The only surprising part about Ichiro Suzuki‘s trade is the Mariners actually pulled the trigger. Who knew they had it in them? That’s why I believe the company line that Ichiro requested a trade. If Ichiro didn’t want to be traded, no way the big man in Japan would have signed off. The Mariners had to cut the cord; better this way than letting Ichiro flap in the wind the final two months and become more of a scapegoat than he already is. Now the Mariners can move forward, Ichiro’s legacy in Seattle is protected and he has one last shot at a World Series ring. Win win win.
Three observations about Ichiro:
1. My favorite Ichiro stat: from 2001-10 he led the AL in hitting vs. left-handers with a .340 average (fifth in MLB). Including his last two sub-Ichiro years, he falls to ninth in MLB, but he’s still one of only two lefty batters ranked in the Top 30 (Bonds, .318). That’s pretty amazing.
2. Ichiro is a quote machine. Among my favorites: "To tell the truth, I’m not excited to go to Cleveland, but we have to. If I ever saw myself saying I’m excited going to Cleveland, I’d punch myself in the face, because I’m lying." His all-time best is this interview with Bob Costas. Definitely worth the click.
3. I can’t find it, but I swear Bill James once said something to the effect of the best players are the most unique players because they change the game. Bonds, for instance, changed pitchers’ gameplans because you couldn’t pitch him inside. In his way, Ichiro changed the opponents’ game. His speed to beat out grounders, his surgical-like ability to seemingly place the ball wherever he wanted on the field and outsmart the defensive positioning, all of that caused much consternation in the opposing dugout. Then there was his arm, which was the best of his era, and his fielding, which despite his receding skills is still strong (Fangraphs has him No. 1 in UZR among OF this year, Baseball Reference has him ninth in its Total Zone rating among OF). Ichiro is the best defensive right fielder since … ?
Ichiro never did well in Baseball Prospectus’ Pecota forecasts because, as I understand it, Pecota draws conclusions by comparing players to past players.
There are no past Ichiros to compare.