Ichiro is Still Awesome

Coming into the year, we weren’t expecting Ichiro to have another top-20 fantasy season, and for good reason. He only stole 26 bases in 2009, and expecting a 36 year old to continue to flash top notch speed is asking too much. To refresh your memory, this is what I had to say about Ichiro in the Second Opinion:

Ichiro’s main value, his speed, is slowly dying. Even though he missed time at the start of the season with a bleeding ulcer, he probably would have fallen short of the 30 steals mark for the first time in his career…another .300 season with 90 runs and 25 stolen bases is on the horizon for Ichiro in 2010

To date, Ichiro has stolen 20 bases in 27 tries, while batting .336/.389/.437 in 313 plate appearances. When I said he’d steal 25 bases, I had no idea he’d reach that mark by the All-Star break. So, what gives? Last season, the Mariners attempted 122 steals over a 162 game season. This year, they have attempted to swipe a bag 77 times in only 70 games. You don’t need to be a math major to see that the Mariners are running at a much higher rate than before. This is likely because the Mariners offense lacks a big time slugger to drive runners in, in conjunction with the offseason addition of another speed threat in Chone Figgins. If the guys on the basepaths don’t make things happen, the team is less likely to have runners cross home plate.

ESPN’s Player Rater ranks Ichiro as the 21st best fantasy player thus far. While I’m not sure what that means (seeing that ESPN doesn’t explain their methods), it is much higher than I had him ranked coming into the year (39th). As long as his steal rate doesn’t turn Nyjeresque, Ichiro is still a top talent in fantasy leagues. His high average combined with his high at-bat totals can help your team support bigger sluggers, which is a huge plus in roto leagues.

Some more fun facts about Ichiro to get you through the day:

– Ichiro is better than you, and he knows it.
– Last season, Ichiro’s batted ball percentages (LD/GB/FB) were 18.2/55.6/26.2. This year? A remarkably consistent 18.0/55.5/26.5.
– Ichiro’s strikeout rate is the worst of his career, while his walk rate is the second best he’s ever had.
– Ichiro is a snappy dresser.
– Ichiro’s ISO (.101) is exactly the same as his career rate.
– Ichiro’s current wRC+ ranks 2010 as his second best offensive season (tied with 2001, his rookie year).
– Throughout his entire career, Ichiro has gotten a hit on half of his bunts.
– Ichiro replaced Jay Buhner long ago, and I still haven’t forgiven him.

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Zach is the creator and co-author of RotoGraphs' Roto Riteup series, and RotoGraphs' second-longest tenured writer. You can follow him on twitter.

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Eric Cioe
Eric Cioe

– Ichiro is better than you, and he knows it.
– Ichiro is a snappy dresser.

That’s a pretty good Carson Cistulli impression.