Although I am not especially a Seattle Mariners fan, I am an unmitigated Ichiro Suzuki fan. Not only is he an incredible baseball player, he is also an amazing interviewee. Over the weekend he hit us with this.
I think there’s sexiness in infield hits because they require technique.
Ichiro provides offensive value with his above average OBP, fueled not by walks, but by limiting strikeouts and a sky-high BABIP. That is were the infield hits come in. Ichiro hits a high percentage of grounders, which have a higher BABIP than fly balls so right there we should expect him to have a high BABIP. But beyond that his BABIP on grounders in much higher than league average.
BABIP +--------------+---------+---------+ | | Ichiro | Average | +--------------+---------+---------+ | Ground Balls | 0.305 | 0.242 | | Fly Balls | 0.119 | 0.139 | | Line Drives | 0.705 | 0.720 | | Bunts | 0.663 | 0.441 | +--------------+---------+---------+
Ichiro maintains his very high BABIP by beating the league average on ground balls and bunts. He uses his speed and left-handedness (that much closer to first base) to beat out throw on balls on the ground. Beyond that Ichiro also hits more opposite field grounders than most lefties. In the histogram below 45 degrees corresponds to the first base line and -45 to the third base line.
These opposite field grounders are more likely to be infield hits because they are farther from first base. A good number of these opposite field grounders are on pitches away outside of the strike zone.
Combine that OBP-driven offensive value with great defense and almost never missing games, and you have one of the best outfielders of 2000s.
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