When Ichiro Suzuki was diagnosed with an ulcer that would cause him to miss at minimum eight games, people began to crawl out of the woodwork to question many aspects of Ichiro’s game. Whether he would reach 200 hits for the 9th straight season. Whether, coming off a .747 OPS season, Ichiro should not be traded.
I think we can say that Ichiro is off to a healthy start in proving his skeptics wrong. Again. With 110 hits through 67 games and 312 plate appearances, Ichiro is ahead of even his record-setting 2004 season. Over the same 762 PAs that he received that season, his current rate would net Ichiro with 269 hits.
Not only is the average as healthy as ever, but the power is at nearly an all-time high. Only Ichiro’s 2005 season, a year marked by a change in approach to increase his slugging at the expense of some of his average, has seen a higher isolated slugging percentage, and its .133 mark is a mere five points ahead of his current .128. In other words, so far in 2009, Ichiro is hitting for average like it is 2004 and hitting for power like it is 2005. The only thing he is not doing at the plate is drawing walks, but it is pretty difficult to level that as a legitimate claim against him when he is experiencing the level of success as he has been.
Interestingly, pitchers seem to be trying to offer him those walks. Continuing a nearly uninterrupted trend since 2004, Ichiro is seeing less pitches in the strike zone than ever before. Instead of laying off of them and taking more walks, Ichiro has in fact increased his rate of offering at balls. Of course, he also makes contact on them 86.7% of the time, a flatly absurd number.
Not satisfied with just decimating the calls for decline at the plate, Ichiro has stepped up his defensive game as well. Long praised for his great arm, Ichiro is putting up the best Range numbers of his career.
Adding it all up and Ichiro is on pace to eclipse even his 2004 season in terms of win value. Worth three wins already, Ichiro’s projected playing time would have him worth just under seven wins were he to maintain his lofty rates.
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