filed Under Mariners · 80 Comments 

Jason Vargas vs. Luis Mendoza, 7:10pm

Ballplayers have an array of well-worn cliches to deploy whenever they’re asked about trade rumors: “Focus on the game” “Can’t worry about that stuff” “I’m committed to this team/the guys in this clubhouse.” I think it must be true at some level that they need to compartmentalize things, and really concentrate on the game, but it has to creep into their minds during warm-ups or on off-days. Jason Vargas has to know that he’s on the trading block, and watching Ichiro high-fiving his new teammates must have been quite a sight. The M’s aren’t going anywhere. Ichiro’d had a sub-par season, and he’s virtually guaranteed to play in the postseason. Jack Wilson – Jack Wilson – nearly made the postseason last year.
There will be quite a few teams looking closely at Vargas’ start tonight. Teams that lose out on Greinke/Shields/Dempster will be interested, and with Vargas approaching his last arb year (and a large-ish increase in salary), the M’s will listen to offers. This isn’t news, and Vargas has been in a similar position last year, when some thought the M’s would trade him instead of Doug Fister. But it’s got to be weird that while, say, Felix and Dustin Ackley absolutely know that they’re headed for another last place finish, Vargas might be in a pennant chase next month. I don’t want to ignore the disruption that players have to deal with when they’re traded to a team across the country, but….last place finish versus pennant race.

Luis Mendoza’s a sinkerballing right-hander who kicked around in the minors for years, getting an occasional game or two in the majors and then heading back to AA/AAA. He’s always had good velocity and generated a good number of grounders, but poor control and the lack of a putaway pitch seemed to relegate him to the role of minor league veteran. Then in 2011, something clicked. He wasn’t striking out more, and his walk rate actually increased, but limiting his HRs led to a sparkly ERA and got him a shot with the Royals. He’s had an up and down season this year, but he’s now made 14 starts and seems to be settling in as a FIP-defying back of the rotation pitcher.

He’s given up 40 free passes (10.6%) to only 54 strikeouts (14.3%). He’s struggled to keep breaking balls/change-ups in the zone, and they haven’t gotten too many whiffs when he has. He’s a pitcher who gets ground balls and has essentially no other skills. 14 starts and a handful of relief appearances aren’t much to go on, and it’s not like he’s throwing a bunch of shut-outs, but this doesn’t look like a pitcher who should have a FIP of 4. Depending on your point of view, Mendoza is either 1) an extremely lucky pitcher whose GB and HR rates are bound to regress, 2) an object lesson in why ground ball pitchers are worth keeping around, or 3) more evidence that DIPS theory may be flawed/incomplete. If we can’t have interesting baseball in July, we can at least have philosophical baseball.

The line-up:
1: Ackley
2: Saunders
3: Wells (LF)
4: Jaso (DH)
5: Seager
6: Carp
7: Olivo (C)
8: Peguero (RF)
9: Ryan
SP: Vargas

Go M’s!

Game 100, Yankees at Mariners

July 25, 2012 · Filed Under Mariners · 110 Comments 

Hisashi Iwakuma vs. Ivan Nova, 12:40pm

Iwakuma looks to build on a solid start against a rather poor offense by facing a far more challenging opponent. Ivan Nova looks to stifle his laughter at the team that chose Hector Noesi instead.*

Nova had a good ground ball rate last year, which is somewhat interesting given that he throws only 4-seam fastballs. This season, his K rate’s up substantially and he’s cut his walk rate as well – but the trade-off’s been a big increase in his home runs allowed. He’s throwing more breaking balls (sliders and curves) than he did last year, and his slider appears to be something of a feast or famine pitch – good amount of whiffs, lots of ground balls, but he’s hung quite a few of them and batters have taken advantage. We’re talking about tiny samples when we look at pitch-type results from three and a half months, but it’s definitely something to watch.

All told, he ends up something like Freddy Garcia – the peripherals have changed, but it leaves him surprisingly near where he was. As a pitch-to-contact guy, he put up a 4.01 FIP and a 4.16 xFIP. As a strikeout/HR guy, he’s put up a 4.43 FIP with a 3.89 xFIP.

Hisashi Iwakuma knows a little something about giving up HRs, and despite the fact that this is in Safeco, and despite the fact that A-Rod’s on the DL, he’s going to have to keep the ball down. He spotted his fastball much better against the Rays than he had in his previous starts, so maybe it’s just taken him some time to get stretched out.

The line-up:
1: Ackley
2: Saunders
3: Montero (C)
4: Jaso (DH)
5: Seager
6: Carp
7: Wells
8: Peguero
9: Kawasaki
SP: Iwakuma

The Rainiers are playing early today as well, as Erasmo Ramirez makes a rehab start at 11:35 at Cheney.
The Jackson Generals have a day game today as well, as Forrest Snow gets the start in 100 degree heat.

*If this is even true. That’s what Howard Lincoln had to say back in spring training, and he’s certainly in a position to know, but I have no idea if it was that simple, or if taking Nova would’ve required the M’s to add more to the deal.

Game 99, Yankees at Mariners

July 24, 2012 · Filed Under Mariners · 120 Comments 

Felix Hernandez vs. Freddy Garcia, 7:10pm

King Felix finally faces off against his idol Freddy “El Jefe” Garcia. Years ago, Freddy had extremely good stuff – velocity that touched the mid 90s with incredible movement and sink, and a big curve ball. The results never quite matched up (aside from his very good year in 2001), but he was a good pitcher for several years before his shoulder gave out.

Now, at 36, he’s a classic junkballer. His fastball velo looks a lot more like Jason Vargas’ than Felix’s, and he’s gone for quantity over quality for his other pitches: he seems to have a few flavors of slider, to go along with a slow, Moyer-style curve ball, and a splitter. This Frank Tanana-style rebirth was one of the better stories of 2011, and would’ve gotten more attention if he wasn’t upstaged by teammate Bartolo Colon.

This year, the Chief’s results haven’t been that great (his RA is around 6), but despite an uptick in K’s and HRs, he’s essentially the same guy he was last year. His 2011 FIP (4.12) looks a whole lot like his 2012 FIP (4.21) – what’s changed is BABIP and a decrease in strand rate. Garcia wasn’t as good as his ERA last year, and he’s not as bad as his ERA this year. He’s not great, but he’s been a serviceable back-end starter that hasn’t cost the Yankees a ton of money (not that they care).

There’s been some talk about it earlier, but I wanted to talk about the Tacoma Rainier heading back to Seattle for the first time this season. Sure, he was up briefly last year, but he really deserves another chance to perform for MLB audiences. I’m talking of course about R’s broadcasting legend and friend of the blog Mike Curto, who’ll call the game on radio. Wait, what? Trayvon Robinson? Uh, ok, him too. Dave’s guess that Darren Ford might get the call made sense considering that Ford’s a better CF and has hit reasonably well in the month and a half he’s played (he missed the first few months after breaking his finger in a hotel door), but Robinson’s on the 40-man and Ford isn’t. Robinson was an intriguing pick-up in the Bedard trade, but his swing-and-miss problems have persisted while his power numbers really haven’t. This isn’t a huge shock considering his home park in 2011, but it’s sort of amazing that as of this date, the best prospects in the three-team trade are Stephen Fife and Tim Federowicz. Let’s just say that was *not* how the trade was seen at the time. Expect Robinson to fill in as the 4th outfielder until Franklin Gutierrez returns. He’s not a real candidate to platoon with Carlos Peguero, as Robinson hits better from the left side. Still, given that he can switch hit, he might play LF against a lefty or two with Casper Wells in RF.

Today’s line-up:
1: Ackley
2: Saunders (CF)
3: Montero (DH)
4: Jaso (C)
5: Seager (3B)
6: Wells (LF)
7: Carp (1B)
8: Peguero (RF)
9: Ryan
SP: King Felix

Nice to see Mike Saunders back up near the top of the line-up instead of in 7th. John Jaso’s getting more time at catcher; I like that Felix seems comfortable throwing to him (this is Jaso’s third-consecutive time catching Felix), but this means Montero’s catching fewer games. I’ve been much more optimistic about Montero catching in the near/medium term than Dave has, and I don’t want to overreact to a few weeks of games (especially given that Jaso’s been one of the only solid bats), but this can’t be a good sign for the “keep Montero behind the plate” crew.

Go M’s. Happy Felix Day.

Acknowledging Ichiro’s Greatness

July 24, 2012 · Filed Under Mariners · 35 Comments 

This isn’t my crazy long post about Ichiro either. The more I work on it, the more things I want to write, but not everything fits into one post. So, this Ichiro tribute might just turn into a series of kinda related ideas. Anyway, this morning, we did the fun memory. Now, I want to spend a second and talk about just how good Ichiro really was.

I’ve read a bunch of stuff this morning trying to reframe the idea of what Ichiro was. For instance, the normally solid Art Thiel wrote this:

But the Mariners have been swimming in mediocrity for years, incapable of building a team around him that would allow Ichiro to be a complementary contributor, as he was in his rookie year of 2001, instead of a veteran leader and primary run producer.

That word “complementary” keeps coming up, as we’re reminded that the team thrived when Ichiro had great players around him and struggled when his teammates were less talented. To which I reply “congratulations, you’ve just figured out that any one player cannot make a team win.” Most of us figured this out a long time ago, and use that understanding to avoid placing blame on the best player on a bad team, but that’s a lesson that hasn’t filtered down to a bunch of beat writers yet. It’s a better story if the hero carries the team on his back, and it’s just as easy to point at the star player when the team isn’t winning. But, in reality both of those stories choose narrative over fact.

If you think Ichiro was a “complementary player”, you’re out of your mind. In 2001, when he was surrounded by such big time superstars as Mark McLemore, Stan Javier, David Bell, Al Martin, and the bad version of Carlos Guillen, Ichiro hit .350/.381/.457 with gold glove defense, earning both the AL Rookie of the Year and MVP awards. Yes, Bret Boone was probably the more valuable player in that season, but the writers who covered that team at the time were convinced that Ichiro — not Boone, not Edgar, not Olerud — was the guy who made that team go. And now, 12 years later, they want to act like he was a role player on a team full of superstars? Give me a break.

But, still, the story persists – it was the other guys who allowed Ichiro to relax and just fill in as another guy. He didn’t have to be the team’s best hitter, so he could really thrive without all the pressure. Which, of course, is completely at odds with the reality of 2004.

Edgar, Olerud, and Boone all collapsed, each posting a wRC+ between 92 and 95. They were all below average hitters, with Olerud and Edgar losing their power while Boone lost everything except the home runs. That year, the Mariners had four players who accumulated 100 plate appearances and hit at a rate above the league average: Bucky Jacobsen (176 second half PAs, 119 wRC+), Raul Ibanez (115 wRC+), and Randy Winn (107 wRC+). That was Ichiro’s quality supporting cast in 2004. And all he did that year was set the Major League record for hits in a season while having the best season of his career.

262 hits. A .372/.414/.455 line that equaled a 134 wRC+. +7.2 WAR. It was quintessential Ichiro, and the season he will be most remembered for. And he did it with a cast of teammates that were absolutely awful. That team went 63-99 despite the best year of his career because everyone else on the roster was old and bad. In the middle of that collapse, Ichiro shined the brightest.

For the organization, it was all down hill from there, as the team got bad and has stayed bad ever since. For Ichiro, it’s been somewhat downhill as well, as he’s never again matched his 2004 performance. But that was his age 30 season – not too many guys match their career best seasons in their thirties. In both 2007 and 2009, Ichiro managed again to hit .350+, and in 2006 and 2008 he combined to steal 88 bases and get thrown out just six times. Even decline phase Ichiro was really good, as he posted at least +4.6 WAR in every season from 2006-2010. While the Mariners surrounded him with crap, he was terrific. They lost games in spite of Ichiro, not because of him.

For the first 10 years of his Major League career, Ichiro hit .331/.376/.430 and was worth +52.7 WAR, the fourth highest total in baseball during that 2001-2010 span. The only players to post a better mark during those 10 years? Albert Pujols, Alex Rodriguez, and Barry Bonds.

A 10 year run as a +5 win player is a Hall of Fame peak. For comparison, Edgar Martinez‘s 10 year run from 1990-1999 resulted in +54.0 WAR. Ichiro at his best was as good as Edgar at his best. Anyone want to call Edgar Martinez a “complementary player”?

Do not let the local media’s misunderstanding of Ichiro and of baseball alter the reality of what Ichiro was – one of the very best players in the game for the first decade he got here. They might not have liked his style of play or his personality, but the facts are the facts — Ichiro was a consistently great player who was more than capable of being a star on a winning team. When the Mariners put talent around him, they won. When they didn’t, they lost. That’s baseball, that’s not Ichiro.

Ichiro was great. Ichiro was worthy of the exclamation mark. Ichiro was a superstar. Anyone who tries to tell you differently doesn’t know what they’re talking about.

Ichiro’s Best Moment

July 24, 2012 · Filed Under Mariners · 20 Comments 

I’m working on a long post about Ichiro, but it’s done yet, and I felt like it the day after his trade, the blog’s main story shouldn’t be about Justin Smoak getting sent down. So, for now, let’s relive the best moment Ichiro ever had by Win Probability Added.

September 18th, 2009, vs NYY, down 2-1 in the bottom of the 9th, runner at second, Mariano Rivera on the mound.

Historically, teams in that situation only go on to win 13.3% of the time, and that’s facing a generic closer. Against Mariano Rivera, the odds were much lower. Didn’t matter – Ichiro crushed it, and everyone went home happy. It was actually the second day in a row he had a walkoff hit at home, as his 9th inning single the day before had given the team a 4-3 win over the White Sox.

Thanks for that memory, Ichiro.

Smoak Going to Tacoma

July 23, 2012 · Filed Under Mariners · 24 Comments 

The Mariners just announced that Justin Smoak has been optioned to Triple-A Tacoma, so Mike Carp’s activation from the DL won’t fill Ichiro’s open roster spot as had been assumed. The team will call up another outfielder to fill the hole created by today’s trade, and my guess is that it’s probably going to be Darren Ford. There aren’t really any players in Tacoma deserving of a promotion, and Ford can serve as a fourth outfielder type until Franklin Gutierrez is healthy enough to return. In other words, prepare to see a lot of Carlos Peguero over the next couple of weeks.

As we talked about this morning, this is the right call. Smoak is just lost at the plate right now, and if there’s any chance of turning him into a decent player again, he needs a break from being embarrassed in the big leagues on a nightly basis. Whether he’s actually fixable or not remains to be seen, but he needs a break from the Major Leagues for a while.

Game 1, Post-Ichiro Era: Yankees at Mariners

July 23, 2012 · Filed Under Mariners · 146 Comments 

Kevin Millwood vs. Hiroki Kuroda, 7:10pm

This is going to be strange. Ichiro, in LF, *in pinstripes* wearing some new number, facing the Mariners.

Kevin Millwood looks to…aw, who cares. Hiroki Kuroda throws a splitter, slider and a sinker. The Mariners new starting RF is Carlos Peguero.

The line-up:
1: Ackley
2: Wells (LF)
3: Jaso (C)
4: Montero (DH)
5: Seager
6: Saunders
7: Smoak
8: Peguero (RF)
9: Ryan
SP: Millwood

I really hope Ichiro knows how much he meant to Seattle and to MLB. I grew up at a time when you’d still hear respected baseball folks casually state that no one in Japan was good enough to play in MLB. Even after Hideo Nomo’s spectacular start, a lot of people doubted whether or not a Japanese position player could perform at a high level. Ichiro was different in everything he did – from talking to the press, to his approach at the plate, to his pre-pitch ritual – and that clearly rubbed some people the wrong way. Personally, I’m just thankful I got to see something so different, so singular, for the past 11.5 years.

Ichiro to the Yankees

July 23, 2012 · Filed Under Mariners · 121 Comments 

Holy crap. As you’ve probably heard by now, the Mariners have traded Ichiro to the Yankees for right-handed pitchers D.J. Mitchell and Danny Farquhar. But let’s be honest, you don’t care about those two right now. They don’t matter. This isn’t a trade for prospects, this is a trade to allow Ichiro a chance to play in the postseason.

And it’s absolutely in everyone’s best interests. For Ichiro, struggling to perform on a disappointing team in front of a restless fan base every night couldn’t have been enjoyable. Being continually cited as the reason for the team’s demise while having his personality and character called into question couldn’t have been enjoyable. In fact, to be honest, I’m not sure there’s been much about Ichiro’s time in Seattle that has been enjoyable the last few years. He clearly enjoyed getting to play with Junior. He probably enjoyed performing well, even when the team didn’t, though we don’t really know that to be true because we don’t really know much about Ichiro.

So, now, Ichiro gets to go to the Yankees. A team that scores runs and wins game, and will almost certainly be playing in October. He’s probably going to be a platoon player, sharing time with Andruw Jones in left, and giving them outfield depth and a guy who can still play some defense. If he starts hitting again, that will be great for them, but they’re not counting on Ichiro to hit. For probably the first time in his entire career, Ichiro won’t be under intense pressure to hit well. That will probably be different. That will probably be fun.

For the Mariners, this trade has a bunch of benefits well beyond the two pitchers they got back in return. It opens up playing time for younger players and removes a guy who has been a lightning rod for criticism among members of the media and the fan base for several years. But, perhaps most importantly, it shows that the Mariners are willing to move on. Last week, when Jon Paul Morosi wrote that the Mariners were planning on re-signing Ichiro, the reaction was mostly negative. This is a fan base that is ready to move on from Ichiro. This is a fan base that wanted to know that the team knew it was ready to move on from Ichiro. I guess they could still re-sign him as a free agent this winter, but this seems like a pretty clear sign that the organization is ready to move on from Ichiro. And that, more than anything, is a sign that the fan base needed.

It’s also a reminder that as much griping as people do about ownership, no one really has any idea how the inner workings of the team’s front office works. Howard Lincoln, Chuck Armstrong, and Hiroshi Yamauchi have taken a lot of shots over the years about perceptions of interference in the baseball operations department, and it was assumed by many that ownership was not going to let the baseball operations staff make this kind of move. Those assumptions were wrong. At the end of the day, the Mariners made the right call here, and they deserve credit for making that call.

Later tonight, or maybe tomorrow, I’ll write the goodbye Ichiro post that he deserves. He was a great player for the Mariners, and I’ll miss watching him perform his wizardry at the plate. I’ve missed that for going on two years, though, which makes this goodbye easier to say. In his prime, he was amazing. And then he got bad, and the end wasn’t pretty. This is probably for the best for everyone.

Thanks for all your years of fine performance, Mr. Suzuki. And thanks for knowing that it was time to move on.

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