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.