Don Wakamatsu says Ichiro Suzuki is pitched around because the Mariners' lineup is so bad

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Ichiro Suzuki went 0-for-4 yesterday after striking out three times Saturday for the just the third time in his career, leaving him with the lowest OPS (.743) and second-lowest batting average (.307) in 10 seasons with Seattle.
Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu suggested that the lack of capable of hitters following him in what is the league’s worst lineup has motivated opposing pitchers to work around Suzuki more than ever before.

Maybe they’re pitching him a little bit tougher than normal. He’s the one .300 hitter in your lineup. He’s a guy that doesn’t normally walk. I think they’re forcing him to swing at pitches maybe a little bit further out of the zone than normal. I see him fouling off a lot of pitches a lot more than I did last year. Not because he’s missing, but I think they’re not as good as pitches he was afforded last year. That’s just my opinion.

Studies have more or less shown that the general notion of “lineup protection” is somewhere between massively overblown and a flat-out myth, but a deeper look at Suzuki’s numbers this season shows that Wakamatsu may be right.
Pitches thrown to Suzuki have been in the strike zone just 45.5 percent of the time this season, which is his lowest single-season mark by a relatively wide margin and well below his career total of 52.0 percent. Suzuki is also swinging at pitches outside the strike zone far more than usual, taking a hack 36.1 percent of the time compared to 26.0 percent for his career.
Most of Suzuki’s other numbers–stuff like contact rate, swinging strike percentage, and other data found on Fan Graphs–are pretty much in line for his norms, so Wakamatsu’s explanation seems to be make a lot of sense. Of course, at age 36 you’d also expect Suzuki’s performance to decline regardless of whether he’s getting as many hittable pitches as usual, so it also may not be as cut and dried as the manager thinks.

Brandon McCarthy wins final spot in Dodgers’ rotation

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We learned on Monday that Hyun-Jin Ryu won one of the final two spots in the Dodgers’ starting rotation. Brandon McCarthy has won the other, Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register reports. Alex Wood was McCarthy’s competitor for the spot.

McCarthy, 33, posted a 4.85 ERA across four appearances spanning 13 innings this spring, yielding seven earned runs on 14 hits and a walk with seven strikeouts. Wood, a southpaw, gave up five earned runs in six innings against the Reds on Tuesday, which might have factored into the decision.

Last season, McCarthy made nine starts and one relief appearance, posting a 4.95 ERA with a 44/26 K/BB ratio in 40 innings. In the event McCarthy falters, the club has Wood as well as Julio Urias and the injured Scott Kazmir as potential replacements.

Yankees re-sign Jon Niese to a minor league deal

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The Yankees have re-signed pitcher Jon Niese to a minor league contract, George A. King III of the New York Post reports. Niese was released on Sunday, but he’ll stick around and provide rotation depth for the Yankees.

Niese had knee surgery last August and got a late start to spring training as a result. In six spring appearances lasting an inning each, the lefty gave up three earned runs on five hits and a walk with five strikeouts.

Niese, a veteran of nine seasons, put up an aggregate 5.50 ERA with an 88/47 K/BB ratio in 121 innings last season between the Pirates and Mets.