Superb discussion from the Think Tank. When we see 24 hours as frantic as this, it's usually July 31 :- ) Denizens have jelled into several well-formed camps: the I Like Heredia camp, the Where's Our Bench camp, there is an Ichiro camp, and a couple other camps are out there.
LAST STAND OF THE DRAGON flick
gnatto phrased the problem well:
Can't say I'm at all excited by this. I didnt watch the Ms or baseball between 1999 and 2008. So I missed all of Ichiros heroics and have no real connection to him. He was good in 2009 and 2010 as well I think, but my memory of 2011 and then 2012 before he was traded was that he was really quite bad. Maybe the numbers dont play that out, but that was certianly my impression. Without all the history of what he has done and was capable of, I have no expectation of him being anything other than 5 years older and worse than he was when he last played for us.
Whereas for Dr. D, the feeling is exactly as if they suddenly found a lost Bruce Lee movie, in the can and ready for release. Enter the Dragon, Return of the Dragon* and premiering March 29th at Westfield Theaters, Last Stand of the Dragon, shot Feb-Jun 1973.
So Dr. D is outrageously biased towards the big face on Mariner Mt. Rushmore doing a computer-morph, and walking down to play RF for us, one last season. In fact my family is looking at Opening Day pricing, just to hear the crowd when Ichiro's announced, and hopefully starting the game. It's way too emotional for me, dude. You get biased analysis on this one. For refunds dial 1-800-GWILDER
WE NEEDED SOMEBODY
The Mariners had to have an OF to replace Gamel, whoever it was. Ichiro batted .299/.384/.379 in the second half last year and if his name were Al Kaloon, we'd have been fine with it. That's a slash line better than Ichiro's age-34 season in Seattle.
Bad ending? There we have to be confident in Jerry Dipoto: "Ichiro, it's a one-year deal and you have to play well to stay on the roster." Do you Denizens think Dipoto told him that?
Replacing Heredia OR Gamel in May and forward the rest of the year. Here, I'll admit it. Objectively speaking, once both are healthy, Ichiro's return becomes mostly a fan move.
However! If Ichiro is swinging it, batting .300+ and putting on his clinic in RF/LF ... Heredia has 2 options left and Ben Gamel has 1, which is assuming that none of them (with Haniger) get hurt during that time, which is assuming a lot.
You hate to point it out, but Heredia didn't hit much last year. He finished at .249 with a .315 OBP and did his SLG help his cause? That was .337. Heredia's OPS+ was 78 and the Mainframe believes that two months in Tacoma, May-June, would not be a tragedy for him -- again, if Ichiro is batting .300.
Dr. D objectively believes that Ichiro is intelligent and will figure out the best way to scrape the mayo jar clean. In 2008 Ichiro's go-to weapon, when pressed by great pitching, was the KBIZLT arm-swing knocking a single between the 3B and the SS; he rolled these through like Steph Curry hitting free throws, and only pride kept him from making it his every-night game for a .380 AVG.
The only way he got into slumps was when he two-bounced balls to the second baseman, a result of swinging too ambitiously. We predicted, then, that this is what you would see from the Ichiro who neared retirement.
In addition to the cue-shots through the SS hole, he also knew how to (against great pitching) work a count and line the ball hard someplace. He had 4-5 different ways to get on base. It says here that Ichiro will, in desperation to impress the home fans, reach into the bag of tricks and select those that he's still capable of. Or, that's the hope.
Malcontent had a similar but more data-intensive take, compared to Dr. D's intuition on the matter:
I love playing with Fangraphs' Split Tool. It is one of the easiest way to ask yourself questions about a player. Like did Ichiro change after the All Star Break. .... from mid-July 2013 through July of 2016, Ichiro hit 3 home runs in 1,151 AB, while striking out 13% of the time, then, from August of 2016 through June 2017, he hit 3 homers in just 234 AB while striking out 19.3% of the time; 28% of his hits were XBH with a .273 BABiP. By June, 2017, Ichiro was striking out 23.6% of the time (season total).
One almost wonders whether someone FINALLY convince Ichiro to try out his power swing...at 43 - who knows. But from July 1st forward, a very intersting version of Ichiro appeared, he hit just one more home run, but struck out less than 10% of the time while walking a surprising 11.8%, XBH made up 17% of his hits (.333 BABiP). Of course that was just 110 PA, but he had just come off 3 consecutive months of striking out more than 20% of the time, so at least it shows that there was real improvement to his game.
In other words, (1) the 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 1H Ichiro was one kind of player ... (2) then for a year (2016 2H and 2017 1H) he swung for the fences. Finally (3) in 2017 2H, Ichiro's EYE rocketed over 1.0 ... 11 walks, 10 strikeouts ... as he decided to control the zone.
Leading us to ...
BATTING STANCE CHANGE
Like with Dee Gordon, I went to the tape, and sure enough, there's a batting stance change. Early in 2017, Ichiro seems to hold his hands a little higher, bend his knees a little more, and hold the bat head nearly perpendicular above his shoulder. As the season progressed past July, the bat head started to tilt up, and Ichiro's posture became a bit more upright overall, and to my eyes, his swing looks a bit slower, like he's coming back to KBITZLT...or whatever you guys call it (Keep the Bat In The Zone a Long Time?). I figure I might as well get myself a little hopeful for some actual production, what do you guys think?
This is the Ichiro with no bat load, the Ichiro who resembles LAST year's version of Dee Gordon, the guy who's pulling out all the stops to hit .300 and assert himself as a factor. (The smoked line drive comes from the fact that the ball was hit so squarely - compare an LPGA tee shot.)
IS THE BENCH ONLY ICHIRO, ROMINE, and MARJAMA?
I'm confused. Wasn't it previously only Heredia, Romine, and Marjama?
But that said, the M's 25-man roster is nicely fluid and there should be times the Mariners are capable of a 7-man relief staff. It's still not clear to me what the M's are going to do at 1B; fill me in.
And we're using the term "bench" rather sloppily here. The outfield is 4-to-make-3. Especially, Mo' Dawg's Ichiro-vs-LHP factor may loom large in the platooning.
Another problem is that it is hard to get too worried about your bench when your 1-9 starters comp off to the Big Red Machine. Well, Let’s not get too crazy… The little blue bicycle, anyway. right Daddy- O? My friends and I had one thought about Cincy’s bench: please don’t let any of them play today.
UND TAKE ZIS MIT YOU, Dept.
Larry stone pointed out aN Ichiro statistic that blew my mind: of Ichiro’s 196 at bats, 100 were pinch-hit. He win 27 for 100 with four extra base hits.
Any chance we could find a starter who needs help against left-handed pitching?
THIS N' THAT
1. If you resent the loss of developmental time for Heredia and/or Gamel, don't expect Dr. D to argue with you. Your argument is logical and probably correct.
He would only remind that both players are part-timers in the big picture; neither is going to be a 155-game starter here, so let's not make it out like Ichiro is taking Mitch Haniger's place. Ichiro, if batting .280-.300, would be taking a year out of the life of one role player or the other. Neither Heredia nor Gamel are going to star in the AL.
If you like Heredia's or Gamel's UPside to be a full-time impact player, if you think one of them is going to be a minor star, good on yer. Keep it comin'.
2. Heredia clearly the starter over Ichiro? ..... hmmmmm .... I wouldn't bet anything I was afraid to lose, that Ichiro won't simply be a better player than Heredia in 2018.
I do like Mo' Dawg's argument that Ichiro should gobble up the LHP AB's in a 4-man rotation. Although Ichiro did bat .280 with an 0.75 eye against RHP just the year before last, 2016.
One thing we're pretty sure about: we're talking 4-to-make-3 OF's, not Ichiro as benchie. (Right? Right?)
3. We'll be very excited to assess Ichiro's wheels in ST.
If he's got the 2016 footspeed, 130-ish SX, then he'll contribute [between 0.5 to 1.0] WAR pro-rated as a defender. And chip in a few more runs on the bases, bringing the total on bases/defense to about [1.0].
the UPside is 2.5 WAR pro-rated, based on his clinical defense of the Safeco pastures. That was the way in 2012 and he had to hit only .283/.307/.390 to get there.
4. The curmudgeonly Ryan Divish reports on Ichiro's return with a simple obituary. No cheering in the press box, dude. This is JOURNALISM. Have another shot, amigo - the awards are coming any time now.
:- ) We kid, we kid. Divish does a great job and it's his life, we realize. We're just trash-talking a little bit. (But, hey, an obit is a leeeeetle over the top, ain't it?)
Larry Stone frets about the potential messy ending, as Junior's certainly was, but of course Ichiro won't have the clubhouse gravity to help pull down a manager and destroy a clubhouse, the way Junior did.
Stone does allow that Ichiro sets a "fantastic clubhouse presence" in the way he works to stay in shape and prepare for games. Stone sees Ichiro as bringing excellent intangibles to the 2018 season, if not much of a threat to the scoreboard.
Luke Arkins at Prospect Insider argues the move is a clear indication that the Mariners want to lose this year. Well, as he phrases it, that they're not serious about winning. Once again Dr. D chides the peanut gallery in the press box: even a little confidence in Jerry Dipoto carries with it the knowledge that Ichiro will be retired gracefully if he does not play well.
Marc W at USS Mariner allows that the move "kinda makes sense" on the field, with an upbeat attitude not unlike Dr. D's, and he argues that --- > the FACT that the Ichiro move makes sense, is a rather sad commentary on the offseason Jerry Dipoto just had.
Dr. D thinks the M's needed an outfielder, and they found one that played very well in the second half last year, and there's no reason not to wring the last few drops out of Ichiro's legend in Seattle, take the last month or two's worth of clubhouse work ethic and sheer fan excitment from the context.
Your opinion may differ :- )
:: whew :: Our longest post, by miles, since we fell down and bumped our head three months ago. Glad to have the energy back just as the fun starts.