Big news coming out of Mariners camp early on, as Ichiro Suzuki is apaprently going to be losing his spot at the top of Seattle’s order. Reportedly replacing him will be the much-maligned former big name free agent Chone Figgins.
Now, on the surface, this immediately looks like a disaster. I mean, Ichiro is a guy who’s a lock to hit .300 every year and get on base at a decent clip with good speed. Figgins is the bane of many Mariners’ fans existence, slagging along halfway through his contract with Seattle and looking nothing like the player he was with the Angels.
But in his prime with LA, Figgins was a hell of a player. He had seven straight seasons of at least 30 steals (including 2010 with the Mariners) and had OBPs above .350 five times. That’s pretty solid. But compare him to Ichiro, who during his 11 year career, has hit under .300 and had an OBP under .350 just once in his career, which came last season. He’s also stolen at least 30 bases in all but one season, 2009, when he missed 16 games and fell four steals short of the mark.
Both players had awful 2011 seasons, but Ichiro was a lot better than Figgins. But at age 38, his legs and bat speed are fading. Figgins is no spring chicken at age 34, but he might have a little more left in the tank than Ichiro.
At both of their peaks, Ichiro is clearly the superior player. But with him nearing the end of his career, and Figgins exiting his prime, the race is a lot closer. Ichiro has had just one season as good as Figgins’ 6.9 fWAR season in 2009 (his 2004, when he was worth 7.2 fWAR), but he’s never had a year as bad as his 2011 (though his own 2011 came close). Ichiro has also only had one season as bad as Figgins’ 2010, which was his 2011.
It’s an absolute gamble to switch out the man who has consistently led games off for the Mariners for a guy who the fanbase despises and hasn’t lived nearly up to expectations with his new club. But if things don’t go well, Wedge can easily just flip a switch and move Ichiro back up to the top of the order. At that point though, it may be a lost cause.
[h/t: Seattle Times]
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