You Still Do Not Appreciate Him Enough

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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Matthew Carruth is a software engineer who has been fascinated with baseball statistics since age five. When not dissecting baseball, he is watching hockey or playing soccer.


29 Responses to “You Still Do Not Appreciate Him Enough”

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  1. Randy says:

    While he’s statistically having one of his better seasons at the plate, I think it’s interesting to note how he also only has 37 runs scored so far on the season — what he’d normally accrue in 50-55 games, not the 67 games he’s played in this season. Although his steals are down, it’s more of a testament to offense behind him — or lack thereof — in Seattle.

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  2. Alireza says:

    It is amazing how under appreciated a guy like Ichiro is in the sabermetric community. The obsession with the Three True Outcomes clouds how amazing this guy is. Who cares if he doesn’t walk? His OBP is over .400 and his ability to get hits makes him much more dangerous than a guy who takes walks but makes no contact. Also, he is one of the best defensive outfielders to ever play, so it is hard to argue with just how good the guy is.

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    • cpebbles says:

      Ichiro’s “detractors” in the sabermetric community seem to almost always value him appropriately. They come off as much more negative about him than they really are because they’re constantly reacting to the notion that he’s a perennial MVP or one of the best ~3 ballplayers on the planet in any given season.

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      • TomG says:

        I’ve heard this argument quite frequently but, aside from the bloviated talking heads on ESPN, I’ve never seen Ichiro frequently referred to as one the Top 3-5 players in the game. That’s not to say that Ichiro isn’t overrated – he’s overrated in the same way that Tony Gwynn’s was (i.e. people love high batting averages) but the argument that Ichiro is overrated because he’s one of the best of the best is purely a strawman.

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      • cpebbles says:

        Google “ichiro best player” sometime. Proclamations of Ichiro as one of the best players in MLB history are frequent, and every time someone scoffs at that notion, it triggers the kind of overreaction seen here. Nobody ever denies that Ichiro plays consistently at an All-Star level and is at least a fringe MVP candidate in his best seasons.

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  3. Joe says:

    Ichiro is seriously the Jeter of the OF.

    He definitely doesn’t do what a lot of the nerds like me wish he did (patience, power). Add in ESPN’s fawning, and he becomes an easy target.

    He’s awesome, though. Not “best player in MLB” awesome like designated Japan-fetish boy Orestes Destrade thinks, but awesome.

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    • don says:

      Well, Ichiro never won his gold gloves as a below average fielder at the position. He might not have been the best, but he consistently ranged between good and great. I think the gold gloves are the biggest knock the stat nerds have on Jeter; anyone who thinks he wasn’t an asset with the bat is simply ignorant.

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      • Harry says:

        lol gold gloves

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      • Tom B says:

        anyone who thinks jeter isn’t an asset in the field, regardless of his UZR, is also ignorant…

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      • Joe R says:

        Jeter’s asset in the field is that he’s a shortstop. Even a slightly subpar UZR/FRAA/whatever for a SS (which is what he’s been) means he’s way better at fielding than an average player.

        Add in that he continues to crank out very good offensive seasons and his amazing durability for a guy playing 165+ games / year at a high stress position, and Jeter is pretty incredible in that light. No Ripken, but Jeter could play for my non-existant team any day of the week.

        And I have to agree, lol gold gloves. Ichiro is so much better than the average RF defensively. Him and some guys like Cristian Guzman seem to be such good contact hitters, that it makes up for their lack of plate discipline.

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      • don says:

        Okay, I’ll explain the gold gloves comment a little more clearly.

        Joe said that Ichiro is the “Jeter of the OF”. Jeter is below average defensively (for his position) but easily good enough offensively to overcome that and be pretty consistantly 4-7 wins above replacement for more than a decade. I think the stat community’s biggest problem with him is the fact that he’s tremendously overrated defensively because by the mainstream media because of the gold gloves – anyone who says he hasn’t had a great career is obviously wrong.

        Ichiro was between above average and great defensively, depending whether he was playing RF or CF, so while he won an award for being the best fielder in years in which he wasn’t really at the top (’02, ’05, maybe some others) the gulf between the mainstream perception of his skills and his actual skills is not nearly so large as in Jeter’s case. I was using the gold gloves only to illustrate the mainstream ESPN type media’s perception of a player’s skills, and I do think they’re a pretty good judge of what sportswriters think for obvious reasons. If Ichiro’s overrated, and I’m not sure that he is, it’s not for the same reasons as Jeter. That’s all.

        As an aside, do people actually dislike end of season awards or just think that they’re often awarded to undeserving players? I’m assuming the latter.

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  4. brian recca says:

    lol gold gloves x2

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  5. Grammar Police says:

    “Ichiro is seeing less pitches in the strike zone than ever before.”

    If you are counting, the word is “fewer”. Your sentence should have read:

    “Ichiro is seeing fewer pitches in the strike zone than ever before.”

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  6. Rowen says:

    I think you’re saying in the article that when Ichiro decides to swing at a pitch outside the strike zone, he makes contact 86.7% of the time. It’s hard to make much sense of that figure, however, without having some context. What is the league average for this metric?

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  7. Bearskin Rugburn says:

    we’re not worthy! we’re not worthy!

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  8. Bearskin Rugburn says:

    Just noticed the career stats over on the upper right. Ichiro has accumulated more wins for his team since 2002 than Manny Ramirez did for his. Just sayin.

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    • cpebbles says:

      Manny Ramirez is way more overrated than Jeter ever was, if you give any credence at all to UZR.

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    • Joe R says:

      2007, Ramirez was a friggin dud. For a bp reference, he posted a super sweet -8 FRAA and .297 EqA, good for a 3.5 WARP-3 (on his DT card).

      Okay so not a dud. But not exactly a superawesome $20 mil.

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      • Mike I says:

        Or 0.9 WAR, equaling a worth of $3.9 million, for those of us who think BP stats are worthless and nonsensical nowadays.

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  9. ACSguitar says:

    I’m convinced that the whole Fantasy Nerd side of this argument doesn’t exactly grasp the real value that ichiro brings to the game.

    The guy is a top 10 hitter for average, OBP, SB, and ARM.

    When he’s at the plate he barely ever strikes out. He ALWAYS puts the ball in play. People tend to forget about this. He could go 0-10 and make 9 productive outs. He moves people over. He works the count. he instills fear in pitchers.

    The guy is an amazing yet atypical baseball player. Is he the best ever? No! But he is one of the most interesting and spectaularly gifted players of all time.

    Speed doesn’t just mean stolen bases. It means forcing errors. Forcing balls do to a pitcher being nervous (ichiro causes nervous pitcher at bat and on the bases).

    He’s the total package minus the power. He’s a 1st ballot hall of famer. I’d put him as an all around player against almost anyone out there.

    the guy is a ball player. He may not fit into the 25 hr’s 100 RBI 10 SB catagory but he’s an invaluable member of MLB.

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  10. Bob says:

    Good numbers for Suzuki despite a career worst LD% of 15.9%.

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  11. Alireza says:

    I am not quite sure people got what I was saying. Do I think Ichiro is better than Albert Pujols? No. That would be stupid. Do I think Ichiro is an elite player who would be welcome on any team, on both sides of the ball? Definitely. Should he be in the Hall of Fame? Absolutely. His offensive and defensive combination is something rarely ever seen, and his ability to do the most basic of things in baseball, get hits, is greater than any of his contemporaries and among the best ever. That’s just common sense.

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