BY John Hickey 12:27PM 05/23/2011

Hickey: May no merry month for Ichiro

Mariners have worked their way into contention will little offense from their All-Star, for whom May is the month in which he blossoms

Ichiro is having unexpected trouble at the plate this year. / Drew Sellers, Sportspress Northwest

This has been a tough five-game winning streak for Seattle right fielder Ichiro Suzuki.

On May 17, the Mariners were 17-24 after a 2-1 loss to the Twins in Seattle. The Mariners, who open a three-game series in Minneapolis Monday night, haven’t lost since.

But Ichiro hasn’t been as much a part of the winning as he would like. In those five games he’s just 3-for-21 at the plate and his average, at .302 on May 17, has tumbled to .288.

This has to be troubling for the right fielder and leadoff hitter, not because he’s in a slump – it happens even to perpetual All-Stars – but because it’s happened in May.

Historically, Ichiro has owned May the way Donald Trump owns bad hair. He’s a .355 hitter for May, but right now he’s 16-for-80 for the month, a .200 average.

Atypical as was the slump, as recently as May 17 Ichiro was still slightly above his usual 200-hits-per-year pace, en route to 202 hits this season. But his pace is down to 194.

The Mariners have won five in a row and seven of their last eight without much offense from their leadoff hitter. More than that, No. 2 hitter Chone Figgins has been in a slightly worse funk – 3-for-22 in the same five games.

As well as the Mariners have been doing, and as much as the starting pitching has carried the Mariners in May, it is extremely difficult to see how Seattle will win over an extended period without those two getting hits, getting on base and scoring runs.

Mariners manager Eric Wedge doesn’t have options other than to wait for his top two hitters to start hitting. Sure, he can throw in the occasional day off – he apparently is considering a day off for Figgins and may be thinking about one for Ichiro, who hasn’t had a day off all season – but there’s always the day after.

The Mariners are encouraged that as of Monday, they are just 1½ games out of first place in the American League West.

But it is troubling the top two hitters in the lineup aren’t hitting, particularly Ichiro, who has never had this kind of trouble at this time of year. At 37, is his bat slowing down? Are his legs slowing down?

Given the shape he keeps himself in, probably not. But the numbers make one wonder.

Twitter:@JHickey3


YourThoughts

  • Dennyw

    Ummm… John, you might consider proofing your post before putting it up.
    opens with, “This was has been a tough five-game winning streak…”
    but that’s not why I’m commenting.  It’s the 6th paragraph:
    “Atypical as was the slump, as recently as May 17 Ichiro was still
    slightly above his usual 200-hits-per-month pace, en route to 202 hits
    this season. But his pace is down to 194.”

    200 hits in a month would be remarkable once, much less as a player’s usual pace…

  • Dennyw

    Ummm… John, you might consider proofing your post before putting it up.
    opens with, “This was has been a tough five-game winning streak…”
    but that’s not why I’m commenting.  It’s the 6th paragraph:
    “Atypical as was the slump, as recently as May 17 Ichiro was still
    slightly above his usual 200-hits-per-month pace, en route to 202 hits
    this season. But his pace is down to 194.”

    200 hits in a month would be remarkable once, much less as a player’s usual pace…