Moving Ichiro in the Order

For a number of years, 10 years in fact, certain people suggested that Ichiro hit somewhere else in the order.

There were different spots they wanted to see him for different reasons. The bulk of the time, people wanted him to hit third to drive in runs since Ichiro got lots of hits. Hits are awesome and score people on base sometimes!

When Chone Figgins arrived and no one thought he’d be awful, people wanted Ichiro to bat second because Figgins would be on base a whole lot and Ichiro, a left-handed hitter, would be able to move him from fist to third on hit and run plays.

Shannon Drayer says that people suggested that Ichiro be moved to the three-hole again this season as the team struggled to produce offense. At what point in the season was this? Who are these people suggesting it? Fans? Media types? Me? Eric Wedge? I don’t know, because she doesn’t really reveal that.

My best presumption is that Drayer is speaking about fan feelings back when the team was still contending. So, that means this was before Dustin Ackley. Before Kyle Seager. During a still weak Franklin Gutierrez. During a Brendan Ryan slump before a Brendan Ryan surge that precluded another, longer, Brendan Ryan slump. During Chone Figgins being Chone Figgins.

Yeah, at the end of April Ichiro had a .328/.380/.378 slash line, so I can see why Wedge may have had thoughts about moving him someplace where he and Justin Smoak, the only other hitter hitting, could string something together.

But, the question remains: Who on that Mariners roster at that time of the season could you feel good enough about batting leadoff? Who was going to hit second? And how was Ichiro going to drive any of them in if they don’t, you know, get on base?

You want a high OBP guy setting the table, right? So, if you were to sort the Mariners team stats by OBP after April, you’d get something exactly like this:

Your leadoff options after moving Ichiro if you like a guy who is getting on base: A lumbering first baseman. A backup catcher. An outfielder you’re about to DFA in five days. Your DH. A ticking time bomb.

I don’t know, guys. I’m thinking reasons other than Ichiro not hitting third can be blamed for this offense’s woes.

Next season? Oh, boy. Next season! That means this season will be a memory instead of reality! There’s a whole new reason for moving Ichiro in the order. He wasn’t really good except for during April (which is sort of funny considering his career monthly splits, but I digress). Now, Wedge may be thinking Ichiro isn’t the ideal leadoff dude anymore.

But, you know, same question but for different reasons: Who is going to hit leadoff if Ichiro doesn’t?

Perhaps Chone Figgins finds himself or Trayvon Robinson finds a good approach to go with his speed. Perhaps Kyle Seager’s good approach will be coupled with good hitting. Maybe the team makes a trade. I could win the Mega Millions and had the Mariners $200 million to go sign Albert Pujols.

I guess these are all possibilities regardless of the degree of probability for each.

All of a sudden, imagining Ichiro as a useful leadoff hitter again doesn’t seem so far fetched.

Topics: Chone Figgins, Dustin Ackley, Eric Wedge, Franklin Gutierrez, Ichiro Suzuki, Justin Smoak, Kyle Seager, Trayvon Robinson

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  • maqman

    It’s a little early to make that kind of call. Off-season trades, possible free agent signings and spring training all have to happen before the first official line-up card is exchanged. (If the M’s do the Japan trip I can’t see them moving Ichiro until they get back stateside.) Ichiro is going to have to show he’s still up to the demands of hitting lead-off, if not Ackley or Seagar might be better choices, maybe not. Figgins could start playing up to his paycheck – probably not.

  • maqman

    It’s a little early to make that kind of call. Off-season trades, possible free agent signings and spring training all have to happen before the first official line-up card is exchanged. (If the M’s do the Japan trip I can’t see them moving Ichiro until they get back stateside.) Ichiro is going to have to show he’s still up to the demands of hitting lead-off, if not Ackley or Seagar might be better choices, maybe not. Figgins could start playing up to his paycheck – probably not.

  • BrianHuntoon

    Ichiro a useful leadoff hitter? This year he’s scored 78 runs. Last year he scored 74 runs in 162 games. A leadoff hitter’s job is to score runs. A good leadoff hitter’s job is to score at least 100 runs. Even when he was getting his 214 hits last season, he still scored only 74 runs. His on-base plus slugging percentage has always been around .800 …..bouncing between .750 and .850. This year it’s about .650. You can’t blame a player’s on-base plus slugging percentage on his teammates. If he isn’t going to score 100 plus runs for the team, he needs to change his approach and start hitting more high line drives instead of hitting the ball into the ground. Maybe he would be better in the 3 hole hitting high line drives than repeating as a leadoff hitter who only scores 75 to 80 runs.

  • BrianHuntoon

    Ichiro a useful leadoff hitter? This year he’s scored 78 runs. Last year he scored 74 runs in 162 games. A leadoff hitter’s job is to score runs. A good leadoff hitter’s job is to score at least 100 runs. Even when he was getting his 214 hits last season, he still scored only 74 runs. His on-base plus slugging percentage has always been around .800 …..bouncing between .750 and .850. This year it’s about .650. You can’t blame a player’s on-base plus slugging percentage on his teammates. If he isn’t going to score 100 plus runs for the team, he needs to change his approach and start hitting more high line drives instead of hitting the ball into the ground. Maybe he would be better in the 3 hole hitting high line drives than repeating as a leadoff hitter who only scores 75 to 80 runs.

  • Rick Bagnall

    Yes, one of a leadoff hitter’s jobs is to score runs. But he can’t do that if the guys behind him aren’t hitting. Even a “Rickey Rally” required somebody to get a deep fly ball. Ichiro’s leading the team in runs scored by a VERY comfortable margin (half again as many as…Olivo?!?), which if you look at teams around the league is hardly a given for leadoff hitters. The Yankees, f’rinstance, are led in scoring by Granderson (#2 hitter) and Cano (cleanup)–Jeter comes in fifth, with somewhere around 60% of Granderson’s total. The Tigers’ leading scorer is Cabrera (cleanup), and the Rays leader is Zobrist (mostly #2 and cleanup).

    I will grant you that he hasn’t been as good this season as he has in years past, but that’s at least in part because he set the bar so incredibly high for himself. Nobody in the 130+ years of MLB history had gotten more than eight 200-hit seasons in a row. Ichiro not only strung ten of them together, he did it in his first ten years in the US. Only three players in MLB history have managed to generate 2000 hits within a single decade: Rogers Hornsby in the 1920′s, Pete Rose in the 1970′s, and Ichiro Suzuki in the 2000′s. And Ichiro managed the feat without actually playing one of those years (2000) in the US.

    But he’s still ninth in the league in hits, and he’s still third in the league in stolen bases. To suggest that he’s not doing his job as a leadoff hitter just because he isn’t scoring 100 runs is…narrow-minded at best. Last year there were seven guys in the AL who scored 100 runs. Only two of them (Derek Jeter and Austin Jackson) spent any significant time in the leadoff spot. In the NL, there were ten guys last year who scored 100 runs, and I’m pretty sure only two of them (Rickie Weeks and Brandon Phillips) spent much time in leadoff.

  • Rick Bagnall

    Yes, one of a leadoff hitter’s jobs is to score runs. But he can’t do that if the guys behind him aren’t hitting. Even a “Rickey Rally” required somebody to get a deep fly ball. Ichiro’s leading the team in runs scored by a VERY comfortable margin (half again as many as…Olivo?!?), which if you look at teams around the league is hardly a given for leadoff hitters. The Yankees, f’rinstance, are led in scoring by Granderson (#2 hitter) and Cano (cleanup)–Jeter comes in fifth, with somewhere around 60% of Granderson’s total. The Tigers’ leading scorer is Cabrera (cleanup), and the Rays leader is Zobrist (mostly #2 and cleanup).

    I will grant you that he hasn’t been as good this season as he has in years past, but that’s at least in part because he set the bar so incredibly high for himself. Nobody in the 130+ years of MLB history had gotten more than eight 200-hit seasons in a row. Ichiro not only strung ten of them together, he did it in his first ten years in the US. Only three players in MLB history have managed to generate 2000 hits within a single decade: Rogers Hornsby in the 1920′s, Pete Rose in the 1970′s, and Ichiro Suzuki in the 2000′s. And Ichiro managed the feat without actually playing one of those years (2000) in the US.

    But he’s still ninth in the league in hits, and he’s still third in the league in stolen bases. To suggest that he’s not doing his job as a leadoff hitter just because he isn’t scoring 100 runs is…narrow-minded at best. Last year there were seven guys in the AL who scored 100 runs. Only two of them (Derek Jeter and Austin Jackson) spent any significant time in the leadoff spot. In the NL, there were ten guys last year who scored 100 runs, and I’m pretty sure only two of them (Rickie Weeks and Brandon Phillips) spent much time in leadoff.

  • Harrison_Crow

    Take runs scored and throw it out the window. This isn’t how you define an individuals contribution to an offense and it’s not how you define an offense as a whole.

    Runs certainly win games but I don’t care if I have 12 guys with 65 runs scored each or 5 guys with 90 runs scored each. It doesn’t matter how it’s done. What matters is that it happens and the best way to measure those contributions is either via wOBA or wRC+.

    For the record, most prospect analyst believe that the best spot for Ackley is either at the #2 hole or in the lead off position.

  • Harrison_Crow

    Take runs scored and throw it out the window. This isn’t how you define an individuals contribution to an offense and it’s not how you define an offense as a whole.

    Runs certainly win games but I don’t care if I have 12 guys with 65 runs scored each or 5 guys with 90 runs scored each. It doesn’t matter how it’s done. What matters is that it happens and the best way to measure those contributions is either via wOBA or wRC+.

    For the record, most prospect analyst believe that the best spot for Ackley is either at the #2 hole or in the lead off position.