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Hot Stone League

Larry Stone gives his take on a wide array of baseball issues and weighs in about the Mariners, too.

September 22, 2011 at 12:21 PM

Wedge isn’t commiting to Ichiro as the leadoff hitter next year


(Photo by Associated Press)

With Moneyball opening, here’s a chance to weigh in on your favorite baseball movies.

I’m working on a story for Sunday in which I examine Ichiro’s season and what lies ahead in the future for him.

Naturally, I talked to Eric Wedge on the last homestand for his take on Ichiro, and he revealed that he nearly moved Ichiro out of the leadoff spot earlier this year. More significantly, he wouldn’t commit to hitting Ichiro first in the batting order next year. Wedge expressed similar sentiments this week to Shannon Drayer, who blogged about them yesterday.

Here’s what Wedge said to me: “Earlier this year, when he was really struggling, I talked to him about it. And he was open for it — whatever was best for the team. Ultimately, I decided not to do it, but I talked to him about it, just told him I was considering that. That’s where we left it.”

Wedge wouldn’t reveal where he was considering hitting Ichiro in the order at that time.

“I didn’t even get that far, because if you’re going to do something, you’ve got to have a full plan,” he said. “And if you’re going to do something, you’d better be committed to it, especially with a guy like Ichiro. If you’re going to move him out of the one-hole, you’d better have a full plan, and you’d better be willing to stick with it for awhile. Ultimately, I didn’t have a clear-cut candidate for the one-hole, and I wasn’t sure where the best spot was for Ichiro to get him going. It was partly for the team, but also for him too.”

And on where Ichiro will hit next year, Wedge said, “Right now, I’m not going to commit to anything. It depends on what we do this winter, and whatever I feel like the best lineup is from one to nine. I’m not going to commit to him being the leadoff hitter. I’m going to commit to putting the best lineup out there for the Seattle Mariners.”

Who would hit leadoff for the Mariners if Ichiro doesn’t? I don’t see a real strong candidate currently on the roster. Chone Figgins, of course, has leadoff credentials in his past, but as we all know, he’s coming off two dreadful years, and I have major doubts whether he’ll even be around by Opening Day next year. Dustin Ackley has the best on-base percentage on the team (.355), and could no doubt handle leading off, but he seems better suited to me for the No. 3 spot. Maybe that will change after all the winter moves are made, if the Mariners add some proven bats. I’ve heard Brendan Ryan’s name, but his on-base percentage (.313) was identical to Ichiro’s. I suppose Kyle Seager (.315 on-base percentage) is a possibility, but we don’t even know if he’s going to be a regular next year. Trayvon Robinson has leadoff tools, but he also has a .269 on-base percentage and has struck out 50 times in 122 at-bats.

As currently constituted, the ideal leadoff hitter for the Mariners is…Ichiro. That is to say, a revived Ichiro who can get his average back over .300, and his on-base percentage back over .350 (where it resided every single season of his career until 2011).

Can he do that in 2012? We’ll get into that on Sunday.



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