How to Appreciate Ichiro


On August 21st, 2013, Ichiro Suzuki knocked his 4,000th professional hit. What happened after is best described by Grant Brisbee of SB Nation:

There is a mini-controversy about Ichiro’s 4,000th hit.

Clarification: There is a dumb mini-controversy about Ichiro’s 4,000th hit. On one side, there are the people who think it’s pretty neat that Ichiro has collected 4,000 hits between Japan and the majors.

On the other side, there are people who are upset that other people think it’s pretty neat. Because some of those hits weren’t in the majors, which nullifies the “neat” and makes the round number uninteresting, I guess? Look, I don’t know.

I feel like this sums it up pretty perfectly. Brisbee goes on to do some projections about what Ichiro might have done had he played his whole career in MLB, but I don’t want to even go that far.

To me, 4,000 is less of a landmark as it is a reminder. It’s a reminder that though this player may now be a bit of a shell of himself at 39, the whole of him, the complete Ichiro was and is a dynamic player that changed a lot about the game. I would link clips to some of his highlights, but that’s not needed right now. His great throws, his great catches, his tremendous base running plays are still in your heads. Even if you don’t remember the exact play, you can picture the type of play because you still know what type of player Ichiro was. There will be a slew of highlight reels when Ichiro finally retires. For now, I’ll just present this one:

I’m not that great at lip reading, but I’m pretty sure I picked out a few phrases:

  • Oh my God
  • He touched me
  • Oh my God
  • I have to call my mom
  • He touched me
  • Oh my God

Again, I’m not the best lip reader, but I’m pretty sure she didn’t say:

  • If he ever reaches the 4,000 hit milestone, I’ll really have to contemplate how I value the hits he got in Japan due to various arguments around ballparks, skill of competition, and statistical translation between leagues. I look forward to these moments, and look forward to making my thoughts known when that time comes.

None of us deserve Ichiro, and he will soon be gone. To paraphrase a song: Dig him up and shake his hand. Appreciate the man.

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David G. Temple is the Managing Editor of TechGraphs and a contributor to FanGraphs, NotGraphs and The Hardball Times. He hosts the award-eligible podcast Stealing Home. Dayn Perry once called him a "Bible Made of Lasers." Follow him on Twitter @davidgtemple.

25 Responses to “How to Appreciate Ichiro”

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  1. Bluebird in Boulder says:

    Little did she know that she was now pregnant.

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  2. Iraqis for William Faulkner says:

    To quote John Ettore out of context, “Faulkner once observed that if he were ever to write the perfect story, he would have nothing left to do but ‘break my pencil and die.’ I figure this story about Ichiro is pretty close to the pencil-breaking…”

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  3. Rene Magritte Fan says:

    I really hate that song.

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  4. Bring Jay and Dan back says:

    Here’s Jay Onrait when that Ichiro fan thing happened

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  5. Sherlock says:

    Did nobody else notice that at the 48sec mark that he touches himself right after touching her?

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  6. FeslenR says:

    Begs the question, even without the “combined” stats, does anyone else besides me,feel that he belongs to the Hall?

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    • surista says:

      Well: The most hits of -anyone- in any 13-year period in the history of the game (and it’s not close). Career .320 hitter. 10-time All-star. One All-star Game MVP. One League MVP, 3 other top-10 finishes. 470 stolen bases, good for 43rd right now all-time. 120th all-time in WAR for a position player (in one extra year, he’s 9 WAR higher than Kirby Puckett). 10-time Golden Glove winner, 3-time Silver Slugger awards. And that’s all in a career that didn’t start until he was 27. That’s insane.

      Then add in some of the intangibles of being the first position player from Japan to play in the US etc? Yeah, he’s a first-round HoF, guaranteed, and rightly so.

      Ichiro was voted Rookie of the Year when he first joined the league back in 2001. One way of looking at this is that his Japan stats simply didn’t count – in which case we shouldn’t count his stats for the Hall of Fame voting either. That argument makes a bit of sense – a rookie in the MLB that played in the minor leagues can still win RoY, but we don’t look at his minor league stats when it comes to Hall of Fame voting. The difference is most players that could be RoY or are HoF caliber don’t spend nine years in the minors, like Ichiro did in Japan.

      I’ve lived half my life in Japan. Japanese baseball at it’s best is probably the equivalent of a very good Triple-A team; there’s no reason a Japanese player shouldn’t be eligible for RoY because he played in Japan (in other words: Matsui got absolutely robbed in 2003 by Souhan and Ballou, the two idiots that left Matsui completely off their RoY ballots. They should have their BWAA credentials revoked and never be allowed another ballot of any kind as long as they live).

      The more interesting problem is what to do about Japan-league stats for HoF voting. Satchel Paige is in the HoF for his play in the Negro Leagues. but that’s because he wasn’t allowed to play in the Majors for most of his career. Ichiro as well, I guess wasn’t able to play in the US because of Japan’s posting rules…

      Either way, in Ichiro’s case, it’s irrelevant – he’s a hall-of-famer anyway you look at it.

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    • Billy says:

      To me, it’s not a question if he belongs in the Hall. I don’t mean that to sound rude to you in any way as I know you are simply asking to hear different sides of the argument and that’s fine.

      Ichiro is a sure thing, 1st ballot Hall of Famer. To me, he’s the greatest contact hitter in MLB history and if he had been in the Majors from ages 20-26 instead of in Japan, I personally have 0 doubt he’d have already had 4,000 hits. With the average number of AB’s he had in Japan per season being almost 150 lower than in the Majors, he’d have had a ton more chances to get hits in the Majors for those 7 seasons. I calculated that he’d have had to hit just .278 in those 7 years to get 1,278 hits (his total in Japan) to have 4,000 total MLB hits. Anyone who looks at Ichiro and thinks he WOULDN’T have hit higher than .278 over those 7 years has something severely wrong with them and needs to consult a physician as soon as they possibly can.

      Ichiro: 1st ballot HoF with ease.

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      • Gyre says:

        He deserves the 1st vote, but with the dyckeheads that vote and make all the fuss about making “them” wait, it won’t happen. I just happen to be looking at T Williams in ’41, and at the real numbers instead of the hype. Turns out that olde Ted only had about 466 at-bats with about 189 hits, for some reason his PA is suppressed for the number of games he started in (and then a low strikeout rate and high walk rate pushed him into .400-land). Then look at Ichiro in 2004…yup, I’d say it was better. The only thing I disliked about Suzuki was the way he held himself apart from other players during pre-game activities.

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    • Pirates Hurdles says:

      Pretty sure everyone thinks Ichiro is a sure fire Hall of Famer. What would be the argument against it? His 10 year peak is tremendous (2200 hits, 51 WAR). That doesn’t even consider his impact on the game.

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    • Moves Like Munenori says:

      A better question is, had Ichiro retired before reaching the 10-season threshold would he still have belonged in the Hall? I don’t think there’s any doubt that he’s getting in as his career stands.

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    • binqasim says:

      I was watching a game with a friend of mine and he made a comment that Ichiro may belong in HOF. And I was looking at him like, are you out of your mind? He is not only a definite but a first ballot for me. It is just amazing how he plays the game.

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  7. Lord BatCat says:

    Soooo, Mr. Temple, you’re encouraging a bunch of nerdy stat-infested baseball dorks to appreciate Ichiro in the manner of an 18 year-old girl who I’m pretty sure couldn’t tell you what OPS means or is. Instead, you’d like us all to get hormonally imbalanced about a baseball player like we were at a Beatles concert?

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    • Bradys Sideburns says:

      Its NotGraphs, this is the place for this. Also Ichiro is maybe the most fun player to watch ever

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  8. The Bird says:

    Undoubtedly a 1st time HOF’r. Always one of my favorite players to watch. What impressed me about Ichiro was his tremendous body control. Moved so well in the OF. There seems to be a revisionist history situation regarding Ichiro. His lack of power seems to be big issue right now. Not all guys are cut out out for that..what with PED’s, it takes major commitment to be a power hitter in his era.

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  9. James K. says:

    I like to appreciate him with my pants off.

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  10. Bread n Mustard says:

    This is a player whom in 1998 Mike Hargrove described, “He’s above average as a runner, and he has an above-average arm in right field, still, I would see him as a fourth outfielder on a major league team.”

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  11. Firstpiece says:

    The good thing about that clip: it’s preferable she freak out over Ichiro than Justin Bieber. Unless she freaks out for both.

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