Jaffe: Ichiro’s 4,000 hits will be a milestone to celebrate

From SABR member Jay Jaffe at SI’s The Strike Zone on August 20, 2013:

Sometime soon the Yankees’ Ichiro Suzuki will collect his 4,000th hit in professional baseball. That total includes his 1,278 hits in the Japanese Pacific League as well as 2,722 in Major League Baseball, meaning he enters Thursday’s doubleheader against the Blue Jays just three hits away from the milestone. While his current level of play is not what it once was, and even if one regards his accomplishments in Japan separately from those in MLB, it constitutes a remarkable achievement for the 39-year-old rightfielder.

Ichiro spent seven full seasons (1994-2000) and parts of two others (1992-1993) playing for the Orix BlueWave in Nippon Professional Baseball, debuting as an 18-year-old and becoming a lineup staple at 20. In fact, despite his first manager’s initial resistance to his unorthodox swing with its high leg kick, he set an NPB record and won a batting title in that first full year, collecting 210 hits in a 130-game season, finishing with a .385 average, and winning the first of three straight MVP awards.

Ichiro thoroughly dominated during his time in Japan, hitting a combined .353/.416/.522 (the most complete statistical record of his time in the league is here), winning batting titles and earning All-Star honors and Gold Gloves in each of his seven full seasons. Because Orix was going through a rebuilding process, the team allowed him to head to MLB via the posting process — in which teams bid for the right to negotiate with a foreign player — in 2000, one year before he reached free agency. The Mariners, who had lost Randy Johnson, Ken Griffey Jr. and Alex Rodriguez over the previous three seasons and needed a new star attraction, won his rights by bidding $13.125 million, then signed him to a three-year contract worth $14.088 million.

Read the full article here: http://mlb.si.com/2013/08/20/ichiro-suzuki-4000-hits-yankees-milestone/

Originally published: August 20, 2013. Last Updated: August 20, 2013.