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

June 27, 2012 at 11:48 AM

A look at Ichiro and whether time off has really helped him

ichirorest.jpg

(Photo by Associated Press)

Here is today’s Mariners minor-league report. Despite Tuesday’s postponement in Colorado Springs, Danny Hultzen is still scheduled to pitch tomorrow in Tacoma, his home debut. And though no one has confirmed it officially, it looks like Jamie Moyer will indeed by his opponent.

Update 4:01 p.m.: I didn’t hear it, but I’m told Jamie Moyer was on KJR and confirmed he will pitch Thursday against the Rainiers. So Hultzen-Moyer is a go.

Here is today’s poll from Seattle Times.com:

Which pitching matchup scheduled for Thursday intrigues you more?

Eric Wedge has said a couple of times recently that he believes Ichiro would benefit from an occasional well-timed day off, and the evidence seems to support that. Since Ichiro sat in Arizona on Monday, June 18, he is 14-for-29 in the ensuing seven games (heading into Wednesday’s game), putting up a .483/.515/.552 slash line, compared to 5-for-31, .161/.161/.194 in the previous seven.

But as we all know, correlation is not causation (I’ve always wanted to say that!). Who knows if Ichiro was about ready to get hot anyway, and the day on the bench merely cost him one more day when he would have been raking?

Ichiro had one previous day off this year, which came on May 30 in Texas. He had played in 155 games in a row, dating back to June 11 of 2011. He was leading the team with a .271 average, but his slugging percentage from the No. 3 spot in the order was just .367. In the previous seven games, Ichiro was hitting just .148 (4-for-27) with a .172 on-base percentage and .222 slugging. In other words, he was scuffling, as the ballplayers like to say.

Did the day off seem to energize him that time, too? In his next seven games, Ichiro hit .242, with an identical on-base percentage (no walks, in other words). But he did hit three home runs to build a .515 slugging percentage. I’d say, yes, he did perk up after the day off. But that stretch also corresponded with a return to the lead off spot, so who’s to say that the return to his comfort zone isn’t what led to an uptick in production?

Last season, Ichiro had just one day off all year, which came on June 10 in Detroit, the 64th game of the year. He was really struggling, going 3-for-29 in his previous seven games for a .103/.161/.172 line. You might remember what followed that day off: Ichiro caught fire. Over the next nine games, he was 18-for-39 with five extra-base hits, scored 10 runs, and put up a .462/.475/.615 line. And never got another day off all season. Ichiro faded in July (.241/.278/.259) before reviving a bit in August (.293/.313/.366) and September (.268/.303/.375). But in aggregate, of course, it was a sub-par year, by far the worst of his career.

So the anecdotal evidence would seem to indicate that a day off helped Ichiro in all three instances he received one over the past two years. It didn’t seem prudent to look back at previous years, because one, he produced at a much higher rate in those years, and two, this would seem to be much more of a factor as he gets into his late 30s.

What I decided to do was look to see how Ichiro responded after Marners’ scheduled days off. After all, if he’s not playing, it should have the same rejuvenating effect, if there’s one to be had. Granted, the Mariners often travel on their off days, sometimes long distances, so it’s not totally stress free. But it should still help, right?

Here’s how Ichiro did in the seven games following each Mariner scheduled off-day last season (followed by how he had done in the previous seven games. In a couple of instances, days off bump against each other, but there’s nothing we can do about that):

2011

April 7

After: 8-for-30, 1 extra-base hit, .267/.313/.300 (.613 OPS)

Before: 6-for-23, 1 xbh, .261/.370/.304 (.675 OPS)

April 25

After: 10-for-30, 1 xbh, .333/.394/.367 (.761)

Before: 13-for-30, 1 xbh, .433/.452/.467 (.918)

May 2

After: 8-for-29, 1 xbh, .276/.313/.310 (.623)

Before: 11-for-31, 1 xbh, .355/,412/.387 (.799)

May 9

After: 8-for-29, 1 xbh, .276/.364/.310 (.674)

Before: 6-for-27, 0 xbh, .222/.241/.222 (.464)

May 16

After: 6-for-26, 1 xbh, .231/.333/.269 (.603)

Before: 8-for-30, 1 xbh, .267/.324/.300 (.624)

May 26

After: 5-for-30, 1 xbh, .167/.194/.200 (.394)

Before: 5-for-28, 1 xbh, .179/.258/.214 (.472)

June 16

After: 10-for-30, 1 xbh, .333/.333/.367 (.700)

Before: 10-for-29, 4 xbh, .345/.387/.517 (.904)

June 20

After: 7-for-30, 0 xbh, .233/.233/.233 (.467)

Before: 14-for-30, 4 xbh, .467/.484/.600 (1.084)

June 30

After: 6-for-27, 0 xbh, .222/.300/.222 (.522)

Before: 7-for-29, 1 xbh, .241/.267/.345 (.611)

All-Star break (July 11-13)

After: 6-for-30, 0 xbh, .200/.250/.200 (.450)

Before: 7-for-28, 0 xbh, .250/.300/.250 (.550)

July 18

After: 11-for-32, 1 xbh, .344/.371/.375 (.741)

Before: 1-for-15, 0 xbh, .067/.125/.067 (.192)

July 28

After: 5-for-26, 0 xbh, .192/.192/.192 (.385)

Before: 13-for-30, 2 xbh, .433/.455/.500 (.955)

Aug. 4

After: 7-for-25, 0 xhb, .280/.308/.280 (.588)

Before: 5-for-26, 0 xhb, .192/.192/.192 (.385)

Aug. 11

After: 5-for-25, 2 xbh, .200/.192/.360 (.552)

Before: 7-for-25, 0 xbh, .280/.308/.280 (.588)

Aug. 18

After: 12-for-32, 1 xbh, .375/.429/.469 (.897)

Before: 5-for-25, 2 xhb, .200/.192/.360 (.552)

Aug. 25

After: 10-for-31, 3 xbh, .323/.323/.419 (.742)

Before: 12-for-35, 1 xbh, .375/.429/.469 (.897)

Sept. 15

After: 9-for-29, 3 xbh, .310/.323/.448 (.771)

Before: 9-for-29, 2 xhb, .310/.375/.552 (.927)

And here’s the same info for this season, starting with April 23, because of the weirdness of the early Mariner schedule, wtih the trip to Japan:

April 23

After: 11-for-33, 1 xbh, .333/.333/.364 (.697)

Before: 6-for-24, 2 xbh, .250/.280/.417 (.697)

May 10

After: 6-for-31, 1 xbh, .194/.194/.226 (.419)

Before: 5-for-22, 3 xbh, .227/.393/.409 (.802)

June 7

After: 8-for-31, 1 xbh, .258/.258/.290 (.548)

Before: 5-for-29, 3 xbh, .172/.172/.483 (.655)

June 11

After (six games): 5-for-27, 1 xbh, .185/.185/.222 (.407)

Before (three games): 4-for-12, 0 xbh, .333/.333/.333 (.667)

That’s a lot of numbers that seem to show inconclusive results on how beneficial days off have been to Ichiro over the past season and a half. Sometimes, he did better in the week following a day off for the team, and other times, the day off seemed to cool off a hot streak.

Obviously, there are a lot of other factors at play, and seven days before and after an off day is an arbitrary number. I’m more interested in days off later in the season, because it would stand to reason that the cumulative affect of the rigors of the season would mount as the year progresses. And who’s to say that the benefits won’t come later on, if he’s been rested periodically throughout the season.

I’d conclude that as Ichiro nears his 39th birthday, it makes intuitive sense that he would benefit from occasional days off, beyond the ones scheduled for the team. Let’s see if Wedge follows through and gives him some more.

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