Mariners Lead-Off Hitters
With his signature style and consistent performance, Ichiro Suzuki has been the Mariners leading man for a decade. However, all good things must come to an end as the lead off spot may be up for grabs come 2012.
The role of a lead off man is to help the team get a preview of the pitcher that they are going to be facing. That means getting him to throw a lot of pitches.
The key here is plate discipline. Because the lead off spot will get the most at-bats in a game, the team needs a high batting average and on-base percentage to provide more scoring opportunities for the guys further down in the order.
The lead-off role requires speed, as the threat of a stolen base get pitchers nervous and makes them more likely to make a mistake and give up more hits and more runs.
That is why the job has been Ichiro‘s for the past ten years. A league leader in hits, stolen bases and on base percentage. However that all seemed to be crashing to a halt in 2010 as Ichiro had what seemed like a season long slump despite the fact that he hit .272 and ops of .645 and stole 40 bases.
Not bad for a 37 year old. Moving Ichiro down to the number two or number three spot makes sense as his strong numbers could provide some protection for some of the young power hitters such as Justin Smoak and Mike Carp.
However the question isn’t if Ichiro can adapt to a new spot, the question is who else could fill his.
Here are the top three candidates as it stands right now.
Chone Figgins was a premier lead off hitter in his time with the Angels. So much so that the mariners thought it worth the effort and the big contract to bring him into Seattle to hit behind Ichiro to provide a a pitchers nightmare. The nightmare though has been Seattles as the only thing that Figgins has been consistent in is inconsistency.
Much of this is blamed on the fact that he had to change roles when he came to Seattle, moving from third base to second and moving from the number one spot to number two before hitting in the eight and nine spots.
This year he was moved back to third but nothing changed in his performance.
The mariners have two more seasons on his contract and would like to get their money’s worth, so he could get a shot to lead.
Dustin Ackley can hit. Well. This fact alone may get him an audition as the new lead off guy in Seattle. However this move may be a detriment to his overall numbers as his consistent bat points more toward a RBI role than a lead off spot.
This may seem an exciting choice to many fans but it would really be sacrificing some of his potential to be a real difference maker for the franchise.
This is an interesting option as it could be Kyle Seager’s ticket to a starting role in the roster. While his base running would need a drastic improvement, he has shown that he has good discipline and the ability to get on base, which is a plus.
He has a good relationship with Ackley who would undoubtably be the one driving him in.
While this is a long shot, the Mariners have limited options if they really want to mix things up next year.
The guess of most experts in that Ichiro will be leading off in Seattle on a consistent basis with a stand-in performance several times a month by a youngster under his mentoring.