September 01, 2004

If you haven't been watching the M's and Ichiro... you're missing out.
: Ichiro Suzuki, barely noticeable on the dead- from- the- ankles- up Mariners with all the playoff run excitement around the league, is nevertheless a bright spot to watch this September. Since the All-Star break, he is hitting an unreal .463 and has raised his average to .371, all but assuring another batting title. He had 56 hits in all of August, the most since 1936, but August was also the third month so far he's had 50 hits. No one else in history has ever had 50-hit months more than twice.

Ichiro enters September needing 46 hits in the final 31 games to break George Sisler's 84-year-old record of 257 hits in a single season. His current season pace would put him at 262.

posted by hincandenza to baseball at 12:04 PM - 24 comments

Good to see he's playing great when it matters...

posted by dusted at 12:23 PM on September 01, 2004

Oh, come on, dusted. The guy is absurd at the plate. One of these years (not this one, or next one, but I'd put a dollar on this) he'll go to, oh, the Giants or Dodgers or someone mid-season, and lead them through a serious playoff run. I really like Ichiro. He can't do any more than he's doing, he's learning how to lead American-style, and he earns his paycheck week in and week out, on and off the field. If there were more players like him, maybe I'd watch more baseball.

posted by chicobangs at 12:54 PM on September 01, 2004

I can't catch M's games where I'm at, but I always look at Ichiro's box score in the paper on weekdays. The guy is a total machine, and if I had to pin the tail on the next guy to maybe hit .400, he'd be my first choice. Although as he gets older, I'm certain it will affect his average, as his speed is key to the number of hits he gets.

posted by rocketman at 01:42 PM on September 01, 2004

I love watching Ichiro because he reminds me of the old school leadoff types that used to play in my youth. Speedy singles hitters. Not a lot of those left.

posted by dzot at 02:06 PM on September 01, 2004

I don't think he'll ever hit .400 - if he does, it'll be the most improbable .400 ever simply because the guy does not walk, and barely takes any pitches. If he keeps it up for another year he'll have ridiculous numbers in hits. Barely 4+ years for 1000 hits? This is a HOF player worth watching. And his arm in right is up there with the best as well. You'd think he'd steal more bases... Wonder what's up there.

posted by WeedyMcSmokey at 02:30 PM on September 01, 2004

Barely 4+ years for 1000 hits? This is a HOF player worth watching. He has a couple of factors in his favour for the HOF and a couple against him making the Hall. Pro: - probably the first true star to come from Japan and break the "Pacific" barrier. Sure, Nomo and others might have arrived before him, but he's the true star from the land of the rising sun. - he's won an MVP and ROY award, some Gold Gloves, and he's building up some hefty black & grey ink numbers early on. - he's only 30 years old, and has at least 3 or 4 years before the speed SHOULD drop off significantly. Con: - he started his career VERY late (27 years old), so he lost many years to build up his counting stats. - he's essentially in the downside of his skills slope (post 29 years old), meaning it's doubtful that he'll maintain this level for too long. (However, he could switch from being a slap-n-run hitter to more of a pull/drive hitter, cutting down on hits but pumping up his power stats) - he needs more of a post-season resume, although he doesn't need a championship. - since the cutoff is 10 seasons of play, he's got at least another 6 more (regardless of ability) that he has to's quite possible the travel and living away from Japan for 6 more years might not be what he wants to do. That said, if he can get in 10 seasons at his current ability or even 75% of what he does (for the last 4 years of his 10 year career), I think he'll be a shoo-in for the Hall of Fame. If he should break the .400 barrier, or break the Sisler record, or be the quickest to 2500 hits (since 3000 hits would require at least 13 seasons), then that would definitely help his HOF chances.

posted by grum@work at 02:56 PM on September 01, 2004

If opposing teams would not walk San Francisco OFBarry Bonds multiple times per game he would have a higher BA this season than Ichiro. Look at what happened the other night when the Braves did pitch to him and he went four for five! Not to mention he would have passed Aaron already. Why is it okay for other teams to pitch to IS and not BB?

posted by billsaysthis at 03:55 PM on September 01, 2004

You're right, chico, but his accomplishments seem less impressive with the Mariners being 27 games behind first. He can't be held accountable for the team's record, but he certainly has no pressure on him. No arguing the numbers, though: they are absurd.

posted by dusted at 04:56 PM on September 01, 2004

Why is it okay for other teams to pitch to IS and not BB? I think this is a pretty good indicator of why you pitch to IS when there are men on base and why you don't pitch to BB when there are men on base (in general): IS's extra base hits: 34 (or 16% of his hits) BB's extra base hits: 62 (or 55% of his hits) Essentially, if Ichiro gets a hit, it's going to score (at most) anyone on 2nd or 3rd. If Barry gets a hit, it's probably going to score everyone on base and probably himself too (38HR).

posted by grum@work at 05:26 PM on September 01, 2004

grum, no doubt that's correct but I still say this is just another reason baseball is f'ed--sorry if this violates my 'no hating' promise.

posted by billsaysthis at 06:55 PM on September 01, 2004

How do you figure? When Barry hits the ball, it goes out. When Ichiro hits it, it's a single or a double. So the risk of pitching to Barry is much higher. It's a calculation so easy most any major league manager can do it in his head.

posted by yerfatma at 07:18 PM on September 01, 2004

Incidentally, he just went 2-4 tonight. He has to average right around 1.5 hits per game to break the record, less than his seasonal average (1.63). Every multi-hit game not only moves him closer, but also gives him leeway to absorb any 0-for or 1-for efforts. billsaysthis: If opposing teams would not walk [...] Barry Bonds multiple times per game he would have a higher BA this season than Ichiro. No, no, I seriously doubt that! Look, in every conceivable way, Barry is a vastly greater offensive power than Ichiro- indeed, Barry is greater than anyone else in baseball, and the hands-down MVP in the NL as far as I'm concerned. He is one of the scariest goddamn hitters that's played the game, and I'd argue he is a greater hitter than Babe Ruth ever was. That said, when it comes to average, Barry has never been a high average hitter. Granted, he's raised his average remarkably since 2000, and his increased power and judgment have conspired to make him the most walked player in history, which in turn made his OPS and other numbers insanely good, such that now pitchers are afraid to face him. But from a batting average perspective, the fact that he is walked so much means he basically can sit on fastballs when they do decide to pitch to him, and that his average is artificially inflated: his current numbers of AB would, for most people, have them hitting .368 just a little past the All-Star break. That would inspire some .400 talk, but with the realization that by season's end, that number would be much lower. This is certainly impressive in any event, but he's not really a .368 hitter. If Barry saw more pitching, I firmly believe his average and OPS would come down (but his counting numbers, HR and RBI, would go way up). Consider: Ichiro has 572 at-bats, on pace as well to break the record for most at-bats in a single season! Barry has only 307 at-bats, due to the ridiculous and record-setting numbers of walks (he'll break 200, which no one else has ever done, and do with insane numbers of IBB). It's near impossible to sustain any high average for 265 more at-bats. If we take just Ichiro's last 349 at-bats, from June 1st through today, he is hitting 138 for 349. This translates to a .395 average! By comparison, for the whole year, Barry is hitting 113 for 307, for a .368 average. If Ichiro took the bat of his shoulders as rarely as Barry did, he might well be pushing for .400! All of this only to stress that Ichiro is a phenomenal singles hitting high-average hitter: Barry is at another level altogether, an irreplaceable god at the plate.

posted by hincandenza at 09:47 PM on September 01, 2004

Hal, you probably understand the likelihoods better than me but I still say that IBBs in the quantities issued to BB suck ass.

posted by billsaysthis at 10:11 PM on September 01, 2004

Hal, you probably understand the likelihoods better than me but I still say that IBBs in the quantities issued to BB suck ass. I agree. It is smart to IBB Barry Bonds at certain times in the game. However, most of the NL managers are lazy and just decide to walk him almost every time there is an open base to do so. It's not fun for the pitcher, Barry or the fans, but it's not really "wrong" in the sense a beanball or sliding spikes up would be. There aren't too many active players in MLB that I would want to watch have an at-bat, but Barry and Ichiro are two of them: Barry Bonds (legend) Ichiro Suzuki (exciting) Alex Rodriguez (young & dangerous) Frank Thomas (still has hints of his legendary early 1990s skill) John Olerud (sweetest swing I ever saw) Albert Pujols (see ARod)

posted by grum@work at 01:04 AM on September 02, 2004

He went 3-5 tonight, so he is blazing closer and closer every day. He's up to 217 now... but anything can happen, including an ill-timed slump.

posted by hincandenza at 09:28 PM on September 02, 2004

I've yet to see a well-timed slump. They must happen in December.

posted by yerfatma at 06:54 AM on September 03, 2004

Heh- true dat, yerfatma (btw, you skipped our duel!). :) I meant, psychologically, if he were to go hitless in 5 straight in the beginning of the year (he may have in fact, I haven't checked his game log), he could make that up by turning a 2 hit game into a 3 hit game here and there, over the next 130 games. Whereas a 5-game slump right now would change the numbers such that he'd suddenly need more hits per game- where he'd need 3 hits every game for 10 games in a row. While he has more extra-base hits than anyone in the majors this year, and plenty of 3-hit games, neither he nor anyone (that I know of has 10- 3 hit games in a row It's like rolling a six here or there over the course of 162 dice rolls, versus rolling 5 sixes in a row- it's easier to make up 10 hits over 100 games, with an extra bloop here or there, than all at once with less than 30 games left. Granted, it's all the same numbers in the end- hits in September are worth no more or less than hits in April. And both are worth more than games in December.... ;)

posted by hincandenza at 11:25 AM on September 03, 2004

While he has more extra-base hits than anyone in the majors this year I'm pretty sure you meant multi-hit games, not extra-base hits, right? Because, well, *cough*.

posted by grum@work at 01:13 PM on September 03, 2004

Whoops!!!! Yes, multi-hit games is what I meant. I was typing that in a rush before heading off to work. :)

posted by hincandenza at 07:28 PM on September 03, 2004

3-3 today so far, in the 6th... 9 for 15 in September, and now 36 hits away from tying Sisler. Watching him hit, it's such a pleasure- fighting off pitches until he smacks one right in the gap... no one can get a 3rd strike on the corner by him, simply because he's the best bad ball hitter in the majors.

posted by hincandenza at 07:47 PM on September 04, 2004

He finished 5-5 today. Sweet god.

posted by hincandenza at 09:00 PM on September 04, 2004

Ichiro must be eating some extra good sour plum riceballs before his games lately. That guy is something else and a true joy to watch.

posted by NoMich at 09:49 PM on September 04, 2004

Have you seen the hits he's getting? He's smashing the ball into the ground, making it hop way up in the air (sometimes over the 1B's head), and using his speed to get on base. There is nothing wrong with getting a hit, but no one can say they are "pretty" hits. That said, Go Ichiro Go!

posted by grum@work at 08:09 PM on September 05, 2004

And he's bunting for hits with two outs and a man on second. Goh-ooooo TEAM!

posted by yerfatma at 11:13 PM on September 09, 2004

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