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View Full Version : Is Ichiro the best hitter of all time?



savafan
06-20-2011, 11:22 PM
http://sports.yahoo.com/mlb/news?slug=ycn-8667461


The Philadelphia Phillies' recent Interleague series against the Seattle Mariners allowed their fans to see one of baseball's best hitter in this current era.

Ichiro Suzuki(notes) broke into professional baseball when he was 18 years old. He wasn't a regular during the first two years of his career. It wasn't until his third season that he played a full season and had 210 hits and a .385 batting average.

However, the only problem with Ichiro's first nine seasons of statistics is that they aren't recognized by Major League Baseball because he was playing for the Orix Blue Wave in the Japanese League.

jojo
06-21-2011, 12:13 AM
Best hitter of all time? Uhhhh, no.

reds1869
06-21-2011, 12:23 AM
Let me preface this by saying that Ichiro is probably my favorite non-Red of all time and I think you owe it to yourself to see him in person before he hangs up the spikes. Ichiro is an amazing hitter and an even better defender; his arm is flat out terrifying and no one bothers to run on him anymore. He is certainly one of the best hitters of all time, but his lack of power numbers would put him at the bottom of that elite list. There are simply too many hitters who have had a broader skill set.

MikeThierry
06-21-2011, 12:30 AM
Reds, totally agree with your assessment. I just can't put him in the same category as guys like Williams, Musial, Gehrig, etc.

One could make the argument though that he is on the short list of best lead off hitters of all time.

savafan
06-21-2011, 12:59 AM
One could make the argument though that he is on the short list of best lead off hitters of all time.

Not disputing the statement, but better than Rickey Henderson? I'm talking for all that both brought to the table.

RedsManRick
06-21-2011, 01:04 AM
Ichiro is a guy who had some truly elite skills. But if by "best hitter" we mean "hitter who was able to produce the most runs" then no, he wasn't remotely close.

MikeThierry
06-21-2011, 01:17 AM
Not disputing the statement, but better than Rickey Henderson? I'm talking for all that both brought to the table.

Ichiro is on the short list. Henderson is #1 in my opinion but one could argue that Ichiro is right behind him.

cincyinco
06-21-2011, 04:34 AM
I don't think best hitter means anything other than getting hits. HR and RBI are power and opportunity. Ichiro is an elite talent IMO, one of the best the game has ever had and I feel fortunate to have watched him in my lifetime. That's the bottom line.

jojo
06-21-2011, 06:57 AM
I don't think best hitter means anything other than getting hits. HR and RBI are power and opportunity. Ichiro is an elite talent IMO, one of the best the game has ever had and I feel fortunate to have watched him in my lifetime. That's the bottom line.

He is easily a first ballot HOFer IMHO.

cumberlandreds
06-21-2011, 07:16 AM
Best of all time? Probably not. Ted Williams would have something to say about that. But I do believe if Ichiro had played his entire career in the U.S. he would have broken Pete's all time hit record. He has over 2,000 hits in about ten years. Just expand that out to 20 years and he's right there with Pete.

kaldaniels
06-21-2011, 08:53 AM
Perspective re: Japan.

Wlad Balentein is a superstar there.

westofyou
06-21-2011, 09:13 AM
Best?

Best deadball hitter since 1920, best hitter?

Nah.

a complete anomaly in today's game.

In fact only 9 players have the rate stats that Ichiro has (high Ba + low slugging + high OB%)



CAREER
OBA >= .375
SLG <= .450
AVERAGE >= .325
RCAA displayed only--not a sorting criteria
AT BATS >= 3500

RUNS CREATED/GAME RC/G OBA SLG AVG RCAA AB
1 Billy Hamilton 11.55 .455 .432 .344 802 6268
2 John McGraw 10.75 .465 .410 .334 442 3924
3 Cap Anson 9.49 .395 .446 .329 730 9101
4 Jesse Burkett 9.04 .415 .447 .338 713 8421
5 Eddie Collins 7.19 .424 .429 .333 747 9948
6 Willie Keeler 7.14 .388 .415 .341 416 8591
7 Wade Boggs 7.12 .415 .443 .328 556 9180
8 Ichiro Suzuki 6.61 .376 .430 .331 328 6779
9 Rod Carew 6.26 .393 .429 .328 491 9315

dougdirt
06-21-2011, 09:29 AM
Ichiro has never even been the best hitter in a single season in the major leagues. The guy is a very good hitter, but IMO a great hitter, much less the best of all time, needs to be more than a singles hitter.

Blitz Dorsey
06-21-2011, 10:31 AM
One of the best, but definitely not THE best. Sure would have been interesting to see him play his entire career in MLB though.

I was wondering when we were going to start to see some noticeable drop-off in his game and it finally happened this year. It's understandable though -- the guy is 37.

bucksfan2
06-21-2011, 10:42 AM
We remember players from our past more fondly.

Ichiro may be the most unique and difficult player to defend. The guy can spray line drives all over the place but the infield has to play in to defend against his speed.

Blitz Dorsey
06-21-2011, 10:48 AM
How important of a stat is OPS? (To me, it's the most-important offensive stat.) Ichiro's career OPS is exactly .800. Very good for a leadoff hitter, but it goes to show how truly valuable guys like Pujols and Votto are who can OPS 1.000.

And I know this thread is about Ichiro as a pure hitter and not as someone who mashes and puts up a huge OPS. But you can't have it both ways is all I'm saying. If you're someone like me who thinks OPS is the most-important offensive stat, you can't at the same time anoint Ichiro too high on the list. When I think of great hitters of all time, I think of the guys that could do it all like Ted Williams. And Williams missed a chunk of his career while fighting in the Korean War -- he was a pilot.

jojo
06-21-2011, 10:59 AM
I enjoy watching Ichiro immensely. His game has given me a great deal of wonderful memories. But I'd trade 2001 Ichiro for 2001 Pujols in a heart beat.

dougdirt
06-21-2011, 11:12 AM
How important of a stat is OPS? (To me, it's the most-important offensive stat.) Ichiro's career OPS is exactly .800. Very good for a leadoff hitter, but it goes to show how truly valuable guys like Pujols and Votto are who can OPS 1.000.

And I know this thread is about Ichiro as a pure hitter and not as someone who mashes and puts up a huge OPS. But you can't have it both ways is all I'm saying. If you're someone like me who thinks OPS is the most-important offensive stat, you can't at the same time anoint Ichiro too high on the list. When I think of great hitters of all time, I think of the guys that could do it all like Ted Williams. And Williams missed a chunk of his career while fighting in the Korean War -- he was a pilot.

Even if OPS wasn't the most important offensive stat, there are guys who had a higher career AVG than Ichiro while also hitting for more power. Musial has a higher career average and hit for a TON more power. Tony Gwynn had a higher average and also hit for more power. Wade Boggs is currently .001 below Ichiro in average, but had a bit more power than Ichiro has shown. Heck, Albert Pujols has the same career average as Ichiro does. He also has a .619 career slugging percentage.

Ichiro is a very good singles hitter. He isn't close to the best hitter of all time.

bucksfan2
06-21-2011, 11:17 AM
Even if OPS wasn't the most important offensive stat, there are guys who had a higher career AVG than Ichiro while also hitting for more power. Musial has a higher career average and hit for a TON more power. Tony Gwynn had a higher average and also hit for more power. Wade Boggs is currently .001 below Ichiro in average, but had a bit more power than Ichiro has shown. Heck, Albert Pujols has the same career average as Ichiro does. He also has a .619 career slugging percentage.

Ichiro is a very good singles hitter. He isn't close to the best hitter of all time.

Ichiro plays in one the premier pitching parks in the game. If you like OPS as a measure, OPS + would be a better one to look at in this debate.

dougdirt
06-21-2011, 11:23 AM
Ichiro plays in one the premier pitching parks in the game. If you like OPS as a measure, OPS + would be a better one to look at in this debate.

Ichiro has home and away splits that are nearly identical. His average is 3 points higher at home and slugging 4 points higher for his career. Don't think the park plays as much with him as it does most other guys.

AmarilloRed
06-21-2011, 12:22 PM
Apples and oranges. I don't think you can really compare hitters from the deadball era to hitters from the liveball era. The hitting conditions for both eras were very different from each other.

westofyou
06-21-2011, 01:46 PM
Apples and oranges. I don't think you can really compare hitters from the deadball era to hitters from the liveball era. The hitting conditions for both eras were very different from each other.

Of course they are, and they are different for the Boggs 80's and the Carew 70's, yet there they are with Ichiro hitting like the ball isn't juiced, choking up, hitting flairs striking out less than their peers, walking less than the other high OB% guys.

Some styles linger and show up every generation, this is one of them and when they do folks tend to think that those guys are doing something special, which they are, it's the impact of how special it is that is the real question.

RedsManRick
06-21-2011, 03:50 PM
People like extreme skills and they like speed generally. They also like players who are unique stylistically. Ichiro's full package was quite unique, as woy showed, especially when you consider the spectacle of his coming over, his persona, style, etc.

But speaking solely as a hitter Ichiro is not as good as, say, JD Drew. When you include his defense and speed he rises in to legitimate "star" territory, but he's more Jose Reyes than Wade Boggs at the plate.

bucksfan2
06-21-2011, 04:00 PM
People like extreme skills and they like speed generally. They also like players who are unique stylistically. Ichiro's full package was quite unique, as woy showed, especially when you consider the spectacle of his coming over, his persona, style, etc.

But speaking solely as a hitter Ichiro is not as good as, say, JD Drew. When you include his defense and speed he rises in to legitimate "star" territory, but he's more Jose Reyes than Wade Boggs at the plate.

I think the issue we look for one way or a few ways to determine who was the better offensive player. I do think that Ichrio's unique skill set makes him special and also difficult to measure. I even think that a while ago Ichiro said he could hit 30 HR's if he wanted to. I don't get to watch him a whole lot but after seeing him hammer some shots I don't doubt it. I do think that he adapted his game to the place where he felt he could be the most successful.

I think OPS is a useful stat but I think it also has its limitations. I believe that OPS favors the HR and the power guys. I know there was a stat you provided earlier that tried to better weight the offensive game but I can't recall it. Ichrio's career OPS is 800 while Redzone lightening rod Adam Dunn's career OPS is roughly 900. Who would you take as an offensive player?

klw
06-21-2011, 04:10 PM
The other knock that can sometimes be levied against Ichiro is that he doesn't draw many walks. For a leadoff player with speed you would like more walks too. (Of the 9 guys on the chart on the first page, he clearly has the lowest OBP.) Adam Dunn has a career OBP of .004 higher than Ichiro according to baseball-reference.

Dunn http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/d/dunnad01.shtml

Ichiro http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/s/suzukic01.shtml

RedsManRick
06-21-2011, 04:20 PM
I think the issue we look for one way or a few ways to determine who was the better offensive player. I do think that Ichrio's unique skill set makes him special and also difficult to measure. I even think that a while ago Ichiro said he could hit 30 HR's if he wanted to. I don't get to watch him a whole lot but after seeing him hammer some shots I don't doubt it. I do think that he adapted his game to the place where he felt he could be the most successful.

I think OPS is a useful stat but I think it also has its limitations. I believe that OPS favors the HR and the power guys. I know there was a stat you provided earlier that tried to better weight the offensive game but I can't recall it. Ichrio's career OPS is 800 while Redzone lightening rod Adam Dunn's career OPS is roughly 900. Who would you take as an offensive player?

Use wOBA if you prefer -- I do too. But that's beside the point. Ichiro still wasn't an all-time great. A .374 career OBP is very good, but not special. And if he really chose to hit singles instead of homers, shame on him. It's not me who favors power hitters, it's the sport of baseball. The offensive part of baseball is about avoiding outs and acquiring bases. And power advances both you and your teammates around the bases -- it's pretty important.

Think about it another way, if instead of hitting .329/.374/.426 with 50 steals a year Ichiro hit .280/.374/.500 with 5 steals, would he have been less productive? Would we be having this conversation?

Ichiro is a fantastic talent. He's an excellent ballplayer. He's a joy to watch and I'd put him in the HOF. But if "best" means "actually produced the most runs", he really doesn't belong in the conversation. If you were giving me a choice as either .800 OPS Ichiro or .900 OPS Adam Dunn for my DH spot, I'd take Dunn. It might feel cheap, but HR are worth A LOT more than singles and SB. But the fact that the question can be asked and the answer isn't an absolute no brainer points to the fact that describing Ichiro as the best hitter of all time would be quite silly.

And even if we're talking about specific skills, the "hit tool" if you will, Albert Pujols is also a .329 hitter but strikes out less. As a hitter of singles, especially infield singles, Ichiro is among the best the game has ever seen. But hitting singles, while fun, is not the best way to be an incredibly productive hitter. I think for a lot of people, the game of baseball at it's emotional core is the batter trying to get a hit, any hit, off of the pitcher. Everything else is secondary. Our brains are wired to appreciate frequency of events much more so than scale of events -- and Ichiro excelled at producing a high frequency of exciting plays. That makes guys feel more productive than they are in practice -- and a guy like Dunn much less so.

westofyou
06-21-2011, 04:22 PM
The offensive part of baseball is about avoiding outs and acquiring bases. And power advances both you and your teammates around the bases -- it's pretty important.


BASEball

not

HITball

signalhome
06-21-2011, 05:06 PM
The offensive part of baseball is about avoiding outs and acquiring bases. And power advances both you and your teammates around the bases -- it's pretty important.

Spot on. Because of this, yes, I would rather have Dunn as my DH than Ichiro, and it's not even close. Dunn's career OBP is .004 higher than Ichiro's, and Dunn's power numbers (ISO or SLG) dwarf Ichiro's. No doubt Ichiro is the better baserunner, but Dunn's power is a lot more important than Ichiro's stolen bases. Now, if the question is who I would rather have as my RF, then I'd take Ichiro. The lowest WAR Ichiro has ever posted was 3.4 in 2005 and he has six 5.0+ seasons under his belt; Dunn, on the other hand, has had four seasons under 2.0 and only has one 5.0+ season (to be fair, Dunn's career WAR would have been much different had he played 1B, as he was just never athletic enough to be an outfielder).

Caveat Emperor
06-21-2011, 06:32 PM
There's a disconnect between skill and value with Ichiro.

Ichiro has an amazing ability to hit a baseball. That ability, however, doesn't translate into the same value as Albert Pujols' ability to hit a baseball.

They're both master linguists, except Pujols is speaking Chinese, Japanese and Spanish while Ichiro is speaking Latin, Hebrew and Sumarian.

AtomicDumpling
06-21-2011, 08:07 PM
I think the issue we look for one way or a few ways to determine who was the better offensive player. I do think that Ichrio's unique skill set makes him special and also difficult to measure. I even think that a while ago Ichiro said he could hit 30 HR's if he wanted to. I don't get to watch him a whole lot but after seeing him hammer some shots I don't doubt it. I do think that he adapted his game to the place where he felt he could be the most successful.

I think OPS is a useful stat but I think it also has its limitations. I believe that OPS favors the HR and the power guys. I know there was a stat you provided earlier that tried to better weight the offensive game but I can't recall it. Ichrio's career OPS is 800 while Redzone lightening rod Adam Dunn's career OPS is roughly 900. Who would you take as an offensive player?

I would take Adam Dunn because he is by far the more productive hitter.

The reason OPS is considered better than AVG is because it correlates much better with scoring. HR and power guys simply produce more runs than AVG and contact hitters do. Hitting for power is better than hitting for average.

Ichiro is closer to the most over-rated hitter of all time than the best hitter of all time. I think there have been hundreds of hitters in the history of baseball that were better than Ichiro. Ichiro exemplifies all the old-school qualities that were considered valuable back in the days before computers and sabermetrics proved that stats like batting average and stolen bases are far inferior measures of a player's offensive production than stats like OBP and SLG. Don't get me wrong I love Ichiro. He is an excellent all-around player and I would love to have him on the Reds, but comparing him to Ted Williams, Babe Ruth, Albert Pujols and the rest of the great hitters is putting him in a group he doesn't deserve to be compared to.

If you asked 1000 fans which player is most likely to make an out when they go to the plate Adam Dunn or Ichiro Suzuki I bet 80% of them would say Adam Dunn. However the truth is they are equally likely to make an out (.378 OBP for Dunn and .374 for Ichiro).

Ichiro gets a lot more hits, but the vast majority of them (81%) are just singles. Dunn gets far more walks and home runs, in fact more than half of Dunn's career hits have been extra base hits.

Both Ichiro and Dunn broke into the majors in 2001. Since then Ichiro has racked up 1086 Runs and 579 RBIs. Dunn has totaled 885 Runs and 909 RBIs despite having 20% fewer plate appearances (due mostly to batting in the middle of the order instead of leadoff). If you evened out the plate appearances Dunn would have the same number of runs scored and almost twice the RBIs compared to Ichiro. Dunn has clearly been much more productive in terms of putting runs on the scoreboard -- which is after all the object of the game. Yet Ichiro is considered by many to be a great hitter while Dunn is considered a bum by some uneducated fans (and broadcasters).

savafan
06-21-2011, 08:34 PM
Ichiro's job isn't to knock in runs, it's to manufacture runs by getting on base and letting the guys behind him knock him in.

jojo
06-21-2011, 08:58 PM
I'd trade 2001 Dunn for 2001 Ichiro without hesitation as Ichiro has been a much better player over the last ten years.

Patrick Bateman
06-21-2011, 08:59 PM
Ichiro's job isn't to knock in runs, it's to manufacture runs by getting on base and letting the guys behind him knock him in.

Ya, and at a .374 OBP career, he is very good at that, however, there are many guys who are quite a bit better.

He gets his value from being able to do that, baserun well, and field at an elite level. That's what makes him a HOF candidate. Each one on it's own doesn't like say a Ted Williams hitting level.

KronoRed
06-21-2011, 11:21 PM
He's a good hitter, doubt he makes the top 30 of all time baseball players.

westofyou
06-22-2011, 12:28 AM
Ichiro's job isn't to knock in runs, it's to manufacture runs by getting on base and letting the guys behind him knock him in.

Since Ichiro came to the league in 2001 there have been 56 players who had at least 5000 plate appearances,

Here's their ranking by Bases per Plate appearance (formula is TB+BB+HBP+SB-CS-GIDP)/(AB+BB+HBP+SF)



CAREER
2001-2010
PLATE APPEARANCES displayed only--not a sorting criteria
REACHED BASE displayed only--not a sorting criteria
OUTS displayed only--not a sorting criteria
RUNS displayed only--not a sorting criteria
RUNS CREATED/GAME displayed only--not a sorting criteria

BPA BPA PA RB OUTS R RC/G
1 Albert Pujols .650 6782 2887 4132 1186 9.76
2 Alex Rodriguez .629 6691 2636 4237 1130 8.43
3 Jim Thome .627 5337 2133 3295 819 8.42
4 Manny Ramirez .616 5662 2347 3469 879 8.87
5 Lance Berkman .605 6312 2597 3876 931 8.40
6 David Ortiz .598 5781 2188 3704 858 7.73
7 Adam Dunn .597 6065 2307 3854 865 7.21
8 Todd Helton .589 6185 2644 3683 927 8.93
9 Chipper Jones .585 5582 2301 3433 845 8.26
10 Carlos Beltran .585 5933 2164 3882 933 7.08
11 Carlos Delgado .584 5227 2004 3321 748 7.49
12 Mark Teixeira .575 5350 2015 3446 782 7.34
13 Vladimir Guerrero .573 6096 2345 4007 911 7.40
14 Miguel Cabrera .571 5089 1971 3276 741 7.62
15 Bobby Abreu .566 6919 2737 4389 1046 7.20
16 Alfonso Soriano .559 6347 2074 4420 921 6.00
17 Derrek Lee .552 6128 2299 4025 864 6.84
18 Brian Giles .546 5487 2170 3460 751 7.14
19 Magglio Ordonez .534 5393 2049 3534 759 6.99
20 Scott Rolen .533 5367 1967 3539 769 6.48
21 Pat Burrell .531 5827 2109 3833 693 6.12
22 Mike Cameron .529 5391 1825 3696 727 5.50
23 Jorge Posada .529 5054 1918 3282 638 6.47
24 Paul Konerko .528 6127 2196 4114 795 6.25
25 Aramis Ramirez .525 5719 1975 3903 749 6.15
26 Carl Crawford .524 5383 1805 3724 765 5.73
27 Andruw Jones .521 5554 1864 3857 771 5.44
28 Carlos Lee .520 6382 2174 4402 833 5.88
29 Jermaine Dye .513 5043 1701 3487 699 5.66
30 Torii Hunter .510 5855 1959 4124 811 5.35
31 Raul Ibanez .509 5984 2100 4030 804 6.00
32 Johnny Damon .509 6639 2365 4386 1060 6.01
33 Jimmy Rollins .505 6851 2238 4769 988 5.30
34 Brian Roberts .502 5354 1888 3597 757 5.67
35 Ichiro Suzuki .502 7339 2748 4725 1047 6.61
36 Derek Jeter .500 6983 2629 4571 1080 6.27
37 Aubrey Huff .498 5983 2069 4076 742 5.77
38 Vernon Wells .497 5869 1937 4100 781 5.45
39 Adrian Beltre .485 6115 1985 4313 739 5.18
40 Melvin Mora .484 5520 1942 3722 725 5.56
41 Rafael Furcal .483 5757 1984 3915 859 5.41
42 Mike Lowell .483 5557 1906 3823 665 5.47
43 Miguel Tejada .476 6827 2340 4732 926 5.47
44 Randy Winn .475 5985 2047 4085 740 5.35
45 Garret Anderson .471 5461 1756 3822 638 5.25
46 Michael Young .466 6705 2318 4585 918 5.49
47 Juan Pierre .455 6579 2239 4582 874 4.82
48 Edgar Renteria .445 5695 1954 3944 743 4.94
49 Placido Polanco .434 5907 2039 4039 818 5.14
50 Orlando Cabrera .433 6612 2134 4668 803 4.52
51 Luis Castillo .429 5634 2028 3794 750 4.80
52 A.J. Pierzynski .422 5074 1631 3616 559 4.47
53 David Eckstein .411 5705 1933 3905 701 4.47
54 Omar Vizquel .409 5063 1649 3569 579 4.12
55 Jason Kendall .394 6019 2094 4117 637 4.31
56 Jack Wilson .391 5030 1524 3621 536 3.89

savafan
06-22-2011, 12:49 AM
I'm not declaring Ichiro the best hitter ever. That was a question raised by the writer of the article. It is fun to debate though.

cincinnati chili
06-23-2011, 01:57 AM
One of my favorites ever to watch. Breathtaking at his peak. Don't discount his defense either. But if I were a GM, I'd never ever have him on my team for very long - simply because his perceived value in trade far surpasses his actual value in terms of runs scored plus runs prevented. I know I could have traded him for a better package of players. He's going to go the Hall of Fame (and he should), but a lot of more valuable hitters from his era won't necessarily go (Bagwell, Abreu, Giambi, Berkman, Helton, Ortiz, Dunn, Holliday, Youkilis, Bay, Garciaparra).

All things being equal a guy with on base skills plus power is more valuable than a guy (like Ichiro) with on base skills plus speed. Of course, all things aren't equal here because his defense and baserunning skills are outstanding, and he gets style points for being quirky and overcoming a lot of naysayers when he came over from Japan.

westofyou
06-23-2011, 04:14 PM
http://sports.yahoo.com/mlb/news;_ylt=Akcr3mRFNoXiJYRM3eZF3XcRvLYF?slug=lc-carpenter_ichiro_mariners_slump_power_062211


Why Ichiro doesn’t try to hit home runs is something of a mystery. But then Ichiro has always been a bit of a mystery himself. He is a man of habits, particular about everything, spending his time before games in an array of rituals as fastidious as wiping clean the team-issued vinyl bags for storing wallets and valuables to nearly impossible stretching exercises in the batting cage. He does not discuss his power much and has granted few interviews this season, even to the large contingent of Japanese media who cover every Mariners game. His most famous answer about the subject came in the news conference after he was named MVP of the 2007 All-Star game when he said: “If I’m allowed to hit .220 I could probably hit 40, but nobody wants that.”