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Chone Figgins Adding To His Skillset

Chone Figgins' baseball bat
Chone Figgins' baseball bat

I'm sort of at a loss when it comes to what to write about right now. Nothing in particular strikes my fancy, and it's still so early that I have trouble buying into most any statistic. Considering how heavily I usually lean on statistics, that's a problem. So what I'm going to do in this post is poke at a guy most of you don't like because then that leads to easy positive feedback. It's not Miguel Olivo this time. This time it's Chone Figgins, which you'd know if you read the headline, but I don't know how many of you read the headlines, because a lot of you seem to skip right over the bylines. There are essentially only two writers on this website! They have very different styles of writing!

Chone Figgins is out of the lineup for the Mariners' game tonight. For the first time, as it happens. The Mariners have played 18 games, and Figgins has started 18 games, leading off 18 times. Maybe he's out of the lineup because Eric Wedge wants to give him a break. Maybe he's out of the lineup because Eric Wedge wanted to make room for Alex Liddi, after yesterday. Maybe he's out of the lineup for another reason, or for a handful of reasons, which is usually where you find the truth.

Early on, I think we were somewhat encouraged by Figgins' performance. It's weird to say "early on" because it's still early on, but I'm referring to earlier on. Figgins had those back-to-back three-hit games. He was taking balls, and he was hitting line drives. A week ago, he hit a home run! There was talk that Figgins really was simply more comfortable batting leadoff. There was simultaneous talk that Figgins was simply more comfortable with a healthy hip. I assumed the line drives had more to do with the healthy hip than the batting order position, but it's not something worth arguing about.

Figgins was looking like an actual hitter. An actual hitter who could hit balls over actual infielders. He was looking like a guy who might be worth keeping around. Then he slipped into a slump. Have you noticed that Chone Figgins has been slumping? Maybe this is why he's on the bench Wednesday. Figgins has one hit in his last 18 at-bats. If you want to be real mean, he has six hits in his last 47 at-bats. He has one line drive in his last five games. Three line drives in his last eight games.

And Figgins is up to 21 strikeouts, with nine in those last five games. For the season, Figgins has 21 strikeouts in 80 plate appearances, good for a strikeout rate of 26 percent. Chris Davis has a strikeout rate of 27 percent. Carlos Pena has a strikeout rate of 24 percent. Chone Figgins has a career strikeout rate of 15 percent.

Chone Figgins' strikeout rate has never looked like this before. He's never posted a strikeout rate this high in any single month. This April isn't yet over, of course, but Figgins' previous high for a month was 24 percent, in April 2010. Figgins went on to be bad that year. When Figgins was outstanding in 2009, his high strikeout rate was 19 percent, in July.

As you'd expect, Figgins is showing a corresponding drop in contact. He's sitting around a contact rate of 83 percent, against a recent average of 88 percent. Reassuringly, he was down at 79 percent in April 2010, and he recovered to 86 percent in May, but maybe that's not so reassuring since, again, Figgins was bad in 2010. We don't want Chone Figgins to have things in common with 2010; we want Chone Figgins to have things in common with 2009.

We've seen some elements of Chone Figgins' game these last few weeks. I mean his proper game, the way he wants his game to be. It's also impossible for Chone Figgins to be what he wants to be as long as he's striking out, because he didn't used to strike out so much.

It's a very small sample, still. They're all small samples. Figgins' strikeout rate could bounce back, and I'm actually guessing it would bounce back, to some degree. And if we're going to poke Figgins for his strikeout rate, we might simultaneously have to praise Figgins for his line-drive rate, which is good. I'm less comfortable with line-drive rate than I am with strikeout rate, but it's not like Figgins has been a complete mess.

Has he been enough, though? Where is the team's amount of patience with him now, relative to where it was a month ago? Mike Carp's rehab is going slowly, but he's on the way. Right about when Carp comes up from Tacoma, Franklin Gutierrez should be on a rehab assignment. Roster decisions are coming. Jobs will be lost. Whose jobs will be lost? Will Chone Figgins' job be lost?

I don't know where Chone Figgins stands, but because it's so early, his recent slump has undone a lot of the early good. He's a leadoff hitter with a .286 OBP. He's a leadoff hitter with too many strikeouts. Kyle Seager's been slumping too, but Kyle Seager has six extra-base hits. And he's young and doesn't have a recent track record of being terrible. I don't know how near the end is for Chone Figgins, but I don't think he's done much to push it further away. He could really use a good week or two of hitting, and I'm not sure how capable Figgins is of a good week or two of hitting.