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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 18, 2008 10:32 AM

The Ichiro conundrum

Posted by Geoff Baker

Conundrum: 2 a: a question or problem having only a conjectural answer b: an intricate and difficult problem

-- Webster's definition


So, the Mariners tonight embark on the "second half" of their 2008 schedule, trying to make folks forget about how bad the opening 3 1/2 months was. Good luck with that. Trade talk continues to percolate, though, as I said yesterday, the odds of Erik Bedard now being moved by July 31 are somewhere up there with the odds of the lefty winning a Cy Young Award. Jarrod Washburn is now more likely to be the only Seattle starter dealt by then and who would have figured that a couple of months ago?

Another guy who almost certainly will not get traded is Ichiro. There are ample baseball reasons both to trade and to keep Ichiro, summed up nicely in this article from yesterday, though I feel there were some notable points left out of it.

First off, the idea put forth by the writer that clubhouse chemistry -- or, as some of you tried to define it last week, clubhouse culture -- is a non-factor, seems to me like taking the easy way out here. It may be impossible to predict, or to measure in statistical form, but I think that the fact so many Mariners insiders have discussed elements of it this year makes it tough to argue it doesn't exist. Can you plan chemistry in advance to try to help you win? Maybe not. But can clubhouse culture blow up on you and help you lose? From what I've seen with the M's this year, yes it can. Stinks doesn't it? Something like the best laid plans of mice and men? You can't plan everything. You can't predict everything. But it can sneak up and bite you. Sort of like life itself, I gather.

I prefer this blogger's take on chemistry.

So, you might not be able to plan good clubhouse chemistry. But you can, perhaps, take steps to mitigate it from blowing up in your face. How? I don't claim to know for certain. By choosing players who play the game the right way? By having some who can show others how to play the game the right way? By making sure you have a few with the fortitude to tell others -- even forcefully -- when they are playing the game the wrong way? Those would be my three suggestions. Not claiming they will always work. But to ignore the clubhouse culture element, to me, seems lazy, even negligent, in light of what's gone on this year.

As far as the on-field stuff goes, the one element I often see left out of any Ichiro discussion is the whole move back to right field thing. I still can't see how Ichiro as a right fielder helps this team moving forward. One of the biggest problems -- perhaps the biggest -- this team faces is a lack of power at traditional power-hitting positions.

And right now, Ichiro is as poor a power hitter in right field as you're going to find in the AL among regulars at the position.

Going strictly off his 106 at-bats since the move back to right field, we find him 19th at the position with a .330 slugging percentage. That's for every guy in the AL with at least 100 plate appearances. In other words, dead last among regulars. By more than 50 points worth of slugging. He has yet to have a single extra-base hit as a right fielder.

I can hear the screaming of "sample size!'' already from the Ichiro defenders. So, let's be fair. Let's take his statistics from this entire season and compare them to other right fielders. Right now, his .371 slugging total for the year would still rank him dead last among right field regulars. He would be 17th among right fielders with at least 100 plate appearances, just ahead of Brad Wilkerson.


Where Ichiro fares much better is in terms of on-base-percentage. His .381 as a right fielder so far places him fourth among others manning the spot for at least 100 PA. Overall, his .366 for the year would tie him for sixth-best among right fielders with Jermaine Dye of the White Sox.

In batting average, Ichiro's .330 as a right fielder puts him second. His .304 overall this season ties him for fourth with Alex Rios of the Blue Jays.

So, not bad in the latter two categories. But terrible in the power department.

In fact, Ichiro's placing in the above stats reminds me eerily of another player perhaps miscast in a power-hitting spot. Yes, for the umpteenth day in a row, it's time for Jose Vidro to make an appearance on this blog. Not the 2008 version, who is obviously still fortunate to have a major league job. But the 2007 edition of Vidro who was practically run out of town for being ill-suited as a DH.

Let's look at how Vidro fared as a DH in 2007.

In slugging percentage, he was 17th at .385, just like Ichiro (when you use Ichiro's full-year numbers).

In on-base percentage, Vidro was eighth at .374 among DH types. Remember, Ichiro is sixth as a right fielder. So, he's slightly better.

How about batting average? Vidro was second at .308. Ichiro as a right fielder is also second, but fourth when you take his full year into account.

In other words, from strictly a hitting perspective at two power positions, Ichiro and the 2007 version of Vidro are almost exactly the same player. Both are excellent at on-base-percentage and batting average and don't strike out a lot. Neither is any good at power.

Jose Vidro's OPS+ in 2007 was 109. Ichiro's in 2008 is 103.

Yet, while Vidro was villified for this in Seattle, the Ichiro conundrum flies under the radar.

Now, please, read the next paragraph or three before writing in to spew venom.

In no way, shape or form am I suggesting Ichiro and Vidro are the same player. Absolutely untrue. Ichiro still does play his position with defensive excellence. Even those of you who believe he's lost a step or two, you almost have to admit he's still a step or two better than just about any defender on this team's roster. As a center fielder, we don't even have this discussion.

Then again, as a second baseman, we likely wouldn't have had a discussion about Vidro last year. But he no longer plays second base. Ichiro no longer plays center. We go off what we have.

Ichiro is an above-average defender. Vidro's position did not require defense. So, a huge edge to Ichiro in that department.

Ichiro also steals bases at a better rate than most major leaguers when healthy. He scores at least 100 runs per year as a leadoff man which is also a valued commodity.

Vidro does none of those things.

So, a big edge to Ichiro on that front.

But as a right fielder, he's lacking. If this team had a home run hitting first baseman, two or three guys with an on-base-plus-slugging percentage beyond .800 -- like any good team -- and maybe some pop at a non-traditional position, we could overlook the power numbers in right field.

I just don't see how you do that here.

Not when this team has the 29th worst slugging percentage in all of major league baseball.

Those of you who criticize this team, and rightly so, for its roster construction have to be wondering how this team moves forward with such a gaping power hole in right. There is no Bret Boone around any more to give you 40 homers at second base, offsetting the singles hitter in right the way he did earlier this decade.

Believe me, I am aware of Ichiro's undervalued skillset. If I had not given him my first-place vote in 2001, he likely would not have been named AL MVP that year.

But this is a different team, a different roster being constructed.

There are some of you who will say things like bad teams and the media that cover them tend to target good players for criticism. On the contrary. Ichiro is still a good player, obviously. But as with team chemistry, I believe it would be lazy, if not negligent, to ignore the Ichiro conundrum in right field. Especially since, unlike clubhouse chemistry or culture, we have the statistical tools to look at what's going on.

Does this demand a trade of Ichiro?

Not necessarily.

But it may demand a trading of somebody else. It may require dealing away Yuniesky Betancourt, or Jose Lopez at some point (before next season), in order to bring in a middle infielder with enough power to offset the lack of it in right field. It may require spending $100 million on a center fielder with the power of a corner outfielder.

It's easy to talk about dealing away Ichiro. Heck, I've done it. But I don't know if I see enough takers around the game who would have the type of roster to accomodate his particular skillset at the cost it will take to acquire him and keep him. And without those, the returns on an Ichiro trade would not be enough to offset his value as a leadoff man, a defender and a marketing tool.

And if you can't get returns to offset those losses, why deal him? Who's going to bat leadoff here? Who will replace your team's best defender?

But make no mistake. The Ichiro conundrum is real and it's out there.

This team's offense, more so than the pitching, is what destroyed this season. And as badly as a lack of on-base percentage has hurt this club, I'd argue that the lack of power has hurt just as much. If not more. Going forward, this team needs to find power. It will be hard-pressed to adequately fill it at 1B and DH. No matter what you hear about how easy filling those positions is. Just look at how poorly the M's have filled the DH spot with power going back several years now. It's not automatic. With Adrian Beltre set to leave as a free agent after 2009, you'll soon be shopping for power there.

And that's just filling the traditional power slots. Keeping Ichiro in right field will require adding even more power. By a team having trouble just filling the minimal requirement.

It's a conundrum, to say the least. And there are no easy answers to it.

So, those of you who advocate keeping Ichiro are not wrong. He is a very good player and you'd like to start any rebuilding effort by using good players as your base.

But keeping him and building a proper roster and lineup around him will take work. It's not as easy as saying "just sign Mark Teixeira this winter" and all will be solved. It will take some brain power. And in the long run, it just may not work out.

ADDITIONAL NOTE (1:47 p.m.): For Resin in the comments thread, nobody said this team would be able to trade Betancourt or Lopez for a power hitting infielder. All I said was you might have to trade one and then bring in -- after the trade frees up infield room -- a power hitter. There's a difference. Sorry if you misunderstood.


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Posted by Ol Mike

10:44 AM, Jul 18, 2008

The complaining on this Blog is very tiresome because it is so repetitive. On every post someone creates a new potential lineup or discusses Erik Bedard, Vidro or the “Bad Bench Players” (Bloomquist, Burke & Cairo), bad front office and bad manager & coaches. I think we have beat these horses to death. I say this because of the following points:
1. Bedard isn’t going anywhere until maybe next off-season. Otherwise he wouldn’t be on the DL . And as many have pointed out the Mariner management is trying to salvage what they can out of this, Bonehead Bavasi trade, and the only way to do that would be to let Bedard get 100% healthy and pitch the remainder of this awful season.
2. I believe Vidro will be gone soon. Mariner management is still hoping they can get something out of him rather than unceremoniously dumping him like Sexson. When Vidro will be dumped is the only question. His departure will probably be before the July 31 Trading deadline whether they get something for him or not.
3. As I have stated at least 3 times before the Mariner bench is not the reason for this woeful season, Bloomquist, Burke & Cairo are not supposed to be everyday players and have performed ok when they have played. The reason they have played so much is simply a symptom of very poor play by the 8 starting position players. Why get rid of them now? The team will still need bench players and no one wants to pay $10-million a year to players like Johjima & Vidro to sit on the Bench. Some will say in response to this: We are going to pay them anyway”. Well sure! But, do you really want to watch them on the field anymore even if it is as only a bench player?
4. The Mariner Front office (Lincoln & Armstrong) won’t change until the team is acquired by another entity. The current Japanese ownership would “Lose Face” if done in any other way.
5. Finally, Player manager & coaches. Ask yourself what you would do if you were in this situation? I’m positive you would be desperately trying various things, as Riggleman is doing, to turn this season around both for the present and for the future. Yes! We can all disagree with his approach but until we were given this responsibility we will never know whether our strategies would be any better or not. I say because this season is irreparably in the Toilet anyway we give Riggleman a chance to see if he can turn it around before season’s end. If not there is plenty of time to bring a new manager in during the off-season.
The overall point is that no matter how much we debate these issues and become frustrated we are going to have to be even more patient and ride this dying or dead horse to the finish line (end of an awful season) whether we like it or not!!!! The only other option is to stop being a “Mariner Fan” and throw in the towel.

Posted by Yamauchi

10:47 AM, Jul 18, 2008

Give it up. Ain't gonna happen....

Posted by Novice

10:47 AM, Jul 18, 2008

Big sigh of relief from myself, it seems as if all the Bloomquist trade rumors have died down. What a devestating blow that would be anyway, mine as well trade felix and morrow too. Geoff, 2 questions. First, do you think Willie can help spark this team to a 500 record in the second half? Secondly, is there a reasonably good chance that the M's decide to make him the everyday CF for the rest of the season and years to come?

Posted by Mrs. X

10:49 AM, Jul 18, 2008

Not my Ichi!!!!

Posted by Wolfie

10:52 AM, Jul 18, 2008

Interesting spin, Geoff. I'm wondering why Ichiro is so opposed to going to CF since the position fits him like a glove.

Regardless, just for once in the last few years I'd like to have the opposing pitcher look at an M's hitter and go, 'Oh crap...now I gotta face HIM!' instead of going, 'lolwut...they're letting HIM hit?' as they do now. Obviously pitching wins championships, but I'd take just a fraction of the power we had when Edgar/Junior/Buhner patrolled the kingdome, however they have to get it, be it DH, RF, 1B, or even letting Felix hit every day when he's not pitching (I kid, I kid). Too much inconsistant and/or nonexistant 'power' hitting over the past few years has made this team not only unproductive, but dreadfully boring to watch. At least when the Rangers had all the offense in the world but were still losing games, they were a helluva lot of fun to watch!

Posted by Simon

10:52 AM, Jul 18, 2008

Geoff,

I agree that Ichiro is more valuable is center than in right, but he really seems to prefer to be in right. Given his defense (very good, but not outstanding) and his base stealing abilities (outstanding), I would argue that he is still a highly valuable player for the team, although obviously less so when hitting .300 with 3 HRs than hitting .330+ with 8-10 HRs.

Now really might be the time to try to trade both Yuni and Lopez. It makes me sad to say that, since both seem like stand-up guys and good for the team. However, since they first appeared amidst much fanfare as the solution for the middle infied for years to come, both have regressed. Lopez still hits for average, but his defense is shot. Now is probably the best time to get maximum trade value. Yuni is not even hitting that well, and his defense has also suffered. Given the Ms predilection for pitch-to-contact pitchers, they really need to shore up the infield.

Posted by Simon

10:53 AM, Jul 18, 2008

Geoff,

I agree that Ichiro is more valuable is center than in right, but he really seems to prefer to be in right. Given his defense (very good, but not outstanding) and his base stealing abilities (outstanding), I would argue that he is still a highly valuable player for the team, although obviously less so when hitting .300 with 3 HRs than hitting .330+ with 8-10 HRs.

Now really might be the time to try to trade both Yuni and Lopez. It makes me sad to say that, since both seem like stand-up guys and good for the team. However, since they first appeared amidst much fanfare as the solution for the middle infied for years to come, both have regressed. Lopez still hits for average, but his defense is shot. Now is probably the best time to get maximum trade value. Yuni is not even hitting that well, and his defense has also suffered. Given the Ms predilection for pitch-to-contact pitchers, they really need to shore up the infield.

Posted by Simon

10:55 AM, Jul 18, 2008

sorry for the double post

Posted by fred

10:59 AM, Jul 18, 2008

Geoff: Those of us who have watched the Mariners for many years recognize that Ichiro is a superb right fielder but only a slightly-better-than-average center fielder, if that. Why not let Ichiro be Ichiro and play a position where he is most comfortable and skilled?

Forget Vidro and comparisons to Vidro. One way or another, he will be gone soon. The team is not about to let him get enough ABs to qualify for a 2009 contract. Ichiro appears to have another personality away from the dismal Mariners culture. He was buoyant and joking at the all-Star game. I saw a recent special on the baseball Hall of Fame and the curator indicated Ichiro had been there more often than any current player. He clearly loves and reveres the game.

The only real questions about Ichiro are his failure to hit for power---when he clearly has the capability of doing so---even when situations call for it and his sometimes failure to attempt steals when, again, the situation calls for it. He also bunts seldom, even when bunting would amount to an almost sure hit (even more than flares into left or right-center field).

Ichiro has a strong following here. He is idenfitied with the Ms almost as much as Edgar and Griffey were identified with them. It would great if he could play his entire MLB career here. He is the least of the Mariners' problems and, really, it is not worth spending much time speculating about his changing position or being traded. Many other steps should have precedence in upgrading this team.

Posted by shortbus

11:02 AM, Jul 18, 2008

For once, Geoff, I agree with the main thrust of your post. Direclty comparing Vidro to Ichiro may make me fume, but in the interest of getting to the heart of your argument, I agree that Ichiro in right field is a problem.

But I wouldn't describe it as a problem with power, per se. If you look at OPS...a good evaluator of overall offense...he just doesn't compare well to other right fielders at .737 which puts him 21st in MLB. If you add something for steals he still isn't much better than an average RF.

More importanly, it's easier to add a plus offensive player to the team in right field than in center. Probably the best alignment for this team right now is Ichiro in CF, Reed in LF, Ibanez at DH and the best-hitting OF in the organization in RF. It's easier to find a RF in free agency or by trade than a good-hitting CF as well.

So good job...but please don't ever compare Ichiro and Vidro again...please?

Posted by gohuskies898

11:03 AM, Jul 18, 2008

Geoff,

I can understand what you are saying about Ichiro. Having a singles hitter in a traditional power hitter spot means that we need a power hitter in a place that teams don't normally have one (e.g., SS, 2nd, etc.).

I for one am against trading Ichiro. I know that we could get quite a bit for him but I think that he brings significant value off the field. Everytime I go to a game, I see the hordes of Asian fans dressing up, holding up signs etc. for Ichiro. Without him, I'm guessing many of these fans wouldn't attend.

Bottom line, he puts butts in the seats which I think that only one other player does (Felix). If Ichiro brings in 1000 a game, at $40 a fan (Tickets plus food), that's $40,000 a game or $3.2M a year. That doesn't even include the jerseys, other tourist dollars etc.

I think very little time has been spent thinking about that.

Therefore, I believe that the M's should keep Ichiro and do their jobs and find other players to go with him. They will have many millions to spend this offseason. They need to spend it wisely. Find a power hitting CF or middle infielder. They may have an above average power player at C now with Clement.

Other teams made do with Boggs, Carew etc. So can we.

Posted by beezlebub

11:07 AM, Jul 18, 2008

i say we should put the best 25 athletes on the roster and go from there. to hell with trying to manufacture chemistry.

Posted by Mike

11:09 AM, Jul 18, 2008

Geoff---Really thoughtful post. I still feel that the bad culture/chemistry is the result of losing not the cause. Offensively there were 3 huge sinkholes compared to '07 in RF, with Vidro, and with Johjima. I really can't fathom how 3 veteran guys would crater because of the chemistry. Additionally Bedard and Putz being hurt so much did not help either and the drop off from Sherrill was steep. Again, in my mind, probably not chemistry.

I am not discounting that chemistry can affect a club or that the Ms clubhouse is an awful place right now but doesn't it seem like chemistry became an issue until after the fact. You weren't writing about this when the Ms were 11-11.

I will allow that young guys like Yuni and Jose seem to be losing a step or two in range. That might very well be chemistry/culture or just a good team chef.

As for Ichiro, you make a GREAT point. HIs value, given his unique offensive production is in CF. This team needs power and that is much easier to find in RF than CF. I'd be willing to entertain offers for Ichiro but with the thought that we need to get much better defensively not worse.

Posted by Jacob

11:13 AM, Jul 18, 2008

IF the mariners do end up with the worst record in baseball, will they even get the top pick in next years draft? i know after we signed ruchie suxsun and adrian beltre, we didn't have draft picks from the first two rounds. Are we going to lose our first round pick because of the Silva deal?

Posted by KennewickMan

11:19 AM, Jul 18, 2008

M's are 4-0 with Johjima at DH - can Vidro!
Ichiro should be playing CF!!
Can we afford Teixeira?

Posted by BrianL

11:24 AM, Jul 18, 2008

Frankly I'm more concerned that we're not getting power out of our 1B/DH positions. What Ichiro doesn't posses in terms of raw power output, he makes up for in defensive acumen and baserunning ability.

Having conversations like this is somewhat silly. Ichiro is at the bottom of the list of concerns for the Mariners. They have a number of more serious issues to tend to.

Furthermore, I disagree with your assertion that this team will be hard-pressed to fill the 1B and DH positions. Yes, this team hasn't been able to do that since 2004, but there's a reason why: Bill Bavasi. He couldn't recognize a league-average hitter if his life depended on it. Any competent GM is going to be able to do that.

Look at the Rays. The picked up Carlos Pena off the scrap heap. The A's grabbed Frank Thomas for nothing. Just look at the players we could have gotten to fill a 1B/DH position for next to nothing:

Milton Bradley
Jack Cust
Chris Snelling
Jason Kubel
Geoff Jenkins
Brian Giles
Russ Branyan

Any one of these players is a dramatic improvement over the people we've been trotting onto the field. A good (or even average) GM can recognize these kinds of players when they hit the market: Low-risk, mid upside types. You can count on these players to provide, at the very least, league-average production.

Look at it this way, when your 1B/DH are playing below replacement level (in other words, below the ability of a random AAA body) players, replacing them with with league-average players represents a huge improvement.

You don't always need "above-average" players to win at a respectable clip. Even average players at 1B/DH make this club significantly better. Let's just be clear about this: Sexson/Cairo/Vidro are not average players, they are worse than random AAA fodder. The scrap-heap guys I listed above are, at the very least, average players who can be had cheap.

Don't underestimate what having black holes at the 1B/DH can do to a team. Those are power-premium positions (far moreso than RF). Heck, the only job the DH has is to hit and hit with some pop. The fact that this club hasn't put anyone in that lineup who's capable of doing that since 2004 is a damning failure on the front-office's part. These kinds of players can be found, and they aren't expensive.

Posted by BrianL

11:25 AM, Jul 18, 2008

Jacob - if we finish with the worst record, we are guaranteed the 1st round draft pick, even if we sign a class-A free agent.

Posted by Tek Jansen

11:28 AM, Jul 18, 2008

Ichiro prefers right to center in the same way that Ibanez prefers left to DH. (And not one complains that Ibanez doesn't volunteer to DH). He likes it more and believes that playing RF makes him a better player, which thereby helps the team. Same as Ibanez in LF

Ichiro will not openly defy orders to play center. That was Mac's decision, and it seems Riggleman doesn't want to move Ichiro a second time in one season. Given the state of the team, that seems reasonable. And if Mac's decision makes it more difficult to move Ichiro back to CF in the future, well the M's brass hired the manager who made that decision. They should hire better managers.

And as far as building a good lineup with Ichiro in right, it worked out OK in 2001, 2002, and 2003. The M's need to acquire and develop good players, which is what they had in those years. Ichiro is the team's best position player, and most likely will be next year. If the M's can't figure out a way to field a good team with Ichiro in RF, that falls on them.

The conundrum doesn't revolve around Ichiro, it revolves around Mariner management. They collect the players and hire the managers. Had they hired a better manager last winter, Ichiro would still be in CF. Had they not traded Jones, they would have a capable CF to play alongside Ichiro in RF over the next few years.

To answer Geoff's question about the M's creating a good lineup with Ichiro in RF, of course they won't. But their inability to do so will have nothing to do with Ichiro and everything to do with their own skills at evaluating talent.

Posted by BWare

11:28 AM, Jul 18, 2008

Geoff:

I'm a casual observer with little emothonal vested interest in the M's -- I'm an Angels fan from SoCal. This doesn't change the fact that I can look at the M's situation and opine upon it objectively.

There is no conundrum with Ichiro - he's about the best there is at what he does and where he does it. So he doesn't hit for power on a team that is in dire need of it. The problem is less with what Ichiro doesn't provide, and more with the deployment of available assets and talents in a way that maximizes productivity on the field. Power is a great thing, but teams without power do win because they excel at a lot of other things.

I will say this again - the main problem with the M's is the abject failure of leadership. You know that leadership is seriously lacking when Jose Guillen becomes the poster boy for Chronicles in Leadership. This is less a problem with the players on the field than with management / FO types. I'm confident that no one in middle/senior management would survive a corporate restructuring akin to what you typically see in the corporate world.

Ironically, the M's are a corporation - albeit held as a franchise.

Not being able to trade Bedard is a consequence of circumstance - he's hurt, and there's not much you can do about that. That aside, why do the M's seem to frequently trail the market i.e. being a buyer in a seller's market and a seller in a buyer's market. Why is it that an overpreponderance of M's players underperform in their tenure as M's, but outperform elsewhere.

Leadership.

What's most telling to me on this front is that, in the dire circumstances that the M's face, they haven't called in not one GM candidate for an interview. For the time period that they have owned the market for GMs - i.e. being a buyer in a buyer's market - they have done absolultely nothing whatsoever. I suppose they'll get busy with their GM search at season's end, when everybody and their mother will be out in the market at the same time looking for the same thing i.e. Dodgers, Blue Jays, Phillies, Yankees(?), Astros(?), et. al.

Guess there must be a mother lode of GM talent lurking out there, and the M's figure they'll snatch one up after everyone else took their chop of the pie. Stands to reason that this was the method of choice when the M's picked up Bavasi from the talent heap. The M's might as well list the GM opening on Monster.com and see what that brings and/or sponsor a GM job fair at the 2008 Winter Meetings.

When your leadership fails like the Ms' have, it can only affect the players negatively. To be fair, each player has to take responsibility and ownership ot their respective productivity assignments and failings; however, leadership has to provide the environment that appreciates and rewards the extra effort, and indicates that less than that will not be tolerated.

Leadership has failed miserably, and no lineup construction / deconstruction will undo or patch that deficiency.

Posted by BrianL

11:32 AM, Jul 18, 2008

BWare - They haven't talked to GMs or interviewed yet because it's the middle of the season. Doing so may be construed as tampering. If you're going to have serious talks with general manager candidates that are involved with other organizations, you have to wait until the off-season.

Posted by Rudy L

11:36 AM, Jul 18, 2008

Ichiro is an issue only because Mariner management has made him one. If they had been competent over the past five years, the idea of trading Ichiro would not be sensible.

It really has gotten to the point where subtraction is all M's fans can think of, because we know that the addition part will be screwed up. I do not believe for a moment that the current M's brass is capable of acquiring the correct players.

Posted by Chris from Bothell

11:38 AM, Jul 18, 2008

The "traditional power positions" angle is a distraction. Find the best available hitters, then shuffle about to accomodate.

If there's a left fielder who's an offensive upgrade, plug him into left and move Raul to 1B/DH.
If there's a CF who's an offensive upgrade, put him in CF and keep Ichiro in RF.
If there's a RF who's an offensive upgrade, put him in RF and move Ichiro to CF.

And so on.

Being stuck in the mindset of "Ichiro has to be in right, Raul in left, etc." is part of what keeps the Ms from being flexible in who they go get. Find the best available players to upgrade the overall team offense or defense, and shuffle the rest to accomodate.

This also complements Brian's point above. If you have trouble finding even decent power at a given position, you don't have to find the perfect role player to swap out exactly for what you need; just getting better than league average at any given position will stop the bleeding. But a lineup doesn't have to be built around Ichiro, per se; there should be the flexibility to move him to either CF or RF.

It's building a roster that compensates for Raul's defense / positions, and Sexson and Vidro's offense, that has hurt the Ms much more over the last couple years, than somehow thinking Ichiro has been clogging up power positions.

Posted by scrapiron

11:39 AM, Jul 18, 2008

Ichiro is putting up similar numbers now that he did in 2001, and that team won 116 games. The 2001 team had an RBI machine at DH (Edgar) and streaky power from 2B (Boone) and CF (Cameron). No one was talking about how our right fielder then didn't have any power. We just found it in other spots.

The problem is there is no one on this team that takes pitches to tire the pitcher, delivers with RISP for RBIs. Go find those guys and you'll have a winning baseball team. Ichiro is part of the solution, not the problem.

Posted by Mike

11:39 AM, Jul 18, 2008

To follow up on what BrianL was saying I've made a few stabs at trying to understand the difference between having a decent to good hitter versus terrible terrible hitters.

LL came to the conclusion that this year for the Ms that was about 100 runs. 100 runs would move us from last to third in runs scored.

Just looking at DH I looked at RC/27. This is the total number of runs a game you'd score if you put out 9 of any one player. Jack Cust, mentioned by Brian comes in at 6.17. Vidro is 2.66. I divided that difference of 3.51 by 9 and got .39 runs per game difference. Multiply that by 95 games and you see that Vidro is 37 runs worse than Cust, who is a good but by no means great DH. Feel free to critique this methodology. I'm sure there are better stats I can use to look at this and would be happy to hear of them.

I point this out for a couple of reasons. First, that putting out awful ballplayers is a bigger issue than chemistry and secondly, that a few improvements might have this team contending. Getting league average production out of our black holes makes our offense much much better.

As for the D, that's another BIG opportunity.

Posted by BrianL

11:40 AM, Jul 18, 2008

Dave Cameron makes a great point in the latest USSM article (and no, I don't believe this post is a swipe at Geoff's post, it was written a little while ago)

"A player’s value is determined almost entirely by his ability to create and prevent runs and it doesn’t matter the way in which those runs are created or prevented. Whether you produce 30 runs of offense through death of a thousand singles or 25 home runs, the fact remains that the run creation is the same. If you have a great defender who has just an okay bat, but you already have a center fielder, that doesn’t mean you have to get rid of Defensive Stud simply because you can’t put that type of player in a corner OF spot. The 2001 to 2003 Mariners were playing three guys who were premium defenders (Winn, Cameron, Ichiro) but none of whom were classic sluggers, and they won a ton of baseball games.

Runs are runs, and you should almost never sacrifice aggregate run totals in order to fill a preconceived notion of what a certain position player should look like. The argument that the M’s should get rid of Ichiro in order to fill RF with a classic power hitter with inferior defense stems from ignorance of how baseball games are won."

Posted by Polite

11:41 AM, Jul 18, 2008

Ichiro absolutely should be traded. Not only does his insistence on playing RF increase the offensive challenges this organization faces (as Geoff detailed well), but his declining BA, his career-long drought w/o an extra base hit, and his leg injuries (the result of trying to increase his SB's?) may all very well be signs of age catching up with Ichiro. He turns 35 in two months, no? This is a player whose success has always depended heavily upon that extra half-step of speed/quickness.

For all you Billy Beane fans out there, isn't his philosophy "better to trade a year early than a year late"? Unless you believe this team is still just a player or two (i.e., within realistic reach) of becoming a legitimate contender next season, then you should be focusing on the 2 - 5 year window. Ichiro will be approching/reaching 40 in that window -- and likely paid a lot of money.

I have enjoyed in so many ways watching Ichiro play for the Mariners. But I think he is very likely becoming a significantly declining and overpaid player who happens to also cause significant roster challenges as Geoff outlined. The time to trade him is now. NYY needs a CF and can afford the contract. Get two quality prospects and unload his salary now . . . while you still can.

Posted by Adam

11:41 AM, Jul 18, 2008

Great post, Geoff.

I think you've hit the nail on the head. Ichiro is NOT worth the money we pay him as a RF.

Last year, USSM put forth this article to justify Ichiro's worth:

http://ussmariner.com/2007/07/11/ichiro-20-million-a-year/

Keep in mind, he was at the time a CF. They concluded that, at 5/$100 Million, Ichiro was a bargain.

The analysis was also based on projecting Ichiro's 2007 season based on his first 3 1/2 months of the season using Hardballtimes.com's "Runs Created" stat, as well as measuring his 2004, 2005, and 2006 seasons.

However, if you take into account his relatively mediocre 2008 season, and the fact that he's now a RF, and his value drops quite a bit. I ran the same analysis and found that Ichiro's value drops by more than 15%. He's still worth the contract (worth 99.6 million over 5 years, rather than 121 million), but not the bargain that he was in CF, and before his 2008 performance came into play.

Further, looking at his Runs Created over the past four years, it looks as follows:

2005 - 114
2006 - 113
2007 - 133
2008 - On pace for 98

Any year jump out at you? 2007? Other than 2007, we are seeing a decline from a player who will be 35 in October. USSM's analysis weighs 35% of Ichiro's value on 2007's numbers. I don't have a problem with that, but I do wonder if 2007 was a bit fluky, or a last hurrah, so to speak. It was a very good year, to be sure, but his BABIP was a good 32 points above his career average.

My point being, I think there is good reason to wonder if Ichiro can live up to his worth under this contract, given his age, the fact the Mariners seem resigned to play him in RF (and no, I don't think a new GM will order Ichiro to change positions a third time in three years), and his declining performance in three of the past four years.


I think now is the prime time to sell high on Ichiro.


Some other quabbles people have over dealing Ichiro:

1. He's the face of the franchise.

True, but so were Griffey, Johnson, A-Rod, and Edgar, and the team survived the loss of each. If Ichiro goes, Felix becomes our greatest star and the face of the franchise. Any deal to trade Ichiro should be coupled with an extension of Felix.

2. Attendance will suffer.

I don't think so. Attendance goes as the Mariners go. Attendance has gone down every year since 2002 (as the winning stopped), except for last year, when it went up (and the Mariners finished 14 games over .500). Even with Ichiro, this team saw attendance plummet (by 25% from 2003 to 2006) as it lost. This town likes a winner.

3. We'll lose revenue.

Not from foreign merchandise sales, which I understand are part of the revenue-sharing plan. From a hit in attendance? Perhaps. But any such loss will go away when a winning team is back on the field. And Ichiro just isn't the key to a winning team. He'd be a part of it, sure, but he's not indispensable.

4. He's got value to us that he wouldn't to other teams.

How? Don't tell me he wouldn't do as much good as the Yankee CF and lead-off hitter as he would in Seattle. And don't tell me the Cubs wouldn't reap as many rewards of having Ichiro in their OF as we do. I don't buy this one.


I love Ichiro, I really do. But it would be irresponsible NOT to entertain offers for Ichiro and reject a really good deal for him. We have him signed at $20 mill per until he's 38 years old.


Perhaps he ages gracefully and is worth every penny at that age. Perhaps this power outage we are now seeing is just a mirage (his ISO power has fallen every years since 2005). Perhaps the Mariners' attendance really does depend on Ichiro's presence.

But given the lack of talent at the upper levels of the farm system, and the lack of real talent at the ML level, I'd argue that two or three ML-ready young players under team control are more valuable than Ichiro moving forward.


If' he's here in 2009, great. Hopefully we'll have a GM who can build a good team around him. But personally, I'd rather see what he can bring us in the trade market.

Posted by Alaskan

11:42 AM, Jul 18, 2008

Geoff, a couple thoughts:

1. We certainly need more power, but let's worry about power at 1B and DH before RF.

2. We need a leadoff hitter. No M is close to Ichiro in that department, given his OBP and speed.

3. We need better defense, not worse. Anyone else you put out there will be a downgrade.

4. Resign Beltre. Keep the power and defense we have.

5. Slightly off-topic, but do you have any idea why Kenny Lofton didn't get signed anywhere this year? Doesn't Seattle seem like the perfect place, given their preference for experience? I said this preseason: why didn't we put Lofton in LF and move Ibanez to 1B or DH? Is it because Ibanez didn't want to move? That certainly doesn't sound like leadership on Raul's part.

Posted by BrianL

11:44 AM, Jul 18, 2008

Adam, this is one of those rare instances where I'm going to disagree with you. I'd lay out the reasons why, but Dave and Derek just did a better job with their latest post.

Posted by Dan Deerdorf

11:45 AM, Jul 18, 2008

Geoff, next time you interview Bloomquist, can u tell him to stop posting on this blog?

Posted by Mike

11:47 AM, Jul 18, 2008

Alaskan--I'd guess that the Ms thought that Ibanez in left was not a big problem.

Posted by BrianL

11:48 AM, Jul 18, 2008

Polite - There is no reason to believe that Ichiro's skillset is in a decline phase.

http://www.lookoutlanding.com/2008/6/26/559914/ichiro-is-fine

Posted by Adam

11:49 AM, Jul 18, 2008

BrianL - Yeah, I think we've had this discussion a bit over at LL too.

I completely understand the "keep Ichiro" argument and have respect for it.

For me, it comes down to a clear (albeit small) decline in performance and age.

Posted by Adam

11:50 AM, Jul 18, 2008

BTW - I do agree that the whole "Ichiro isn't good in the clubhouse" argument is a waste of time. Who the bleep cares.

Posted by Chris from Bothell

11:51 AM, Jul 18, 2008

Another angle: The team has not been managing to what they have, nor have they decided what kind of team they want to build. That goes beyond "the Ms don't have power in power positions". It gets into knowing what kind of team they are, and deliberately building the kind of team they want to be.

McLaren wanted to put the game in motion with a team with terrible OBP and only one or two legit baserunning threats.
The roster was built with Beltre and Sexson as their power guys for the middle of the order. We know how that turned out.

As part of an overhaul, the Ms management need to decide what kind of team they're going to be. They don't have the talent in the farm system, nor can they find / trade for / buy the talent, to have the kind of well-rounded attack the Red Sox have (power, speed, OBP are all there). They need to decide as an organization whether they will build a team with some OBP guys and power to drive them in. Or whether they're going to go with speed and basestealing, draw walks, manufacture runs. Then they need to get a manager who will manage effectively to that philosophy; a GM who will find talent consistent with that philosophy; and a farm system and team culture that all consistently go that way.

When the Beltre/Sexson experiment flopped, the team was left with pieces and parts. The managers had players who couldn't / didn't play to their managing style. The GM was getting not just substandard players, but players who didn't fit well in a lineup (leading to the cholesterol clogging the arteries of the 6th, 7th and 8th spots for the last few years). The players' skills didn't complement each other, so even when things were reasonably working you had a ludicrous amount of men left on base.

What I'm taking a silly amount of time to say is, even if the players had performed to league average / personal career average, as a roster the Ms have been a Frankenstein's monster for years. Which comes naturally from the "we're only one or two players away" mentality that the Ms have had for 4 or 5 years now.

The problem is not how to build a proper roster and lineup around Ichiro. The problem is fundamentally deciding what kind of team the Ms want to be, and then rebuilding the farm system and the major league roster with that in mind.

And I haven't even touched on trying to build a decent team specifically for SafeCo. Don't get me started on the whole "groundball pitchers will love it here", Silva / HoRam debacle...

Posted by BrianL

11:56 AM, Jul 18, 2008

Adam - Is it really a decline in performance, though? Clearly it's a decline in results, but is that his fault?

Ichiro benefits/suffers more from BABIP fluctuations than anyone in the league. What happens if you regress Ichiro's April BABIP numbers to a more league-norm? I'd wager that he'd be OPSing well over .800 with a more Ichiro-like .320 BA clip.

Posted by Chris from Bothell

12:02 PM, Jul 18, 2008

Adam - I think it's been said before, but even if this is the time to trade Ichiro, do you trust THIS FO to do it right? I don't.

Posted by John

12:05 PM, Jul 18, 2008

I think trading Ichiro is absolutely the right move. I was shouting for it last season when he was having such a great year. The trade would have brought in much-needed talent to the minor league system, and would have necessitated that we keep Adam Jones.
When Ichiro wasn't traded, I did call for Jones to be traded to bring in Bedard, and obviously that worked out just great. (Sarcasm for those of you who are hard of hearing.)
Nevertheless, there is still the time to trade Ichiro.

UNFORTUNATELY, this is all just spitting into the wind because this organization, as long as it has Japanese ownership, WILL NOT trade Ichiro - or Johjima. The absurd signing of Johjima is proof of that.
So as nice of an idea as it is, it isn't going to happen - so why talk about it?

Posted by Seattledad

12:07 PM, Jul 18, 2008

LOL I loved the comment about the "venom." :) Good ending. Look, I've been a HUGE supporter of Ichiro from day one. The difference he makes on THIS OR ANY team can be shown by many other faucets, not just strickly his power, or lack thereof. He LEADS by example, the hardest working (ESPN has made this comment numerous times, including this year) player in baseball. He has NEVER, I repeat, NEVER, been a vocal leader, not in Japan, not here. We didn't sign him for that! He works hard, doesn't complain (or rarely does), supports his teammates, and has an incredible workout regime. Does he have power? No, again, it was never intended for him to be anything such.

One critism? You mentioned him as an "above average" outfielder. C'mon, he is probably in the top 3 in the major leagues, Geoff, always has been. Did you watch the way he fired a perfect throw to nail a runner at the all star game? Why do you think he has so few assists? Because no runner in his right mind is going to challange his arm and speed! Even at 34, he has shown every year, including this one, that he is more than "above average." You don't get that kind of respect from your fellow players around the league being above average. Give him his due, will ya? :)

I agree with you, too, trading him wouldn't make sense. We are not, nor have we ever, proposed building this team around him. No power, yes, I agree, he completely lacks that. Remember, in 2001, Ichiro had an assortment of power players to compliment him and the team, sorely lacking now.

I think Bedard should go ONLY if they can get at least 1 solid player in return. I don't anticipate that happening. His attitude just kills the clubhouse full of young players. I'd like to see them bring up more of our youngsters, play them from now until the end of the year, give us the opportunity to see what's out there in our farm system. I'd like them to dump Vidro NOW, he is no more valuable than Sexton was. Move our catcher to first base, maybe DH, and keep Clement playing regularly behind the plate. Give him the rest of the season to come around, I think he will. Stay away from any large contract trades, Bavasi proved what a disaster that could be, didn't he?

Thanks.
Greg

Posted by jeff928

12:09 PM, Jul 18, 2008

The Japanese owner will never allow Ichiro or Kenji to be traded. It's a moot point regardless of the logic in doing so.

Meanwhile, we anxiously await whether Erica Bedard will make his once-a-month start soon. Erica is a pain-in-the ass wuss.

Posted by John

12:11 PM, Jul 18, 2008

There isn't a doubt in my mind that Beane would trade Ichiro. In fact, he probably would have traded him a couple of years ago.
I'm not one of those who kisses the ground he walks on, but compared to the buffoons running this ship, Beane is lightyears ahead.

Posted by Adam

12:12 PM, Jul 18, 2008

Sure, I think there's a decline. The power numbers are down, the defense (range factor) is in question.

I understand that his results would be better if his BABIP were higher, but that still doesn't excuse the fact that he's becoming more and more dependent on BABIP. I think that is a problem.

If his power is starting to decline, I really don't like the idea that a 35 year-old plus ballplayer has to rely on BABIP to produce.

I'm trying to do some work here, so my brain's a little crowded, but I just don't think he's the same player anymore.

Posted by BrianL

12:13 PM, Jul 18, 2008

Seattledad - I have yet to see any player accuse Erik Bedard of being a bad teammate. The one knock against him is that he doesn't talk to the media.

Not talking to the media does not mean a player is a bad teammate.

Want to talk about bad teammates? Let's look at Jarrod Washburn, who threw Kenji Johjima under a bus every opportunity he had in April and May before Mac told him to put a sock in it. Or how about Carlos Silva, who was taking thinly-veiled shots at Ichiro (despite the fact that if anyone on the club is overpaid, it's Silva). The actions of these players can be construed as being "bad teammates" but they seem to get a free pass for it? Why? I have no idea, but it might have something to do with their willingness to talk to interviewers during the post-game.

Posted by scrapiron

12:13 PM, Jul 18, 2008

Chris (11:51) - Dead on. Good assessment. The Mariners, and every team in baseball, need to be looked at as pieces of a puzzle, not individuals. A new GM needs to be hired that has an idea of how to build a roster that works together. THAT is what we are missing. Individually, there is some talent here. As a whole, it doesn't work together.

Your top two guys in the lineup need to get on base for your 3-4-5 hitters to drive them in. Ichiro fills his role of leading off and getting on base better than just about anyone in baseball.

Posted by Ry

12:14 PM, Jul 18, 2008

Ichiro needs to be sent packing, and quickly while his value is still considerably high.

Geoff made a lot of great points about his numbers and how they stack up against other CFs and RFs in the game. It isn't just that, though. His talent is being wasted as long as he remains a part of this current M's squad. I think we can all agree that he's one of the best, if not the best leadoff hitter in the game but when the guys hitting behind him can't bring him home, then it really makes no difference. His batting average and OBP become empty, meaningless statistics.

Secondly, given his stature league-wide and especially in the city of Seattle, the M's should expect to get some clubhouse leadership out of him when you also consider the salary he's pulling in. It's been almost a decade now and he still speaks through an interpreter. In other words, aside from trying to lead by example, he can't speak up and reach his teammates at the appropriate times when something needs to be said by someone other than the manager.

Finally, Ichiro is 35. How much longer can we expect to see him swiping 50 bags a year and beating out infield grounders for base hits? With athletes, the legs are usually the first to go and if you're the M's and you don't move him before that happens, then you'll never get the value in return for him that you could have otherwise gotten. The M's aren't any good on the field and their minor league system is barren. In short, this organization needs to rebuild and Ichiro is a guy that could fetch some big pieces to the puzzle.

Posted by BrianL

12:18 PM, Jul 18, 2008

Adam - Again, how much of that power-shortage is simply due to bad luck? I'm over at THT right now taking a look at his peripheral stats. His LD% is at 20.3%, one of the highest marks of his career, but his BABIP is at .330, one of the lower marks. It looks like he's hitting the ball as hard as he ever has, but they haven't been falling for extra-basehits. As far as defense, RZR still loves him and he's already made a whopping 47 plays out-of-zone, which is the second highest total of his career (and we just got past the all-star break)

I just don't see anything that shows he's declining.

Posted by LakersAgain

12:19 PM, Jul 18, 2008

I agree with some others, I am for trading Ichiro. Attendance won't drop much more than it is now and not as many shirts will sell in Japan but how does that change anything from where we are now? 20 million for a slap hitting right fielder who is not a leader is pretty steep. He could easily be traded for a proven power hitter and stellar prospects. This town has a problem with wanting to relive the past. What was so great about 2001? Yes they tied a league record for wins but there is no trophy at Safeco. There is no WS trophy from 95 either. They didn't even come within a whiff of the WS. But M's fans relive those days over and over. This team needs to move forward, not try to rebuild the past. The best way to do this is to start over, trade Ichiro while he is still valuable and start building to the 2010 and 2011 seasons because those are the only realistic chances of contending if this team starts over. Joe Hum Mariner who thinks that this team will be .500 in the second half, who loves rally fries and thinks Bloomquist is a capable everyday starter in the MLB will say well that's a negative attitude to have. But it is the truth, that is sports, you have to look down the road not where you used to be Unfortunately I don't see it happening right now for this team.

Posted by BrianL

12:22 PM, Jul 18, 2008

Ry - "It's been almost a decade now and he still speaks through an interpreter"

This is one of the most tired, lazy, and dishonest arguments in all of baseball. Ichiro hurts this team by using an interpreter during post-game. As Dave Cameron put it today, that wreaks of "ethnocentric judgementalism." Frankly, you should be ashamed of yourself for even bringing it up.

Posted by Ry

12:33 PM, Jul 18, 2008

Thanks for the admonishment Brian but I'm not ashamed in the least because I think you misunderstood my intent when I raised that point. In sports, you often look to the best player on your team to pull everyone together and fire up the troops every now and then. This is especially true in MLB where the grind of a 162 game season wears guys down and an occasional spark is needed. I simply don't see Ichiro as being capable of providing that. I'm not bashing the guy for it. It's simply a theory I have and I haven't seen or heard anything out of Ichiro that disproves it.

Posted by BrianL

12:39 PM, Jul 18, 2008

Ry - You made the argument, the burden of proof lies on you, not Ichiro. Your assertion that Ichiro hurts the team by using an interpreter is fallacious. How do you know that Ichiro doesn't speak to his teammates in English, and why should that even be an issue to begin with?

Posted by Geoff's Assistant

12:39 PM, Jul 18, 2008

Erik,

lets keep this blog clean. Geoff will be immiediatly notified.

eroor code DW#456.12

Posted by Lance

12:42 PM, Jul 18, 2008

This team should be making a concerted effort to sign Raul Ibanez to a new three-year deal. If you can't then he must be dealt. And, not resigned this winter if he's going to cost you your first-round pick.

Imagine a Mariners clubhouse with no Raul Ibanez in it, but Ichiro still in it. Absolutely awful.

As long as this team continues to revolve itself around our singles-hitting right-fielder it's going to be a big loser. He's a nice piece for a winning team, but it's a big mistake to make him your franchise player.

It's best for everyone if Ichiro moves on. For the team and for him. The real conundrum is who is going to take on that stupid contract? That's why even if you find a taker you're not going to get much for him.

Unless he's gone by Opening Day 2009 the future of this team will be bleak.

Posted by Ry

12:45 PM, Jul 18, 2008

How am I supposed to prove it, Brian? I'm a fan. It's a theory for godsake. When all you ever see is a guy trotting out his interpreter whenever the mic is on, it makes you wonder what's going on behind closed doors. I don't care where you work or who you work for, if you're working with and relying upon other people, communication is vital.

You know what? Throw out this point entirely if you want to. Up to you. I think the rest of my original post can stand on its own.

Posted by BrianL

12:46 PM, Jul 18, 2008

Lance -

So...going by your logic, old outfielders in "decline" are bad and should be dumped regardless of the return. Furthermore, Ichiro is one of this club's biggest problems in your mind.

Your solution is to give37-year-old Raul Ibanez, a DH playing LF every day, complete with old player skills, a 3-year extension.

Give me a minute to try and process this...

Posted by Alaskan

12:49 PM, Jul 18, 2008

Lance -
What is Ibanez getting so much credit for? Where exactly has his leadership gotten us? I've heard this claim before, that Ibanez is a leader, but I have yet to see what difference it's made. As Geoff has covered before, this is a disjointed clubhouse. No one's rallying around Raul.

Raul has trade value, and his old-player skills will fade fast. After Washburn, he's the next guy I try to move.

Posted by Lance

12:51 PM, Jul 18, 2008

One note about the Ichiro contract. As I understand it, his salary throughout it will be $12 mil. a year. The rest will be paid after he retires. So, if the M's pay off the post-career portion, the annual salary portion might be tradable. But, if the M's are burdened down with it for another four years there are hapless days ahead.

Not the burden of the dollars, the burden of Ichiro's lack of productivity.

Posted by BrianL

12:53 PM, Jul 18, 2008

Ry - Ichiro uses an interpreter with the media (and only the media) so he can get his point across without having to worry about the various nuances of going from Japanese to English, two languages that are polar opposites.

Just because you're a fan doesn't make it right to throw out such baseless accusations. How do you know Ichiro is bad for clubhouse chemistry? With players like Barry Bonds or Jeff Kent, the impact on chemistry was visible. With Ichiro, it always comes back to two things: he uses an interpreter and he has his own stretching routine.

That, my friend, is what you call "grasping at straws."

Posted by Scanman

1:02 PM, Jul 18, 2008

I think a lot of the pieces are here now, and with a little creative out of the box thinking, I feel we could change all this relatively easy. First, move Lopez to Dh, a definite upgrade from where we are at now. And because he still posses some defensive skills it would actually add a move that could be made during a game if some one got hurt or something. Next put the best fielding 2nd baseman we have in the line up whether its Willie or Tug. This will strengthen us up the middle. Call up the best out fielder we have and rotate a three way rotation by having Raul rotate between Ist and left depending on the opposing pitcher and who hits him better, the new left fielder or, Lahair at first. All the pieces are available; we just need to get a little creative.

Posted by LakersAgain

1:04 PM, Jul 18, 2008

BrianL how do you know that he only uses an interpretor after a game with the media? The guy sits in the dugout during the games so he must be serving some kind of purpose. It would seem odd if he has an interpretor around for only answering questions from people like Geoff, but he is comfortable with English in all other aspects of life in the US where English is spoken. If you are going to call somebody out on their theory you should back yours up with fact. I think Ry made a good point, you can't lead a team of people doing anything, not just sports, if you don't speak their language effectively. If he was a role player it would be fine, but he is the franchise guy. He needs to communicate, he needs to lead and from his years here I think he has shown, at least to the public he is not willing to do that.

Posted by Insider

1:07 PM, Jul 18, 2008

FYI, the guy that sits in the dugout is Johjima's interpretor. Ichiro only uses one when speaking to the media. in general, his english in no worse than most players on the team.

Posted by Chris from Bothell

1:13 PM, Jul 18, 2008

The Ichiro language thing is a tired old saw, but there's a new wrinkle to it - this year's ASG.

There was the article recently about how it's a tradition for Ichiro to deliver a trash-talking, firey, obscenity-laden inspriational speech at ASGs.

Take that... add it to his trash-talking and displays of emotion when he was on the Japanese team in the World Baseball Classic... and how he always seems to come up with showcase / highlight plays in ASGs, or big games, but not as often day-to-day... and how he crashed into a wall on a play a few days after seeing some rounds of criticism in the press for not playing hard enough...

Hm.

There's an argument to be made in there that Ichiro picks and chooses when to "turn it on", and that if he so wished he could be the kind of firey leader (or even loud, Jose Guillen-style pain in the ass) that people expect him to be.

I don't personally buy it, but I can see how people have a valid argument for expecting it from him and knocking him for not delivering that.

I think he's an elite individual player and exciting complement to a great overall team (see Ms 2001) but not the kind of traditional vocal clubhouse leader day-to-day, nor does he need to be if there's other pieces there. It's legit to have one person leading by example. It gets back to the trap of tradition, saying that your RF HAS to be a HR/doubles hitter, that traditional positions / seniority HAS to function a certain way, etc. Again, it's about overall roster construction.

Posted by BrianL

1:14 PM, Jul 18, 2008

LakersAgain -

I assume, then, you would have been in favor of dumping John Olerud in the middle of the 2001 campaign? Olerud was a notoriously quiet guy who had the gall to let his on-field work do the talking for him.

These roles you pigeonhole players into, especially Ichiro, are pointless. Chemistry is a factor, sure, but it's been blown way out of proportions here. Suddenly it's something that outweighs on-field contribution. Unless a player can light a fire under the rest of his team (and let's not even get into the reasons that fire has to be lit in the first place), they're accused of being a bad player.

"you can't lead a team of people doing anything, not just sports, if you don't speak their language effectively."

What proof do you have that Ichiro doesn't speak the language effectively? All I'm hearing is baseless conjecture.

As for why Ken Barron is in the clubhouse? Probably a security blanket. Does his presence mean that Ichiro isn't speaking English to his teammates? No, it doesn't. Go watch some video of Ichiro right after he gets on to first base. He isn't afraid or opposed to talk to someone in a language other than his own.

So what is it? Does Ichiro's "lack of leadership presence" negate the on-field accomplishments? Does the fact Ichiro use an interpreter render his team-leading number of hits, average, OBP, and steals null?

If chemistry is this important to you, focus your anger on the players who are clearly detrimental to it, perhaps Jarrod Washburn and Carlos Silva. Last I checked, Ichiro wasn't the one throwing fellow team-mates under a bus.

Posted by BrianL

1:16 PM, Jul 18, 2008

Chris from Bothell - You also have to consider that it took, seven years for this side of Ichiro in the All-star games to be reported. Who's to say he's never done that in the M's clubhouse before?

Contrary to popular belief, not everything that happens in the clubhouse before the game is public knowledge.

Posted by Lance

1:20 PM, Jul 18, 2008

BrianL, you sound more age-biased than you think I am.

It has nothing to do with age. It has everything to do with productivity. Raul is still very good at what he does. Since we have as little power as we do, why get rid of him if you don't have to.

I'm in the camp that says Ichiro is a selfish player who plays for his own glory with little regard for the team, and that he's always been that way. Right now, he's on the march for another 200-hit year. How he gets it, and to what extent it benefits the team is not a concern to him. Getting 200 hits is all that matters.

And I'm not saying he's the only problem on this team. You really love twisting around what other write to serve your own purposes, don't you?

I am saying, however, that we'd be better off turning the page of the Ichiro Era, move on, and build a real winner. Raul can very much be a part of that. He's great at nurturing your players. Ichiro is not, regardless of what language they speak.

You're not going to have to pay Raul an incredible amount to keep him around as a 1B-DH. And, he can still be quite useful is such a roll for a few more years. He's not 37. He just turned 36. And, he's consistant. He'll likely be the same player at 39 as he is now. I'm not near as confident as to what Ichiro will be three years from now.

Posted by BrianL

1:23 PM, Jul 18, 2008

Lance -

Raul's peripheral stats are in serious decline mode. His LD% is down, his raw power numbers are down. His infield fly rate suggests that his batspeed is diminishing. His HR per flyball rate is way, way, way down. Over the next three years, I'm almost certain that Ichiro will be a far more productive baseball player than Raul Ibanez.

This has nothing to do with age. Raul is declining and declining in a hurry. Giving him anything longer than a 1 year contract is foolish.

Posted by Mike

1:24 PM, Jul 18, 2008

Brian and Adam are bringing the ping pong game of what to do with Ichiro from my brain to this very blog. But at the end of the day, I really doubt the Ms would trade him and I'm okay with keeping a good defensive player who can get on base and steal lots of bases even if he is in his mid-thirties. Again, the least of our problems.

What I want to know is how can we justify not getting Balentien up for some seasoning? He needs to learn to adjust to ML pitching and we need to see if he can. The more we know what we have the more we can make plans for '09 and beyond and we won't learn a thinkg if he's in AAA.

By all accounts Adam Jones was viewed as a superior prospect to Balentien and while being younger hit for an OPS .100 higher than Balentien. Despite that, 2 cups of coffee in the bigs plus two months starting in Baltimore, Jones had posted a mid .600s OPS. Then, apparently (small sample size alert) the light went on. Jones hit for an .804 OPS in May and so far in July it is .949.

So why in the world when we are 20 games out is Jose Vidro on the roster and Balentien wasting an opportunity to play every day. Balentien may be no Adam Jones (or he may one day hit for more power) but the fact that this move didn't happen the second Pelekoudas took over indicates to me that we aren't likely to see much change in how the Ms do things unless a new ownership group comes in or Lincoln & Armstrong change their entire way of thinking.

Posted by Resin isn't Cheating

1:30 PM, Jul 18, 2008

But it may demand a trading of somebody else. It may require dealing away Yuniesky Betancourt, or Jose Lopez at some point (before next season), in order to bring in a middle infielder with enough power to offset the lack of it in right field.

That's the worst suggestion and unrealistic outcome I've read. No team in baseball will give you a power hitting shortstop and second baseman in exchange for Lopez and Betancourt at this stage in their careers. This just isn't a well thought out solution. I'd expect it from the other site but not here. Even if you did trade Betancourt and Lopez you would likely get prospects in exchange. We already have Mario Martinez, Carlos Triunfel, and Matt Tuiasosopo in the farm system waiting for their potential skills to develop.

If I misunderstood, and Geoff is actually suggesting to sign a power hitting middle infielder to sign with Seattle in free agency to replace Lopez and Betancourt, that's just unrealistic. Beltre signing with Seattle years ago was the M's version of winning the Lotto. Have we not as fans learned the fallacy of building a team through free agency?

We unfortunately have to live with a singles hitter that makes $17 million and provides no power at right field. That's the drawback of having Mr. Yamauchi as the owner. The positive, is you have money to work with every year. It's politics, it's life.

Vidro and Johjima took the year off, Beltre took May and June off, Sexson took the last two years off. If you fix these problems the team can score runs with a weak hitting right fielder. I'm not as a defeatist as Geoff is.

And in the long run, it just may not work out.

I believe this offense can be fixed. If you replace Ibanez with Vidro at DH you plug one hole. Clement could be ready next year to replace Johjima. Balentien could plug the hole in left. Michael Saunders can plug the hole of .261 hitter Reed at center. LaHair can be given a shot to replace Sexson, and we have a much better offense.

Posted by Mike

1:31 PM, Jul 18, 2008

"He'll likely be the same player at 39 as he is now. I'm not near as confident as to what Ichiro will be three years from now. "

No he won't. His skill-set typically deteriorates much faster than someone with Ichiro's skills. Plus, Ichiro is a stretching maniac.

Posted by BrianL

1:31 PM, Jul 18, 2008

Mike - "So why in the world when we are 20 games out is Jose Vidro on the roster and Balentien wasting an opportunity to play every day."

I can only think of one explanation, and it boils down to one name: Strasburg.

They're committed to that first round pick next year, I suppose.

Posted by Chuck

1:32 PM, Jul 18, 2008

I say, foget all the conjecture about BA's and power hitters and rebuilding the team. We have interim everybody but paying customers. Lets wait until the end of the season before we do anything. We still have an important attainable, realistic goal for this season. If the Ms continue to do what they do best, they will finish last in the major league. An easily attainable goal--just by doing nothing but show up. THEN we have the first pick in the draft and can pick a big power pitcher named Stephen Strasburgh, who just completed his sophomore season at San Diego State. He struck out 23 U. Utah guys this spring and is currently on the US Olympic team. Now that is a building block to go after !

Posted by Mike

1:39 PM, Jul 18, 2008

So, they only appear to be really bad baseball executives. In reality they are evil genuises. That's the most plausible reason for running out "hitters" like Vidro, Cairo and Bloomquist on the same day.

Posted by Chuck

1:41 PM, Jul 18, 2008

As an afterthought, has anyone approached Baltimore for a straight player for player trade of Ichiro for Adam Jones?

Posted by BrianL

1:41 PM, Jul 18, 2008

Mike - It's the only explanation I can think of that doesn't make me want to weep for humanity's welfare.

Posted by Lance

1:42 PM, Jul 18, 2008

Mike - Balentien is not on the roster because he has a hard enough time hitting AAA pitching, let alone big league pitching. Just handing him unearned big league at bats, like McLaren and Bavasi did, isn't going to change that. That's already been proven.

Heck, this team would be better off bringing up Prentice Redman right now than Wladimir Balentien.

BrianL - regardless of what your sabermetrics tell you, Raul is not in physical decline. He just needs to be in a better offense. One that doesn't pitch around him to get to Adrian Beltre. Geoff has already written about how Raul does much better with Vidro hitting behind him, whether you like it or not.

Also, BrianL, in retrospect a two-year deal for Raul would make the most sense. That would be a low-risk deal. So, I'll compromise with you on that point. But, I'd be surprised if Raul would settle for just one year.

But, again, if they can't sign him than he needs to go while you can get something for him. But, it's not going to hurt to keep him around, either.

Posted by BrianL

1:46 PM, Jul 18, 2008

Lance, put sabermetrics aside. Just watching Raul I can see he's in decline mode. The batspeed isn't what it once was, and that's a problem that accelerates in a hurry.

Posted by Mike

1:49 PM, Jul 18, 2008

Lance--THIS team might very well be better of with Prentice Redman than Wlad but Wlad is 5 years younger and might be part of your future. That's what we are playing for now. But for what it is worth bring him up too.

Posted by Lance

1:52 PM, Jul 18, 2008

BrianL - oh, now you're a scout. Got a stopwatch on the guy, and all?

The only guy whose swing was noticibly slower from what I could see was Sexson.

Beltre's got plenty of bat speed, but it looks like he's swatting at flies.

Posted by Lance

1:58 PM, Jul 18, 2008

Let's let Wladimir learn to hit AAA pitching first. At his age I'm not saying give up on the guy, but he's not going to get any better facing big leaguers if he can't hit minor leaguers. And, this coming spring he'll be out of options, so having flail away at big league pitching isn't going to help his progession one bit.

Posted by BrianL

1:58 PM, Jul 18, 2008

Lance - So what is it? You don't want me to use sabermetrics in my analysis and you also don't want me to use the various scouting tidbits I've read in my analysis. Aside from voodoo magic, I'm not sure what more I can give you.

Oh, and Beltre's contact rate is way up this season. Not that you'll believe me, a sabermetrician, or a scout.

Posted by Lance

2:05 PM, Jul 18, 2008

"Just watching Raul I can see he's in decline mode. The batspeed isn't what it once was," -- Brian L

There you go again, twisting for your own purposes. If you've got professional scouts to cite fine. Do it.

But, you were obviously setting yourself up as the scout with the trained eyes.

But, then again, I think we're all getting used to your comment twisting and presumptuous responses.

Posted by BrianL

2:08 PM, Jul 18, 2008

Forgive me for not citing Jason Churchill's network. Every time I do that, it seems that someone here blows up in response.

Churchill brought it up first, and I started noticing it after he mentioned it. To my eyes, he's declining. According to the numbers, he's declining. According to scouting tidbits Jason's mentioned, he's declining.

There's ample evidence to suggest Raul's in decline mode.

Posted by Lance

2:08 PM, Jul 18, 2008

Anyway, gotta go, guys. Catcha later. It's been fun.

Go, Mariners. Even you, Ichiro.

Posted by Mike

2:09 PM, Jul 18, 2008

Wlad is posting an .859 OPS in AAA. Last year it was .873. He has 12 HRs in 158 PAs. He's hitting AAA pitching just fine.

Posted by BWare

2:11 PM, Jul 18, 2008

"They haven't talked to GMs or interviewed yet because it's the middle of the season. Doing so may be construed as tampering. If you're going to have serious talks with general manager candidates that are involved with other organizations, you have to wait until the off-season."

BL:

There's this newfangled phenomenon sweeping the world...they call it getting permission. Never really tried it personally, but I heard it's a cool thing. Rumor has it that a lot of the young, energetic and ambitious types really dig it.

I bet if Howie and Chuck gave it a whirl, they might be more pleased with that than they would be with Cialis.

Posted by meagain

2:12 PM, Jul 18, 2008

IchiRoasters, IchiRooters, what is it about the guy that inspires so much controversy? He's unique. Rod Carew was a little bit like him, but without the arm and glove. One thing this thread proves: Ichiro is hard to pin down.

By the way, the guy who usually interprets for Ichiro is not in the dugout during games. The guy who works with Johjima and the pitchers is down there sometimes.

Posted by BrianL

2:13 PM, Jul 18, 2008

BWare - Yes, you can get permission but if I'm correct, typically the Commissioner's Office won't let the actual discussions take place until after the season is over. For example, we already have permission to talk to candidates like Kim Ng and David Forst, but we can't actually hold the discussions until after the playoffs.

Posted by BrianL

2:26 PM, Jul 18, 2008

As far as trading Yuni goes...I'd be for it. His value is probably as high as it's ever going to get. I have no idea what happened or why it's happening, but Yuni's range has vanished. All that remains of him is a light-hitting shortstop with a strong, but inaccurate arm.

Of course, we know this, but do opposing GMs know this? The Dodgers need a shortstop, so in a perfect world, I'd package Yuni with Washburn and see if we can pry Loney, Kemp, or Ethier away from them.

Posted by DFA'd

2:40 PM, Jul 18, 2008

>>> If I had not given him my first-place vote in 2001, he likely would not have been named AL MVP that year.

OK, big ups to Geoff for knocking out a thoughtful post and opening up this dialogue every morning, but too often we see sentences like the above that come off as a bit pompous. What would be wrong with writing, “I voted for Ichiro for MVP in 2001 in what turned out to be a very close race with Giambi”? The kingmaking boast is gratuitous and basically unbecoming of an MVP voter.

Posted by dr

2:42 PM, Jul 18, 2008

Ok, Ichiro isn't a power hitter. We know. We've known it since 2001. He does other things such as getting on base, stealing same, scoring runs - those little things llead-off hitters are supposed to do. By-and-large, he does them. So, let's move on to other positions and partake of the same "analysis."

Take 1st base, 3rd base, DH, left field - all so-called "power positions." Sexson stopped hitting and there's nothing happening at 1st base today; Beltre isn't showing much "power"; Vidro, well, you already know that one; Ibanez has slowed down HR-wise. That's FOUR guys who are supposed to hit for power and who aren't/didn't (see, Sexson).

Geez, Geoff, enough of the whining that Ichiro isn't the Dark Knight of the AL West.

Posted by scrapiron

2:43 PM, Jul 18, 2008

Ned Colletti, the Dodgers GM, has already gone on record saying he'd give any team permission to talk to his assistants, including Kim Ng. He also said no one has asked.

Why has the GM interview process not started, at least with the candidates that they can interview?

Posted by Lance

2:46 PM, Jul 18, 2008

Brian L - I have no trouble with someone citing Jason Churchill. I like his writing and have a lot of respect for what he says. More than most bloggers. However, Churchill shouldn't be viewed as a window to the future.

I recall last year when the Rangers signed Michael Young to a new long-term deal Churchill said it was a bad idea. That Young was a player in fast decline.

However, Young is hitting over .300, with a .777 OPS, and he made the All-Star team. And, no one can argue what he means to that clubhouse. His team is also on the upswing. Having him around certainly helps.

Anyone is welcome to cite anyone they want, but that in itself doesn't make something so.

Posted by BrianL

2:48 PM, Jul 18, 2008

My mistake, I thought the Mariners had already asked and were received permission to talk to Ng.

In any case, most clubs do not conduct GM interviews during the season, unless they're committed to hiring an in-house candidate. There's a fear that talking to individuals who are involved in another franchise during the season might cause information leaks regarding player evaluation, on-field strategy, and personnel decisions. It's a slippery slope into tampering territory, so I'd assume that most clubs would rather wait until the off-season to avoid trouble.

You do see some clubs (see the Reds earlier this season) hiring full-time GMs in the middle of the season, but they are almost always in-house options. I can't think of a time where someone was hired away from another club mid-season.

Posted by scrapiron

2:48 PM, Jul 18, 2008

Actually, Beltre is on pace to hit 27 home runs, more than he hit last year. Every year he's been on the Mariners he's hit more home runs each year. His batting average is disappointing this year, but I think that has more to do with his sore thumb than anything. This off season he'll have surgery on his thumb and I bet next year you'll see a .270 avg to go with 30+ home runs. That should be more than acceptable for third base. I think Beltre is one we'd want to hold on to, not get rid of.

Posted by BrianL

2:49 PM, Jul 18, 2008

Lance - I don't recall Churchill saying Young was in decline phase. What I do remember him saying is that Young is vastly overrated, which I agree with.

Posted by Jim

2:55 PM, Jul 18, 2008

Well, now that it's clear that you're not an Ichiro fan....

Posted by GEG

3:10 PM, Jul 18, 2008

As the Sporting News article state Ichiro sells tickets and merchandise in Japan.

Posted by IdahoMariner

3:31 PM, Jul 18, 2008

Ichiro should not be traded. For the fan who actually likes to watch a baseball game played by players who know how to play their position, he makes the game a pleasure to watch. He doesn’t have to run full-speed into walls – he knows how to track and get to a ball. Unfortunately, his reputation precedes him, so we don’t often get to see what we saw at the All-Star Game – proof that his arm is phenomenal and should not be tested by wise baserunners. He is, simply put, one of the top three outfielders in the game and a joy to watch. (I don’t know what to tell you if you need to see people slamming into walls. Maybe watch hockey? They do that a lot in that sport. You even get to see the glass wobble back and forth when it happens. Good stuff.)

He gets his butt on base. Period. When he gets there, he is an obvious threat to steal. Maybe he should be swinging for the stands. But he is a leadoff hitter. His job is to get his butt on base. He does his job better than most. He has almost zero offense behind him, so, again, maybe because of that he should change what has worked spectacularly well for him and his team, and start swinging for the stands. Without proof that this approach will bring us more runs, I’m more inclined to think that the hitters behind him should get their act together and start hitting him in. Only Lopez has consistently done his job in this respect.

Declining skills? Whatever. Aging out of the sport? Whatever again. He takes care of his body, he keeps himself in condition, he is the best-conditioned athlete on this team and will be for the next few years. I love Raul, but you will see him decline before you see Ichiro decline.

Which leads to leadership. Seriously? Without even knowing what his off-the-field or pre-game routine is, you could just observe his and the other players’ behavior during games and see that they should get a clue and maybe do a little of what he does. Instead, this is what I imagine is going through his teammates’ heads: “Hmmm… pitching change. Should I stand around out here? Or should I maybe stretch to keep my muscles warm and ready for the next time I am called on to burst into a sudden explosive movement to chase down a ball and prevent a run? Nah. I think I’ll stand here with my glove on my hip. Yeah, that’ll work. I’m sure the reason Ichi rarely gets burned out there has to do with some Asian mystique-thing and has absolutely nothing to do with his actions. I mean, if someone told me to do something else, I would, but unless they get in my face and tell me to do it, why bother? Sure wish we had some leadership around here. No examples around here for me to follow, though, so I’m just gonna stand here and cool off for a bit while we watch that pitcher warm up.”

I get chemistry, I do. I get vocal leadership, too. But there is something seriously wrong with a player who can play on a field with someone who is clearly superior in so many respects and never have it occur to them that it might have something to do with the way they condition themselves, approach the game, or play the game. I read an article last year that quoted one of his teammates as saying basically that he would sure like to see what Ichiro ate for breakfast so that he could eat that, too, to get the same results. I hope he was being funny. Because I can’t remember which guy it was, but I remember at the time thinking “dude, you are one of the guys who stands around out there, you don’t look like you are even remotely prepared when the pitcher is about to deliver the ball, and you think eating his breakfast is going to help? Even Jose Guillen can’t shout the smart into you, son.”

I love reading the stathead stuff, I love reading the scout stuff – but more than anything, I love watching good players play good baseball. To the guy who wanted to know why we still talk about 95 and 01 when we didn’t bring home a trophy? Because we watched a lot of great baseball. A lot of it. The hunt was totally worth it, even if we didn’t bag the trophy. That’s all a lot of us want – to watch good baseball. So, yeah, I love to watch Ichiro play baseball. Homeruns are cool, but they aren’t everything and, truth be told, they kind of suck all the action out of a game (I actually like to watch players do some baserunning and fielding). A few more doubles and triples from Ichiro would be nice. But I get to see someone throw the ball, catch the ball and hit the ball. (thank you, Bull Durham.) And do it really, really well, with an obvious love for the game. That’s good baseball. The heartache (and stomachache, really) of this and recent seasons is that there aren’t enough players on the team who just play good baseball.

Yuni is complacent, and can’t do anything truly well. Lopez can’t field, but he can hit. Raul loves the game, but should be at first. Beltre is gorgeous at third and statistically does well at the plate but is hard to watch there (swatting at flies was an apt decription). Everyone needs more patience at the plate. But mostly, they all need to discover or remember how to play good baseball. Ichiro is already doing that. I don’t care if he is Japanese or Dominican or generic-kid-from-Iowa. He plays good baseball.

Posted by meagain

3:42 PM, Jul 18, 2008

Bravo Zulu, Idaho Mariner. You get it.

I do think, if Yuni's head ever catches up with the rest of him, he'll be a teriffic shortstop. But that's a quibble.

Posted by Viking Nomad

3:42 PM, Jul 18, 2008

While not an Ichiro-hater, I am also not a big fan of his. Yes, he is electric--when he wants to be. I think, though, he picks and chooses what he wants to be good at and when. While I don't know to whom Carlos Silva was referring earlier in the year when he said that some guys are content to get a couple of hits and go home happy even though the team didn't win, that is exactly how I see Ichiro. For all of his talent and years in the league, I would think by now that he would act like a clubhouse leader. Unfortunately, I have never read once--anywhere--that he is. A singles hitter in RF is not what we need. He is 34 or 35 so he isn't going to get better with age and will now probably begin to slow and show his age a bit more (if he isn't already doing so this year). Pains me as it does to say it, trade him now while others have a need for him and get some good prospects in return with which to restock our minor league pitching. (I'm assuming that we are a few years away from having a competitive team again; if it's closer than that, trade him for a quality starter or two.) Big impact on revenues that come from his marketability in Japan that is overshadowed by his limitations. (Again, he is a great player, just not the player that we need right now.) OK, flame away!

Posted by joey

3:55 PM, Jul 18, 2008

Geoff: There are several flaws in your argument about Ichiro. One flaw in your statistical analysis is that your analysis fails to consider the following: when Ichiro hits a single, he often is on second or third due to his successful stealing or failed pick-off attempts by the opposition (balls thrown down the right field line). Those events would add to his adjusted slugging percentage because singles become in essence doubles and/or triples and reduce the risk of a subsequent double play. Also, when Ichiro is on first base, the second batter sees more fast balls and fewer off-speed pitches to enable the catcher to have a chance at nailing Ichiro on an attempted steal of second. That scenario enhances the effective batting average of the second hitter. Remember speed kills. Even when Ichiro does not get a clean single, he is often on first base because an infielder tries to hurry a play to such an extent that he commits an error.

Also, due to genetics and body type and stretching, Ichiro is more durable than anyone else except for Lou Gehrig or Pete Rose or Cal Ripken. That does not show up in slugging percentage. A player may be great; but if he cannot show up ready to play (due to injuries), what good is he. Ichiro knows how to take care of his body. He also knows how to take care of his image. That is, no DWI’s, no National Inquirer headlines on moral turpitude, no paternity suits (common in the NBA), etc. For all I know , Ichiro has 20 mistresses in addition to his wife. But if that is the case, he knows how to do it discreetly, unlike a former Mariner shortstop—now playing for the Yankees and Madonna.

Posted by taro

4:16 PM, Jul 18, 2008

Ichiro in RF isn't a problem, but it does create a roster building issue.

How do you find a new CF?

It just seems logical to keep Ichiro in CF, now that Reed has proven once again that he can't hit.

Posted by BrianL

4:19 PM, Jul 18, 2008

Viking Nomad - "I think, though, he picks and chooses what he wants to be good at and when."

That is nothing more than baseless conjecture that has very little to root itself into reality.

Posted by good ol' george

4:25 PM, Jul 18, 2008

DO NOT TRADE ICHIRO!!!!
P.S. Start Willie Bllomquist.

Posted by Mike

4:35 PM, Jul 18, 2008

It does seem that even while acknowledging Ichiro plays really good D we don't appreciate what that means. Let's illustrate by talking about LF. Right now, according to stats that I think I understand that a few of you will be loathe to accept, Jeremy Reed is a better option for LF than Raul Ibanez. Raul certainly outhits Reed, 5.04 RC/27 to Reed's 4.05. That translates to about 18 runs a year.

Now let's switch to defense. Raul by most accounts is a -20 to -25 run LFer and Reed who has the ability to play CF is probably a +5 to +10. So even using the more conservative estimates Reed more than makes up for his offense with his defense by 7 runs, maybe even by as much as 17. Now if Raul hits at his '07 level they are almost exactly even. Preventing runs is how Oakland usually manages to surprise everyone.

Posted by Phil

4:36 PM, Jul 18, 2008

Sexon is 1-1 with an RBI for NY!

Posted by meagain

4:43 PM, Jul 18, 2008

Bully for Richie! He needed to get out of here in the worst way. As long as he produces, they'll love him in NY. And if he falls back, he'll think Seattle was a kite-flying picnic.

Posted by Sexon Update

4:47 PM, Jul 18, 2008

Batting 5th. 1 for 1 RBI single in 1st. Party at Amanda's!!!!!

Posted by C.J.

5:10 PM, Jul 18, 2008

Anybody else out there notice how jeff flip flops on the ichiro issue,among others?!!
As demonstrated in the all star game he is the best defensive right fielder,bar none.Period.Power can be achieved at other positions like left field,first base,and center as well as the D.H. position.And as we all should know strike out machines like Sexson are not going to win pennants no matter how many meaningless homers they hit.Yes,some power in the lineup is an absolutely neccessary,but ichiro provides plenty of speed and defense to make up for it.
Did I mention signing Ichiro to that crazy 20 mil. a year was a F.O. move made by lincon and he is here to bring in asian dollars.Same with Johima.They will not be going anywhere even if it does make baseball sense.Armstrong and company have made that clear through there actions.

Posted by Sexson Update

5:17 PM, Jul 18, 2008

3rd inning SO w/ 2 on base. BOOOOOOOO!!!

Posted by Resin isn't Cheating

5:31 PM, Jul 18, 2008

I have no idea what happened or why it's happening, but Yuni's range has vanished

ridiculous.

I think Lance is right. BrianL is better suited at a Lookout landing softball event than scouting player's with his eyes. I challenge BrianL; who by the way doesn't understand a sinkerball, to find one pro scout that believes Betancourt has lost range.

Posted by Adam

5:33 PM, Jul 18, 2008

Resin - I challenge you to find one scout who believes Yuni's range is as good as it was three years ago.


See, this game is fun. I can play too! Weeeee!

Posted by Adam

5:45 PM, Jul 18, 2008

BrianL - Ichiro's LD rate is down, and has been declining at a small rate for the last three years. But he's still hitting the ball well, and some of his lower production is due to BABIP.

But he's a guy who is dependent on BABIP (contrast his 2004 and 2007 seasons with his 2005 season).

An aging player dependent on an extraordinarily high BABIP to be productive? No thanks. His declining LD rates and ISO Power suggest that he's aging. These aren't one-year declines, either. I know he's an incredible athlete, and his skillset seems to age better than others, but by the end of his contract there is the real risk that we are going to be paying Ichiro $20 million per to be a league-average RF. No thanks.

It would be more cost-effective to trade him for two or three ML-ready players who will be making below-average salaries for five or six years.

Posted by Ryan

12:12 AM, Jul 19, 2008

If the Mariners blow up the team properly they're about 5 years away from contention or even respectability. As much as they would like to avoid this, the ugly reality is staring them / us in the eyeballs. We cannot just move a few pieces around, have a few guys bounce back and plug Mark Teixeira into the 1B hole and viola! be AL West champs.

They're gonna move Beltre this year or at the break next year. Washburn is gone. Ibanez is gone if we can get anything with upside in exchange. Vidro gone. Bedard is out this winter or next deadline (wouldn't it be great to see him shine, sign him long term and get five All Star years from this knucklehead? Isn't that what we we're planning five months ago?)

So we've got Betancourt, Lopez, Clement, Kenji, Ichiro, Reed and ?Balentien? as fielding players. Bloomquist fans can join Dan Wilson fans and put a sock in it.

We need 1B, LF, CF, 3B, (assuming Kenji DHs).

If we don't want to concede to a total rebuild, we could sign a few studs and patch up the offense; team our swing-happy offense with a killer bullpen and Hernandez / Morrow / Dickey / Silva / Bedard?? in the rotation and hope it goes better the next time around. It could even happen!

But things probably look grimmer than that. Our minor league reinforcements are best left alone. Pretty much all of them, sans a few of the older-fill-in-types in the AAA outfield, belong in preparation mode for at least two more years. Four of our best pitching prospects are in A or AA ball, as is our best hitting prospect.

Our farm is in shambles. I said it. No help there.

So, if we go for it, sign a big 1B, punt the drek, and keep our Ichiro's and Bedard's, and FAIL AGAIN, then what? What about 2010?

A rebuild is almost the safest route to take. New management, new direction, new team.

If we take this route, Is this worth the price to keep Ichiro's salary knowing that he's' not going to help us get anywhere for the next four years?

No, probably not.

Is he blocking Wladimir Balentien in RF?

Uh, yeah.

Is he the heart and soul of the team, the kind of guy you can't live without.

I'm pretty sure he isn't.

If we move Ichiro in the next year, and Bedard, and Beltre, and Ibanez, and Washburn, and maybe Putz, we can put some talent in the cupboard. Couple those prospects with the one's we'll draft early in each round because we suck so badly, and with a few shakes of a lamb's tail, we'll be the Devil Rays.

That is, if we learn how to draft. But that's a different story.

Posted by Viking Nomad

8:42 AM, Jul 19, 2008

Brian L: Conjecture, that's fair. Just the same, why, for all his speed, is he only intent on stealing bases this year? Why, if we routinely read in past years that he puts on HR displays in BP does he not muscle up and hit more in games when it seems he is capable? Why is he quoted earlier this year in explaining why he doesn't usually dive for close balls in th OF that he doesn't want to look foolish? How many guys in MLB have their first name on their jersey? (That would be one for those scoring at home.) The guy is all about himself. That has worked for us when we have had good teams. Not so much this year.

Posted by Patrick F.

9:19 AM, Jul 19, 2008

Eventhough I've been a life long Mariner fan, I would absolutley jump ship and not watch another MLB game, if Ichiro was dealt. It would be tough to fill his shoes. Most successful teams are a mix of a few all stars and younger players, like the Red Sox and Cubs for instance. He could net some decent prospects, but prospects are never guaranteed to pan out. At least, with Ichiro we know we're getting excellence every time he steps on to the field.

It would be worse than when the Sonics traded Gary Payton to Milwaukee.

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LaHair up, Hulett down

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