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Thursday, January 10, 2013

WHY PLATOONING ICHIRO WOULD BE A BIG MISTAKE

Following the news that the Nationals signed Adam LaRoche to a contract and might be willing to trade outfielder Michael Morse, Yankees fans began speculating as to how Morse might fit with the team. Shortly after the excited conjecture by the fans, Bryan Hoch reported on “Bombers Beat that the Yankees have an interest in Morse.  We had our own take here at BYB too.  Read the latest opus titled MICHAEL MORSE & THE YANKEES DILEMMA.

Look, with a need for a righthanded bat, it would only make sense that the team pursue the very talented Morse, and I have no problem with that. What I do take issue with is the implication by many that Morse could be used to platoon Ichiro Suzuki in right field.
I understand that Morse is an average fielder at best, so right field (or backup first base) would be the place to put him from time to time to rest the 38 year-old Suzuki. To use him as a platoon partner, however would be a mistake.
Ichiro Suzuki has been one of the games great hitters since he entered the league.  In addition to his prowess at the plate, he has been a genuine weapon in the field with a cannon for an arm and an uncanny ability to reach balls that normally would fall in for hits.

We all know that Joe Girardi loves to manage situations by the book, and the book will tell him that if you have a right handed hitter available, use him against a left handed pitcher.  In most cases that is all fine and well, but if the manager was to dig deeper into the binder he’d find some amazing things jumping off the pages at him about Ichiro Suzuki.

Over the past 10 seasons, Ichiro has hit .315 against right handed hurlers.  In those same 10 seasons, the left handed hitting Ichiro has batted .329 against southpaws.  That’s right, he’s a full 14 points BETTER against left handers.

To be more relevant, I took a look at his most recent five seasons.  In that time, Suzuki has hit .309 against righties, and .300 against lefties.  AHA! One screams, there you have it!  He does fall into the binder’s rules of engagement!  Well, yes, but he IS STILL HITTING .300 against left handers. Using him strictly as a comparison, I looked at Michael Morse’s statistics for the past three years (he’s only had a significant number of at-bats for the last three seasons).  Since 2010 Morse has hit .294 against lefties and .294 against righties.  Those are pretty decent numbers, yet they aren’t as impressive as Suzuki’s from either side of the mound.
So then, why would you platoon a man who gives you a better shot both at the plate, and in the field at winning every game regardless of who is on the mound? Morse’s power is impressive and every Yankees fan knows we could use another intimidating presence in our lineup.  Given Girardi’s philosophy last season of waiting for the long ball to get our runs rather than manufacturing them, it makes sense that the team would want another long ball threat in the order.  At what cost though?

Morse might be better suited platooning with Brett Gardner as the speedy left-fielder is more prone to streaks at the plate, and in his last two full-seasons (he didn’t play enough in 2012 to warrant consideration there) hit .242 against left handed pitchers.

Look, I’m all for the Yankees getting Michael Morse.  I think he’d be a great fit for our team.  I just don’t think it should be at the expense of playing time for one of baseball’s great hitters.

What do you think?


 
--Steve Skinner, BYB Guest Writer
Twitter: @oswegos1






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