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The Seattle Mariners are moving Ichiro Suzuki back to the leadoff spot, with Dustin Ackley hitting second and Kyle Seager occupying the three-hole in Friday's lineup. In other words, Eric Wedge finally realized that a 38-year-old contact specialist who showed power only in batting practice displays probably wasn't the best fit a for a run-production spot.
In all fairness, there are plenty of positive indicators in Ichiro's statistical profile this year that are cushioning, to a degree, his skills decline. His BB/K has risen for the third straight season; his contact rate is at 93.0 percent, and Suzuki has hit more liners while also cutting down on grounders, counteracting the fact that he's slowing a bit. Decreasing his reliance on ground balls could lead to an upswing in batting average.
Even as his speed is dwindling, he's still swiping bags to offer Juan Pierre-ish numbers. His 7-for-7 mark on the year says he's picking his spots better than he has in the past; his baserunning has always been sound. At least his runs scored total should swell a bit in his new (old) home, even with the Mariners' overall offensive ineptitude.
Unfortunately, the .305 on-base percentage tells you he's still hacking away, and though hitting first could force him to cut his chasing, that's asking him to change his ingrained philosophy. He's still clip-dependent for anything other than swipes. And instead of infield hits, he's piling up infield flies - a BA hindrance.
Except for a slight uptick in plate crossings, don't expect the move to alter the vet's value drastically.
Moving Ackley to the No. 2 spot should give him more chances to log RBIs, even if Ichiro continues to lag. He's better suited to a spot outside the apex because of his budding pop. His seemingly incremental plate growth so far solidifies his 15-15 candidacy for this season.
Seager's move up the ladder could boost his output, as well. You have to wonder how often Ichiro and Seattle's random pool of No. 2 hitters were taking RBI opps away from him. Now, he has a direct line to Ichiro and Ackley, which could pay off in his deep-mixed utility.
About Tim Heaney
Tim's work has been featured by USA Today/Sports Weekly, among numerous outlets, and recognized as a finalist in the Fantasy Sports Writers Association awards. The Boston University alum competes in Tout Wars and LABR and has won several industry leagues in both baseball and football.
During baseball and football season, hear him every Wednesday on 1570 AM WNST in Baltimore. On Thursdays, he visits 106.1 FM WMTI in New Orleans and Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio, where he often crashes other shows, as well.
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