Ichiro notched his 3000th hit on Sunday against the Rockies, and it was no slap hit. Ichiro launched a triple off the wall just beyond Gerardo Parra's outstretched glove. The 42-year-old is having a renaissance season in Miami, already amassing more value this season than any full season since 2013. His 3,000th hit was his 65th hit of the season, and his slash line currently stands at .317/.387/.380. On top of the productivity at the plate, he has stolen nine bases and has played the outfield perfectly fine (per FanGraphs DEF, 1.8). To be a productive player at this point in his career is nothing short of amazing, but such is Ichiro!
This site celebrated Ichiro in its own way, declaring March 29th ‘Ichiro Day'. Members of the BtBS staff tackled specific events and home runs, analyzed his five tools, and essentially spent a cold and dreary late March day celebrating all that is good on the field of play. The day was met with excitement and is just one example of the fun Ichiro brings to the game.
The legend of Ichiro is a fun one and even now continues to grow. Despite this being his 16th season in MLB, he is still evolving as a player. He is currently posting a near-career-low in strikeout rate at 9.3 percent. Over the last three seasons, he never had a K-rate below 11.4 percent. Ichiro also has a double-digit walk rate for the first time in his career. The progress is remarkable considering his age and MLB tenure.
So, how did we get here with Ichiro?
Seattle signed the Japanese star in 2001, when he immediately became a staple in the Mariners outfield. He swiftly became an international icon since he was the best (to date, and perhaps even still) Japanese player to assimilate into the majors. He played in nearly every M's game in his first season at Safeco and led the league in plate appearances (738) and hits (242), and he tied for the league lead in batting average (.350). He edged out Roger Cedeno for the league lead in stolen bases (56) as well.
Suzuki's rookie season was a harbinger of what would come in the rainy northwest. That 6.0 fWAR season ended being only his third-best season. His .350/.381/.457 slash line and 56 stolen bases in 70 attempts propelled him to American League Rookie of the Year, where he secured all but one of the 28 first place votes. He also made the All-Star team (his first of ten consecutive All Star honors) and won the American League Most Valuable Player award.
From that 2001 rookie MLB season, Ichiro posted 200 or more hits every season until 2011 and led the league in hits seven times over that 10-year span. Even given the least discerning view of his Baseball Reference page, the bold print is hard to miss. He is durable, he is productive, and he has cemented his place in Mariners and baseball history.
We should all consider ourselves privileged to witness history being made. For those who are old enough to remember when he first came up, it can be defined as a clear moment for Japanese assimilation into MLB. The world has become a smaller place in the last 15 years, but the success of Ichiro opened the door to the Far East and brought increased awareness and ‘legitimacy' to other Asian players switching leagues.
On behalf of everyone at Beyond the Box Score, we salute Ichiro. 3,000 hits is a fantastic milestone to add to an already fantastic career both in the United States and in Japan. Perhaps we'll get an encore in 2017.
Steven Martano is an Editor at Beyond the Box Score, a Contributing Prospect Writer for the Colorado Rockies at Purple Row, and a contributing writer for The Hardball Times. You can follow him on Twitter at @SMartano.