Your Chone Figgins Reminder

4.9 FanGraphs WAR in this picture - Otto Greule Jr

I mentioned in that other post that this afternoon I found myself watching old videos on Mariners.com. I went through all the Mariners' 2012 team commercials, but I also went through some other videos from spring training, including this one with Chone Figgins being interviewed by Rick Rizzs. It reminded me of how strongly Chone Figgins believed he could bounce back by returning to the leadoff slot in the lineup. At least, how strongly Chone Figgins claimed to believe that in public. Maybe in private he was fully aware of the probability. I don't know Chone Figgins in private, and I probably never will.

Figgins' whole thing was that his mindset, his approach would be different batting first, trying to set the table. He said that he was more comfortable batting leadoff, and even though batting order only matters the first time through, and even though there was every reason to be skeptical, mental things are complicated and you never know what really does and what really doesn't make a difference. What we knew was that Figgins was last successful in 2009 with the Angels, when he batted leadoff. Figgins was thrilled to be able to do that again in 2012.

Obviously, well, you know. But let's review real quick anyway.

Batting line

2009: .298/.395/.393
2012: .181/.262/.271

Walk rate

2009: 14%
2012: 10%

Strikeout rate

2009: 16%
2012: 25%

First-pitch swing rate

2009: 15%
2012: 15%

Zone rate

2009: 48%
2012: 56%

In-zone swing rate

2009: 55%
2012: 56%

Out-of-zone swing rate

2009: 20%
2012: 19%

Pitches per plate appearance

2009: 4.2
2012: 4.1

Groundball rate

2009: 41%
2012: 40%

For the most part, Figgins' approach was consistent. To tell the truth, it never changed that much, statistically. By these numbers above, Chone Figgins in 2012 batted an awful lot like Chone Figgins in 2009. Except for the production part, because Chone Figgins in 2012 was just a worse baseball player. And the pitchers knew, which is why they weren't afraid to throw him so many fastballs and so many strikes. Watch the linked Figgins/Rizzs interview. Figgins even admits that he isn't much of a hitter, and that he's more of a battler. You can always battle, but if pitchers are throwing you strikes and if you're having trouble hitting strikes, then you're going to lose a lot of battles and when you lose a lot of battles you end up losing the war. Unless you have nukes! Imagine if the South had nukes! Things would be way different!

Maybe Figgins was indeed more comfortable batting leadoff early this past season. There are an awful lot of similarities between his numbers in 2012 and his numbers in 2009. But there were huge differences in the numbers that mattered because pitchers weren't afraid of Figgins, because Figgins didn't give them a reason to be. It wasn't about where Chone Figgins was batting. It was about the fact that Chone Figgins was batting, when he probably shouldn't have been. Trying to help a guy's mental state can only do so much with regard to helping his physical state.

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