M’s Keep Winning; Top Of The Order Keeps Sucking

What a strange month.  The Mariners have been kicking ass and taking names, but not in the way you’d expect.

Ichiro, Figgins, and Smoak have all been God-awful in the month of May.  For Figgins, I don’t think anyone is too surprised; May has traditionally been his worst month before he starts to catch fire.  But, I don’t think anyone saw this kind of futility coming from Ichiro or Justin Smoak though.

May has always been Ichiro’s best month.  It’s when he throws off the shackles of his April doldrums and slashes his way to a monster season.  Thus far in May of 2011, however, Ichiro is batting just .213 with exactly 3 extra-base hits.  With three games remaining, Ichiro only has 20 hits on the month.  Unless he pulls together some multi hit games and in a hurry, I won’t help but be concerned for the safety of his 200-hits streak.  His previous low in monthly hit totals (not counting 2009 when he only got 19 hits in April because he started the season on the DL and only played in 14 games) was 25 (happened twice, including the 2002 season when he had a real scare, finishing with only 208 hits).  This isn’t the Ichiro we’ve known and loved in the Month of May!  He’s historically a .352 hitter this month!

As for Figgins, what can I tell you?  He’s batting .176 on the month, his overall batting average is back below the Mendoza line (AGAIN), and Wedge won’t stop hitting him in the 2-hole.  I’m not saying you HAVE to bench the guy, but for Christ’s sake, BAT HIM NINTH!  You wouldn’t let Michael Saunders stay in the 2-hole with these kinds of numbers; just because Figgins is a veteran, it shouldn’t make a difference.  You put the guys best capable to handle the top of the lineup IN the top of the lineup, without question.  Leaving him there to struggle isn’t doing the team a bit of good.  Putting him ninth just might be the fire lit under his ass to initiate a hitting streak and a promotion back to his old slot.

Part of the struggles for Justin Smoak this month might be directly related to the fact that Ichiro and Figgins are mired in career-worst slumps, but that’s mostly going to relate to his RBI production.  It speaks nothing of the fact that since May 6th, Smoak’s batting average has fallen nearly 60 points.  Which, fun fact, ALMOST coincides with Smoak’s promotion to the 3rd spot in the lineup (his first game in the 3-hole was May 10th, 2 games after that May 6th high point).  Since batting third, Smoak’s average is .197 (12 for 61), with only a single multi-hit game.

I TOLD YOU, WEDGE!  I told you to leave well-enough alone!  But NO, you just COULDN’T let Smoak play a full season in the 5-hole; you just HAD to tinker with things!  Now look at us!  Look at poor Smoaky there!  He’s MISERABLE!  He’s got only 6 walks against his 19 strikeouts as our Number 3 Hitter (that’s more strikeouts than he had in all of April).  Pitchers are giving him nothing to hit (because there’s no one on in front of him, and nobody any good behind him), and he’s pressing because of all the added pressure of being a 3-hole hitter!  PUT HIM BACK TO FIVE!

It’s tough enough for a young player like Smoak just to crack the Big Leagues and prove that he belongs here permanently.  Putting the added pressure of being our most-important hitter isn’t something he needs or deserves.  Let him get his feet wet in the safe, comforting bosom of the 5-hole.  Let the vets absorb all that goes with being in the 3-spot.

The Mariners won’t keep winning with the bottom of the lineup giving us all the production.  They need Figgins 9th, and they need Smoak 5th, or this could turn sour in a hurry.

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And just so people don’t get the wrong idea – that I’m all about complaining without offering any potential solutions – here’s what I think we should do with our order:

  1. Ichiro
  2. Kennedy/Ryan
  3. Gutierrez
  4. Cust
  5. Smoak
  6. Olivo
  7. Peguero/M. Wilson
  8. J. Wilson/Ryan
  9. Figgins

To clarify what this means:  When Kennedy starts at second base, put him in the 2-hole and drop Ryan to 8th.  When Jack Wilson starts at second base, put him 8th and bump Ryan up to 2nd.  Regardless, there’s no excuse for Kennedy to EVER bat cleanup (which he’s done quite a few times this year), there’s no reason for Olivo to EVER bat higher than 6th, and I think Guti is far enough along with his return to the team that he can easily handle the spotlight that is batting 3rd.  And, as for Cust, well, maybe I’m a big ol’ softy, but I think I’m coming around on that lovable scamp.  After all, his double last night in the 12th inning against the greatest closer of all time to put a runner at 3rd base with less than 2 outs was a thing of beauty.

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