Seattle Mariners: How Long Until Ichiro's Spot in the Lineup Is Changed?

Jonathan IrwinContributor IIApril 15, 2012

ARLINGTON, TX - APRIL 11: Ichiro Suzuki #51 of the Seattle Mariners hits against the Texas Rangers at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on April 11, 2012 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Rick Yeatts/Getty Images)
Rick Yeatts/Getty Images

When the Seattle Mariners acquired Jesus Montero, it seemed they finally found what they've been missing since Edgar Martinez's departure: a middle-of-the-order bat and RBI machine.

The Ms entered the season with three stud bats in Dustin Ackley, Justin Smoak and Montero. Though Smoak was—and still is—a wild card, a 3-4-5 combo of those three players could anchor any lineup.

Instead, Seattle took a different angle. That was to retool Ichiro Suzuki from leadoff man to cleanup man.

Ichiro is as Seattle as Starbucks and the Space Needle.

Since his rookie season, he's been a marquee bat for Seattle, hitting .326/.370/.421 across 12 seasons with 424 stolen bases, 95 home runs, 75 triples and 10 200-hit seasons.

Needless to say, he's been good.

For a time, it seemed age would never catch up to the sturdy veteran. Then, at 37 years old, 2011 hit and Ichiro hit only .272—marking the first time in his MLB career that he failed to hit .300 or have 200 hits.

In an effort to combat Ichiro's aging bat, the Mariners devised a plan to hit him third in the lineup. With a speedy Chone Figgins, and an ideal two-hole hitter in Ackley, it seemed like it might just work.

Instead, the experiment has been a flop.

Ichiro is mired in an RBI slump, having gone six-games without one. His three RBI ties him for fifth amongst Mariners, behind Jesus Montero and Kyle Seager, as well as Figgins and Ackley.

At this point it isn't a matter of if Ichiro can hit third—though a .200 average with RISP is a depressing stat. The right-fielder is a notorious singles hitter, and that won't cut it in the middle of the order. And at 38, his power is waning fast.

The Mariners are in a great position. Figgins, Ackley and Ichiro make a dynamic 1-2-3 that can provide a lot of speed and hits. If RBI continue to evade Ichiro, it may be time to move him to first or second in the lineup.

Such a move would allow a maturing Ackley to hit third, solidifying the Ackley-Montero combo that's the future of Seattle baseball.