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Geoff Baker covers the Mariners for The Seattle Times. He provides daily coverage of the team throughout spring training, and during the season.

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July 15, 2008 10:58 AM

Protection racket?

Posted by Geoff Baker

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Now that we've remembered what home runs are supposed to look like, with a Canadian once again establishing athletic dominance last night in the made-for-relevision Home Run Derby (in the final round, anyhow -- Josh Hamilton did the rest), we turn our attention back to Mariners DH Jose Vidro -- a guy who hasn't gone deep since John McLaren was still managing this team for GM Bill Bavasi.

This blog post last week, and this story I later wrote for the paper, about Mariners manager Jim Riggleman keeping Vidro in the clean-up role as "protection" for Raul Ibanez, earned him nationwide scorn and derision. And why not? Vidro has the fifth lowest on-base-plus slugging percentage (OPS) out of 200 major leaguers with at least 250 plate appearances. By the way, catcher Kenji Johjima is the worst on that list at .549 compared to Vidro's .571. But both are beyond horrible.

So naturally, there was much hooting and hollering when Riggleman stated his line about Vidro "protecting" No. 3 hitter Ibanez.

Believe me, it was tough to hold off on ripping Riggleman for that. But I did want to do some legwork first. Some actual research to see whether this claim could possibly have merit.

Being that 100 percent of my day is taken up actually covering the team and traveling from place to place, I don't always have time to sit down for an exhaustive crunching of numbers. It was going to take at least a couple of hours, time I did not have writing on-deadline in Oakland. The next day, Richie Sexson was released, then there were all kinds of tight flight plans to meet getting in and out of Kansas City. But I know Riggleman has been around the game a while and -- like his predecessor -- is not an idiot. So, I vowed that the moment I had a day off, I'd crunch the numbers to see what in the heck he's thinking. I owed him that much, given how he'd been getting mocked for days. It was admittedly going to be a small sample size, since Vidro has only had 42 at-bats as a cleanup hitter. His stat line in that spot is the worst Vidro has hit at any spot in the order, with a .167 average, .222 on-base percentage and .214 slugging percentage for a laughable .436 OPS.

Sounds about right. But wait, this is supposed to be about Ibanez, right?

Ibanez has not had the greatest of seasons relative to his recent performances. He's hitting .273 overall with a .338 OPB and .438 in slugging for an OPS of .776. Against right handed pitching, he's at only .264 with a .763 OPS. Remember, Vidro bats cleanup when the opposing starter is right handed.

So, how has Ibanez done with Vidro "protecting" him in the clean-up spot? Hold on a minute. Go and find a chair because you're about to get floored.

Continue reading this post ...

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