Photo by Keith Allison
Ichiro to Hit Third
Seattle Mariners manager Eric Wedge has announced that Ichiro will move to the three spot in the lineup to allow Chone Figgins to hit leadoff. We’ll get to Figgins, who has been a bust so far as a Mariner, later. The more interesting question for me is whether Ichiro will try to drive the ball more often as the ‘3’ hitter. Ichiro’s home run shows during batting practice have become the stuff of lore. Some, such as BleacherReport.com, have even openly campaigned for Ichiro to partake in the home run derby during All-Star Game festivities.
Those who have seen Ichiro taking batting practice before a game have been rewarded with the rare treat of seeing him hit screaming line drive after line drive, off of the dining lounge above the right field seats in spacious Safeco Field.
For his part it seems as though Ichiro is already displaying adjustments this spring to his stance to prepare for his new spot in the Mariner lineup.
There’s no question Ichiro has been hitting with a wider, more balanced stance so far this spring — perhaps in anticipation of hitting 3rd— Larry Stone (@StoneLarry) February 21, 2012
Ichiro once boasted, “If I’m allowed to hit .220 I could probably hit 40, but nobody wants that.” He has just been given a green light. Could Ichiro pull a Jeremy Lin and turn conventional thinking on its ear?
As for Chone Figgins, he recently made excuses about his lack of performance in a telephone interview with FOX Sports Ken Rosenthal.
I haven’t really changed my mindset to be a ‘2’ hitter. I’ve stuck with being a patient hitter. In the ‘2’ spot, you need to be a little more aggressive. It’s something I haven’t done more consistently. I haven’t been consistent being more aggressive in the strike zone.
Let’s forget for a moment that the ‘2’ hitter is only scheduled to hit second once in the entire game. Clearly Figgins prefers to hit leadoff and he clearly thinks hitting behind Ichiro is the reason for his struggles the past two seasons. Let’s also set aside the fact that Figgins posted a pathetic .241 on-base percentage last year. The fact is that the Mariners are going to have to pay Figgins anyway so they have to try to find a way to get him going again (see footnotes at bottom for more details of Figgins’ remaining contract).
Whether or not Figgins manages to recover his former All-Star form I don’t expect him to see the end of his contract as a Seattle Mariner. If he goes into the tank again, the Mariners will have no choice but to release him because he will have zero trade value. If he somehow manages to revert into a useful ballplayer again, he will be traded for some salary relief.
Figgins has at least two years remaining on his current contract. He will make $9M this season and $8M for the 2013 season. Should he manage to make at least 600 plate appearances during the 2013 season, a vesting option will be triggered giving Figgins another $9M for the 2014 season.