The Riddle of the Chone (Rick)

Rick, the former publisher of Caffeinated Confines, currently has the #2 points total in the 2011 SSI Roto Smackdown.  - Jeff


The Riddle of the Amazing Disappearing Chone Figgins.

This we could ponder for years, 4 to be exact, at the cost of 8 mil or so per.  As I do, the words of the incomparable sage Bill James, in an extended interview with the Times' Geoff Baker, haunts my mind.  At the beginning of the 2010 season, while the Figgins to 2nd - Jose Lopez to 3rd experiment was underway, Geoff asked Bill about this, and Bill's response went something to the effect of: 

"We've learned that it is best to put Chone Figgins in a position, and leave him there."

Let me pause here to recall the debate raging in this blog as to whether or not this was a good idea.  For those of you who spoke vociferously against this experiment, I don't recall exactly who you were, but you know who you were, and I tip my cap to you.  

I myself ignored James, and decided in favor of fresher thinking.So let us return again to Bill, and in sorting out the puzzle of Chone, let's for the sake of this exercise take Bill's observation as an infallible pronouncement, if you are Catholic.  Or, if you have any background in Pentecostalism, a prophetic utterance offered to your church body during the laying on of hands.  

What do you do, once you have this information?  There was no explanation given by Bill, no reasoning or special statistics offered.  My feeling at the time of the Great Utterance was that it was something the Red Sox brain trust, while pondering for months how to beat the Angels in the playoffs, came up with. 

And so Bill offered this, like Cassandra after the decision was made to go into battle.  Too late to heed, while it haunted our ears throughout that dreadful 2010.So we watched Chone struggle, with a new position, and a new place in the batting lineup.  And it wasn't until the month of September that we saw the Chone Figgins we were looking for: a .759 OPS with a .376 OBP.  I'll bet he finally started fielding his position well by then as well, although I can't recall.

So, lesson learned, and with a feeling that Chone was reclaimed, we approached 2011 with a renewed hope.  Clearing 2nd base for the coming of Dustin Ackley, the Mariners would put Chone back at his comfortable home at 3rd base, and hoped for the best.  Unfortunately, Chone's bat went further south, although the defense was good.  

Now, we're coming to a conclusion that the guy is just broken:  It's Safeco, or age, or both.  We're stuck with another Cirillo albatross.  Oh, when will we learn?So why didn't the return to 3rd work?  Recall the words of the prophet:  WE'VE LEARNED ITS BEST TO PUT CHONE FIGGINS IN A POSITION AND LEAVE HIM THERE.The Mariners, recall, did exactly that in 2010.  They put him in a position, and left him there.  And by the end of the season, got a fairly valuable player in return.  

So, what did they do for 2011?   Did they continue to leave him there?  Uh, no. They PUT HIM IN A NEW POSITION.  Again.  

As a child, I went to a different school in 6th grade, 7th grade, 8th grade, and 10 grade.  I felt pretty good about myself in 6th grade, having been in the same school for 6 years.  Had lots of friends, owned the place, felt very comfortable.  Going to a new school practically every year after that however, I continually found myself unsure of myself, slow to make friends, finding myself often lonely, hanging out with the kids I didn't belong with.  

Time and again I saw other new kids join the same school at the same time, instantly fit in, instantly become popular.  And I'd wonder, what was wrong with me?  I always thought I would hit the ground running.  But I never did.  Looking back, I now realize it is just something about myself.  It takes me a year to fit in.  I'll fit in eventually, but it takes me a little longer that others, and perhaps most.  I wish I knew this about me then, or some Bill James had told me this.  It would have saved me a lot of grief and heartache as a teenager.

But enough about me, let's return to Chone.  Here's my prediction:  if we Mariner fans are patient, by the end of the season, we will have our Good Chone Figgins back.  Perhaps in time for a September charge?  Perhaps sooner.The question is, can we wait?  And if we do, are we willing to put him at 3rd again.  After all, some of us want power at 3rd base.

My suggestion is this.  With no one better on the horizon, we wait it out.  Leave Chone at 3rd, and batting 9th.  Just leave him there.  I'd rather have him lead off, with Ichiro batting at the two, but at least at 9 you can pretend you are lead off for most of the game, and when you draw that walk, Ichiro is hitting behind you.

Beyond that, perhaps we get our bopper at 3rd.  If so, if we can't move the contract, we make Chone the supersub that drove us and the Red Sox crazy in his early years.  I figure that for Chone is a player who will do whatever is required of him, so long as he's helping the team win.  Remember this is a player who signed a big contract with Seattle knowing he wouldn't lead off, and willingly moved to second base.   Although he has his preferences no doubt, his past suggests he'll do whatever the team asks of him. 

Will such a move break the Bill James commandment permanently?: Thou Shalt not Move Chone Figgins?  Well, if Chone's new position is supersub, like his early years, he'll eventually see it as a position.  Supersub. And as we leave him there, he'll adjust and probably even excell.  We've seen Omar Vizquel adapt to that role quite nicely, and at a much more advanced age.   

- Rick



A strong argument for investing in Figgins, and don't know if am 100% sold, but ....
Figgins, in the game he hit leadoff, turned the front hip into the ball and stung it two or three times.  This (along with your interesting article) underlined three things for me:
There is the possibility of a Figgy reclamation
BABIP can be the hitter's fault
Bill James Knows Everything
If I were going to re-commit to Figgins, I'd LOVE to see the M's talk Ichiro into hitting #2.
Even one (1) game of watching Figgins play as if he enjoyed the game, was plenty 'nuff for me.  Wonder if it was plenty 'nuff for other GM's in the trade market....


1.  Have him bat leadoff
2.  Cut him
He might eventually get better batting 9th but he most likely will become a cancer especially once Ackley is brought up. He is a surly, selfish player who thinks he is entitled to bat lead off, play every day and give as much (or as little) effort as he feels like.
He is also in a death spiral where his struggles cause him to get frustrated which causes him to do even worse. Yes, it is possible he'll turn things around but how many months are we supposed to put up with his atrocious performance? How long is Ackley supposed to sit in Triple-A contributing absolutely nothing to this team?
And can I take this time to point out how stunningly obtuse Dave Cameron is? He seriously was completely befuddled by Ackley's continued presence in Tacoma and could not fathom why that would be. 
It wasn't until today that he finally figured out that there might be more issues at play than just Ackley's Super Two status (and it took a calculator for him to realize it). Even still, he doesn't grasp what exactly those issues are (it isn't about not wanting to split Kennedy and Figgins at third, it's a matter of Chones terrible attitude). 
How can a guy who follows the M's so closely and considers himself an expert on baseball be so oblivious to the obvious dynamics at play?
- Cool Papa Bell

Rick's picture

I would think there is a team out there that needs a lead off hitter and could unload someone useful and similarly pricey to us in return.   I kinda think Chone needs to hit leadoff, and so long as Ichiro is here, will never really feel comfortable.  And when Ackley is here, Figgins really becomes redundant.
Something just tells me that if a team grabs Chone, tells him "you are our leadoff guy" and puts him there, he'll respond a little more quickly..
I enjoyed watching him lace the double last night, followed immediately with an Ichiro bunt hit.  Too bad Ryan's shot to right center was caught.  Could have been a bigger inning.


Could have been starting with a numbers list that threw us on that one.  All apologies.  When we run into an issue, we'll try to repair for you.  As you know, your comments are highly valued.
I'd be a hypocrite for not welcoming your input on the saber/IRL debates... :- )
In fairness, it's got to be that USSM rejects issues like Figgins-As-Cancer, as opposed to not being able to perceive them.
USSM seems to have a strong preference to treat real-life MLB baseball as a fangraphs/Strat-O game, with all sports psychology edited out of the equation. Undoubtedly if they weren't so averse to topics like The Grand Figgins Melodrama, they'd have no problem taking them into consideration.
Ironically, this isn't going to ingratiate the work to those who otherwise might extend the job offer sought.  Executives in baseball are managing people.
It would be nice if Wedge and Zduriencik's lives were so simple.  A sadder-but-wiser Don Wakamatsu found out that MLB life is anything but simple.


Hey, we've seen Figgins for someting like 9 game months.  He hit well in ONE of those (well, Sept. and a touch of Oct. last year)!  Other than that....if he were a slick fielding SS then we could absorb his lack of hit ability. But he's not
He's terrible.  Flat out terrible.
And he HAS played the same position for the last nine months....he is a one positon player right now. We've done what James suggested.  It hasn't helped. He's even more terrible this year.
If he is so mentally lost that you think his batting first will suddenly make him a hitter......then he completely doomed.  Do you realy want to give him another AB each game.  Man, I'm hoping we find a way to steal an AB from him each game!!!  Batting 9th or batting first, Ichiro bats behind him, anyway.
Here's what you do with Figgins.  You bench him.  Sit him. Ignore him.  He's hurting the team right now.  Ackley plays 2B, Kennedy plays 3B.....and Figgins gets about 20-25 starts the rest of the year.  That's it. restart next year.  Hit the "redo" button, and hope Figgins responds.  Are you gong to have Kennedy next year?  Who knows?
But Kennedy has been his career equal, anyway...minus one year.
Playing Figgins because you don't want to hurt his feelings (which is what it amounts to) is UNprofessional. Man, that's slapping the rest of the team in the face. You think Felix and Pineda want a .190 hitting 3B in the lineup, when there are much better options. When he starts hitting, play him. 
If Figgins were a 21 year old project, and if we were not in a race...then play him and hope he develops.
But right now, in 2011...when we have a chance to hang around (or better), put him on the pine.

M-Pops's picture

Petulent, entitled, declining 3b locked into another 24/3, I would tend to think, would definately NOT get much attention from other GMs.
Looks like the one time Z compromised his noted preference for players with plus Makeup, he got burned. Says here that Figgy is here to stay, because no one wants him, and even if they did, Z loses too much face in the exchange.


At least the next Edgar isn't being Presley'd behind Figgins. They could probably cobble together better production with a platoon at the hot corner but there is no great 3B option available to the M's internally right now. Next year might be a different story, with Mangini presumably healthy and fully recovered and Liddi with a full year in AAA under his belt. Gonna be some competition for that spot in ST...

Rick's picture

in large part because Ichiro is beyond reproach.  Remember how hard it was to get Ichiro to move to CF?  Anybody seriously think Ichiro would have been willing to move to #2 in the order last year?  No - because it's Ichiro.  It's Ichiro's team Figgins was signing onto.  So it's Figgins who had to make the adjustments.  We can't complain about Ichiro too loudly.  But Figgins is fair game.  It never made sense to me why you'd want the maestro with the bat hitting first, with the guy who walks hitting behind him.
Hitting behind Ichiro is a lot different from hitting in front of Ichiro, and Figgins had settled in quite nicely as the guy OTHER people, bat experts like Howie Kendrick, learned to hit behind.
If that doesn't mess with your head, then nothing will.  Add to that a new manager, who chewed the team out for leading the world in walks, because the at bats weren't professional enough.  Now, you're really trying to figure things out.  At least you are if you care, and you are the kind of guy who adapts to what the boss wants.  And Figgins has been doing that all his career. 
Say what you will about Figgins's attitude, but I'd say he handled moving to 2nd better than the guy we signed to play SS did.  It took Figgins a couple months to flip out about the assignment.  Jack Wilson did it in a week.
I like Figgins in the 9 hole, but I'd like to move him to another team if possible. I think we learned from this that having two leadoff hitters isn't necessarily a strength.  But I'm not so sure about Kennedy at 3rd regularly, and I'm definitely not sold on Liddi or Mangini there.
Defensively Figgins made two heads up plays at 3rd the last two games, and the failure of others to execute may have cost us both wins.  Olivo should have made the tag, and Smoak should have done a better job on the rundown.  Figgins made the right call last night in cutting off the ball.  If Smoak gets the out, we probably keep it at a 1 run game. 

Rick's picture

Thank you for the warm introduction.  Have enjoyed this site for a number of years now and am delighted to add my little insights to the wealth of good stuff everyone offers here.
Before Caffinated Confines, I ran a blog called Mariner Bullpen.  Egads!  It's still there, but I have no idea how to log in anymore, so it's a little out of date:
We were up and running a little before Sully's Leone for Third site (followed by Fire Bavasi) showed up, which is now of course, Lookout Landing.  I remember being the lone blogger voice that heartily supported the Ibanez signing at the time.  Don't know where Dr. D stood at the time.  I was wrong, but turned out to be right.  My argument basically boiled down to "Save your statistics.  This is the closest we've come to putting a left handed power hitter in Safeco since it opened and Griffey left. I'll take it!"
But my real claim to fame is that I was Matthew Carruth's first little league coach, and saw the promise in his left arm to put him on the mound, and in some small way helped the world by increasing his desire to study the art of pitching.  Thus I played my small role in putting that brain of his to work on really useful stuff, like baseball, instead of something boring and useless like biology or astronomical science.
Matt may not remember this, but I also taught him the value of OBP, by putting the shortest kid on the team at leadoff, and instructed him to never pay attention to those pesky parents who encourage you to swing, and when he walked (we're talking 3rd grade pitchers here), proceed to steal 2nd and 3rd base - when the ball inevitably went past the catcher. 

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