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Jacoby Ellsbury, Shin-Soo Choo, and the Seattle Mariners

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Mandatory Credit: David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

Offense

Last season the Mariners saw a few different faces as leadoff hitter. Dustin Ackley, Brad Miller and Nick Franklin all saw time at the top of the order. While we saw some good things from all three of those guys, they simply aren’t the caliber of player that we’re accustomed to seeing at the top of the order. The Mariners should have had their sights set on a star-caliber leadoff guy since the departure of Ichiro.

Both Ellsbury and Choo would fill a very wide and noticeable void in the Mariners lineup. Leadoff hitters can not be undervalued in today’s MLB. A traditional leadoff hitter hits for a high average and OBP, which is why a guy like Ichiro was so highly valued at the number 1 spot. Both Ellsbury and Choo would fit the bill for this traditional role, with Choo edging out Ellsbury in both OBP and Slugging.

2013 batting stats Avg. OBP SLG
Ellsbury .298 .355 .426
Choo .285 .423 .462

 

As the leadoff guys for their respective teams, both were able to come across for nearly one hundred runs (Ellsbury: 92, Choo: 107). Which is admirable, but still speaks more to the talent of the remainder of the batting order than to their skill as a batter. More importantly, how important is it to the Mariners to acquire a leadoff guy like Ellsbury or Choo?

Surprisingly enough, it might not be that important. Take a look at this:

2013 Game Leadoff Stats Avg. OBP Hits Runs
Boston Red Sox .311 .358 47 31
Cincinnati Reds .297 .401 41 31
Seattle Mariners .297 .327 46 24

 

The Mariners have comparable numbers to both the Red Sox and the Reds. Where the difference is very apparent is that the Mariners converted fewer of their leadoff base runners into runs. Moreover, EIGHT of the Mariners’ leadoff runs were home runs. Compare that to four in Boston and six in Cincinnati.

Taking those into account, the Mariners could only convert 42% of their leadoff hits, while Boston converted 62% and Cincinnati an incredible 71% of leadoff hits. This really confirms the theory that the Mariners don’t really need a lead-off guy, but should maybe be focusing more on run-producing guys for the heart of the order.

As this article has pointed out, the leadoff position is evolving into a more powerful position that relies more on power than on base stealing, for this reason it might be more valuable for the Mariners to seek Choo over Ellsbury.

This would certainly address the issue the Mariners have with not being able to cash in on runs (Lets take a moment to reflect on how many times Ichiro was left stranded after slapping a leadoff hit).

If the Mariners are having problems generating runs from leadoff hits, then maybe it would make more sense to bring in a guy like Shin-Soo Choo. Choo can generate his own runs, better than Ellsbury can anyways.

Bringing either of these two to Seattle would have an impact, but I highly doubt that they will generate any more runs than the Mariners were able to post in 2013. If the Mariners are going to bring one of these guys to Seattle, they are going to need to revamp the order to allow them to generate those runs.

Resigning Kendrys Morales would be a good start, but someone like Brian McCann wouldn’t hurt either (As Dan Hughes suggested).

The Verdict:

Bringing them in would be a nice asset to the team. Either Choo or Ellsbury will bring some talent and name recognition to Seattle, but without the RBI support behind them, it will be tough to justify spending all of that money.

Another RBI bat, or a breakout year from someone in the ranks would make a deal like this worth it, but without the support we’ll be destined to see more of the same from the Mariners.

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