Wednesday, September 01, 2004

More Thoughts on Bell and Ichiro!

No argument from me that the team would be better off if they had kept David Bell and never gone down the Jeff Cirillo-Kevin Jarvis-Scott Spiezio road. I only suggested it wouldn't have been a good idea to give him $9M over three years when his market value was about $1.5M over one year, and if he had stuck around, the itch to improve at that position (as well as left field) would have continued unabated, and appropriately so.

I might argue (and did) that it was foreseeable at the time that Cirillo would not be the player he was in Milwaukee, given both his age and the decline in his road splits he had already begun to experience in Colorado, but nobody -- at least nobody telling the truth -- could say that they expected him to be as bad as he was, or that he would be a lesser player than Bell had been. I just thought that if Scott Rolen had been willing to waive his no-trade to come here in a trade in July of 2001 (that's a big "if," but there were some indications at the time that he would have, though his preference was to stay in the National League), I thought it would have been better to pay a steeper price to acquire Rolen entering his prime (26 at the time) than Cirillo entering his decline, but nobody asked me for my opinion (not that that stops me from offering it). I also agree with you that acquiring Spiezio -- especially to play third base -- was foreseeably foolish. After all, Spiezio was entering his age 31 year -- you're no longer getting this guy's prime years -- and he was, going into this season, a career 98 OPS+ hitter and at best an average fielder who would be playing out of position. That this front office doesn't seem to see a difference between 3-year contracts offered to age 32-ish guys like Raul Ibanez, Spiezio, and Randy Winn while balking at only slightly higher and/or longer-length contracts to guys entering their prime (like Miguel Tejada last offseason, or perhaps Carlos Beltran or Adrian Beltre this offseason) is disturbing. I am all for fiscal prudence, but rebuilding will require some risk-taking and there is a big difference in the return on your investment you can expect from the latter compared to the former. There just is.

Now, on to another subject. Ichiro! just got his second hit of tonight's ballgame, and now needs 44 hits in 30+ games to beat George Sisler's season-record for hits. At his current season's pace for AB/G, that will only require him to hit somewhere between .330 and .340 the rest of the way to get there.

Some people are suggesting now that Ichiro! won't be able to break the record because teams in the playoff hunt will not pitch to him. I just want to go on record saying I think that is complete BS. First, if you don't give him much in the strike zone to hit, Ichiro! will swing at it anyway. Secondly, if these folks ("The Groz" being prominent among them) think teams will intentionally walk Ichiro!, may I ask why you would walk a guy who has 181 singles among his 215 hits? If the chances are roughly 37% that Ichiro! will get a hit (a figure only increased by about four percentage points by bases on balls), and only about 16% of those his hits will go for extra bases, why give him a 100% chance of a base for free? How often does Ichiro! come to the plate with runners in scoring position? Not much -- only 98 times all year going into tonight's game, about 17% of his ABs. Take a look at the team splits for the 7-8-9 hitters and the 2-3-4 hitters hitting around Ichiro! There just isn't much reason to pitch around him, because he can't hurt you much by himself and isn't getting much help. I mean, how often would you expect a .372 leadoff hitter with 215 hits good speed to score only 84 runs?

Ichiro! will get his chances. The bigger threat to his record chase is facing some of the league's best pitching down the stretch (the teams the Mariners face the rest of the way rank 11, 12, 13, 1, 4, 2, & 8 in batting average against, respectively), but right now, I think Ichiro! can hit anybody.

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