A bold move!
Ichiro is hands down the most pure hitter in the game, and even though he is reaching the end of his illustrious career, he can still be a very dangerous hitter.
With that in mind, Wedge has been looking for a way to bring some run support to his struggling offense, but at the same time using the speed of Ichiro, even though it would be in a different way than any other manager ever has.
1. Better pitches
Through the first two years of Figgins contract, he has been utilized the most as the #2 hitter in the lineup. With his lightening fast speed, it seemed like it was a no-brainer to have him follow Ichiro in the lineup. The problem? Figgins saw nothing but pitches in the dirt, trying to induce ground balls for double plays.
If Figgins were to be a lead off hitter, he would see a lot more favorable pitches starting off the game then he would as the number two hitter trying to move Ichiro over.
His speed is still a threat, and with Ichiro, who is the much better hitter possibly hitting behind him, a ball in the gap would score Figgins easily. Bam! 1-0 M’s with nobody out.
2. Gotta pay him, so might as well play him
Figgins signed a very lucrative deal as a free agent, and with his current two season slump, there aren’t that many takers for him on the market. So unfortunately, the Mariners have to play him.
As noted above, his speed is lethal on the base paths. Figgins has led off before when he was with Anaheim, so its nothing new for him, and it is the best use of his talents for Wedge.
Now I’m not trying to sound like a broken record here, but speed on the base paths wins ballgames. Get Figgy on, and watch him go. Stolen bases, hit and runs, sacrifice bunts, they all come into play with speed on the base paths.
Plus, speed can scare the defense into rushing their throws, often resulting in errors, especially when trying to turn two. Which brings me to my next point.
4. Figgy 1st, Ichiro 2nd is more dangerous than vice-versa
Figgins has the speed, Ichiro has the bat. A dangerous combination when it comes to run production. The M’s have had terrible luck scoring the past few years. and with the 1-2 combo of Figgy and Ichiro, that problem could be solved.
Get Figgy on, Ichiro possibly bunts, or ground ball to the right side, and all of a sudden Figgins is standing at second. If Ichrio gets a base hit, then it’s runners at the corners, no outs. Add Ackley in at #3, and now we’re talking business.
5. Best eye on the team
How many times have we all heard this since little league: “A walk is as good as a hit.” Figgins has arguably the best eye the Mariners have seen since the great Edgar Martinez played for the team.
Here’s another one we’ve all heard before: “A lead off walk always comes around to score.” Figgy on first, Ichiro at the plate, nobody out. This spells trouble every time for the opposing pitcher. Sweating already, and it’s only the first inning.
Only time will tell if this combo ever comes to life, but in my opinion, it might be the best situation the M’s have at the top of the order.