Seattle Mariners Make Huge Mistake Batting Ichiro Third

SEATTLE — Seattle Mariners manger Eric Wedge hinted last fall that there would be changes made to the top of the order in the lineup. Saturday, it was reported that washed up third baseman Chone Figgins would return to the leadoff spot this season taking the slot Ichiro has held since he signed with the team in 2001.

With Figgins leading off the question was how far did Wedge drop the 10-time All Star. Given Ichiro’s style of play he’s best suiting to hit leadoff, eight or ninth in the lineup. Dustin Ackley, the teams top prospect in 2011, found his calling in the three hole after being called up on June 17th.

That didn’t seem to matter to Wedge who announced Tuesday that the two-time AL batting champion will hit third this season. While Wedge feels that batting Ichiro is the “best fit” for the club it’s hard to defend that statement given the additions of Jesus Montero, and the return of Miguel Olivo and Justin Smoak.

“I had the opportunity to watch Ichiro and all these other guys all of last year, and this is our best fit,” Wedge said.

Moving Ichiro isn’t a surprise to any but hitting him third is a flat out mistake. Even though Ichiro is a lock to give you 160 starts it doesn’t validate slotting him in an area of the lineup you’re where you need power. At 38 years-old he’s not getting younger and his numbers dropped off drastically last season hitting under .300 for the first time in his career.

He also failed to reach 200 hits last season, something that coming into the season was always guaranteed. His on base percentage was .310, 49 points lower than 2010 and 65 points lower than his career average before last season (.675). Just about every statistical number that matters to hitters Ichiro’s went down.

For a club that had the historically worst offense in Major League history last season, hitting a 38-year-old singles oriented player won’t help your cause to improve.

Jesus Montero, the Mariners prized offseason acquisition, would make more sense hitting third. At 22 Montero is already being compared to Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera in terms of his potential, and more importantly his bat. ESPN Scouts Inc. Keith Law said of Montero “If this guy can’t hit for power in Safeco, then I don’t know if there is a right-handed-hitting prospect who is going to hit for power in Safeco.”

A pitcher friendly park, Safeco has seen it’s share of great power hitters come in and hit well below their career averages and leave to find success elsewhere. Third baseman Adrian Beltre, who left the Mariners to sign with the Red Sox in 2010, only hit 25 or more home runs three times in five years.

The other two years he hit 19 and eight, the first and last year of his contract. Compared to his 28 in Fenway and 32 in Arlington Beltre, much like others, have benefited from leaving Safeco’s confines.

Whether it’s Ackley, Montero or Justin Smoak, every single player would make a better three hole hitter than Ichiro.

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  • Steven Resnick

    I’d have to disagree. Maybe this will actually wake Ichiro up and force him to actually be the hitter he should have been for the Mariners.

    • Lars Hanson

      Steven: Thanks for the comment. However there’s a couple of problems. Ichiro’s 38, he’s at the end of his contract and he’s not in his early 30′s where you’d expect a “contract year” performance. So there’s no waking up Ichiro. Well the hitter he’s been has been the one he’s been his entire career. He wasn’t signed to be a power 35-40 HR hitter hitting 3rd or 4th. So I don’t know what you mean by “the hitter he should have been”. He won 2 batting titles, a couple silver slugger awards but he wasn’t signed to be a power hitter. he’s a 320+ avg hitter with 30-40 RBI, 100 runs, and 40 SB’s. That’s what he was signed to be and that’s what he’s was. He’s done now.

  • Ace777

    well Lars, you’re a bookend to another article linked into in the Mariners Yardbarker space. That guy is predicting Ichiro w/120 RBI’s and 20-25 HR’s! – I was going to write him to say he’s had too many beers, a guy beat me to it and asked him what he’s smoking. You are the opposite – a little too gloomy. Ichi’s bat speed looked like it slowed down a bit last year so I’m with you he’s in his decline. I’m hoping it was a wakeup call for him to jack up his offseason work and come in loaded for bear in a contract year ;) – he should see a lot more fastballs with fast guys on 1st. He hits ok with guys on base – all the other guys you mention have limited experience; I don’t believe in Jesus (Montero that is-what a ripoff trade!), Carp or Smoke (another former “can’t miss”). This is the Mariners chance to make lemonade from the Figgy lemon. Batting leadoff is easiest – no situations, just get on – probably why Figgy worked best there. I think this is the best one to try and if it doesn’t go gangbusters, flip-flop Ackley & Ichiro. Far as the rest, it’s a chemistry experiment with a pretty weak set of chemicals – go for it Wedgie. Especially when we unload Pineda for a DH who “did really well in 18 major league games” – it’s time to face facts: Mariners are a 3rd tier club, next step above AAA to feed the big boys and hope they get lucky with a star or 2 + scraps.