Opposing teams simply don’t respect Chone Figgins’s bat
By Keith Myers
They don’t, and it’s adding to his struggles. For the past few weeks, Ryan Divish of the TNT keeps mentioning that opposing outfields have been playing at “girls fastpitch depth” whenever Figgins is up to bat. Since I usually only get to watch the games on TV, it was a hard to know exactly how far in that meant, but after driving up to Seattle to watch the M’s play the Rays in person, I can tell you that Divish might be slighting the softball players more than Chone Figgins. They aren’t just playing in a little bit, they are playing WAY in.
Pictures and details after the jump.
Let me see if I can show you just how bad it’s gotten. Here is a pair of pictures of Ray’s left fielder Sam Fuld from my seat. I kept the zoom and everything the same, and I tried to use the 405 mark and the Mariners logo on the wall as reference points so you can see the difference. The first is where he was positioned for Carlos Peguero, and it’s also where he stood for almost every batter in the M’s lineup. The second was where he standing for Figgins:
Here’s the a simliar set of pictures from later in the game from up on the concourse above my seats:
Oh, you can’t see him in second picture? That’s because he’s so far up he’s not even in view. Here’s one where you can actually see him:
Notice the Mariners logo on the wall isn’t in view now. He’s THAT far up; at least 30 feet, though I forgot to bring my ruler to the game so I couldn’t go out there and get a measurement, so I’m estimating.
I know what you’re thinking: “and we care for what reason exactly?” The answer to that is simple: you probably don’t care. I do though, so I’m going to tell you, so you might as well just keep reading. The reason why this is important is that this really demonstrates the cause of all Figgins’s struggles at the plate. He simply doesn’t ever hit the ball hard.
Playing up that close to the infield takes away just about all bloop hits. It also takes away a lot of those soft line drives that would usually drop in front of the outfielders for hit. I believe this is seriously cutting into hit number of hits, and why his BABIP is so low. I don’t know if teams have always played Figgins like this, but I seriously doubt it.
The problem with this defensive positioning is that it make it much easier to get doubles and triples. Balls hit hard into the holes hard harder to cut off before they roll all the way to the wall. It also opens up the possibility that lines drives can be hit over the heads of the outfielders and get down for doubles when they would normally be caught. Not to mention the extra time it would take the outfielders to get out to the wall and get the ball. The basic idea is that teams would rather give you the single with the ball falling in front of the outfielder, than the double with ball getting behind them.
Interestingly, teams don’t play Ichiro in this way. While the outfielders take a step or two in, it’s nothing like what they’re doing with Figgins. Ichiro, for all his struggles and his reputation as a slap hitter, can still drive the ball to the wall on occasion. Other teams just don’t worry that Figgins will ever hit the ball over the outfielders, and to this point, he hasn’t. All it would take is a couple well hit balls and opposing teams would be backing those outfielders up.
The question then becomes, is Figgins capable of hitting the ball hard enough change this? If he’s not, then his career as a worthwhile MLB player is likely over. I think he will rebound like he did last year, but that’s just me. I tend to and optimist on such things. I’m sure most of you have an opinion on this. I’d like to know what you think.