I've always thought that Ichiro was the most overrated player in major league baseball.
Throughout the start of the season the early talk was how surprising the Seattle Mariners were because they were in first place in the American League West when most experts expected them to be vying again for last place in the division.
Well, that has since been squashed with their recent play and it all starts with the return of Ichiro into the lineup for the Mariners. As of today's game which resulted in another loss for the Mariners making it six games in a row that the team has lost.
The Mariners started the season going 6-2, but since the return of Ichiro Suzuki who has played in 23 games now the team has gone 9-14 and the Mariners record is now at 15-16.
It was fun while it lasted for Mariners fans the actual thought of a winning season, but that all went away once Ichiro came back from his injury.
Ichiro has been in the lineup for 88 percent of the Mariners losses. When Ichiro was out of the lineup the Mariners were a completely different team. They played better as a team they got contributions up and down the lineup.
Specifically Russell Branyan who the Oakland A's couldn't get out, but since Ichiro has returned he hasn't contributed as much. Endy Chavez was also a pest drawing walks and his speed was also a big concern for teams. In just five more games than Ichiro has played, Chavez has six more walks than Ichiro.
Why is that important? Well it just means that Chavez did a better job at working the counts especially at the start of games which showed his teammates what the pitcher was throwing, but with Ichiro he is not patient, he's an aggressive hitter and he doesn't get his teammates the opportunity to see what pitches the pitcher is throwing.
So, Mariners fans is it really that much of a surprise that the team is now struggling? No, especially with Ichiro returning to the lineup.
Yes, I realize that Ichiro doesn't pitch for the Mariners, but the only consistent piece of the puzzle since the Mariners 2001 116 win season, has been Ichiro.
Another point to make that I believe happend is that their starters pitched well because they had to step up their games with the supposed best player on the team out of the lineup.
That can happen when a player is missing from the lineup for a period of time others on the team know they have to step up for the team to win and the team gets a better effort out of their players.
This is exactly what the Mariners have shown more effort than they have had in years, but once Ichiro returned the effort was gone and hence the losing began.
Yes, there have been four winning seasons while Ichiro has been in the lineup for the Mariners, but only once since he has arrived have the Mariners been in the playoffs. In fact the placement of the Mariners since Ichiro has arrived in Seattle has been four times and that was in last place in the AL West with seasons of losing 101, 99, 93, and 84.
On top of that instead of trading Ichiro and at least getting young talent and possibly an outfielder to replace him they did nothing. The Mariners made their biggest mistake and it will haunt them for years to come by trading away Adam Jones to the Baltimore Orioles.
Yes, Bedard maybe showing signs of why he was a number one starter for the Orioles a couple of years ago, but the Mariners outfield has no power source and that's including the aging Ken Griffey JR and Jones right now is just coming into his own.
Well, at least it was fun hearing about the Mariners in first place for a few days, but don't expect much of a fight from the Mariners. They don't have any run producers besides their second basemen Jose Lopez and their outfield is more about speed then it is about being able to drive in runs.
Pitching wise the Mariners have a solid one-two punch in Felix Hernandez and Erik Bedard, but the three other starters including Carlos Silva who just went on the DL don't have what it takes either.
So, Mariners fans enjoy another last place season, but the biggest mistake the Mariners made besides the Jones trade, was not trading Ichiro.