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A Quick Look at Ichiro

Ichiro Suzuki is incredible.

I had not been paying much attention to Ichiro's resurgence, but I was browsing some ESPN leaderboards and noticed that Ichiro was 3rd in the majors in runs created. Sure, runs created is a flawed metric, but it was an interesting tidbit with which to begin the day.

Last year, I wrote an entry about the Seattle Mariners where I briefly addressed what Ichiro had done last year. I talked about how Ichiro had reinvented his game, somewhat, by hitting for more power and gaining more in secondary average. My conclusion, though, was "the old Ichiro's a better player and a more exciting player."

I just noticed that Ichiro has been exceptional this year. After a very slow start, he has been on fire over the last two months. Since April 19, Ichiro has hit .413/.452/.517.

My first impulse when I saw the statline was to assume that Ichiro had reverted to the "old Ichiro": the guy who uses his speed, bat control, and smarts to accumulate huge quantities of hits and to be an exceptional player, offensively and defensively.

I think that the truth is a little more complicated than that, though. I'll start with a table.

2004 .372 .064 .082 .188 .401 .083 63.5% 18.6%
2005 .303 .065 .133 .240 .319 .089 54.2% 21.4%
2006 .365 .064 .099 .234 .395 .088 56.9% 21.5%

The data in that table is from the Hardball Times.

There are some oddities in the data and some distinct differences from his 2004:

  1. Ichiro's 2006 batted ball types are closer to his 2005 batted ball types than his 2004 ones.
  2. Ichiro's Secondary Average is also more in line with his 2004 than his 2003.
Addressing the secondary average differences are pretty simple. He is hitting for slightly more power, but the big difference is in baserunning. Ichiro is 22/24 in stealing bases, and the season is still not half over. He stole 36/47 in his record-breaking hit parade season.

I'm not quite sure what to make of the batted ball similarities, but I think that Ichiro will probably end the season closer to his current line than to his 2005 line. Ichiro is as rare as they come, and, while I don't suspect that he can keep his BABIP as high as .395, he's done it before and he's still running well.

Ichiro is proof that there is more than one way to be exceedingly productive. He's quite a talent.