Ichiro Suzuki Will Rebound: A Final Postulation

Of all the expletive-filled shouting matches between Dave Cameron and I during the recent Arizona FanGraphs retreat, the most interesting one pertained to Seattle’s very own Ichiro Suzuki. I am convinced Ichiro will rebound in 2012, and though he may not be the Ichiro of five years ago, he will still be a viable asset on offense. Today, I will posit that argument for you, the dribbling masses.

“What’s there to worry about Ichiro?” I asked Dave during one of our daily cactus-hunting team-building exercises, “Wasn’t most of Suzuki’s drop-off in 2011 due to BABIP issues?”

“Well, for one thing, Ichiro’s power numbers were way down, and what are you doing with a gun?” he said.

Power numbers, Dave? Hahaha!

Hmm… Yes… His declining power. 

In 2011, Ichiro hit fewer than 200 hits for the first time in his career. However, he also had the second-fewest PAs of his career (721), so it is important we look at his rate stats instead of just his totals, because even though he hit only 5 homers, he has many times before hit just 6 (with more PAs) and still been productive. The discrepancy in power, then, could be playing time instead of just bad performance:

It’s not playing time.

In other words: Dave Cameron is right to observe Ichiro’s power has declined both in balls in play (doubles and triples) and balls out of play (homers). However, his doubles rate is only down a tick, and as Tom Tango said recently, triples are just doubles with speed.

Interestingly, Ichiro’s steal totals (40 SB, 7 CS) remained at an elite level, and his speed score (6.0) and Base Running (3.8) also remained strong, suggesting his legs still have some zoom left in them.

If triples are just doubles with speed, then where did Ichiro’s go? Maybe he merely tried for the extra base less often because he knew he was slumping and became extra cautious? I’m not sure.

One thing we can do to try to calibrate Ichiro’s numbers is use an xBABIP tool. Because Suzuki had a career-low .295 BABIP, the temptation is to assume he’s losing his edge — maybe his speed — given his advanced age. Using the slash12’s BABIP regressor (not sure who the author is, but here is a link to my copy), we can use Ichiro’s batted ball data (line-drive percentage, ground-ball percentage, etc.) to estimate what his BABIP should have been in 2011.

*The document says “forRH” which probably means “for right-handed batters.” Ichiro hits left-handed, but the calculator has a .002 difference in expected BABIP and Ichiro’s career BABIP, so it’s clearly working well for him. Moreover, I think the “forRH” might actually just describe the players within the spreadsheet, not the xBABIP formula.

Applying those xBABIPs to FIO or FI wOBA, tools which allow us to regress a player’s wRC+ and wOBA according to a predicted BABIP, we can effectively estimate how Ichiro will hit moving forward:


Terms: FIO (Fielding Independent Offense), CaB-FIO (FIO using Career BABIP), FI wOBA (Fielding Independent wOBA), and CaB FI wOBA (FI wOBA using career BABIP).

Looking at Ichiro’s FIO and FI wOBA numbers (you will need to scroll right in the embedded spreadsheet), we can ascertain that if nothing else changes (his walk rate, his power rate, his K rate, and his steal rate), one of these two scenarios can play out:

1) If Ichiro hits a career norm BABIP: .343 wOBA

2) If Ichiro hits LDs, GBs, etc. like he did in 2011: .334 wOBA

Ichiro is also changing his stance this year and trying to hit for more power apparently. If the change is dramatic enough (statistically), then it should effectively throw all these calculations out the window (thanks Ichiro). But if he can produce at least similar batted balls and base-stealing like he did in 2011, then he should be perfectly fine.

Of course, like my boss, Dave, who many times told me I was fired, you are welcome to disagree with me.




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Bradley writes for FanGraphs and The Hardball Times. Follow him on Twitter @BradleyWoodrum.


Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Julian
Guest
Julian
4 years 5 months ago

“Today, I will posit that argument for you, the dribbling masses.”
Best line ever.

Barkey Walker
Guest
Barkey Walker
4 years 5 months ago

But what is it? is it a neo-idiom? I have the vague sense I should be insulted, but I’m not sure.

Huh
Guest
Huh
4 years 5 months ago

I also always thought the word was driveling, but what do I know? I am a dribbling mass.

Menthol
Member
Member
Menthol
4 years 5 months ago

It means we’re all point guards, apparently.

maqman
Guest
maqman
4 years 5 months ago

Hey! I’m 75 years old and am entitled to a Senior+ dribbles exception.

Blue
Guest
Blue
4 years 5 months ago

This will be an amusing column after he completely craters this year and begins to raise serious doubts about his HOF case.

jscape2000
Guest
4 years 5 months ago

For a decade he was baseball’s premier RF. He won Gold Gloves and batting titles and an MVP. There was never a whiff of ‘roid use. He has the narrative bonus of “transforming the way MLB viewed NPB.”

He can hit .200/.185/.200 this year, and he’ll still go to the Hall of Fame.

bill
Guest
bill
4 years 5 months ago

He can hit Bud Selig with a truck and still make the Hall.

CircleChange11
Guest
CircleChange11
4 years 5 months ago

Don’t forget my personal favorite … his Rookie of the Year award.

matt w
Guest
matt w
4 years 5 months ago

Bill — Still? I would put Yuniesky Betancourt in the Hall of Fame if he hit Bud Selig with a truck.

James Gentile
Member
4 years 5 months ago

“I would put Yuniesky Betancourt in the Hall of Fame if he hit Bud Selig with a truck.”

HAHAHA!

But seriously, what a terrible thing to say.

smocon
Member
smocon
4 years 5 months ago

Doubts?

He is a first ballot HOF’er right now. Any additional hits he acquires will simply cement his place as one of the best players in the game for a 10 year span.

Jason
Guest
Jason
4 years 5 months ago

“but the calculator has a .002 difference in expected BABIP and Ichiro’s career BABIP, so it’s clearly working well for him.”

…if “working” is defined as equal to his career BABIP, then why bother doing the silly calculation. Just use career BABIP. It will “work” every time.

Cliff
Guest
Cliff
4 years 5 months ago

I assume he means using his career numbers, the formula arrives at his career BABIP

Llewdor
Member
Llewdor
4 years 5 months ago

And what a career BABIP it is. The Fangraphs leaderboard tells me that Ichiro has the 10th highest career BABIP in baseball history (minimum 5000 PA). Notables ahead of him: Ty Cobb, Wee Willie Keeler, Rogers Hornsby, Rod Carew, Derek Jeter.

sprot
Guest
sprot
4 years 5 months ago

“Of all the expletive-filled shouting matches between Dave Cameron and I during the recent Arizona FanGraphs retreat..”

Between Dave Cameron and ME, is what you should have written.

Baltar
Guest
Baltar
4 years 5 months ago

I didn’t even know you were there, sprot.

sprot
Guest
sprot
4 years 5 months ago

Hello yes I am here.

deadpool
Guest
deadpool
4 years 5 months ago

That doesn’t sound right either. Between Cameron and myself?

sprot
Guest
sprot
4 years 5 months ago

I’m not going to sit here and lie to you and pretend like I know if its “me” or “myself”. I do not know. I could look it up, but I dont want to. I am certain its not “I” though.

The Ancient Mariner
Guest
The Ancient Mariner
4 years 5 months ago

Grammatically, sprot, you had it right. Points to Baltar for his rejoinder, though.

Robert J. Baumann
Member
Member
4 years 5 months ago

When in doubt, avoid “myself.”

Jon L.
Guest
Jon L.
4 years 5 months ago

Between you and me, I’m pretty sure “between Cameron and me” is spot on.

Nadingo
Guest
Nadingo
4 years 5 months ago

Comments that only correct grammar are annoying, but not as annoying as the “between him and I” plague that is sweeping the nation.

Nadingo
Guest
Nadingo
4 years 5 months ago

Also, I enjoyed both the data and the humor in this article. Well done!

JTM
Guest
4 years 5 months ago

I have used that very example to explain Moneyball / horse racing: Clarissa Explains Moneyball

Kampfer
Guest
Kampfer
4 years 5 months ago

If you are into linguistics, the usage of “me” and “I” are both grammatically correct as they not only are lexically equal, but also natural utterance from native English speakers. Your “grammar” is called prescriptive grammar, and it is merely preference of some people, not the rule of English.

Matt
Guest
Matt
4 years 5 months ago

I don’t understand that. You cannot say “shouting matches between I” or (a parallel) “Dave heard from I.” The correct phrase is “Dave heard from me,” and “shouting matches between me and Dave,” so it is wrong to say “between Dave and I.”

I don’t know what distinctions you are making about what are and are not rules of English, but in any case this one seems pretty clearly wrong. My reference is Woe is I by Patricia T. O’Connor where she addresses this exact issue. (And even addresses a possible objection, that Shakespeare uses “between you and I” by merely remarking that you are not Shakespeare.)

Nadingo
Guest
Nadingo
4 years 5 months ago

Me agree compleetfully with interpretation yours on grammar prescriptiveness! Rules of English make nosense to I!

badenjr
Guest
badenjr
4 years 5 months ago

I enjoy the fine work that the writers do here at Fangraphs, and I’m not one to question others’ writing since I don’t think of myself as a good writer. That said, I do think greater care should have been given when referring to the BABIP regressor tool. There’s a whole team of writers at Fangraphs. I find it hard to believe that no one was able to clarify what the tool is and how it is to be used. Even if that is the case, the smart people at Fangraphs could re-implement the tool if needed. In the future, explain the methodology for the calculation instead of pointing the finger toward an internal document.

tylerv
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tylerv
4 years 5 months ago

Maybe I’m the only one who didn’t appreciate the undergrad jokeyness of this piece. The data by itself would be more interesting.

sprot
Guest
sprot
4 years 5 months ago

You are far from the only one.

Raymond Luxury-Yacht
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Raymond Luxury-Yacht
4 years 5 months ago

Baseball is serious business!

Aesop
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Aesop
4 years 5 months ago

Yeah there are at least 2 of you

Justin
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Justin
4 years 5 months ago

Fangraphs has some of the worst commenters when it comes to whining.

jscape2000
Guest
4 years 5 months ago

Whiiiiiining? What do you meeeeeeean?

DavidCEisen
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DavidCEisen
4 years 5 months ago

If you are assuming Ichiro’s lack of triples is due to his lack of willingness to be aggressive, then you are assuming some of his doubles would have been triples in the past. Therefore if you should subtract a percentage of doubles from Ichiro’s totals. You can’t have your cake and eat it.

todmod
Guest
todmod
4 years 5 months ago

Wow, 36% think he’ll have a .340 wOBA or better. He’s done that once in the past 4 seasons, and now he’s 38.

I understand the bounceback case made in the article, but I think way too many people are optimistic given Ichiro’s age. He’ll play better than last year, but getting back to 2010 levels seems farfetched.

andre
Guest
andre
4 years 5 months ago

What makes you so sure? Will he play better at 39? And then even better at 40? The guy is done.

slash12
Member
slash12
4 years 5 months ago

that’s my equation! here’s the related xBABIP article: http://www.fangraphs.com/fantasy/index.php/xbabip-spreadsheet/

DodgersKingsoftheGalaxy
Guest
DodgersKingsoftheGalaxy
4 years 5 months ago

No way no how, Age 38? I’ll bet you a pair of headphones. “Changing batting stance” i take to mean “can’t hit um anymore so i’m trying to tweak some things”

bstar
Guest
bstar
4 years 5 months ago

Maybe Ichiro’s BABIP went down because he was making weaker contact than in previous years. Nah, don’t even consider that.

Jibb
Guest
Jibb
4 years 5 months ago

We’re always willing to expand realistic expectations for the players we like, and everyone likes Ichiro. Thus far he’s done a great job of avoiding what we’d consider a “normal” aging curve, but he’s still only human. He’s turning 39 next year. I understand he’s a special talent, but it’s foolish for this article to purely expect a regression toward Ichiro’s mean, without considering the very large toll that we should expect his age to have taken by now.

To be honest this is one of my only quibbles with sabermetrics. With so many statistics at our disposal it becomes too easy to match an argument to fit our predetermined hopes or conclusions. I have no doubt that the truth is out there, and that sabermetrics offer a window to that truth, but due to our preconceived biases (which exist whether or not the player in question is on a team we actively root for) its difficult to arrive at that truth rather than an argument for why our original opinion was correct. This isn’t to say that the author’s conclusions are wrong, but I think that when I consider regression in 2012 I’ll be thinking about guys like Carl Crawford, Adam Dunn and even Albert Pujols long before I start predicting 40+ point upticks in wOBA for a 39 year old.

CircleChange11
Guest
CircleChange11
4 years 5 months ago

Not to mention how many times players change things at the plate, or with a new pitch, or with ….

They most often change things when things aren’t going to well or to compensate for decreasing skills.

Honestly the whole “He’s changing his stance and that could result in lots more homers” seems like stuff that I often attribute to “Cub Fans”. “If these 47 things all go our way, this year could be our year.”

Love Ichiro, but a speed based player turning into power guy at age 39, drug free is just not reasonable.

westsideculture
Guest
4 years 5 months ago
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