Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Ichiro: Among the Greats

Ichiro doesn't get a great deal of attention (from the U.S. media anyway) up there in Seattle but for the last 10 years in a row, he has quietly put together one of the greatest 10-year periods that a batter has ever had in Major League Baseball history. Barring an injury, this will be his 10th consecutive season of 200+ hits, a mark that will tie him with Pete Rose as the only other player in MLB history with 10 such seasons. Pete Rose had 24 seasons to collect ten 200+ hit seasons, Ichiro has had 10.

When I got to looking at Ichiro's numbers, my 1st stop was baseball-reference.com. When you look at that sparkling 10 year career, the stat sheet looks like a work of art:

1.) Assuming he plays the final 19 games of the season, he will have played every game this year. At that point, for his 10 year career he will have averaged 159 games per season...talk about consistency.

2.) Through no fault of his own this will be his least productive year so far in terms of runs scored, yet he will still be averaging over 100 runs a year for his career.

3.) In 10 full Major League seasons, he has never hit less than .303. The triple-slash for his career is .331/.376/.430.

4.) This was mind-boggling to me. He was ROY in 2001. He has won a Gold Glove EVERY SEASON he has been a Major Leaguer and oh, he won the MVP award his rookie year too. Not only that (but kind of a "duh"), he has been an All-Star every season of his career. So in summary, an average season for Ichiro is .331/.376/.430, a gold glove and an All-Star appearance.

5.) He has stolen 30+ bases in nine out of 10 years. He's stolen 40+ bases twice and 50+ bases once. His career SB% is 81%.

6.) Ichiro holds the Major League record for hits in a season with 262 hits. The other names in the top 10 include George Sisler, Lefty O'Doul, Bill Terry, Al Simmons, Rogers Hornsby, Chuck Klein, and Ty Cobb. In other words, Ichiro put himself in some seriously ancient company with that 2004 season.

7.) Again, assuming Ichiro finishes the season without incident, he will lead the league for the 7th time in 10 years in # of hits.

8.) In 10 years of playing right field, he has turned almost as many double-plays (21) as he has committed errors (28). He has 3 times as many outfield assists (89) as he has errors.

9.) He's 36 this year, if he can manage 4 more seasons and keep up the hit pace he is currently on, he would eclipse the 3,000 hit mark in only 14 seasons...that is incredible.

10.) This goes along with his high career batting average and ability to beat out infield hits, but Ichiro's career BABIP is .357 which is the 16th highest of all-time (among players with at least 1500 PAs).

Regardless of what Ichiro does to end his career, it's hard to argue that he has not already produced a Hall of Fame career in only 10 seasons. According to Baseball Reference's "Hall of Fame Statistics" section he's right there especially when it comes to batting. I think you have to cut Ichiro a little slack considering he didn't start his ML career until age 27 after a 9-year Japanese league career. Had he played his entire career over here, we may very well have been talking about a challenger to Pete Rose's record. Hats off to Ichiro, here's to hoping he's got a few more seasons in him.

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