On Wednesday, Ichiro took his first day off from the season and the Seattle Mariners scored 21 runs against the Texas Rangers. The day off gave Manager Eric Wedge the opportunity to plug the M’s best hitter this season, Kyle Seager, into third spot.
Wedge has some tough decisions ahead of him with the batting order. Ichiro is batting a respectable .271 and he trails only Seager at .278. The issue with Ichiro is that he does not hit for power or in the clutch. The season is a third over and Ichiro has one home run, 11 doubles, and 17 RBI’s. That’s awful production for the third spot in the line-up.
Ichiro is an enigma. There always been many factors on deciding anything about playing time, where he bats in the line-up and what position he plays from the top down. Ichiro is a national hero in Japan and the owner is Japanese so this could factor into Wedge’s decision on moving Ichiro out of the third spot and probably down in the line-up. Ichiro is also a future Hall of Famer so the whole respect issue is at play. He is also in a contract year so he wants to put up great numbers to secure another contract.
Wedge has hinted in previous weeks that he is considering shaking up the line-up, so he has given all his regular players notice to not get too comfortable with their spots. He has shuffled players all year except for Ichiro.
The obvious choice to replace Ichiro in the batting order is third baseman Kyle Seager. The second-year player has been the most consistent batter this season. He is leading the team in RBI’s with 28 and doubles 16. On Wednesday, Seager went 4 for 6 with two doubles and 2 RBI’s from the three-hole.
If Ichiro is moved out of third spot, where does Wedge move him? Leadoff would be the obvious choice, but Dustin Ackley has settled in after taking over for Figgins. My biggest complaint with Ichiro batting leadoff is that he does not take pitches and he treats walks as outs. That was permissible earlier in Ichiro’s career when he was batting .350 but not when his OBP is currently at .305
Batting Ichiro second is also a possibility. But having three left-handed bats at the top of the order is not the best thing especially in later innings when opposing managers can match left-handed relievers against the left-handed batters.
I think the best spot for Ichiro is batting ninth. Having a .271 hitter who can run batting ninth is a good thing with the top of the line-up following him. It would protect Ackley more and give him the ability to drive in more runs.
It will be interesting to see what Wedge does with the line-up going forward. He has continued to juggle the day-to-day line-up. With the offense coming around, let’s hope they can keep the bats hot.