Ichiro’s Final Push – Is 200 Hits Achievable This Year?

by ThomasWayne

“If I’m in a slump I ask myself for advice.”  – Ichiro Suzuki

Be glad I opened with a ‘wink and a smile’ quote from Ichiro. I almost went with a song and dance number – “one of these things is not like the other, one of these things just doesn’t fit in.”

Ichiro – like the great Albert Pujols – is having one of those seasons that ‘ just doesn’t fit in’.

After a decade of 200 + hit seasons (the high point being the record setting 262 in 2004) Ichiro is scraping the bottom of the barrel (yes, I am kidding about the scraping – bottom barrel or any other kind) this year with a meager 154 hits in 133 team games. He, like his brother immortal Albert Pujols, will have to hit like hell in his final 28 games if he wants the streak to extend past ten years.

You might be saying he has very little chance of pulling it off – and you might be right. I myself think it will be quite an achievement  to see him get there. But when you inspect the situation a little closer you may be surprised at how easy it may be for Ichiro to actually pull it off.

First a little history lesson to get all five of the new borns on the planet who have never heard of Ichiro up to date.

Starting in Japan in 1992 at the tender age of 18, Ichiro would begin the first of 9 monsters Japanese League seasons for the Orix Blue Wave.  By 20 he was a full time player and on his way to averaging 177 hits a year in the much-shorter-than-the-Major-League-Baseball-Japanese-League-Season. He finished his Japanese League career with 1278 hits. 

In 2001 he took his talents west and bitched slapped the American League into submission. He lead the Mariners and league in hits, at bats, plate appearances and stolen bases on his way to a batting title (.350), the AL ROY and the AL MVP. He became the second rookie ever to win the Most Valuable Player award (Freddy Lynn was the first in 1975 for Boston). For the next 9 seasons Ichiro was – if there ever was one – a hitting machine. Here are his single season base knock totals:

  • 2001 – 242
  • 2002 – 208
  • 2003 – 212
  • 2004 – 262
  • 2005 – 206
  • 2006 – 224
  • 2007 – 238
  • 2008 – 213
  • 2009 - 225
  • 2010 – 214

Entering 2011 no one suspected a precipitous decline – but it happened none the less – or has it? Here are his hit totals per month in 2011.

  • April – 39
  • May – 22
  • June – 31
  • July – 26
  • August – 36

That’s an average of 30.8 per month. If he continues that average Ichiro will finish the 2011 season with 185 hits – a great hit total but far from Ichiro-esque.

 As of this writing Ichiro has 28 player games in which to get the  46 hits he needs for 200 this year. That’s only (and I use the term ‘only’ in moderation here) 1.65 hits per game for the former MVP to continue his 200 hits or more streak into 2012.

So can he do it? History says he can. Just two years ago Ichiro had 49 hits in a single month (May of 2009). In 2007 he had 4 months during the campaign in which he had 42 or more hits (46 in May, 47 in June, 45 in August and 42 in September). In his record setting 2004 year he had 3 months of 50 or more hits (50 in May, 51 in June and an ungodly total of 56 in August).  That same August Ichiro hit .463 over 28 games. 

So it can be done. But he hasn’t done it since May of 2009 and he will be turning 38 in late October. So is age catching up with him? Or perhaps the real issue is he may be tiring of playing for a bottom feeding team. Losing can wear any hitter – great or small – a little thin. The Mariners and Ichiro haven’t been to the playoffs since 2001. Despite four team records over .500 since that 2001 season the team has finished in 3rd place or lower in the very winnable American League West eight times in ten seasons. Maybe it isn’t age that is bringing his hit total down – maybe it’s environment.

One thing I believe for certain – Ichiro won’t go down without making a run at it. He is quite aware of his place in history and if he goes down he will go down – pardon the pun- swinging.

So what say you dear reader? Give us your vital opinion. Does he have a shot? Will he be close at years end or will he come up several hits short? Or will he blows us all away and finish the season with a total well over 200 hits?  Let the discussion begin…

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40 Responses to “Ichiro’s Final Push – Is 200 Hits Achievable This Year?”

  1. Chuck Says:

    Again, welcome back, Thomas.

    I’m going to say no.

    He’s a half step slower for starters, and while I remember his big August in 2004, I don’t think he’ll pull it off.

    I think .300 probably means more to him than the 200 hits, so I think that’s what he’ll be focusing on.

    If he ends the season at .302 but only has 177 hits, he would accept that, moreso than having 200 hits and hitting .294.

  2. Bob Says:

    Thomas,welcome back !!! I will say no as well.

  3. Danny O Says:

    Ichiro’s streak is done.

    Now what about Pujols’ 100 RBI streak. He needs 22 in 27 games. IMO more attainable.

  4. Raul Says:

    He needs 46 hits to get there.
    Assuming about 112 ABs left (4 per game at 28 games) he’ll have to bat over .360 for the month.

    Possible. Highly unlikely. Although hitting .400 isn’t unheard of.

  5. Raul Says:

    Underestimated. He’d need to hit over .400

  6. Mike Felber Says:

    Yes, little chance of getting there. Also, it is overwhelmingly likely age is catching up to him. Happens to all, & speed before power, even to maintain his skills until this year was very impressive. Also, I do not think a dedicated Professional need decline due to being on a less competitive team. That would be akin to not trying your best, unprofessional. Mantle, Williams: they declined due to age & serious injuries, never due to lack of effort. Ichiro also seems to have done his best.

    But he could always have been more efficient at producing value if he was a bit more selective & drew more walks. Unlike Rose & Carew, he could have hit for more power. No, batting practice is not the same: but like Boggs, it showed he could have hit for more power. Then instead of a 162 game average of 9 & 46 for HR & BBs, he could have more or less double of each.

    That would have given him a much higher OPS + than 115. And he would have kept his great defense & very good base running. As it is now, even absent his Japanese playing career, I would have him just good enough for the HOF. But he could have been even better.

  7. Raul Says:

    I’d vote Ichiro for the HOF before Tim Raines.

    Relax. I’m just doing so to tease John.
    :)

  8. Mike Felber Says:

    I meant also to indicate that being a moderate, 20 HR or so a year HR threat would lead to more careful pitching & free passes. Which would lead to more theft options for him, & with his speed especially more scoring opportunities. Not talking about looking to walk rather than drive the ball, just more chances to get on base with less outs, & we are still talking nothing more than late double digits in walks, max. Maybe just around mid ’70’s per 162, 30 more than his real total.

    Which would still make a big difference.

  9. John Says:

    “I’d vote Ichiro for the HOF before Tim Raines.”

    LOL

    Me too.

    Anyway, I’m gonna say no as well.

    He just has to have way too good a month…hard to imagine at 37.

    Then again, Derek Jeter just had a monster month.

    As far as Pujols, let’s not forget that the man is leading the NL in home runs. He’ll probably finish with an OPS+ over 150. His RBI streak may die, who knows. But this is still panning out to be an outstanding season.

    Ichiro is having a legitimately awful season.

  10. John Says:

    TW – me and Chuck realized that a bunch of people were posting on here and not getting their comments seen. Pretty much any new email address gets filtered into a “pending” category.

    To approve comments like this, you can go to the “Comments” tab on the left side of your dashboard and click on “pending” and then you can approve comments that look sincere.

    Such as these:

    Greg writes:

    “I believe Ichiro will get his 200th hit on the last day of the season. I think the man can do whatever he wants to achieve. He has slowed down a step or two but can still place the ball in play wherever he chooses. He should be considered very seriously for HOF after he retires. Go Boise State”

    I would respond with: he must really want to achieve total suck this year.

    Roy J. Wilson writes:

    “I’ve doubted Ichiro in the past & been proven wrong, but if I were a betting man I would bet against it. I just would’nt risk a whole lot. I think it may very well come down to what situations he faces coming to the plate against playoff teams. If he’s on a hot streak & comes to the plate with baserunners we just might see some intentional walks that could make the difference between 200 hits or say just under 200. If he’s close with say 8 or 10 games left it might just get interesting.”

  11. Baseball Man Says:

    The fact that he has had numerous 40 plus hit months is great… problem is he hasn’t come close to that this year except in April when he looked like a shoe in for the record and THAT is the problem. He hasn’t even averaged 30 hits per month for the rest of the season so far so it seems unlikely that he is going to make it barring some miracle.

  12. JohnBowen Says:

    Ron (Robert) Herbal writes:

    “How come, when mentioning Ichiro’s single season hit record, it is never mentioned that he was unable to eclipse the record within 154 games?

    Also, it is considered “chic” to compare him to King Albert. However there is never a mention that for the past three years (including this season) he strikes out more often than Albert and has considerably less “pop.”

    It is also considered “chic” to brag that he could hit a homerun anytime he wished, based on batting practice. Come on, hitting a baseball into the seats off a 50 mph batting practice pitch is far different than live game pitching”

  13. Bob Says:

    Robert, just a guess as to why columists rarely bring up the 154 game thing. For years baseball did that with Roger Maris, only to later regret it.

  14. JohnBowen Says:

    Also, it was a far less significant record.

    The home run record was owned by Babe Ruth, the greatest player ever ever ever, a man whose very name is synonymous with greatness, legend, and lore.

    The hits record was held by a borderline (at best) HOFer who played for a team that hadn’t even existed for 50 years by the time Ichiro came along.

  15. Chuck Says:

    I personally don’t think Ichiro could have hit 20 homers in a season, the changes he would have had to make would be extreme.

    Wade Boggs hit one of the longest homers I’ve ever seen, in a minor league game well before he made his ML debut.

    And he’d hit bombs in BP.

    I’ve seen Ichiro take BP, he hits the ball further than you would expect for a guy his size, but he’s not routinely busting 420 either.

  16. Bob Says:

    1. The Braves released Julio Lugo.
    2. T.G.I.F.!!!

  17. brautigan Says:

    JohnBowen @ 14: Are you referring to George Sisler as a “borderline HOF”?

    You can’t be serious. The guy out pitched Walter Johnson before he was put in the field full time. He hit .340 for a career and had health issues that caused him to not be as good as he should have been.

    Borderline? No way. Sisler was a one of the best fielding firstbasemen of his time, if not the best.

  18. JohnBowen Says:

    Brautigan,

    Among first basemen with at least 3000 plate appearances, George Sisler ranks 47th in OPS+, in a tie with Nick Johnson, and just ahead of Glenn Davis.

    He played way longer than those guys and the .340 batting average at least puts him in the discussion, but his two closest comparables in terms of plate appearances are John Olerud and Todd Helton, and very few people really think of those guys as all-time greats (and they were better across the board offensively than Sisler, and also highly regarded as fielders).

  19. Mike Felber Says:

    I am kind of in the middle. Sisler was way overrated, he hit for average when conditions were perfect for that, but was relatively undistinguished in OBP & slugging. But even James had him as a middle of the pack HOF guy. He just was not near an immortal, a great lesson of BA both inflated by context & overrated.

  20. Bob Says:

    Angel Villalona was cleared of any wrongdoing in the Dominican Republic, and can join the Giants organization again, although he may not be allowed back in the US.
    He can report to the teams academy in the D.R. I should note the article said he paid the victims family $139,000.

  21. JohnBowen Says:

    Must be innocent!

  22. Chuck Says:

    “He can report to the teams academy in the D.R”

    Villalona sued the Giants for five million dollars, so that has to be resolved first.

    I’d tell him to screw off.

  23. JohnBowen Says:

    Cliff Lee in April, May, and July: 5-7, 4.22 ERA
    Cliff Lee in May/August: 10-0, 0.33 ERA

  24. Raul Says:

    Ichiro is now 40 hits away with 23 to play.

    For some reason this “race” to 200 hits is a little exciting.

  25. ThomasWayne Says:

    I feel the same way Raul…it’s like a weird hitting streak of some kind…lol.
    Or a train wreck…not sure which one…either way you can’t help put peek to see what happened.
    TW

  26. Danny O Says:

    Another shutout for Lee.

  27. Chuck Says:

    Zach Stewart perfect through six for White Sox.

  28. Chuck Says:

    7

  29. Raul Says:

    I’ll tune in for this.

  30. John Says:

    Got broken up literally the second I tuned in.

  31. Chuck Says:

    Sucks.

    Valencia is protecting with two strikes and pokes a pitch six inches outside into right.

    Good piece of hitting.

  32. JohnBowen Says:

    Not to dump on Stewart, because that’s a great performance no matter what – but look at the lineup he just faced.

    Among players in the starting lineup, I’ve heard of 3 of them – Mauer, Valencia, and Revere…and a month ago, I hadn’t even heard of Revere (he has a 64 OPS+ on the season).

    That lineup would lose most of its games in AAA.

  33. Raul Says:

    “Not to dump on Stewart, but I’m gonna dump on Stewart.”

  34. JohnBowen Says:

    Really, I was dumping on the lineup he faced.

    You can’t really do too much better than he did.

    Ozzie, post-game: “DAMNIT STEWART! How did you only hold them to zero runs! You should’ve held that piece-of-shit lineup to NEGATIVE FIVE RUNS. I DON’T CARE IF THAT’S NOT TECHNICALLY POSSIBLE!”

  35. JohnBowen Says:

    Ron (Robert) Herbal chimes in again:

    “Just left the Mariner board and the blah-blah made me ill. All they talked about
    was Ichiro’s “AWESOME” catch. Were they watching the same game that I was? He BADLY misjudged a flyball and stopped three feet short of the wall then jumped against the wall to make the catch. Had he simply run to the wall and faced the infield he could have easily caught the ball chest high. Yet another of his “SHOWBOAT” moves.

    If you want awesome, his play Monday was awsome. He gave up on a flyball that he must have felt was a homerun. It bounced on the warning track. In a panic Ichiro grabbed the ball and threw (flung) it nearly into the Mariner dugout, missing the cutoff man by 50 feet. Now that was awesome.”

    Two takeaways:

    1) Mr. Herbal *really* hates Ichiro
    2) Ron – if you would like to post on here, go ahead an post something on any of my articles; once I approve it, you should be good to go from then-on.

  36. Chuck Says:

    Who is Robert Herbal?

  37. JohnBowen Says:

    He’s a reader whose comments aren’t getting through Adam’s super-powerful filter.

  38. brautigan Says:

    J.B.- George Sisler in 1915 had two complete game wins against Walter Johnson. St. Louis had 6 firstbasemen in 7 seasons and thought enough of Sisler to take him out of the rotation and play him at 1B.

    From 1916 to 1922, Sisler averaged close to 40 steals a season. He twice hit over .400 and three times hit over .350.

    In 1923, Sisler contracted a case of sinusitis and it infected his optic nerves and he was seeing double, costing him the entire 1923 season. He wasn’t the same player when he returned, but he still put up resepectable numbers.

    Ty Cobb said Sisler was “the nearest thing to a perfect ball player”.

    Only Hal Chance was possibly better at defending first base. On one occasion against Washington, Joe Judge was on third and Roger Peckinpaugh made a squeeze attempt. Sisler grabbed the bunt, tagged out Peckinpaugh, flipped the ball to catcher Hank Severied and Severied tagged out Judge for a double play. On a squeeze play. I have never heard of such a thing.

    Sisler was one of the best 4 players during his hey day, he was right up there with Ruth, Cobb, and Hornsby.

  39. JohnBowen Says:

    “George Sisler in 1915 had two complete game wins against Walter Johnson.”

    Doesn’t make him a HOFer. He doesn’t get credit for 300 hypothetical wins.

    Also, Walter Johnson is like 4th all-time in losses. A lot of people beat him – largely because of the crappy offenses he pitched

    “From 1916 to 1922, Sisler averaged close to 40 steals a season.”

    The general opinion on this blog seems to be that stealing tons of bases, even at a rate that has never even been approached in the history of baseball, isn’t terribly valuable.

    “Sisler was one of the best 4 players during his hey day, he was right up there with Ruth, Cobb, and Hornsby.”

    Probably best-5, because of Tris Speaker.

    But ok – he was one of the best 5 players in the game for 5ish years and then injuries relegated him to 7 below-average (97 OPS+) years and then he was done. Sounds a lot like Don Mattingly, who has virtually no chance.

    But no, he wasn’t in the same league as Ruth or Hornsby – those guys hit for crazy average AND power, Sisler just average. He wasn’t particularly close to Cobb or Speaker either.

  40. JohnBowen Says:

    “largely because of the crappy offenses he pitched”…behind.

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