Hearing far more comments about this than I should be, so I thought I’d tackle this subject before it gets out of hand.
No, I don’t think Ichiro leaving the Mariners has anything to do with their winning ways of the past six weeks. The Mariners are 25-16 since Ichiro left the team, while the Yankees are now 19-23.
Sure, the absence of Ichiro has enabled the Mariners to run a host of corner outfielders into the mix more often, but the results haven’t entirely been there. As mentioned a couple of days ago, Seattle’s offense has really been no better in the second half than it was during the first, especially considering the warmer weather and the caliber of pitching it has faced. Since the day Ichiro was traded, here are the slash lines of batting average, OBP and slugging:
For all intents and puposes, the offense has been exactly the same. Once again, while the pitching has gotten better, there’s an argument that much of it has been due to the plethora of games — especially consecutive games — in which the Mariners have faced inferior opponents for whom the season has crashed through the floor. The Mariners took three of four against a hopeless-looking Kansas City rotation before Ichiro left, then swept the Royals at home right after Ichiro was traded.
The Royals since traded Jonathan Sanchez for Jeremy Guthrie, further boosted their rotation with additional arms, and righted themselves to the point where they’ve been a winning team since they last faced the Mariners in a .269-winning-percentage month of July and were sending Class AAA slop out there four days out of five.
That’s not Ichiro’s fault. The M’s were kicking the tar out of the Royals when he was here and did so when he was gone until KC fixed its obvious rotation problems with help of a very good trade and some development.
Against four teams that have played sub-.400 (and sub-.300) ball since Ichiro was traded, the M’s have gone 14-2. They have gone 7-14 against winning teams during that stretch.
Hey, you can spin those numbers anyway you want. Again, this is the danger of reading too much of anything into games where the biggest success comes against a group of opponents that have largely checked out on the season. You tend to read stuff into things that really isn’t there. Sure, those teams are still capable of winning the odd game or series if you don’t show up. But they tend to let you get away with far more mistakes than a better one would.
The Oakland Athletics are in town tonight and they are 19-4 against the same Boston-Toronto-Cleveland-Minnesota collapsing foursome since the All-Star Break. The reason the A’s are in contention is a 13-11 record against winning teams as well.
So, again, I’ll submit the Mariners — based on the evidence — would have been beating up on the four aforementioned teams even with Ichiro in the lineup. And likely losing two of every three to better-than-.500 oppponents as well. And I’ll submit that the Mariners were in fact, beating up on the pitching-depleted Royals right before and right after Ichiro left.
So again, there is no argument that his leaving helped the team win like it has.
As for the Yankees, to keep it short: it’s been pitching and injuries.
Photo Credit: AP
Look, nobody’s pretending Ichiro has lit anything up in the Big Apple. He’s hit a few more home runs and a three-hit game last night boosted his OBP with the Yankees to .310 since he joined the team — exactly the low number that got him removed from Seattle’s leadoff spot after last season.
He’s clearly a bottom-of-the-order guy now and that’s exactly how the Yankees have used him. He didn’t start the two games prior to last night — getting one plate appearance each game — and that’s probably how the Yanks will use him going forward, because if they don’t rest him his OBP will drift back to sub-.300 and he’ll be exactly what he was with Seattle prior to the trade.
But from all accounts, his defense is the same and that’s why New York made the trade. His offense has been no worse — indeed, it’s been slightly better and is borderline acceptable for a bottom-third hitter.
The Yankees are floundering because the offrense has seen Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez, Curtis Granderson and others missing games due to injury. The rotation lost C.C. Sabathia, Ivan Nova and Andy Pettitte. Just like with the Royals, once your rotation is depleted, the losses pile up no matter how good the rest of your team is.
That’s got nothing to do with Ichiro.
So, let’s just cut that stuff out. Did Ichiro fit with the Mariners anymore? Nope. Was he a big clubhouse influence? No. Nor was he expected to be one with the Yankees, who had plenty of playoff-seasoned clubhouse leaders before taking on Ichiro. They didn’t go after him for that.
Ichiro is what he is. If the Yankees make the playoffs, he’ll have a chance to be more. If they don’t make it, it won’t be because of him.
But I’m thankful to Ichiro for helping throw Seattle into its late-summer “drought”. Since the trade, as many have noted, it hasn’t rained here. That, I’ll give him credit for. Off to get some rays.