Why Doesn't Ichiro bat 3rd?

The Seattle Times round table forum with the other beat writers raised some interesting issues. As they say: If you really want to know what's up, find out what your opponents think of you.  Who is the most feared hitter in the AL West?  Ichiro.


What does 200 hits mean a year?  Well, not too much, if it just means getting on first or second base 200 times.

One of the beat writers had the idea that Ichiro should bat third in the lineup, and transfer all of those marvelous hits into RBIs.

Here's a theory: walks and hits are equal when the bases are empty, but hits become more valuable the more loaded the bases are.  With the bases loaded and two outs, you would rather have a hit than a walk, because of a better chance of scoring two runs on a single or three runs on a double.  I'm sure someone already thought of this and I am reinventing the wheel.

So, here we have Figgins, who walks well, is speedy, and does not hit nearly as much as Ichiro available for leadoff.  Why not put him in the 1 hole, Lopez or Gutierrez in the 2 hole and have Ichiro clean house while people are on base?

In 2009, Ichiro went to base 297 times and only scored 88 times.  He only had 46 RBIs.

By comparison, Chone figgins made base 242 times with 114 runs and 54 RBI.

Both players have an on base percentage hovering under 400.

Ichiro, as deployed, is no more valuable than Chone Figgins when it comes to the bottom line.

Ichiro, as he could be deployed, would have some serious opportunites to knock in runs.

Why are the M's squandering hall of fame talent?

 

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Ichiro could also compound the offense with talented hitters in front of him, because he is the game's best situational hitter.

Do you need a pop fly? Ichiro could give you one whenever he felt like it.

Do you need power? Ichiro could hit for power if it was necessary.

Do you need a bunt? Ichiro is the best bunter in the league.

All of these skills are under utilized and impotent because the Mariners only place scrubs on the back end of the lineup.

Where did Ty Cobb hit in the Detroit lineup? Leadoff?

NO!

Number three, and he hit approximately 90 RBI's per year.

What could the M's do with 50 more runs?

 

1

Ichiro needs hitters with wheels to hit in front of him, so that those sharp singles are not turned into double plays.  The man for the two hole would be Franklin Gutierrez.  He hits as well, and for as much power as J-Lo, and with a whole lot more speed under him.

That would make three monster base stealer/runners in a row, giving you a dillinger, Skilling, Madoff offense before the big bats (Who are they?) come up.

This has the makings of a not-so small ball offense.

2

And why don't we just throw Ackley into the lineup now, as is, without further development?

Surely he can hit better than Rob Johnson, or Jack Wilson.

He is another one of those speedy guys with good hits, walks, average and power.  That's what the M's need isn't it?

How about sending Lopez to SS, sending Ackley to 2nd, and then having four speedy guys in a row, with Ackley hitting ninth until he proved otherwise.

We don't need to stress defense to the tune of an automatic out when something better is in the works.

Felix and Cliff don't need a shortstop, they can just concentrate a little harder and strike more people out.

3

Anonymous's picture

Anonymous

I think the biggest issue is that Ichiro likes batting leadoff.  There is one other issue that concerns me, which is all the slow rollers Ichiro hits for base hits.  A lot of the balls in play that get recorded as hits for Ichiro in the leadoff spot will become fielders choices in the 2-hole (and lead to a lot of outs as well).  As fast as Figgins is, it's really hard to make it to second on one of Ichiro's patented "oh my god how did he beat that out" slow-rollers to the middle-infield.  That's a huge deal, because Ichiro had 50 infield hits last year, and hasn't had fewer than 40 since 2005.  If Figgins is on base ~40% of the time Ichiro's batting behind him, and ~65% of the time he's standing on first, a lot of Ichiro's value is negated (potentially as many as 1/4 to 1/3 of his infield hits).  If he's third, it's the same deal with runners on 1B and 2B.

I haven't entirely convinced myself, but it's something to think about.  I'm not going to lie, part of my hesitation has to do with hoping against hope he makes it to 3000 hits as a major leaguer and not wanting to see anything happen that lessens that possibility.

4

But then I looked at Ichiro's B-Ref Splits:

Bases empty: 331/361/438

Men On:  336/409/426

Man On First:  331/359/431

 

With nearly identical BABiPs...Ichiro adapts and runs the same line no matter what

5

I agree that Ichiro's 200 hits per season could be ruined if he batted lower in the lineup from fielder's choice plays at second base.

But, Ichiro's speediness in the three hole would be better for the team.

I would like to offer into evidence what will be known as Plaintiff's Exhibit A:

Mariners 2009 team leaders in  double plays:

Jose Lopez, 25 GIDP

Adrian Beltre, 19 GIDP

Least on team:

Ichiro, 1 GIDP

The mariners hit into 128 double plays in 2009, and a full 34 percent of those were caused by Lopez and Beltre, the three and four hitters, respectively.

As was posted the other week, there seems to be severe consequences to allowing slow people in the batter's box.

Lopez makes up for his GIDP crimes with 90 RBIs, but Beltre only had 46 RBIs.  It makes me appreciate how much Chone Figgins for Beltre has improved the club.  Now if we can just get our little Ichiro Clones, F-Gut and Ackley, reaching their potentials, the Mariners will have to be renamed for something that is fast, dangerous and ill tempered.  The Black Marlins? Already taken.  The Eagles? Already taken.  How about the Seattle Salmon Sharks?

How about Ackley being listed on the Mariners' Web site as a first base man.

Last time I checked, the Mariners were lacking a defined first base man.

Ackley if given the chance, could out hit, out field and out run Garko, Kotchman and whoever else we have at first base.  Also, Ackley needs to play in the bigs before Ichiro retires so that Ichiro can teach him his samurai stuff.

Regards,

Mojician.

6

Another thing, 

Regarding Ichiro hitting into a fielder's choice,

Shouldn't Figgins and F-Gut have already thieved their way into scoring position by the time Ichiro comes to bat?  Those bloop singles look awfully good when there is a man on third base.

Regards,

Mojician

7

Anonymous's picture

Anonymous

Gomez of Dead Cats Bounce has performed some useful analysis on average plate appearances based on position (see here).  He argues that in moving Ichiro to 3rd or 4th, you penalise him somewhere between 40-60 plate apperances which in turn - would equate to about 15-20 hits over a full season.

I would be interested to know whether you could place a comparative value on the hits lost (Ichiro scores a run about once every 2.5-3 on-base visits so potentially you lose 5-7 runs) versus the potential runs gained by having Ichiro batting runners in (who given their speed, may well be in scoring position). 

And this would of course have to be compared with the alternative of keeping Ichiro at first with Figgins 2nd etc.

Are there simulators that could tell you a likely run differential by changing the order of the lineup?

8

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