Mariners Doing It Right With Ackley and Figgins

Some teams get it, and some teams do not. As we discussed last week, the White Sox apparently do not. They’re just 4.5 games out of the AL Central lead after an abysmal start, yet they continue playing one of the league’s weakest hitters and placing him atop their lineup. That’s only going to hamper their chances to overtake the Tigers and Indians. A move is necessary, but they’re not making it.

The Seattle Mariners, on the other hand, appear to understand their current position. They’re at .500, just a game and a half behind Texas for the AL West crown. They have the league’s least potent offense, which surprises no one. But they had areas where they can improve. Earlier this month I wrote about Chone Figgins and his job security. Last week the Mariners finally made the move, recalling Dustin Ackley and benching Figgins. It might not be a cure-all for the offense, but the move shows their willingness to make the team better even if it means bruising some egos.

The Mariners are in a much tougher position with Figgins than the White Sox are with Pierre. After this season the Sox and Pierre can, and likely will, part ways, with only the remainder of Pierre’s $5 million salary standing in the way of an immediate separation. The Mariners have Figgins for two more years and owe him at least $17 million more, plus the remainder of his 2011 salary. That gives them a much greater incentive to continue playing Figgins to see if he can turn things around. Yet they are the ones who put the ineffective player on the bench, while the White Sox continue to play theirs.

With Ackley now manning second and the surprisingly effective Adam Kennedy sliding to third, the Mariners are in a better position for the rest of the season. This doesn’t guarantee them better offensive production — in fact, they’re 4-5 with 2.44 runs per game since Ackley’s promotion, even though Ackley himself has gone 9 for 30 with four extra base hits. But it’s hard to think that replacing Figgins’s .216 wOBA wouldn’t result in more runs in the final 84 games of the season. Even using Ackley’s ZiPS rest of season projection of a .315 wOBA, and assuming 300 PA going forward, Ackley projects to be about 25 runs better than Figgins the rest of the way.

The White Sox are not without options in this regard. As mentioned in last week’s post, they could move Brent Lillibridge into a more prominent role. But if they would rather use him as a super utility guy, they could promote prospect Dayan Viciedo. GM Kenny Williams is on record saying that he’s ready, and he could represent a major improvement on both sides of the ball for the Sox. Through 316 PA at AAA he has a .387 wOBA, and while that’s largely based on a .368 BABIP, he could still see greater success than Pierre. The possibility alone should be enough for the White Sox to act — it’s not as though he could perform much worse than Pierre. Yet they continue sitting on their hands, waiting for who knows what to happen.

Before the season started it was easy to like the White Sox’s chances in the AL Central. They had a solid pitching staff along with a number of solid and spectacular offensive contributors. But they’ve run into problems, and they don’t appear willing to make the necessary changes even as one of the biggest problems taunts them from the leadoff spot every night. The Mariners, on the other hand, weren’t given much consideration for the AL West crown, given their poor offense. Yet I have much more faith in the Mariners to win the West right now than I do the White Sox to win the Central, and it goes far beyond the number of games they’re currently behind. The Mariners have made a tough but necessary move in order to shore up a weakness. The White Sox have refused to do the same. It’s tough to tell exactly what they’re doing right now, but they certainly could learn a valuable lesson from Jack Z and the crew in Seattle.

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Joe also writes about the Yankees at River Ave. Blues.

35 Responses to “Mariners Doing It Right With Ackley and Figgins”

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  1. juan pierre's mustache says:

    telling juan pierre that he’s benched would be like striking a helpless child in the face over and over

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    • Steven says:

      So… awesome?

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    • WSO says:

      So DFA him instead

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      • MikeS says:

        Please. I was at a game a few weeks ago and after every week Pierre groundout I was chanting D-F-A! I don’t actually know what Juan Pierre does for a living because it’s not playing baseball.

        the fact that Viciedo of all people would be a defensive upgrade as well tells you all you need to know.

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      • Shortsighted says:

        Why? He’s a good 4th or 5th OF, defensive replacement (Quintin anyone?) and pinch runner. That has value for a team chasing the playoffs. Plus he’s owed 3 million-ish. Designating Pierre makes about as much sense as starting him.

        That’s not to mention what you can’t quantify. A statement like that demonstrates you’re not appreciating the actual game anymore, just the numbers. He’s a veteran. He’s been there. Does his job without complaining. When he was on the Dodgers and had his consecutive game streak broken when Manny came he never complained. Still showed up to the park before anyone else every game. Worked harder than anyone. Great role model for young players. Don’t forget that the game is played by people, people that have the ability to work to better themselves, make right or wrong decisions, act or choose not to act responsibly, that can choose to take their job seriously or not… Not computer simulations or mathematical formulas. Don’t forget the human side. Both the Red Sox and Rays put a huge emphasis on sabermetrics. But both put a huge emphasis on phychological analysis too. Or to put it a way more saber friendly… There are two parts to the equation.

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  2. Jeff says:

    I have a feeling Ackley will beat out that Zips ROS too

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    • Seattleite says:

      Small sample size alert. But watching the game in person last night and seeing Ackley live for the first time, I was surprised at how hard he was hitting the ball. He was hitting it hard and on a line… it was nice to see.

      I do acknowledge that it was a Mariners/Marlins game, though, and it doesn’t take a whole lot to stand out in those line-ups right now…

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  3. Frog says:

    Chone has basically become Justin Smoak’s personal pinch-runner now. I wish I were paid millions to suck at baseball, sigh….

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  4. Joe says:

    Since he signed with the Mariners

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  5. dc says:

    So, 5org?

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  6. Person says:

    Or did he mean that Figgins sucks relative to his peers? Which is undebatable. But why would the poster get paid millions to suck relative to his peers?

    *Actually, I know this what he meant. I’m just making an obtuse point. Sorry.

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  7. Ryan says:

    Tell me about it. Jordan Schafer and his .295 OBP looks to be permanently nestled into the leadoff spot. Ugh.

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    • Antonio Bananas says:

      It seems like Schafer has been playing much better lately. Was stealing bases at a decent rate and fairly often too so maybe he’s doing better. Plus it’s not like Atlanta has a lot of options. Uggla hitting .175ish, Heyward at .227, in fact, only Chipper and Beast are above .250. I used their BA because I can look all those up at once, OBP takes longer.

      Plus Freddi seems old school. You know, even if you have Johnny Venters in the pen, Big Ern McCracken himself throwing bowling balls, you still don’t use him with the bases loaded and less than 2 outs unless it’s the 8th. A jagoff in other words.

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  8. vancer49 says:

    is the adrian beltre syndrome?

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    • Random Guy says:

      No. Beltre was a very solid player who played excellent defense and had an okay bat in Seattle, but was limited by the stadium. Figgins is playing mediocre defense and his bat would be terrible in any stadium.

      On the positive side, Figgins isn’t costing the team nearly as much as Beltre did. It seemed like a good signing at the time (and, in fact, $9m per year isn’t quite the financial albatross people are making it out to be; I still would not trade Figgins for Jason Bay).

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    • Streetphilosophy says:

      …it’s hard to hit in the Safe.

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      • Antonio Bananas says:

        It’s hard to hit in Safe, plus the top 3 AL teams in pitching based on runs allowed/game are Seattle, Oakland, and the Los Angeles, California Angles of Anaheim. So he has to hit or face really good pitching a lot.

        If he played in the AL East, well his numbers would be worse because of the vast amount of talent in the AL East, most their pitchers would dominate the AL East but the hitting in the East is just that good, but ANY OTHER division he’d….okay he’d still suck.

        At least he’s not signed for very long…well he kinda is.

        Hmmm. Maybe he’ll bounce back, his WAR seems to go 4, 1.something, 4, 1.something, 4, 1.something, now it’s -0.3. Supposedly has saved 6 runs from defense.

        All seriousness aside. I don’t see a lot of Mariners games, mostly because they don’t exist according to most national media outlets. So I don’t know is it his bat speed, pitch recognition? What is it?

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      • BigtimeM'sfan says:

        ichiro has don it for years so thats kind of a weak excuse

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      • BigtimeM'sfan says:

        i think its more that he has nobody around him that any other team is cared of so they just go right after him unlike when he was with the angels

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      • Antonio Bananas says:

        Using Ichiro as an example of how anyone should succeed at hitting is a weak example. Not weak as in Ichiro is weak, but weak as in you’re using one of the best pure hitters of the last forever as an example of how people can succeed. Like saying Rasmus should hit better in St. Louis because Pujols does.

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      • AJS says:

        “It’s hard to hit in Safe, plus the top 3 AL teams in pitching based on runs allowed/game are Seattle, Oakland, and the Los Angeles, California Angles of Anaheim. So he has to hit or face really good pitching a lot.”

        That fact doesn’t tell us this teams have good pitching. Perhaps it’s because they face each other all the time, and they all have terrible offenses.

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  9. bookbook says:

    Yep, if only the M’s had Ackley to protect him, Figgins would hit a ton.

    Yet, it’s hard to call any team that runs Peguero out there on a regular basis the team that “gets it.”

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    • Random Guy says:

      Not like they have more compelling options than Peguero. Their first choices this year were Michael Saunders and then Milton Bradley, those failed, so now Peguero’s getting a look. You think that guy’s a hacker, wait until you see Greg Halman.

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  10. bookbook says:

    Carp and Wilson aren’t major league quality, but they’d beat Peggy at his current level.

    Yeah, though, it’s hard to remember when Saunders was a legitimate prospect.

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