What to do about M's Chone Figgins's difficult season in field, at plate?

The M's keep putting their second baseman in the second spot of the batting order, for no apparent reason.
The M's keep putting their second baseman in the second spot of the batting order, for no apparent reason.

It was something of a grim coincidence that, as Chone Figgins committed his 10th error of the season during the eighth inning of Seattle's Sunday (July 18) 2-1 win against the Angels, I'd just pulled up his career stats on my Dell screen. The key quantification I was looking for was more of a qualification. I wanted to see what grade the world's most blessed, obsessed sabermetrician would award the .590 'ꀜOPS'ꀝ Figgins has put up this year.

"OPS" means on-base percentage plus slugging average. A good one is .900 or higher. For that range, the great Bill James would award an A grade. Anything below .6333 gets an F; but James (you wouldn't have wanted him for a high-school teacher) doesn't let it go at that. For an OPS lower than .5666, the Human Slide Rule actually gives the grade of G.

Figgy has a career OPS of .737, which would earn him a genteman's D in the James school of soft knocks. But the M's 2010 second-baseman has never been known for slugging numbers (slugging percentage measures total bases: 4.0 for a home run versus 1.0 for a single and 0.0 for an out). He has no home runs this year but hit just 31 his previous eight seasons.

There was a time when a guy could fail publicly like this and merely have it dismissed as a mid-career off year. Now, unfortunately for Figgy, 32, in addition to being a real-life failure this season, he's considered by many to be the most disappointing Fantasy League player of 2010, meaning he can't even succeed at being a good imaginary friend.

The former Angel'ꀙs most devilish setback has been an on-base percentage lower than at any time since he became an everyday big-leaguer. The corresponding key number for the Mariners: The Fig continues to get penciled in at the number-two spot in the batting order, even after manifest indications that he can't do what a two-hole guy is supposed to (avoid double plays, move the runner, look at a lot of pitches, leave something for the big RBI guys to do, etc.).

Maybe it's just been an ongoing, inadvertent mistake: Manager Don Wakamatsu, noting that Figgins plays second, subliminally pegs the player for the second spot in the batting order. If so, it's just as well that Wak hasn't noticed that second base is the 'ꀜfour'ꀝ designation for scoring purposes. Otherwise Figgins would've been batting cleanup all year.

Whatever the case, the M's don'ꀙt score many runs. Obviously, it isn't just because Figgins is unproductive, not on a club that hits .237: lowest in the league. Seeing as how the team long since has conceded the season and gone into experimentation mode, couldn't management consider either moving him down to the nine spot (as was the case for a while earlier this year) or benching him?

The latter may well happen, given that the organization's prize draft acquisition, Dustin Ackley, already is being broken in at Figgins' position at triple-A Tacoma.

And, speaking of broken, Figgins' 10 errors in 91 games this season breaks (for the worse) his career error-per-game mark: .109 to .082. Not much, you say? Then clearly you ain't Bill James.


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