Sunday, November 25, 2012

Ichiro's Next Stage

The day Ichiro Suzuki gets inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, will be a bright day for Baseball History. Ichiro has been a classy gentleman and ambassador for the game of baseball to millions of people around the globe. His meticulous and exuberant play put a spell on fans who were awed by his precision, athleticism, speed, and laser throwing arm. In Ichiro's heyday, his otherworldly combination of skills brought fans to the edge of their seats the moment he stepped on the field.

Off the field, Ichiro is a walking and talking living legend. Never one to let his star's shine diminish, Ichiro recently sent something to a Mariners fan that goes above and beyond the norm.

Last week, Amy Franz, the woman who ran the Ichimeter at Safeco Field, keeping count of Ichiro's career hits, received a package in the mail. Imagine her excitement when she saw what was inside:

Even better is what Ichiro wrote in his note...

In case the image is hard to see, it reads:

"Dear Amy:Thank you for your loyal support during my career in Seattle.Your unique and faithful way of cheering was a constant inspiration to me.Although the color of my spikes have now changed, I would appreciate your keeping a pair from my Mariners' years.Best, Ichiro"

That's pretty solid. The whole "... was a constant inspiration to me" part has to be an awesome thing to hear for a superfan, like Amy.

News came out on Friday night that Ichiro Suzuki's agent, Tony Attanasio, said "There has been a lot of interest [from teams], but he enjoyed playing for the Yankees so much it’s hard for him to say no to the Yankees. His preference is to stay there instead of going someplace else, but we will wait and see."

Many Yankee fans want Ichiro back.
All Ichiro needs now is mutual interest from the Bronx Bombers, which is unlikely to surpass the interest he'll receive from other teams.

It is unlikely the Yankees would re-sign Ichiro Suzuki for anything above 4th outfielder status, because Brian Cashman would have to ignore several glaring statistical red flags.

From an overall perspective, Bill James's Win Shares for Ichiro have tumbled the past four seasons...

2009 Win Shares: 28
2009 Win Shares: 23
2009 Win Shares: 15
2009 Win Shares: 11

More simply, Ichiro's On Base Percentage, courtesy of Fangraphs is trending below league average.

More specifically, the past four seasons:

2009 OBP: .386
2010 OBP: .359
2011 OBP: .310
2012 OBP: .307

Ignoring defense, but looking at his overall offensive game on Baseball Prospectus...

2009 VORP: 47.6
2010 VORP: 34.7
2011 VORP: 6.2
2012 VORP: 2.4

Practically, Ichiro may be a hit machine, but he is indisputably an outs machine. The man has been in the Top 10 in the American League in Outs Made 10 times in his 12 year career. He finished 12th in one of the other two years.

Ichiro's proclivity for making outs is of historic proportions. After 12 seasons, Ichiro Suzuki is 190th all time in outs made, with 5,721. That is the most outs made by anyone 12, or fewer, years played in the Major Leagues. With another typical season for Ichiro, he will pass about 60 or 70 more players on the all time list, and 40 or 50 of them have played 17 seasons or more.

Where will Ichiro end up next Spring? It's no doubt that a great player like Ichiro will receive a Major League contract from a desirable team. Someone could sign him to a contract similar to the one Torii Hunter signed in Detroit.

Does Tony Attanasio have a good relationship with Brian Sabean? If not the Giants, the Mariners are the only West Coast team who could use an outfielder. Even if Ichiro wanted to play for Joe Maddon in Tampa Bay, the Rays could be too scared away by the numbers. How about Dusty Baker? He loves veterans and couldn't care less about OBP, since it usually just leads to clogging the bases, anyway. Maybe Ichiro could platoon with Drew Stubbs in Cincinnati.

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