Ichiro’s Career and the Hall of Fame

Ichiro Suzuki is having a down season and is nearing the end of his career. Many people would consider him an automatic hall-of-famer with the work he’s put together since joining the Mariners as a 27-year-old in 2001. But how good is he, really? Well, for comparison’s sake, I took the production of all hitters from 27 years of age and older and put them against Ichiro’s career numbers. The results are interesting and will only add to the debate.

Since starting in Seattle a decade ago, Ichiro has accumulated 53 WAR. Among all players from their 27th birthday and beyond, he has accumulated the 72nd-highest total — putting him above hall-of-famers Duke Snider (77th), Joe DiMaggio (78th), Reggie Jackson (86th) and Robin Yount (89th). Some notable players within 1 WAR of him are Sammy Sosa, Jim Edmonds, Barry Larkin, Jim Thome, Dave Winfield and Eddie Murray. Some people would consider all these players to be hall-of-fame material. Of course, some are in the hall. Still, his production level — using WAR — doesn’t compare to what you might consider to be a sure-fire HoFer.

Certainly, Ichiro isn’t done playing and he should accumulate a few more WAR before he retires. The number is anyone’s guess, but my informal poll of other FanGraphs’ writers produced a guesstimated value anywhere from 3 to 8 more WAR over the rest of Ichiro’s career. Here are the other players near these values.

56 WAR – Dwight Evans, Todd Helton, Paul Molitor and Tony Perez.

61 WAR – Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio, Norm Cash and Eddie Mathews.

Neither of these lists is full of the game’s greatest. Todd Helton — who is two months younger than Ichiro — has already generated 3 more WAR since Ichiro has been in the league. He will probably get little HoF consideration because he’s played his entire career in Denver. The 61 WAR category has two of the “Killer B’s” from Houston — Biggio and Bagwell. Bagwell didn’t make it on his first Hall-of-Fame vote and Biggio might have the same problem.

Biggio’s main issue is that quite a bit of his value comes from walks, doubles and playing good defense at a difficult position. Most people don’t keep track of league leaders in doubles and walks. Even though Ichiro has played great defense over the years, he ranks high in two other categories that people can connect with (hits and stolen bases), which logically would help his cause.

For players who continued past their year-27 and beyond, Ichiro ranks 14th overall with 2,397 hits. If he were to add 423 more hits in his career — getting him to 2,820 — he’d move up to third, behind Pete Rose (3,250) and Sam Rice (2,925). When it comes to hits for players in this age range, he ranks among the all-time elite. With stolen bases, he doesn’t make it to the same echelon, but he’s still highly ranked. Currently, he’s 24th with 416 stolen bases, which ties him with Tim Raines. If he swipes 60 more bags, he’d move to 15th overall overall behind Ty Cobb‘s 494. If he gets into the 500-stolen-base range, he’d move into the top 10.

Ichiro will get into the Hall of Fame base on his production in the United States and Japan — not to mention the bridge he helped create between the two baseball communities. If a person looks at his production since he was signed by Seattle at age 27 — and compare it to others after that age — his Hall-of-Fame candidacy is pretty borderline. Still, he’s among the career leaders in some pretty special categories, and that certainly counts for something.



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Jeff writes for FanGraphs, The Hardball Times and Royals Review, as well as his own website, Baseball Heat Maps with his brother Darrell. In tandem with Bill Petti, he won the 2013 SABR Analytics Research Award for Contemporary Analysis. Follow him on Twitter @jeffwzimmerman.


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James Gentile
Member
4 years 8 months ago

Ichiro will likely walk into the HoF on the merits of his streak of 200 hit seasons alone.

The MLB obviously missed out on his prime, if that matters or not is up for debate. But if results are the only thing that mattered, Ichiro wasn’t any better than Bobby Abreu.

JimNYC
Guest
JimNYC
4 years 8 months ago

I’ve always considered the single season hits record to be the single most important record in baseball — more important than the single season home run record — because the job of a “hitter,” by definition, is to get “hits.” It’s a large part of the reason why, until recently, I’ve always considered George Sisler to be one of the 30 or so greatest players of all time.

The fact that Ichiro now holds that record makes him an indisputible Hall of Famer in my view. Kind of like Wilt Chamberlain average 50 ppg for a season, or Oscar Robertson averaging a triple double — regardless of anything else, having that record at least puts you strongly in the conversation, and everything else he’s done puts him far over the line.

Aside from which, he almost single-handedly saved baseball in Seattle after Griffey, Johnson, and Rodriguez left in consecutive seasons. The ability to put butts in the seats matters in Hall of Fame discussions (it’s not the “Hall of Good,” or even the “Hall of Great,” it’s the “Hall of FAME.”)

jacob
Guest
jacob
4 years 8 months ago

the job of a hitter is to not get out ;) or at least do something so the team doesnt get outs (like take 20 pitches in an AB)

James Gentile
Member
4 years 8 months ago

The pitcher who throws the most pitches also obviously belongs in the Hall of Fame, too!

Welp
Guest
Welp
4 years 8 months ago

“The job of a “hitter,” by definition, is to get “hits.”

What’s the definition of the job of a “batter”?

JimNYC
Guest
JimNYC
4 years 8 months ago

The job of a hitter is to hit. The job of a slugger is to slug. The job of an offensive player is to combine all of the facets of offense — but a player doesn’t have to be good at everything to be “famous.”

Ichiro is a hitter, and one of the best who ever lived. No, he didn’t slug. No, he didn’t draw walks. But what he did, he did better than pretty much everybody this side of Ty Cobb.

philosofool
Member
Member
philosofool
4 years 8 months ago

I suspect careful trolling. “the job of a hitter is to hit.” Nope, it’s to play defense and help score runs. Nobody who is a serious fangraphs reader falls for B.S. “he’s called a hitter therefore hitting is his job.” That’s bad reasoning, and we all know it.

JimNYC
Guest
JimNYC
4 years 8 months ago

Philosofool, the problem with your argument there is that there’s a difference between somebody who is a “serious Fangraphs reader” and somebody who agrees with the prevailing Fangraphs analytical methodologies. I happen to read Fangraphs at least three or four times a week, but I also happen to be the type of old-school baseball fan who largely eschews statistical analysis.

I’m firmly in the camp of “baseball is a children’s game that people watch for fun and entertainment; mathematics is something that is the opposite of fun and entertaining; and therefore using too much math in analyzing baseball defeats the very purpose of watching baseball in the first place.” So why do I read Fangraphs, you ask? Because whenever the topic of the latest statistical analytical trends comes up with my fellow baseball fans, I like to be able to argue against their utility. It’s intellectual pointless to make arguments against things you don’t understand or refuse to learn about in the first place, so I need to know exactly what it is I’m opposing.

Blue
Guest
Blue
4 years 8 months ago

“But if results are the only thing that mattered, Ichiro wasn’t any better than Bobby Abreu.”

Which is why he should not be in the HOF.

RMR
Guest
RMR
4 years 8 months ago

I know he doesn’t show up on the comp list, but from a type-of-player perspective, I’ve always thought of Ichiro as being very similar to Tony Gwynn. Give him the first 5-6 years in the US instead of Japan and it’s probably a closer comp, but I think he’ll get in for similar reasons – people love singles hitters.

Jed
Guest
Jed
4 years 8 months ago

If you give him 5 years in the US and give him another 200 hits per season, he’d be sitting 9th overall for total hits in a career with a good chance to be 6th by the end of the season.

If you give him 6 years/200 hits per season, he’d be fifth right now with a chance to be fourth by the end of the season.

It would interesting to see how people thought of Ichiro if he had a chance to play his whole career in the US.

Jerome S.
Guest
4 years 8 months ago

Ichiro: Not a *great* player, but definitely one of the most unique.

Larry
Guest
Larry
4 years 8 months ago

The man put up 50+ WAR over the 10 seasons prior to this one. That is pretty damn great, no?

You don’t have to be like Pujols and put up 80 WAR/10 yrs to be great. If a player can average 5 WAR/yr for a decade – that is certainly elite production.

I think the way the article evaluated him was a bit off though, shouldn’t it compare him to other’s age 27-37 season’s? For example craig biggio has ~70 WAR over 20 seasons, isn’t ~50 WAR in 10 more impressive?

Apsedaler
Member
Apsedaler
4 years 8 months ago

Isn’t Ichiro already in the Hall of Fame with his 262 hit season?

Cam
Guest
Cam
4 years 8 months ago

Ask (the late) Roger Maris

jim
Guest
jim
4 years 8 months ago

too soon

Apsedaler
Member
Apsedaler
4 years 8 months ago

I was talking about the 262-hit display. Just a joke.

I know that having the record alone isn’t enough to get him into the hall of fame, although it certainly helps his cause.

JimNYC
Guest
JimNYC
4 years 8 months ago

It would probably be better to ask George Sisler.

You forget that a lot of people resented Maris for holding that record — thinking that it should be held by a truly “great” player like Ruth or Mantle. Remember how everybody wanted to put an asterisk on the record in the early ’90’s?

Geoff
Guest
Geoff
4 years 8 months ago

Ichiro likely would have challenged Pete Rose’s hits record had he broke into MLB at 21 or 22. He’s first ballot. Heck, he still has a decent chance at 3,000 hits. Perhaps this is simply a down year for him. His BABIP is at a career low by a lot.

Blue
Guest
Blue
4 years 8 months ago

No, he has no chance at 3,000 hits.

Mark
Guest
Mark
4 years 8 months ago

Ichiro is 602 away from 3000 MLB hits, and in this incomplete, down season he still has 152 hits. As long as he doesn’t fall off a cliff and still sees semi-regular playing time, he only needs 4 years of 150 hits (or 5 years of further decline with 120 hits) to reach 3000. It’s an outside shot, to be sure, but it’s not “no chance.”

Keith
Guest
Keith
4 years 8 months ago

He’s at 2398 now.

He’s played all but 1 game this season, meaning I’d say 160 games played is reasonable. His current 154 hits/133 games played thus far*160 games played at the end of the season means 185 at the end of the year, bringing his total hits to 2429. He’ll be 571 hits off.

Let’s call this slump a permanent change in his hitting ability, meaning instead of keeping up his pre-2010 rate of his 224.4 hits/season or his rate through 2011 (assuming the 185 hits) of 220.8 hits, he stays on this 185 per-season hit rate.

To accumulate 3,000 hits from the projected end-of-season 2429 (571/185), it will take him 3.086 seasons to reach 3,000 hits.

He’s about to turn 38, but I still don’t believe that he’s a below-average player like his -0.1 WAR suggests. Even then, is it so far-fetched to think that Ichiro could play until he’s 42?

If he does, that’s 4 seasons with which he has time to accrue the 571 hits he SHOULD be short of 3,000. That would mean he has to average 142.75 hits/season from age 38 to age 42. I don’t think that’s exactly a tough mountain for Ichiro to climb, seeing as that’s almost EIGHTY hits off of his career pace.

Blue
Guest
Blue
4 years 8 months ago

How do you know this is a”slump”? Its far more likely to be the beginning of a descent…asserting four straight seasons of 143 hits in each seems outrageously optimistic.

Cam
Guest
Cam
4 years 8 months ago

He’s exactly the kind of guy the Hall was made for. WAR is great, but it isn’t what fans watch the game for. They’re there to see something special. Ichiro is special. He might not be as valuable as some other players due to his total lack of power, but he’s a legend in his own way.

50 years from now, who are we going to remember from the 2001-2010 decade to tell our great-grandkids about? Bonds, Pedro, Pujols, Ichiro and maybe Jeter, A-Rod and Halladay. It’s a short list.

MX
Guest
MX
4 years 8 months ago

Very good point. Ichiro is unique, and in a great and exciting way. That’s a HOF for me.

AA
Guest
AA
4 years 8 months ago

I wouldn’t say “total lack of power”

Justin
Guest
Justin
4 years 8 months ago

Fascinating subject, nice work here.

I think that instinctively I would have thought Suzuki would rank higher in his >27 numbers. Sure he’s not done, but I’m surprised he’s only 14th in hits while leading the league 7 (!) times. I would have suspected he’d be higher in steals as well.

With a admittedly brief look, I couldn’t find MLEs for his time in Japan. He essentially started dominating the Pacific League in his age 20 season.

Geoff
Guest
Geoff
4 years 8 months ago

Year Age Team AVG HR RBI AB H BB SB
1992 18 Orix Blue Wave .253 0 5 95 24 3 3
1993 19 Orix Blue Wave .188 1 3 64 12 2 0
1994 20 Orix Blue Wave .385 13 54 546 210 51 29
1995 21 Orix Blue Wave .342 25 80 524 179 68 49
1996 22 Orix Blue Wave .356 16 84 542 193 56 35
1997 23 Orix Blue Wave .345 17 91 536 185 62 39
1998 24 Orix Blue Wave .358 13 71 506 181 43 11
1999 25 Orix Blue Wave .343 21 68 411 141 45 12
2000 26 Orix Blue Wave .387 12 73 395 153 54 21

Blue
Guest
Blue
4 years 8 months ago

Ok, let’s start adding MLEs on to guys who were in the minors for leagues, too.

Japan is, at best, AAA and should be treated as such.

CircleChange11
Guest
CircleChange11
4 years 8 months ago

I appreciate Ichiro and acknowledge that his MLB career is HoF worthy (and it’s not even close), but I’m surprised that 8 people at FG thumbs-up’d a post that showed Ichiro’s Japan League numbers.

Players don’t get credit for what they coulda, shoulda, or woulda done. If so, Ted Williams might be the all-time leader in a whole host of impressive categories.

Ichiro doesn’t need any fluff to his resume, nor do we need to consider his Japanese numbers. He has 53 WAR over 10 years in MLB. Performing at all-star level for a decade is “dominating your generation”. Throw in his fame and novelty, and it’s a done deal. We don’t need any appeal to non-MLB numbers … and I don;t think it’s mean or snobbish to say that given that we don’t even count post-season MLB stats on a player’s career totals.

If the intent was to show that Ichiro would have likely been a very good player in MLB instead of Japan … I think that goes without saying, just like TSW would have had 3 very MVPesque seasons instead of being a soldier.

mcbrown
Member
mcbrown
4 years 8 months ago

Speak for yourself on Ted Williams – to me putting his accomplishments in context requires some recognition of what might have been.

I do agree that Ichiro’s resume needs no fluffing to get over the specific bar of HoF entry. However to not even contemplate what he might have accomplished with 5 more years in MLB does seem to shortchange his legacy somewhat – he doesn’t need extra HoF credit, but he was an international star before he arrived in Seattle, and it wasn’t just for his wit.

AA
Guest
AA
4 years 8 months ago

Japan is definitely better than AAA.

MX
Guest
MX
4 years 8 months ago

Let’s just put him in the HOF now and stop the nonsense argument already.

Barry Zito
Guest
Barry Zito
4 years 8 months ago

I think Ichiro more deserves credit for his contributions to the game, and that’s why he should be inducted. He led the recent asian invasion.

For just his play alone I would not induct him.

bill
Guest
bill
4 years 8 months ago

I think that’s a bit strange. Say he ends up with 58~ WAR, he would have missed let’s say 6 pretty offensively productive seasons (which he had in Japan, also). He’d at least be a 75-80 WAR player, if not a little better, which puts him in pretty good company as far as HOF players. Not an all time top-20 player, but HOF certainly.

Blue
Guest
Blue
4 years 8 months ago

But he didn’t play in the US so he ISN’T a “75-80 WAR player.”

CircleChange11
Guest
CircleChange11
4 years 8 months ago

This abitrary WAR number that a player must reach to be Hall worthy is absurd. It starts a chain of events that’s even more ridiculous.

If 66 WAR player is in what about the 65.6 WAR player? If he’s in, then how about the64.9 WAR player? Then what about the 64.3 WAR player? Then, what about ….

Ichiro performed at All-Star level for a decade. Isn’t that enough?

Welp
Guest
Welp
4 years 8 months ago

“This abitrary WAR number that a player must reach to be Hall worthy is absurd.”

It’s arbitrary, not absurd – just like every other HoF counting stat benchmark (HRs, wins, hits). Criticism of the standard on that basis alone constitutes a continuum fallacy.

CircleChange11
Guest
CircleChange11
4 years 8 months ago

Not following.

Isn’t possible to have multiple absurd milestones or criteria?

Can’t both 60 WAR and 500 HR be absurd standards?

I don’t support rigid numerical standards or milestones for the HoF.

Hurtlocker
Guest
Hurtlocker
4 years 8 months ago

Ichiro has great speed, great arm, plays great defense and hits for high average. He was a perennial All Star, he was great the first year he arrived in the states, he made his team much better. Certainly a HOF by every measure.

jim
Guest
jim
4 years 8 months ago

yup, it’s important to remember that he won ROY and MVP for the 116-win 2001 mariners. HUGE adds to a HOF case

Blue
Guest
Blue
4 years 8 months ago

Ok, Ichiro fans, you can either 1) add ROY or 2) add his Japan seasons but it is logically inconsistent to use both as arguments he should be in the HOF.

jim
Guest
jim
4 years 8 months ago

ok, then even if you forget about the ROY, he still won MVP

Kurt
Guest
Kurt
4 years 8 months ago

This is in reply to Blue who said you can either 1) add ROY or 2) add his Japanese seasons, but it’s logically inconsistent to use both.

This is crap, total and absolute crap. Let’s take Ichiro’s “AAA quality numbers” from the Nippon League and pretend that those are his minor league numbers. Where do you think he would’ve rated on top 100 prospect sheets had he hit .385, 13 HR, 54 RBI, 210 H, 51 BB, 29 SB at 20 years old in the PCL?? Top 10?? Number 1 overall prospect in all of minor league baseball??

Now let’s pretend that when he was 20 years old, the Mariners had some guy named Griffey in CF, some guy named Buhner in RF, and they had a GM worth crap who couldn’t settle on a LF for more than a few months at a time during the late 90s and 2000 season. Now let’s pretend that even though Ichiro was doing AWESOME in AAA every year that stupid GM Woodward kept running out the Brian Hunters, Vince Colemans, and Butch Huskys of the world. Just so we have some numbers to work with, we’ll substitute Ichiro’s Nippon League numbers for what he would’ve done in the PCL playing for Tacoma in the late 90s through 2000.

So Griffey gets traded to Cincinnati, but they don’t want to play Ichiro in CF or LF, so they make him hold on a little longer because they like the new guy Cameron and even Gillick can’t prevent himself from playing worthless LFs. Then a year later Buhner has become a 4th OF and part-time DH, leaving a space open in 2001 for Ichiro to be the starting RF. So the Mariners bring up their Japanese outfield prospect who they’ve been grooming in the minors for 8 years… 5 years as a non-roster prospect before getting added to the 40 man roster, and then after all 3 of his option get used, they are forced to carry him on the 25 man roster and he exceeds all expectations leading the team to 116 wins, while earning an MVP and ROTY trophy.

Would he not be eligible for the rookie of the year at 27 years old because the Mariners decided to waste his talents for roughly 7 seasons? Because I thought he would still be eligible for rookie of the year regardless of age… Does Casper Wells not deserve to be considered at 26 years old for ROTY, simply because the Tigers wasted years of his career as a AAA outfielder? Casper Wells isn’t going to win ROTY because he doesn’t have the stats, but nobody is going to say he’s too experienced to be a ROTY or he’s too old, he clearly qualifies just like Ichiro did in 2001.

Now as for the Nippon League stats. Are you telling me that if Woodward kept Ichiro in the minors putting up the same stats in Tacoma that he did in Japan, you wouldn’t look back and say, “CLEARLY this is a great hitter!” and “he deserved a chance to play in the majors!” You wouldn’t look at a #1 overall prospect who his .385 as a 20 year old in Tacoma and say “why wasn’t he playing for Seattle?” Of course you would ask yourself that and you would look at every season after that and wonder why the hell Woody Woodward didn’t call him up to the majors for those 6 seasons after being rated the top prospect in baseball, while guys like Shane Monahan, Rich Amaral, Alex Diaz, and Glenallen Hill patrolled the outfield in Seattle.

You wouldn’t be wrong for wondering what Ichiro would’ve done as a Mariner for his 1995-2000 seasons and you wouldn’t be wrong for saying he still earned the ROTY award as a 27 year old in 2001, because it wasn’t his fault he was forced to wait 6 years to get his chance to prove himself in the Major Leagues. If you say that the Nippon League is equivalent to the AAA level of the minor leagues, which has widely been accepted as fact, than why can’t you pretend his Nippon League stats are his Tacoma stats and pretend he was a prospect who never got a chance until he was a lot older, when his performance said he was ready for years??

Where there is a problem is if you count the ROTY award under his list of achievements and then you add his Japanese hits to his MLB hits as being EQUAL and say his HOF consideration should be based on his 3676 hits he had between the Japanese Nippon League and the Major Leagues. You can’t say a hit in the Nippon League is equal to a hit in a MLB game without saying that Ichiro was ineligible for the ROTY trophy in 2001. But that’s not what anyone is saying, they are just saying that if a person was this good in the minor leagues or nippon leagues, and didn’t get a chance to play in the major leagues for 6 seasons, it would be fair to speculate about what he would’ve added to his career totals with even an average level of performace through those prime seasons of his career. If you can speculate on his “Tacoma” production the way people speculated on Edgar Martinez at 25-26 years old.

Why can’t you pretend that the Orix Blue Wave was just another PCL team affiliated with the Mariners and that Ichiro didn’t play until 2001 because of a shitty front office? Playing in Japan should not exclude a player from ROTY consideration if they meet the other qualifications, it’s that simple and the Nippon Baseball League should be considered equivalent to the Pacific Coast/International Leagues or the AAA level of the minor leagues. Age should have nothing to do with it and wondering how a player would’ve done with an earlier promotion to the majors is a reasonable consideration when talking about the totality of his stats as they relate to enshrinement in the Hall of Fame.

Devil's Advocate
Guest
Devil's Advocate
4 years 8 months ago

I think Ichiro is a HOF player no doubt, but I think saying this is deceiving:

“Among all players from their 27th birthday and beyond, he has accumulated the 72nd-highest total — putting him above hall-of-famers… Joe DiMaggio”

DiMaggio lost 3 years to WW2, but he was a much, much better than Ichiro (and pretty much every baseball player ever, save 10-15 guys).

Blue
Guest
Blue
4 years 8 months ago

Of course it is deceiving; Ichiro fans have to really twist statistics to find a way to show he is Hall-worthy.

jim
Guest
jim
4 years 8 months ago

ah, so how is he not worthy, then?

Blue
Guest
Blue
4 years 8 months ago

Same WAR as Brian Giles, for a start.

jim
Guest
jim
4 years 8 months ago

of course, i forgot there was nothing else to valuation than WAR.

Kurt
Guest
Kurt
4 years 8 months ago

I’d take Giles for the HOF over Dave Concepcion, Bill Mazeroski, Andre Dawson, Jim Rice, and countless others. Where in the world did it become a negative to accumulate almost 2000 hits in roughly 11-12 seasons? Especially while walking at a 15.1% clip and striking out only 10.7%, and it’s incredible that the guy finished with a .902 OPS and played half his career in one of the most pitcher friendly parks ever built! There’s a good chance if he stays in Pittsburgh, he’d have finished with 2000+ hits and close to 400 HRs. Remember also how many hits you lose out on with a walk rate of 15.1%. Chances are if he’s a 10% walk rate, he’s got 2300 hits for his career when he retired after only 12 years in the major leagues. There is absolutely nothing wrong with Brian Giles the baseball player and while he’s a large hall (good not only exceptional players get in) member, not a small hall (more exclusive list) member of the HOF, he’s definitely one of the better players in the history of the game. It was his longevity and endurance that cost him a chance at the Hall of Fame not his hitting. I think it’s also worth noting that Ichiro put together his WAR as a leadoff hitter in one of the most homerun friendly eras in major league baseball history and not coincidentally one of the worst pitching eras in mlb history, also. So his numbers were minimized by the lack of pitching and the superior hitting around the league during his first 5-7 years in the majors. As Ichiro has proved over the last few years, his numbers didn’t regress while others did during the post steroid era in mlb. So it stands to reason that he probably would have posted the same numbers with better pitchers and worse hitters in the league during the early part of his MLB career. Leadoff hitters tend not to be effected by pitchers or steroids. If this was the case, and Ichiro had played the first 5-6 years without his peers using steroids, than Ichiro’s WAR would stand out that much more as WAR is comparative to the rest of the players in the league during a set period of time (typically 1 season). Babe Ruth and Lou Gherig posted 12+ WAR seasons in 1927 because they hit more homeruns individually than any other AL team except the Tigers (because of Greenberg), and the Yankees (their own team). Literally full teams of hitters would be lucky to hit 50 HRs during the 1920s, while Ruth and Gherig both eclipsed this total almost yearly. Ichiro was better than his WAR dictates, while someone like Bonds was probably not quite as good as his WAR would lead you to believe. Better to look at exact stats and comparative types of players to see how they measured up. Was Ichiro better than Rickey Henderson? Probably not, but is he in the same conversation? Sure is. So if Henderson is a small hall member, that means that there’s almost no way Ichiro gets passed on for the Hall of Fame.

Sorry to keep picking on you, Blue, but you are the worst I’ve seen on here at making strawman arguments. You really need to factually base your arguments and it can’t be based on cherry picking stats to help your perspective.

Ichiro should be a HoF player because he has been by far one of the most consistent players in the history of the game while performing at a higher level than the average player, he holds numerous records, he is a complete player capable of impacting all aspects of the game in the truest form of the term 5-tool player, he has played a level befitting a superstar ball player and has routinely been the most voted player on the All-Star team (meaning he is well liked), his career stats compare favorably with other players in the HoF, he has won a large number of accolades, he’s considered to be an exceptional player by the fans, his teammates, his opponents, and other members of the baseball community, his statistics stand up to the high level of scrutiny required of a future Hall of Famer. Most importantly he is not only a franchise player, but also one of the biggest stars in major league baseball for over a decade, and a true global ambassador of the game. While there are elements of his game that I don’t personally care for, I cannot even imagine a way to justify the inclusion of guys like Andre Dawson, Jim Rice, and Roberto Alomar, if a guy like Ichiro Suzuki doesn’t get added to the Hall of Fame. Honestly, how can a player be a 2x AL batting title holder, set numerous records, be a rookie of the year winner, 1x mvp winner, 10x All-Star, 10x Gold Glover, 3x Silver Slugger, 1x AS game MVP, and all within only 10.67 seasons in the major leagues. If Ichiro played his career for the Red Sox or the Yankees since 2001, we wouldn’t even be having this discussion and it has nothing to do with winning a World Series ring and everything to do with media exposure and fan base of the team.

Kurt
Guest
Kurt
4 years 8 months ago

While Dave Concepcion isn’t in the HoF, I used his name as a reference because of the love he gets from the veteran comittee and it’s been talked about for years now that they might put him in for his glove even though he was no better than a pitcher offensively for years. Giles probably wouldn’t get more than a glance and be ignored by the veteran committee, but someone like Dave Concepcion will get in because he was well liked by the media, a good teammate, and/or a “good defender”.

Jason
Guest
Jason
4 years 8 months ago

When did it become the Hall of WAR? Does anyone seriously believe that you can boil a baseball career down to one number? Seriously?

Of course Ichiro is a Hall of Famer. The guy is simply one of the best at producing hits to ever play the game. Plus he is a terrific defensive right fielder (the best I’ve ever seen). He’s won gold gloves, batting titles, MVP, ROY. What more do you want?

mcbrown
Member
mcbrown
4 years 8 months ago

It feels a bit like sacrilege to compare him to Ichiro, but is Jackie Robinson is an interesting comp. Robinson entered the league in his late 20’s and put up 62.7 WAR over a 9 year career which likely missed his athletic peak. That “only” puts him in Jeff Bagwell territory for the post-27 group (for the record I am in the pro-Bagwell camp, but he is considered an example of “not obviously Hall of Fame material” so I’m picking on him), but he is quite obviously celebrated for his contributions to the game beyond his performance on the field. I’m not going to compare Ichiro’s arrival in MLB to Robinson breaking the color barrier, but there is room in the Hall of Fame to give extra credit to players who had an impact on the game beyond their production on the field. And the biggest global baseball star of the 21st century definitely fits that description. So in summary, Ichiro would get my vote if I had one, but I don’t think he’ll need it as he gets in on the first ballot.

test
Guest
test
4 years 8 months ago

I think the extra credit should be given because Ichiro had no choice but to play in Japan for most of his time there, given the agreements between the leagues. It’s superficially similar to Robinson due to career length impacts, and others who lost time to wars (although nothing close to the same importance historically). That’s why it’s so hard to say how much extra credit he should get. I’d bump him a hypothetical two peak years or so, based on nothing but gut feel.

I also am not sure he is done being a good hitter yet. He’s not going to have a second peak, but I think he still has a good shot at a few more .300/.350/.400 years. Maybe he needs to take a few days off now and then as well – not many guys played absolutely every day at his age.

Blue
Guest
Blue
4 years 8 months ago

That’s ***10 WAR*** more than Ichiro. Robinson isn’t even a close comp at the moment.

mcbrown
Member
mcbrown
4 years 8 months ago

Which is why I said “interesting comp”, not “close comp”. The point is that one could in theory quibble with a generic 63 WAR player being in the HOF (e.g. Bagwell), but one could certainly not quibble with the specific 63 WAR player Jackie Robinson being in the HOF – thus clearly there is more to HOF candidacy than career WAR.

Telo
Guest
Telo
4 years 8 months ago

As someone said above, Ichiro is one of the most unique characters in baseball history. That is more than enough to supplement his borderline career numbers (borderline assuming he is done producing at a high level), and make him a slam dunk for the Hall.

Devon
Guest
4 years 8 months ago

I don’t think you can really compare Ichiro, a leadoff hitter, to career totals of guys like Reggie Jackson or Sam Rice. How does Ichiro’s WAR compare to other leadoff hitters throughout history? After all, Ichiro’s roll has never been to drive in runs, it’s always been to be the one driven in by the big hitters. This is how people should be lookin’ at Ichiro. Otherwise it’s all apples to oranges. It’d be like trying to say Lou Gehrig didn’t win 300 games. Of course he didn’t, he was never used that way.

kds
Guest
kds
4 years 8 months ago

WAR does not work that way. Since it is based on linear weights it treats all singles as the same value, all HR’s, all BB’s etc. WAR never considers RS or RBI, so it will not discriminate against a hitter based on his batting order position. (Perhaps in some cases it should, Soriano’s HR are worth less as a leadoff hitter then they would be if he were in the middle of the order with more runners on.) Ichiro loses WAR for having very little power, and walking not a lot. He also loses out since he mostly has played RF, albeit very well, a less important defensive position.

test
Guest
test
4 years 8 months ago

Being a middle-of-the-order slugger doesn’t help you accumulate WAR, being a good player does. It so happens the best possible players are powerful hitters who also hit for a high average and take walks and often play good defense. Ichiro misses two of these skills, but excels as few others at the other two. He’s fairly rated where he is. Which is pretty damn highly for a guy with no power at all.

Nate
Guest
Nate
4 years 8 months ago

I wonder if there will be *any* influence for his stats in Japan in the voters minds. I know what they say, I know what they intend. But how can you not think in the back of your mind “how many career hits is that if you combine them?”.

Hint: it’s a lot.

Jason
Guest
Jason
4 years 8 months ago

The SABR community has it backwards. You’ve found a statistic that correlates with Hall of Fame induction; WAR. But the correlation is not perfect, sometimes players that WAR predicts should be HOFers aren’t, and sometimes players WAR predicts aren’t HOFers are. The SABR community thinks that the HOF gets it wrong in these instances. WAR does not determine HOF. It is not causal. They are merely correlates.

WAR clearly does not capture all of the variation inherent in determining a HOFer. We know this because the correlation is not perfect. The response to this should not be to make the correlation artificially better by changing the HOF requirements to be based solely on WAR. The response ought to be to do research to capture the variation that WAR cannot explain.

Jason
Guest
Jason
4 years 8 months ago

So, the question then becomes, what about Ichiro makes him a HOFer that WAR ignores? Can we measure it? Is it generalizable? Can we create a mixed model that is better able to predict HOF induction than WAR alone?

RC
Guest
RC
4 years 8 months ago

The F in HOF.

JimNYC
Guest
JimNYC
4 years 8 months ago

It’s the Hall of FAME. Dizzy Dean is not one of the best pitchers of all time. He had a short peak — take away a grand total of three games pitched, and he doesn’t even meet the 10 year eligibility requirement — and even during his peak he wasn’t exactly Pedro Martinez.

However, Dizzy Dean was almost certainly the most FAMOUS pitcher to have ever played the game. He was a national celebrity on a Ruthian scale, the face of perhaps the most societally memorable team in baseball history (the Gashouse Gang), and did more to sustain the game’s popularity through the Depression than almost any other player. It would be inconceivable to have a Hall of Fame without him.

Ichiro saved baseball in a town that had lost three all-time great players in three consecutive seasons and was on the verge of giving up on baseball. He expanded the MLB’s popularity in Asian markets incredibly, and showed a leery MLB that position players from Japan actually could be useful.

Oh, he also got a TON of hits.

Eric R
Guest
Eric R
4 years 8 months ago

Your post basically assumes that the HoF voters are always right though. I think we can agree that there are a fair number of HoF mistakes… You know, George Kell, Dave Bancroft, Chick Hafey, etc. If they’ve made their share of mistakes letting guys in, who says they don’t also make mistakes keeping guys out?

Jason
Guest
Jason
4 years 8 months ago

Well, in a very important sense, the HOF voters are always right. You don’t get into the HOF unless you are voted in, and you either are a HOFer or you’re not. There is really no measurement error there.

This isn’t to say that I think the voters are infallible. Sometimes I think the voters make mistakes (e.g. when they vote based solely upon WAR!).

HOF induction is based upon voting. This isn’t a chicken/egg problem. We know a priori that a player that receives enough votes will be inducted into the HOF. HOF voting has a perfect correlation with HOF induction.

Who knows what those guys base their votes on? WAR explains some of the variation, since it is a pretty good predictor, but it obviously is not explaining all of it. What else is there that WAR is not capturing?

Why do you think the players you mention are mistakes?

Eric R
Guest
Eric R
4 years 8 months ago

“Well, in a very important sense, the HOF voters are always right. You don’t get into the HOF unless you are voted in, and you either are a HOFer or you’re not. There is really no measurement error there.

This isn’t to say that I think the voters are infallible. Sometimes I think the voters make mistakes (e.g. when they vote based solely upon WAR!).”

Well, obviously. The players they vote for ARE Hall of Famers, It doesn’t mean that when they vote in some player who is clearly not at the level of other HoFers that it was a correct decision to put that player in.

How many players can WAR have really been a deciding factor on [for or against] given that they’ve been voting for over 70 years and WAR has existed maybe five?

“Why do you think the players you mention are mistakes?”

I don’t know– what,makes them HoFers [in terms of what they did as baseball players, not that they were voted in]?

George Kell batted .306 for a moderately long career. That is probably why he got in eventually [hung around the BBWAA ballot for over a decade and was selected by the Vet Committee 26 years after his last game played. He didn’t walk alot, or hit for power. Going off of the stats he was a very slightly above average fielder at 3B.

What in that really puts him in the top 150 or so position players all-time?

Hafey put up good rate stats [133 OPS+], but only six seasons over 400 PA and just over 5113 PA for his career. Maybe as a plus-SS you can call that HoF level, but as an average corner OFer? Not so much. If he is a HoF caliber player, than Bobby Bonds, Tony Oliva, Jim Edmonds, Dave Justice, Will Clark, Jack Clark, Reggie Smith, Jim Gentile, etc are all defiantely HoFers too, since they were all atleast as good.

Jason
Guest
Jason
4 years 8 months ago

“It doesn’t mean that when they vote in some player who is clearly not at the level of other HoFers that it was a correct decision to put that player in.”

I agree. That’s why there are lots of voters. It mitigates the irrationalities inherent in all of us to an extent…. Of course “greatness” encompasses many things and it is extremely difficult to measure. Consequently players close to the margins will be problematic. This is especially true for players who played many years ago when the pool of players to compare them to was so much smaller.

Probably no player has ever been voted into the HOF based upon WAR (Bert Blyleven is a possible exception). Instead players are voted in for gaudy hit and/or HR totals or for years of complete domination of the sport. And these things just happen to correlate with WAR (go figure).

Ichiro is not a player close to the margins. He will almost certainly be a first ballot HOFer. We are not talking about Jim Rice or Rich Gossage here. So why does WAR consider Ichiro borderline when the voters will consider him a slam dunk? What is WAR missing that the voters are seeing? I’m sure it’s possible to actually quantify that.

W

Chris
Guest
Chris
4 years 8 months ago

Nobody claims that there is any sort of casual relationship between WAR and HOF. Nobody is trying to determine HOFers or change HOF requirements to be based solely on WAR. Obviously WAR does not capture the variation inherent in determining if someone will get inducted into the HOF, but you don’t need to do research to figure out what that variation is due to. It’s due to the fact that players are voted in, and HOF candidacy depends on the voters. Besides, the author of the article explains other factors in Ichiro’s HOF candidacy, and he didn’t just cite WAR numbers, so I’m not quite sure what your complaint here is.

Jason
Guest
Jason
4 years 8 months ago

WAR does capture some of the variation that determines if a player gets inducted. It would be interesting to know what else the voters are basing their decisions on (in reality the voters are probably basing their votes on correlates of WAR like batting average, HR, etc.). Of course it depends on the voters, but what are they voting based on? That is what is interesting!

The author is arguing that Ichiro should be considered a borderline HOFer because of his low WAR total. That gets it backwards.

DavidJ
Member
DavidJ
4 years 8 months ago

Jason, if you’re interested in whether or not a player is likely to get elected based on criteria traditionally applied by the voters, then the Hall of Fame gauges devised by Bill James (long before WAR was ever created) are what you are looking for. These are available on every player’s baseball-reference page, and are explained here (just scroll down a bit to ‘Hall of Fame Stats’):

http://www.baseball-reference.com/about/leader_glossary.shtml

Jason
Guest
Jason
4 years 8 months ago

Thanks for that!

Ray
Guest
Ray
4 years 8 months ago

When you combine his on-the-field performance with his social/global contributions (being the 1st Japanese position player in the MLB), his being one of the few players of his time who the majority of fans from all teams, not just his, would put on their “pay to see play” list, and the fact that he was a consummate professional (always worked/played hard, stayed out of the news, and kept himself in top shape) during a stretch of baseball history littered with bad headlines generated by good players, you’re left with a surefire HoFer.

bill
Guest
bill
4 years 8 months ago

This is also not counting when he comes back as a knuckleballer in 4 years.

Bobby Ayala
Member
Member
4 years 8 months ago

Name of the article should be “Ichiro: An Example of why WAR is Overrated in HOF Talk.” He’ll go down as one of the top 10 contact hitters in history, at least 10 time all-star, at least 10 time gold glover, (i know those are arbitrary and don’t mean as much, but 10 straight years is pretty overwhelming,) single season hit record, consecutive 200-hit seasons record, and the best overall player at his position in the era of his career. Forget his uniqueness and being the first major Japanese star to come to MLB, factor in his Japanese stats with a huge grain of salt, and he’s still a 1st ballot HOF.

On a side note, Todd Helton “will probably get a little HOF consideration because he’s played his entire career in Denver” Wha-wha-whaaat? Career .323/.422/.551, 0.72k/bb, what would keep him out? Even under some flawed assumption that a 1B needs 500 HR nowadays to get into the hall, he’ll still end up around 400, it’s not like he’s Billy Butler. He won’t be first ballot, but I can’t believe he won’t be in there eventually, along with Bagwell.

Jordan
Guest
Jordan
4 years 8 months ago

The problem a guy like Helton, and to a lesser extent Bagwell, is that he isn’t FAMOUS. Helton may actually be the best example of this. Can he go to the Hall of Fame when most fans outside of Denver know very little about him other than “he’s pretty good”? ( I would say yes, many others will say no)

Ichiro on the other hand, is very famous. First Japanese player in the league, many time All-Star, very good player with very unique talents. Most baseball fans know a great deal about Ichiro.

Is this a good way to decide who should be in the Hall of Fame? Maybe, maybe not. But the name of the thing begs for this method to be used, and it’s why guys like Andre Dawson and Jim Rice are in the HoF despite middling WARs, and guys like Bert Blyleven have a tough road.

Personally, I don’t think it’s the place to START for hall of fame cases, but it’s a useful thing to consider. Ichiro, on WAR alone, is borderline. But he was one of the most memorable players of his era, and one of the major reasons he was memorable was because he was among the best. That puts him clearly on the HoF side of the border, for me.

Blue
Guest
Blue
4 years 8 months ago

But he wasn’t among the best except at slapping singles.

DavidJ
Member
DavidJ
4 years 8 months ago

“But he wasn’t among the best except at slapping singles.”

Fielding? Throwing? Base running?

TK
Guest
TK
4 years 8 months ago

Biggio is an easy HOFer, he has 3000 hits and doesn’t have Bagwell’s (undeserved) speculation about steroids. Very likely first ballot, but for sure within 3 years.

CircleChange11
Guest
CircleChange11
4 years 8 months ago

Ichiro will also get “Pioneer” points for HoF consideration, as the most popular and successful japanese player in MLB history. Not even close to brekaing the color barrier, but still something that is unique and significant.

Combined with his on field performance and well, his “Fame”, and he’s in.

He’ll be viewed as a great hitter, outstanding defender with a rocket arm, and he’ll be given credit for hitting 20 HR a year (y’know, if he wanted to … cuz like he does that in batting practice), and a great base runner.

He’ll be in. “Should be in?” is a different discussion altogether.

Bronnt
Member
Bronnt
4 years 8 months ago

My real pondering is to attempt to estimate how much Ichiro has left. I don’t think he’s going to be as bad as he has been this season going forward, simply because I don’t think you go from three straight seasons over 4 WAR to replacement level, even at age 37. I’d certainly expect another couple seasons of 2-3 WAR plus maybe another after that where he’s still above replacement level. He’s not a guy that I would expect to pull a Chipper Jones and rebound with a 7 WAR season from out of nowhere during his decline phase. I wouldn’t rule out his chances of bouncing back to 5ish WAR, though.

He’s certainly a great player, even hall of fame caliber. There’s justification for guys who may not have extremely long careers, but are elite while they play, with excellent peaks.

Blue
Guest
Blue
4 years 8 months ago

What if he has nothing left? What if this is it?

Should he go into the HOF with his middling career stats and no real peak?

James Gentile
Member
4 years 8 months ago

I think some people read Fangraphs because they love to get angry.

I mean, different strokes for different folks but I know I won’t be reading any web-articles about “Why it’s cool to kick baby bunnies and puppies” just so I can be like “what? are you guys crazy?!!” anytime soon.

Of course we’re going to talk about WAR when talking about Ichiro and the HoF…

Blue
Guest
Blue
4 years 8 months ago

I would not vote for Ichiro Suzuki in the HOF as of now. I care as much about his Japanese stats as I do about AAA stats. These should be afforded absolutely no weight–we certainly don’t add them in when considering guys who entered MLB later in their career.

So, let’s look at his major league stats only. Is his overall body of work at the HOF level? Doubtful, as the Todd Helton comparison makes clear.

Ok, so let’s look at the other prong of the test–career peak. He has one 7 WAR season. He two 6 WAR seasons. In other words, no career peak.

Yes, Ichiro gets lots of slap hits. He doesn’t have a particularly outstanding OBP and he has never hit for any kind of decent power. He is regularly one of the most overrated MLB players.

jim
Guest
jim
4 years 8 months ago

yeah, getting 200+ hits a year for 10 straight years, what a scrub

Blue
Guest
Blue
4 years 8 months ago

By the way, HERE is your Seattle Mariner who entered the league late and should be in the HOF:
http://www.fangraphs.com/statss.aspx?playerid=1086&position=3B/DH

***18 WAR*** more than darling Ichiro, a far, far, FAR more valuable player than Ichiro ever thought of being.

Jason
Guest
Jason
4 years 8 months ago

…great, we can put Edgar in the Hall of WAR then…

AA
Guest
AA
4 years 8 months ago

No one is arguing that Edgar shouldn’t be in.

Kool
Guest
Kool
4 years 8 months ago

First successful Asian position player in MLB, 53 WAR despite playing much of his youth in Japan, Most Valuable Player, Rookie of the Year, hits records, face of the Mariners franchise, god of Japan, etc. I can’t imagine him getting less than 95% of the vote.

Raff
Guest
Raff
4 years 8 months ago

One of the questions Bill James cited in his book “Whatever Happened to the Hall of Fame?” is whether the player was ever considered the best player in baseball or the best at his position. Ichiro was only in the conversation for best in baseball twice, maybe (his rookie year and his hit-record season). He was usually near the top among RFs, but when you look at fangraphs’ WAR, he was only at the top once.

However, he has been an All-Star and a Gold Glove every single year for a decade — and James thinks the opinion of concurrent players, fans, and writers matters — and has led the league in hits for an unprecedented five straight seasons.

(The guys who have led the league 4 out of 5 years: Ross Barnes in the 1870s, Ty Cobb in the 1900s, Rogers Hornsby in the 1920s, and Stan Musial in the 1940s (if you exclude 1945, when he was at war). Nice company to have.)

Joe Posnanski wrote a great article pondering whether Ichiro and Nolan Ryan could have chosen to be different, and thus have been BETTER. Great read:

http://joeposnanski.si.com/2010/09/24/nolan-and-ichiro/

CircleChange11
Guest
CircleChange11
4 years 8 months ago

I don’t want to be a party-pooper but Brian Giles has 6 more WAR in just 2 more full seasons. Yikes.

As I mentioned before, Ichiro will get “unofficial credit” for what he could have done in MLB had he not been playing in Japan.

He will basically be viewed, incorrectly IMO, as “The Asian Clemente”.

Brian Giles performed at an all-star level for *almost* a decade … so maybe I need to rethink that line of thinking.

Blue
Guest
Blue
4 years 8 months ago

“I don’t want to be a party-pooper but Brian Giles has 6 more WAR in just 2 more full seasons. Yikes.”

EXACTLY.

He has not performed at a HOF level.

TerryMc
Guest
TerryMc
4 years 8 months ago

But Brian Giles was not blocked by the leagues from playing in MLB during his prime years. If you want to argue that NPB is equal to AAA, fine, but AAA players can advance to the majors if they have the talent. Brian Giles plays his 10 peak years in the MLB and produces equivalent WAR numbers to Ichiro who missed many potential peak years.

drmagoo
Guest
drmagoo
4 years 8 months ago

You can count me in on the should be in side, but I don’t have a vote, so that’s probably of marginal value to the universe.

One thing I did notice (perhaps because he’s on a fantasy team) is that Ichiro’s last few weeks/month have been a lot more in line with expectations:

.364/.397/.455 over last 14 days and .305/.327/.390 over the last 28. Not exactly a large sample size, but it’s just possible he’s not completely cooked just yet.

Peter Campbell
Guest
Peter Campbell
4 years 8 months ago

If you attempt to adjust Ichiro’s numbers in Japan, based on how production in Japan has typically translated to the big leagues, it adds significantly to the HOF candidacy. We can’t *know* that he would have put up similar numbers for his entire career if he’d started in the U.S., but we can say that his talent level was equivalent in Japan.

This argument comes from an excellent Hardball Times piece on his HOF chances:

http://www.hardballtimes.com/main/article/is-ichiro-heading-for-the-hall-of-fame-which-one/

cs3
Member
cs3
4 years 8 months ago

what is the record for most hits as a professional baseball player?

DanK
Guest
DanK
4 years 8 months ago

Lets not forget he did what he did during the steroid era. If every other player wasn’t jacked up on roids his comparables would be all the better. Using stats is all good. But you have to use stats along with the eye test to get a better picture.

Otherwise you get people who think that Sammy Sosa is a hall of famer.

RC
Guest
RC
4 years 8 months ago

We don’t know that Ichiro wasn’t “all jacked up”.

Mike
Guest
Mike
2 years 4 months ago

Because Ichiro had such a hulking frame :P

John
Guest
John
4 years 8 months ago

Counting stats are great and everything, but Ichiro’s isolated power is .095 for his career. That’s just plain awful. He’s purely a singles hitter and always has been. He has never hit more than 34 doubles in any season in his career, despite getting over 650 at bats eight times. During his 262 hit season he had 225 singles. 225!! 86% of his hits. Yuck. Now I’m not saying he hasn’t been good, of course he has been. If we’re arguing whether or not he belongs in the HoF, he doesn’t in my mind. If we’re arguing whether or not he gets in, I think it’s a shoe-in.

DanK
Guest
DanK
4 years 8 months ago

Ichiro was jacked up? Seriously?

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