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May 28, 2012 at 4:24 PM

Mariners go with matchups-altered lineup against Rangers

switzer.jpg
Greetings from Arlington, where, as you can see in the photo above, former Oklahoma Sooners and Dallas Cowboys head coach Barry Switzer paid a visit to the Mariners clubhouse today. Switzer was later chatting outside during BP with Mariners strength coach Alan Wirtala and others.
Inside, he got to meet manager Eric Wedge, pitcher Kevin Millwood and others. Mariners radio producer/engineer Kevin Cremin, a huge Sooners fan, came rushing down to the clubhouse from the radio booth when he heard Switzer was there. He got inside just as Switzer was about to leave and coraled the former coach for a quick introduction. Switzer was pretty affable and stood and chatted for a while and posed for photos.
Like everything else in Texas, life stops when football is involved.
Back to the Mariners, no Dustin Ackley tonight. He sits for the second time in four games.
Alex Liddi is in the lineup while Kyle Seager slides over to second base. John Jaso will take Ackley’s leadoff spot.
Ackley is coming off a 3-for-22 homestand and is 0-for-15 lifetime against Rangers starter Matt Harrison. Miguel Olivo is 0-for-14 against Harrsion, which is why Jesus Montero is catching and Jaso serving as DH.
Figgins is 4-for-14 versus Harrsion, while Liddi is 3-for-6.
“It’s just a matchup situation,” Wedge said of Ackley sitting out again. “He’s still trying to find it and we’re trying to put the best lineup out there to win. When this kid’s on, the guy throwing against us, he’s pretty good.”


Wedge said Ackey’s struggles pretty much can be pinpointed to regular second-year hurdles.
“He’s not unknown anymore,” Wedge said. “They’ve got reports on him. I think at times he tries to do too a little bit too much in games and you see that. He overswings a little bit from time to time. I think there are times when he’s a little bit more passive than you like to see and a times a little more aggressinve than you like to see.
“It’s pretty typical.”
What isn’t tyical is any one player appearing in every Mariners game this season. So far, Ichiro is the only guy to do that. I asked Wedge whether there are any plans to give him a day off.
“We’re considering that,” he said, adding that it could happen on this trip.
“If we do it, it would be an off-day,” Wedge said. “I haven’t talked to him about it yet. But I think at some point in time it might do him good.”
Ichiro has also spent every game at the same No. 3 spot in the order.
“It’s out of respect to him,” Wedge said. “He’s the one true veteran that we have in there every day. I’ve been hopeful that he can get himself going in that three-hole. With all the young kids that we’re starting each and every night, we really need him to get it going.”
Asked what that means, he said “more production. More of a run producer for us.”
Ichiro enters play tonight with the same .310 on-base-percentage he had last season and a .271 batting average nearly identical to his .272 last season. His slugging percentage is slightly higher at .373 compared to .345 a year ago, but is nowhere near what a typical No. 3 hitter produces.
Teams generally put their best hitter at No. 3.
But in terms of OPS (on-base-plus-slugging percentage), Ichiro is fourth-best on the Mariners among players with at least 150 plate appearances. Ichiro’s park-factored OPS+ in the No. 3 spot shows him at 64 — meaning he is 36 percent worse than the average No. 3 hitter in the American League.
Throw in a .160 batting average with runners in scoring position and it’s tough for the team to justify leaving Ichiro at No. 3 much longer. Especially with other players like Liddi and Jaso getting more and more playing time and also putting up a better OPS than Ichiro (we didn’t count them above because they still have fewer than 100 plate appearances each).
It’s one thing for the Mariners to complain about a lack of offense. It’s another for them to keep running out a No. 3 hitter with 36 percent worse production than any average No. 3 hitter in the AL every single day without change. Every other guy in the lineup has been rested or moved when production was lacking. Ichiro has to be rested at some point like everyone else. And he should be moved someplace else in the order. Who can replace him? Any one of the four-to-six guys I just mentioned who are out-hitting him over sample sizes big and small.
To keep pretending the team has no other option is disingenuous at best. You don’t have to like the RISP argument. But that’s merely the cherry on the sundae when added to the glaring numbers argument already out there for anyone interested in looking.
The lineups:
MARINERS
DH John Jaso
LF Chone Figgins
RF Ichiro
C Jesus Montero
1B Justin Smoak
2B Kyle Seager
3B Alex Liddi
CF Michael Saunders
SS Brendan Ryan
RHP Kevin Millwood
RANGERS
2B Ian Kinsler
SS Elvis Andrus
DH Michael Young
3B Adrian Beltre
LF David Murphy
RF Nelson Cruz
C Mike Napoli
1B Mitch Moreland
CF Craig Gentry
LHP Matt Harrison

Comments | Topics: Brendan Ryan, Chone Figgins, Jesus Montero

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