There are four players in the history of major league baseball to record 10,000 or more plate appearances from age 27 forward. Sam Rice was the first, gathering 10,029 PA from 1917 to 1934. The great Carl Yastrzemski came next, tallying 10,065 from 1967 to 1983. Pete Rose, almost simultaneously, had 12,528 PA from 1968 to 1986. The fourth player is Ichiro, who stands at 10,101 plate appearances entering his age 42 season this year.
Ichiro arrived in Major League Baseball at 27, immediately winning the AL Rookie of the Year and MVP awards. He's probably not going to play another four plus seasons in order to break Rose's post-27 plate appearance record, but since his debut in 2001 no player has stood in the batter's box more often. Jimmy Rollins trails him by 82 PA, Albert Pujols by 199. Nine pitchers have faced more batters than Ichiro has had plate appearances since 2001, but that's just another way of saying Ichiro was one of the ten most present players of the last fifteen seasons.
For the first ten of those seasons, Ichiro was a legitimately great player after being a legitimately great player in Japan. He conquered two leagues, endearing himself to millions in the process. He's exemplified the hit tool for a generation, providing extraordinary contact and hit after hit after hit. He ran the bases swiftly and with grace, while also commanding right field and making opposing runners regret their decisions to enter professional baseball.
There are many, many things to like about Ichiro the baseball player and Ichiro the cultural figure. In fact, there's so much to say about Ichiro that we've cleared an entire day on the calendar in his honor. Our staff has been hard at work pulling together their favorite Ichiro statistics and stories culminating in today, Ichiro Day. Across the site we've published 13 articles on the dazzling outfielder, found here if you're not interested in clicking around.
Ryan Romano analyzed Ichiro's arm. Stacey Gotsulias told the story of Ichiro's two-homer night in the Bronx. Eric Garcia McKinley covers Ichiro's chase for 3,000 MLB hits. Joe Vasile wrote about the evolving single-season hit record and also about the other Japanese-born position players to reach the majors. Nick Stellini broke down Ichiro's swing and then wrote another article that just generally offers Ichiro some love. Spencer Bingol asked the age-old question, could Ichiro have hit more dingers? and separately found a very fun modern day comp. Henry Druschel authored a piece about Ichiro being old. Matt Jackson takes us back to his days in Japan. Chris Teeter discusses his ROY/MVP combo. And obviously, I wrote this one.
I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the idea was lifted from Baseball Prospectus who celebrated Clayton Kershaw Day last year. You may also remember we did something similar in these pages when Kris Bryant received his call to the show last April. We have a lot of talented writers who see the game in a variety of interesting ways and every so often it's fun to unleash them all on the same topic to demonstrate the breadth of their abilities and insights.
You're going to read a lot of Ichiro fun facts today, but for my money, this one is the best. Ichiro holds the single season record for plate appearances by a rookie (738). He also managed to lead the league in plate appearances during his rookie season, a feat accomplished by only six other men in history. Perhaps better yet, Ichiro's rookie year ranks 78th all-time in single season plate appearances. He topped that mark four times during the next seven years.
Happy Ichiro Day, everyone.
Neil Weinberg is the Managing Editor at Beyond The Box Score and also writes for FanGraphs and New English D. One of his dreams is to see Ichiro play an inning at catcher.