The Ichiro Problem

(Jason Miller/Getty)

(Jason Miller/Getty)

The Yankees have spent the better part of the last three months placing player after player on the DL, but they’ve managed to survive all those personnel losses this season. Hell, they haven’t just survived, they’ve thrived. They currently sit atop the division by two full games and have both the most wins (25) in baseball and best overall record (25-14) in the AL. Their ragtag lineup has scored just enough runs to support a pretty excellent pitching staff, which is the formula they need to follow given the current roster.

Not everyone in that ragtag lineup is pulling their weight though. Ichiro Suzuki, the projected everyday (or thereabouts) right fielder coming into the season, has hit a punchless .246/.289/.341 (63 wRC+) in 137 plate appearances this year. That is pretty atrocious. Remember how awful Randy Winn was in 2010? How we couldn’t wait until the team designated him for assignment? He had a 63 wRC+ with the Yankees that year. Chris Stewart had a 65 wRC+ last year. Ichiro, a corner outfielder, is hitting like a backup catcher.

Usually when a player performs this poorly, the team just releases them and walks away. The Yankees showed little patience with Winn, releasing him before the end of May. Ichiro isn’t most players though — he’s Ichiro!, a future first ballot Hall of Famer and iconic player in two hemispheres. Furthermore, the “top of the Yankees hierarchy” gave him a two-year contract that runs through 2014. Suzuki’s three-week hot streak last September — which the Yankees probably don’t make the postseason without — is still fresh in everyone’s mind as well. It’s complicated.

Curtis Granderson came off the DL yesterday, but the Yankees also lost Travis Hafner for at least a few days with shoulder tendinitis. It’s one step forward, one step back with the injuries this year. Hafner’s absence saves Ichiro’s everyday job for the time being, only because they need a warm body to plug into the lineup. The alternatives are Ben Francisco and Alberto Gonzalez, so yeah. Ichiro continues to play.

That can’t continue much longer though, not unless Suzuki gets hot and starts performing better. He did go on a nice tear for about two weeks late last month, so it’s not impossible, but he has reached base just four times — all base hits, no walks or hit-by-pitches — in his last 30 plate appearances. Ichiro, the historically great hit machine, is currently riding an 0-for-16 slump, an 0-for-16 slump with a lot of ugly swings and at-bats in general. There are times he is completely non-competitive at the plate.

The poor performance this year really shouldn’t be a surprise given how the last two years have played out. Ichiro hit .277/.308/.361 (84 wRC+) in nearly 1,400 plate appearances from 2011-2012, so a further decline in performance at age 39 should have been expected. He’s always been a no walks, no power offensive player, and as soon as those types of hitters lose bat and foot speed, it tends to go south in a hurry. It’s not often a gradual decline, it’s a tumble over the cliff. Ichiro is aging like a player with his skill set should age, though his greatness allowed him to avoid that fate until well into his late-30s.

Winn hooked on with the Cardinals and was a little more productive (87 wRC+) down the stretch in 2010, and Ichiro is certainly capable of turning it around in a hurry. His iconic status and contract mean his roster spot is very safe for the time being, and indeed he does have some value defensively and on the bases. He’s best suited for pinch-running and defensive replacement duties though, classic fourth outfielder stuff, which is the role he should fill with Granderson back once Hafner is healthy. The Yankees have written the book on finding productive veterans in recent years, but Ichiro looks more and more like a miss with each passing day. Unfortunately, he isn’t as easily disposable as most of the other scrap heap pickups.

Categories : Offense


  1. Grant says:

    Ichiro is still a very versatile player. We are on the hook for another year and a half. What else can you do? He can platoon, anybody can get hurt, and he makes a great defensive replacement and pinch runner. I wish we didn’t sign him for two years, but it’s too late for that now.

    • Slugger27 says:

      this is my sentiment. sure the yankees overpaid for him, but what is really the problem? he is exactly what youd want in a 4th OF. he could be making half his salary and i still dont think the yankees release him because of the skills he DOES bring to the table.

      • Havok9120 says:

        The problem comes if they don’t USE him as a 4th OFer despite the fact that that’s what his skillset says he now is.

        • Slugger27 says:

          i dont see any reason that they wouldnt. guys like andruw jones, austin kearns, even brett gardner back in the day got plenty of ABs as the 4th OF. he wont be playing as much as he has been this season but he’ll get 2 starts a week, especially on the heavy side of the platoon.

          • Cool Lester Smooth says:

            God, I hope he doesn’t get 2 starts a week. We need to ride Vernon Wells till he breaks.

          • Havok9120 says:

            I agree. I think they’ll scale him back at a fairly reasonable clip. But a ton of people don’t agree and are basing their arguments off the assumption that they’ll ride him down in flames because of his contract.

    • Wolfgang's Fault says:

      If he can get into the lineup 4 or 5 times a week, with the hot weather on the way, Ichiro’s bat will heat up as well. If Hafner stay’s out for any period of time, Ichiro should platoon w/Granderson &/or Gardner as outfielder/ D/H.

  2. hornblower says:

    I don’t understand why this stuff about four outfielders for three spots is getting so much traction. Heck, they play everyday. Grandy can’t hit good lefties and Ichiro and Gardner have a better shot at most of them. Each one can play three out of four games. The Manager knows who is pitching for the opposition days in advance most of the time and can set the lineups accordingly. Fortunately, they all can play the outfield pretty well. Older players getting days off especially with the summer weather is a good thing.

  3. I think the key with Ichiro is that Girardi tries to extract the most potential that is left in him. There’s no way you can play a 39 year-old every single day and expect anything more than his ~60 wRC+. If he could use him sparingly as a fourth outfielder to keep him relatively fresh, I would be just fine with production in the ~80-90 wRC+ range. That’s a bit optimistic, but I don’t think it’s out of reach considering he just can’t handle the grind of being an every day player. I think once Granderson is back to full production it really won’t be a huge factor. I just hope Granderson doesn’t hit like he did last year–I don’t care if he has 40 homers, he needs to hit higher than .230. So, with Granderson, Gardner, and Wells and Ichiro taking turns based on lefty/righty match-ups, I wouldn’t be overly concerned. The bigger issue for now and the future is what to do with the left side of the infield and the catching position.

    • Cool Lester Smooth says:

      Personally, I don’t care if he hits higher than .230 as long as he continues to be a well above average offensive player.

      Because, you know, actual offensive production is more important than arbitrary statistics like batting average.

      • Well in his case, it’s not. That low of a batting average does hurt actual offensive production. His wOBA in 2011 was a full 50 points higher when he hit .260 as opposed to .230. His WAR was also a full 2 games higher. His K% went up 4% in 2012. 40 home runs is great, but you need to be on base as well.

        • Need Pitching & Hitting (but mostly hitting) says:

          It was the difference between him being pretty good and him being great.
          I’ll take pretty good. I’d prefer great.

          • Mikhel says:

            Granderson has never been “pretty good”, above average? of course, by a lot. Good? sure, but being pretty good puts you in the elite of MLB, he just has a lot of homeruns.

            BUT, while hitting less HR Hunter Pence, for example, has the same production of Granderson, with a higher BA.

            A hitter who produces 70% of his runs with homeruns shouldn’t be viewed as “pretty good”, they only have 30-40 homeruns, only 30-40 chances in where they help the team, in contrast with Pence, who has 70% of his production via hits, that means he can help his team more times.

            And of course, it is more probable to wait for a run producing hit (non-HR) than to expect for a run producing HR.

            Just check the percentage of hits that are HR in the past, lets say 20 years, one of every 10 hits or so?

            Seeing as how the Batting Average in the past 20 years is around 0.250, there is a 25% chance that a hit will come with men on scoring position, a mere 2.5% chance that it will be a homerun.

            • jjyank says:

              “but being pretty good puts you in the elite of MLB”

              No, it doesn’t. Since when does “pretty good” mean the same think as “elite”. That’s laughable.

            • Cool Lester Smooth says:

              Yeah, just not gonna engage.

            • Need Pitching & Hitting (but mostly hitting) says:

              Pretty good is above average.
              Elite is great.
              And he was borderline elite just the year before. A top 5 MVP candidate in fact.
              He was merely pretty good last year. 116 wRC+. 2.3 fWAR. 3.0 bWAR. All above average.
              Yes, a player whose value comes largely from HR’s helps less often. But the impact of each occurence is bigger.
              Add up the relative value of each event, adjust for park factors, and Granderson finished 16% above league average last year. Pretty good. Not Elite. Not great. Pretty good.

              • Need Pitching & Hitting (but mostly hitting) says:

                Also, I would consider pretty good to be less than good, not better. Elite>Great>Very Good>Good>Pretty Good>Average>Ichiro

              • Dave M says:

                It’s interesting that all of these evaluations of Granderson leave out his postseason production from last year. One thing I love about judgments on NFL players is that postseason production is regarded as a very important part of the assessment. That’s not really the case in baseball.

                For the record, in a not-insubstantial 43 plate appearances in last year’s playoffs, Granderson batted .100, had an OBP of .181, and had a slugging pct of .200 (and an OPS of .381). He struck out 16 times and had a strikeout rate of 48.5 percent.

                One can argue about small sample sizes, but when you tack it onto the clear decline he suffered late last season, it looks pretty darn bad.

                One final thing: watching people strike out time and time again is freaking boring. Not to defend Ichiro, but at least he puts the ball in play, which in turn leads to actual athletic performance (i.e., running, throwing, etc.). Call me crazy, but I find that more fun to watch.

                • Dave M says:

                  PS – I meant 33 plate appearances, not 43.

                  • Cool Lester Smooth says:

                    The issue is that 33 PA IS insubstantial. That’s less than a week’s worth of games

                  • vicki says:

                    oh, my goodness. a single nfl playoff game is ONE SIXTEENTH of a regular season. if your team goes to the super bowl as a wild card you play TWENTY-FIVE PERCENT of a regular season in the post-season.

                    one could argue indeed.

                    • Dave M says:

                      Well, that’s kinda my point. 9 playoff games is the equivalent of 1 NFL playoff game. Plus — shockingly — they are games with more at stake. In short, they matter more. It irks me how people dismiss them as statistical static because they’re not among the magical 162.

                • Need Pitching & Hitting (but mostly hitting) says:

                  No denying he had a horrible postseason.
                  SSS that small, it could just be an ill-timed slump.
                  Combined with his bad second half last year, I agree there is cause for concern.
                  But Ichiro’s decline has been in evidence for over 2 years now, and he’s much older.
                  There’s more reason to expect a bounce back from the younger Granderson than from Ichiro.
                  Hopefully both can bounce back, at least to some degree.
                  K’s are boring, but I’m much more interested in overall offensive impact.

        • Cool Lester Smooth says:

          He had a 116 wRC+. I’d prefer him to hit .260, but it’s far from a travesty if he hits .230 because of how strong his peripherals are.

  4. JR says:

    We get it Mike. You don’t like Ichiro.

    • The Real Me says:

      While that may be true, it’s also true Ichiro is not producing this year.

      • steves says:

        Just take a look at where Wells/Ichiro were after the first game in KC last week:

        Ichiro: 282/328/391/719
        Wells: 282/333/484/817

        Just talking 4 games ago! So Ichiro slumped and Wells did not and all of a sudden Ichiro is not good enough to keep around and a miss. Knee-jerk reaction if I ever saw one.

        • Brian S. says:

          100 points of slugging percentage is kind of a big deal.

        • Need Pitching & Hitting (but mostly hitting) says:

          Not good enough to keep around is an overstatement. He’s good enough to be a 4th OF. Even using his stats from 4 games ago, he’d be currently the weakest of the 4 OF options.

        • Cool Lester Smooth says:

          So, Wells was much, much better than Ichiro last week, and there’s an even bigger gap this week?

          I don’t see how you’re disagreeing with Mike…

          • steves says:

            My disagreement with Mike is that he would not have written this article after the first KC game. Four games later he’s disparaging Ichiro after he took some oh-fers against some pretty good pitching (hence knee-jerk). I don’t really like the “you are only as good as your last few at-bats” mentality. A four game slump is part of the normal ebb and flow of a season and should not be an invitation to conclude that someone is a “miss”.

            • Cool Lester Smooth says:

              My point is that he was bad and not worth 13 million after the first KC game. He’s just been even worse since.

            • LK says:

              Ichiro has sucked for about 2 years and 2 months now. That’s what people are reacting to.

              • steves says:

                I wish all Yanks put up the same “suck” that Ichiro put up last year after he came to the Yanks.

                • LK says:

                  Look at Ichiro’s numbers since the start of 2011, and tell me they don’t suck. I’ll wait.

                  • Mikhel says:

                    Look at the numbers of players IN Safeco, now that you’re educated, take a look again at numbers of Ichiro and remember he played in that awful stadium.

                    • jjyank says:

                      Oh this is just comical now.

                      Ichiro hit better at home than he did on the road in both 2011 and 2012.

                      Before you should “educate” people, maybe you should actually look up the stats before you do so.

                    • jjyank says:

                      And by the way, both of his home/away splits from 2011 and 2012 were below league average.

                • Cool Lester Smooth says:

                  Good point, a third of a season of above average offensive production, driven largely by a torrid three weeks at the end of the season, DEFINITELY supersedes the surrounding 2+ years of terribleness.

                • Need Pitching & Hitting (but mostly hitting) says:

                  The problem is, his numbers pretty much all came in a 3 week hotstreak. The question isn’t if he can still have an occasional hot streak, he can, just like pretty much any other major leaguer.
                  The question is can he do it enough ovee a full season to offset the rest of his offensive performance. The evidence of the past 2+ years strongly suggest the answer to that is no. At least not enough to be a good starter.

            • Need Pitching & Hitting (but mostly hitting) says:

              One day before the game you cited, Ichiro was at a very subpar for a starter 267/316/343/659

              I think it’s less about “you are only as good as your last few at-bats” as it is about grading his overall performance this year and not being overly influenced by a 3-5 with a HR outburst in one game.

        • Havok9120 says:

          A) 100 points of slugging is a significant gap in performance.

          B) He didn’t say he wasn’t good enough to keep around, he said he wasn’t good enough to be one of the everyday corner OFers at present.

          • steves says:

            Maybe you didn’t get to Mike’s conclusion in his last sentence. What he said was “Unfortunately, he isn’t as easily disposable as most of the other scrap heap pickups.” Sure does sound like Mike would like to see him disposed of!

            • Cool Lester Smooth says:

              Well, he’s been playing like Randy Winn. Didn’t we all want to see him disposed of this time that year?

  5. Improbable Island's Dirty Midget Whores (formerly RRR) says:

    Mike, I believe you changed your mind about Ichiro three times last year. First, you liked the deal. Then, when he was slumping, you hated it. Then, when he got red hot, it was a “coup” by Cashman.

    I don’t think we should be making any definitive statements about Ichiro just yet. He’s one guy that I have more patience for than others.

    • Cool Lester Smooth says:

      Last year’s deal was for a long reliever. It didn’t really matter one way or the other how well Ichiro did, because we didn’t give up anything for him.

      This year’s deal was for 2 years and 13 million, and affected our ability to resign guys like Russell Martin. Ichiro’s performance matters much, much more this year.

      • Mikhel says:

        That’s a fallacy, Ichiro was signed after Swisher and Martin signed their contracts, in no way it affected the NYY ability to resign them.

        Plus, Martin sucks.

        • Need Pitching & Hitting (but mostly hitting) says:

          Swisher signed after Ichiro.
          And Martin is better than Ichiro.

    • Havok9120 says:

      I don’t recall Mike ever hating the Ichiro TRADE. But that trade no longer has any bearing on anything.

      • MAnnyGeee says:

        This. And for the record, Mike has hated the new contract since day 1. He’s been quite consistent there.

  6. HBx2 says:

    tell hitting coach kevin long to remove some movement in his swing….i mean that seems like he does that to everyone and they magically improve

    • Preston says:

      A hitter has to be receptive to coaching in order for it to work. Not everybody is willing to change something that has worked so well.

  7. Jorge Brosada says:

    It’s hard to feel optimistic about Ichiro bouncing back. I don’t see him hitting better than an empty .270, which wouldn’t be so bad if he wasn’t signed for another year…

  8. Eddard says:

    If Vernon Wells is going to keep hitting like he is then you have to play him in RF, Grandy in LF and Gardner in CF. Ichiro will be the 4th outfielder. He’ll be a defensive replacement and a pinch runner. That’s all you can do with him at this point.

  9. Brian S. says:

    Nova and Nunez for Joe Panik and Josh Osoch.

  10. Bartolo's Colon says:

    I know he was facing felix last night, but damn, did his ab’s look bad. i hope he can start a hot streak soon

    • MannyGeee says:

      In fairness, Ichiro has like ZERO ABs against Felix, having been teammates until last July. He gets a pass for last night.

      Everything else, however….

  11. problem says:

    I don’t see a problem here. Wells can’t play every day. Gardner is just about ready to get hurt and Granderson is back. These guys will need a rest so one of them can DH I really don’t see a problem here. Anyway isn’t this what the Yankees have become over the past few years? A rotation of players who all play the same position?

    • Cool Lester Smooth says:

      Why can’t Wells play every day?

      He’s a hell of a lot better than Ichiro.

    • Brian S. says:

      Gardner is about to get hurt?

      • Need Pitching & Hitting (but mostly hitting) says:

        Hopefully not, but he isn’t exactly known for his durability.

      • Cool Lester Smooth says:

        I mean, he missed last season and he had a fluke wrist injury that didn’t cause him to miss much time in 2010!

        Obviously, he’s injury prone.

      • problem says:

        Yes Gardner is very injury prone are there some other facts that I’m missing that he’s not? I don’t wanna see Gradner get hurt but he doesn’t seem like a guy who can stay heatlhy over a corse of a Year and givin he size that doesn’t help either. (See Linecum)

        Yes Well cannot play every day and for one he cannot do it and stay fresh in Yankee stadium. LF is huge. The 2013 Yankees are about keeping guys fresh and keeping them healthy which leads me to say. I don’t see a problem with Ichrio since it’s the way the Yankees are built as a team these days.

  12. The Real Greg says:

    I can’t really call resigning Ichiro a miss (except if you are only talking about the fact that it’s a 2 year deal) because who did they miss on?

    The “HOF” player Chris Dickerson? Who has been let go by the Reds and Brewers, in addition to the Yankees?

    • Need Pitching & Hitting (but mostly hitting) says:

      There were other OF options. And that it was 2 years is kind of a big deal, especially if they actually go through with the 2-year plan.

      • The Real Greg says:

        Who? Legitmately, besides Nick Swisher because that wasn’t going to happen.

        Now I wanted Scott Hairston, but its a good thing the Yankees avoided him because he has sucked in Chicago.

        • Need Pitching & Hitting (but mostly hitting) says:

          Legitmately, besides Nick Swisher because that wasn’t going to happen.

          LoL. I love this rationale. Everybody else wasn’t going to happen. Because they signed Ichiro.
          As far as potential starting OF’s who were available – Swisher, Schierholtz, Choo, Hunter, etc. There were definitely other options. There were definitely better options.

          • The Real Greg says:

            We weren’t going to waste any prospects for Choo.

            Don’t know if we would have beaten the Tigers 2 year 26 million dollar offer, considering the budget concerns.

            Same with Swisher. All about money.

            Schierholtz though, is a good example. You would lose some defense in comapirson but you would gain a good bat.

            • Cool Lester Smooth says:

              I’m not sure if Schierholtz deserves to be called a “good” bat (current hot streak notwithstanding), but he’s definitely someone who won’t embarrass himself at the plate, which is more than I can say for Ichiro right now.

            • Need Pitching & Hitting (but mostly hitting) says:

              There were several legit options. That they chose not to use those options for whatever reason (some more valid than others) doesn’t change the fact that they were legit options.
              6.5 M for a 4th OF is worse for the budget than any of the options you claim were all about the money.

          • Havok9120 says:

            Especially since if one expects only an improvement over Ichiro’s current performance rather than a generally above average player, a good many more candidates become acceptable.

            Including the mocked Chris Dickerson.

            • The Real Greg says:

              We should just have a separate section called the Chris Dickerson fan club.

              • Havok9120 says:

                If your memory serves you properly, you are well aware that I am not a member of that fan club. That does not mean that the guy is worthless, especially not in comparison to a guy that has looked completely cooked as often as not during his Yankee tenure.

                Ichiro is still a useful player. Ichiro is not an effective every day outfielder. There are other ineffective role-players which could have given us a chance at roughly the same or better production for far less investment. Dickerson was one of those. Your reactionary Chris Dickerson hate is as silly as the unconditional love so many had for the guy.

                • The Real Greg says:

                  Well, stupid overreactions lead to stupid overreactions I guess.

                  • Cool Lester Smooth says:

                    I hate Chris Dickerson, but he’s not worse than Ichiro is right now.

                    That’s all I’m saying.

                • vicki says:

                  charter member here. but mostly because i was so pleased with myself for christening him big swinging dickerson. michael lewis, people. liar’s poker.

                  so much better than cdick.

          • MannyGeee says:

            Choo definitely wasn’t an option.

            Schierholtz is massively overrated. Also, non-tendered well after Ichiro was signed, if memory serves.

            Swisher was not going to come back at the price the Yankees were willing to pay, no matter HOW you want to twist it.

            Hunter is the best of the lot, and he seemed to indicate that “Detroit is where he wanted to be the whole time…” That was a true miss, if he had the reported interest.

            Sidenote, how good would this team look right now with Gardner/Granderson/Wells/Hunter as your OF tandem right now?

            • Need Pitching & Hitting (but mostly hitting) says:

              Schierholtz is massively overrated. Also, non-tendered well after Ichiro was signed, if memory serves.
              Agree he’s overrated, but compared to Ichiro, a valid option, especially considering their respective contracts. And Schierholtz signed before Ichiro did.

              Swisher was not going to come back at the price the Yankees were willing to pay, no matter HOW you want to twist it.
              I’m not twisting anything. He was an option. They chose not to use that option, in part because of cost. That they weren’t willing to pay the cost is a choice they made. Just like deciding to give Ichiro 2/13M was a choice they made. They could have made different choices. They didn’t. He was an available option. So was Choo, potentially, if they could have matched up in terms of trade (not sure if they could). That the Yankees weren’t willing to pay the price doesn’t change that they were available options. It just means they decided against those options, for whatever reason.

              My point was just that there were available better options that the Yankees could have chosen instead of Ichiro. There definitely were. Even factoring budget limitations, Swisher’s contract is probably better than Ichiro’s, from a cost/return standpoint.

    • Cool Lester Smooth says:

      Russell Martin.

      • The Real Greg says:

        Not an outfielder.

        • Cool Lester Smooth says:

          He’s who we missed out on because we signed Ichiro, though.

          There’s a bigger difference between Martin and FranChrisco Stewvelli than there is between Ichiro and any scrub they could have signed off the street (Chris Dickerson, for example).

          • The Real Greg says:

            Probably, but I was only referring the question in regards to outfield help.

            Probably should have made that a bit more clear.

            • Cool Lester Smooth says:

              Okay, I got you.

              Losing the Russ-Bus is why I’m pissed about the Ichiro signing, though.

              • Jim Is Bored says:

                There’s seriously nothing besides anecdotal proof that there’s any causation there.

                • Havok9120 says:

                  And that’s stretching the term “anecdotal evidence” well beyond it’s breaking point.

                • Cool Lester Smooth says:

                  Well, Martin cost 2 years 17 million and Ichiro cost 2 years 13 million. Considering that they had the money for Wells, I don’t think they would have let 2 mil (or less) a year stand in the way of resigning Martin.

                  • MannyGeee says:

                    Ironically, Ichiro has looked better so far this season than Russell Martin, and that says ALOT… but I digress.

                    • vicki says:

                      obvious sarcasm?

                    • Need Pitching & Hitting (but mostly hitting) says:

                      It’s not even close.
                      Ichiro 246/289/341, 62 wRC+, 0.1 fWAR.
                      Martin 273/368/545, 155 wRC+, 1.6 fWAR

      • Bubba says:

        I won’t argue that Ichiro was a good signing, but we didn’t miss out on Martin. Martin was carrying a 198/301/366 triple slash through August. That’s 5 months of suck and while probably north of 63 wRC it’s not by a whole lot. Six or seven weeks into the season shouldn’t close the book on Ichiro, especially if you can give Martin a five month pass.

        • Need Pitching & Hitting (but mostly hitting) says:

          Martin’s wRC+ was in the mid 80′s in that time period, iirc.
          And he was doing it as a Catcher.
          There’s a huge difference. Martin was slightly below average offensively for a C in that period.
          Ichiro has been drastically below average for a corner OF.

          But I agree, it’s a bit too early to close the book on Ichiro.

          • Bubba says:

            Given Stewie’s wRC+ of 73, it was probably closer to 75-80 which is a bigger difference than I thought. I won’t argue that Ichiro is and has been a below average corner OF, but (honest question) does $6.5M get you an average corner OF?

            • Need Pitching & Hitting (but mostly hitting) says:

              Martin’s wRC+ by month last year:
              Mar/April: 85
              May: 93
              June: 88
              July: 88
              August: 67

              Maybe his August dragged him down into the 70′s. But really the first 4 months he was close to league average offensively for a C.

              And $6.5M would probably be a bargain in free agency for a league avg corner OF. But it’s also an overpay for a 4th OF – especially one producing at Ichiro’s current levels. If he could get up into the 90 wRC+ range, it’s not too horrible though.

              • vicki says:

                funny thing? casual observers would call august his second best month, considering his second highest monthly ba.

  13. trr says:

    it’s all about marketing the team in Japan…having said that, lets’s all hope that Ichiro (who WAS a truly great player in his prime) can go on the same type of run he had for us last year.

    • Need Pitching & Hitting (but mostly hitting) says:

      He’ll still have his occasional hot streaks.
      Hopefully they occur often enough to at least somewhat offset the futility in between the hotstreaks.

      • Cool Lester Smooth says:

        Everyone has occasional hot streaks, though. Non-entities like Chris Dickerson have hot streaks.

        And those guys cost a lot less than 6.5 million.

        • The Real Greg says:

          I don’t know what’s with the fawning over Chris Dickerson. If this player is so good, why has he been on 4 MLB teams so far in 6 years?

          • Need Pitching & Hitting (but mostly hitting) says:

            Calling Chris Dickerson a non-entity is fawning over him?


          • Havok9120 says:

            It isn’t fawning. It’s admitting that if all we’re comparing him to is what Ichiro has managed to give us than he would have been a more than acceptable option.

            The people that acted as if Dickerson was the greatest farmhand to never get a chance and was just one more example of Yankee developmental stupidity existed. So far, none of them have spoken up. Stop trying to paint anyone that mentions the guy as one of those.

            • Cool Lester Smooth says:

              Yeah, I was arguing against all the typographical fellatio of Dickerson during ST, since he’s never been, and probably never will be, anything more than a 5th OF.

              Post-2010 Ichiro is worse than that, though.

        • Need Pitching & Hitting (but mostly hitting) says:

          Oh, I agree. Definitely an overpay, especially for 2 years.
          Just hoping he can be at least somewhat better than he has been overall so far.
          I don’t expect him to be great, or even good. But I don’t expect he’ll finish with a 62 wRC+ either.

  14. Manny's BanWagon says:

    The problem with Ichiro is 90% of the reason he’s here is for the Yankees to cash in on him reaching 3000 hits.

    Make him 4th outfielder for any extended period of time and that’s not gonna happen. 35 games into the season, I can’t see the Yankees pulling the plug on that objective which would essentially be admitting they flushed $13 million down the drain.

    • LK says:

      He’s not getting 3K hits. Even if they play him everyday, considering his performance decline he wouldn’t get there until sometime in 2015. Considering how brutal he’s been since the start of 2011, there’s no way they can justify keeping him in the lineup for that long.

      • Manny's BanWagon says:

        I agree but I’m not so sure they’re gonna pull the plug this quickly.

        • LK says:

          If you’re saying that they might continue to play him too much because they want the 3K hit money down the road, then I totally agree. I was just saying I don’t think there’s any chance he gets there.

  15. Kel S. says:

    Coming up next on RAB…The Chris Stewart Conundrum (and why we still need George Kontos).

    • The Real Greg says:

      Actually Kontos is not having a good year with the Giants. A 4.71 ERA in 21 innings.

    • Cool Lester Smooth says:

      Well, Chris Stewart sucks and George Kontos is an effective bullpen arm, so I wouldn’t disagree with the premise of that article.

      • Jon w says:

        Now that’s a reasoned, sabermetrics-based comment if ever there was one.

        • Havok9120 says:

          So look at the post of his immediately above this one (you know, the one you would have had to read BEFORE you got to this one) if you prefer that. Either argument is valid, and for largely the same reasons.

        • Cool Lester Smooth says:

          Actually, it is. Kontos had a 2.47 ERA and a 2.80 FIP last season. Stewart had a .272 wOBA last season.

          Stewart had a 65 wRC+, Kontos had a 66 ERA-.

          I would much rather have had Kontos on my team than Stewart last season, even though Stewart’s apparent baserunning prowess gives them the same fWAR.

          • Cool Lester Smooth says:

            So, in layman’s terms: Chris Stewart sucks and George Kontos is a useful bullpen arm.

          • Rick says:

            Check out the article I posted on Grantland below. Stewart’s value is not in his bat. Here’s a cut and paste of why Stewart/Cervelli combo was wiser than signing Pierzynski.

            “It’s early in the season, but it’s not too soon to assess the Yankees’ Cervelli/Stewart experiment. Through the game in which Cervelli was injured, the pair had combined to catch 1,792 called pitches and saved the Yankees a little more than five runs in the process. If we extend that to the number of called pitches Yankees catchers caught last season, their total contribution comes to 36 runs. A.J. Pierzynski’s extended total over the entire season has him costing the Rangers roughly seven runs. He might outhit Cervelli and Stewart, but not by nearly enough to make up for a framing disparity that size. Even if he came close, there would still be the not-so-small matter of his salary, which is almost six times higher than Cervelli’s and Stewart’s put together.”

            • vicki says:

              you beat me to it, rick. very cool piece.

              ps. captain’s log is up too, havok. “shushgate.”

            • Cool Lester Smooth says:

              I’ll take Cervelli and Kontos over Cervelli and Stewart.

            • Cool Lester Smooth says:

              And I never wanted AJ. nhe’s a dick and a terrible offensive and defensive catcher to boot. I wanted Russell back, since he’s even better at framing than StewVelli and destoys them offensively.

              • Rick says:

                He’s actually not better at framing than either of them. While he may be better offensively, he’ll likely end the season worth, at most, 2 wins more than Stewart. (That would be a higher total than either of the previous two seasons). Is that worth the significantly higher salary? Up to you to decide.

                • Need Pitching & Hitting (but mostly hitting) says:

                  For an extra 2 wins? Absolutely worth it.
                  But 2 wins is probably a stretch, IF the defensive and framing metrics are correct and accurate.

                • Cool Lester Smooth says:

                  2 wins is absolutely worth $8 million. In fact, wins are usually valued at $4.5-5 million, so getting Russ for 8 million more would be a bargain.

                  • Rick says:

                    I understand the price of a win. 2 wins may be generous though, that’s best case scenario. And you’re talking about 8 million more than what you pay your backup. There are a lot of “what ifs” involved. Do they not have money for Wells then? I wanted to simply pose the question. You’re absolutely entitled to wanting Martin over Stewart and I think you have valid reasons for doing so. I land more on the side of considering the two a wash with all things considered. Martin certainly the better overall player now and in his career, but Stewart for his price and defensive abilities (provided they’re accurate) made the decision to let Martin go tolerable. It appears to have been in line with the team’s philosophy IMO.

  16. mitch says:

    I don’t really see the problem. Ichiro profiles fine as a 4th outfielder. When you consider the general uncertainty (and handedness) of Wells and the average offensive production of Gardner, there will enough opportunities to get him ABs so that he doesn’t become strictly a bench player.

    Basically, I don’t think it will be that hard to diminish his role and keep him from being insulted at the same time.

    • Cool Lester Smooth says:

      Well, Gardner’s “average offensive production” is leaps and bounds above what Ichiro has been doing since 2011, and he had essentially identical offensive production to Vernon Wells from 2011-2012

  17. RetroRob says:

    I’m not too concerned. Ichiro will either play better, or he will lose playing time. He will be given more rope, but probably not as long as some think.

    Not that it matters, but for the record, I don’t buy the Japan marketing link as a significant reason for why the team signed him and would keep him. Matsui was a huge star in Japan, as big or bigger than Ichiro. He was also a Yankee and the World Series MVP. The Yankees let him walk.

    • Havok9120 says:

      Agreed on both points, especially the first one. I wouldn’t say Matsui was as huge a star as Ichiro (though I’ve no evidence either way) or that the cases are hugely comparable (3K hits being a factor) but, on balance, I agree that the marketing aspect may be getting a bit overblown.

    • vicki says:

      i’ll repeat myself. i believe it’s a formula. matsui had become a full-time dh; while there was no spot for him, ichi is overpaid (money and years) for his legitimate spot (platoon/backup of). the yankees easily could’ve gotten the same production from a much cheaper player but there is a marketing and merchandising upside.

  18. King of Fruitless Hypotheticals says:

    With all the arguing up there right now…imagine how bad it will be next year?

    • Havok9120 says:

      You’re assuming that the Yankees ride the Ichiro bandwagon off the cliff. If they reduce his responsibilities (and I agree with RetroRob above that they will do so far sooner than many seem to be assuming) then it won’t be all that big a deal.

      • Need Pitching & Hitting (but mostly hitting) says:

        If they stick to $189M next year, I think Ichiro will be brought up frequently. If they don’t (and I don’t think they will), it won’t be a big deal, unless he’s taking a roster spot that people think should go instead to someone like Almonte, Heathcott, or Austin.

        I’m sure there will be arguing regardless. It’s what we do here.

    • LK says:

      Well, it’s not like he can really be playing worse this time next year.

    • Jim Is Bored says:

      “With all the arguing up there right now…imagine how bad it will be during the season!”

      –Almost every commenter, March, 2013.

      • Rick says:

        But will be it easier to cut bait during the second year of the deal? Maybe the team would be more open to a straight release. (Who am I kidding?)

  19. Rick says:

    While off-topic, for those interested there is a great piece on Grantland re: pitch framing.

    Also, does anyone know if Adams was officially called up?

  20. mustang (The Has Been & Wannabes Bunch 2013) says:

    Mike can’t hate Ichiro that much he wrote this and we all know what that means.


  21. mustang (The Has Been & Wannabes Bunch 2013) says:



    Ichiro Suzuki ;)

  22. Get Phelps Up says:

    Where are we getting that Ichiro is the reason the Yankees didn’t re-sign Martin? He apparently offered to come back on a one year deal that would have had no effect on Plan 189. It sure seems like for whatever reason the Yankees just didn’t want him back.

    • Cool Lester Smooth says:

      It’s more that I’m angry about how the Yankees chose to allocate their financial resources in signing Ichiro with money that could/should have been used to re-sign Russ.

      • Get Phelps Up says:

        I think they could have signed both if they wanted to and just didn’t want Martin back for whatever reason. They were able to afford Wells after all.
        I personally would have signed neither and spent that money on Swisher.

        • Cool Lester Smooth says:

          So would I, but Swisher presented a much longer financial commitment than either, so I can understand their reasoning, even though I disagree with it.

          What I can’t understand is being unwilling to pay Russ $17 million, but spending $13 mil on a corner OF with significantly worse offensive numbers.

          • Bubba says:

            125, 100, 79, 90 vs 87, 90, 100, 95

            Since 2006 w0BA .339 vs .340

            Not sure that qualifies as significant.

            • Cool Lester Smooth says:

              Since 2006? How is what Ichiro was doing 7 years ago at all relevant to this conversation?

              Hell, I’d be salivating at the thought of getting 2006-2010 Ichiro for only 6.5 a year.

              Unfortunately, that player doesn’t exist anymore.

              • Bubba says:

                Okay. Last year, 90 vs 95 wRC+. Again not really significant.

                • LK says:

                  Firstly, 90 vs. 95 isn’t massive, but it’s not nothing either. The Yankees have a 96 wRC+ right now; the Royals have a 91. If they swapped, we’d definitely notice.

                  Secondly, given Martin and Ichiro’s respective ages, whatever gap existed last year is likely to be larger this year.

                  Finally, Martin plays catcher, and Ichiro plays corner OF, which is kind of a huge deal.

                  Russell Martin isn’t a great player by any means. Ichiro used to be great player. But right now there’s simply no comparison between them.

          • King of Fruitless Hypotheticals says:

            hey out of curiosity how well has Martin done this year?

      • Stan the Man says:

        Russell Martin is not good get over it. He has been replaced and the sun has come up every day since then. Enough already with Russell Martin.

    • vicki says:

      i’m not convinced the decisions were related. it was more like “holy cats, we didn’t take russ for one year/$9M, but we’re giving ichiro WHAT??”

  23. emac2 says:

    Mike, You’re a tool

  24. mike_h says:

    now watch Ichiro go on a hot streak like Wells when he was slumping…thanks in advance Mike

  25. Need Pitching & Hitting (but mostly hitting) says:

    Aardsma is available again.
    Don’t imagine the Yankees would be interested though.

  26. jjyank says:

    The Ichiro signing was the one deal I really didn’t like this offseason. At least for two years, I probably wouldn’t have minded a one year deal.

    Bottom line is, Ichiro isn’t going to get cut. It is what it is right now. If Ichiro continues to be the lesser of the four OF options, I just hope that Girardi fills out his lineup accordingly.

  27. gc says:

    Way to put the reverse jinx on Ichiro, Mike. Now we get to watch as he goes on a tear like Wells did when you wrote about his slump last week. Woohoo!!!!

  28. AMANDA says:

    Mike everytime you write one of these storys about a player sucking they get hot , like Wells turning into a pumpkin Overbay being automatic gone when Tex comes back, lets see if ichiro catchs fire

  29. Robert says:

    Ichiro was signed off of his dramatic salary drive last year and the fact that his presence increases Yankee revenues in the overseas markets.
    Mesa and Almonte are on the 40 man roster,its time to see what they can do in the Bronx!!!

    • Havok9120 says:

      Do you have any idea what a 40% AAA K% translates to in the MLB? It makes Granderson seem like DiMaggio.

  30. AMANDA says:

    lol i didnt read your post then wrote mine i agree !

  31. AMANDA says:

    backup catcher cant make contact at ALL !

  32. vicki says:

    can we say he’s the team’s most divisive player? okay, after phil hughes.

    [full disclosure, i never liked him. i read the old mickey mantle quote at too impressionable an age, i suppose; "if i had played my career hitting singles like pete, i'd wear a dress." (some of y'all may be sick of my citing it.)]

  33. Robert says:

    Good Luck David Adam’s

  34. Michael says:

    Ichiro can still hit, he’s just doesn’t put up the kind of stats that the FIP/WAR/BABIP/BULLSHIT crowd favors.

    Give him time, he’s in a slump. His bat is still quick, he can still run, he’s a good defender. At worst, he’s a nice fourth outfielder. At his best, he’s one of the few guys on this team who can consistently go the opposite way on a tough pitcher.

    • jjyank says:

      Your comment lost all credibility in your first sentence.

      • Need Pitching & Hitting (but mostly hitting) says:

        He can still hit, it just doesn’t show up in his performance.

      • Michael says:

        FIP and BABIP are silly. A pitcher’s skills impact on balls in play. Some pitchers know how to get hitters to hit the ball for outs.

        WAR is silly. You can’t measure wins via some completely unproven statistical analysis.

        You’re silly to believe in numbers, and the tooth fairy.

        • Need Pitching & Hitting (but mostly hitting) says:


        • jjyank says:

          Silly to believe in numbers? Hmm. That’s a new one.

          How about wOBA? wRC+? Two categories that show Ichiro has been terrible for over two years now? Tell me how those are silly. I’ll wait.

          • jjyank says:

            Here, I’ll even give you the numbers. Since the start of 2011 (minimum 1,000 PA), Ichiro has the 7th worst wOBA in all of baseball. The the only 6 players worse than him are Kurt Suzuki, Ben Revere, Cliff Pennington, Clint Barmes, Robert Andino, and Brendan Ryan.

            By wRC+, he is the 10th worst player since 2011 (same min 1,000 PA). Only those same 6 players plus Drew Stubbs, Dawrin Barney, and Gordon Beckham have been worse.

            But numbers are silly and mean nothing, so who cares, right?

        • vicki says:

          and yet it moves.

        • WhittakerWalt says:

          “You’re silly to believe in numbers,”

          And yet, something tells me you love numbers lik Batting Average, Wins and RBI.
          NUMBERS!!! EVIL!!!

        • Cool Lester Smooth says:

          Ironically, the only argument for a rebound from Ichiro is that his BABIP is far below his career norms.

          Of course, that’s because he used to be a good hitter, but no longer is.

          • Need Pitching & Hitting (but mostly hitting) says:

            Yeah, that’s probably more of a reflection of his career low LD% and career high FB% than bad luck. He’s not making much quality contact.
            Hopefully that will change somewhat.

          • Michael says:

            I wonder how many of you fine gentlemen actually played the game of baseball? And how many of you are in shape to play it now?

            Numbers are for fantasists. Sure, they’re useful. But men of a certain ilk like to obsess over numbers so much that they ignore basic things about the game. Like who can hit.

            Even if Ichiro is done, you should be able to appreciate the beauty that his approach brings to the game. Don’t you love watching a guy who actually knows how to hit? As opposed to one of these guys who pull everything (and therefore can be pitched to death on the outside part of the plate?) Like Teixeira and Granderson, just really simple-minded players who don’t even try to hit the ball the opposite way. Teixeira is so stubborn, and thick, that he refuses to bunt when he has the whole field open for him. Ichiro? He would bunt all day in a situation like that.

            I’m rooting for you Ichiro. Prove these FIP/BABIP “geniuses” wrong.

            • LK says:

              I like watching the Yankees win.

              Ichiro’s game used to be quite aesthetically pleasing; in fact, I would agree that he was more enjoyable to watch than his raw numbers would suggest.

              Now, he can’t make hard contact and basically hits nothing but weak singles. I can’t really understand why anyone wants to watch that.

              Oh, and I’d be willing to bet I’m in better shape than you.

              • Michael says:

                Yeah but do you know baseball?

                Maybe you didn’t like the way Ichiro was playing last year. I did. That wasn’t that long ago.

                Maybe he’s playing too much. Maybe he needs some rest. Maybe he needs better matchups.

                Give the guy a break, it’s only the middle of May. Six weeks into the season!

                • jjyank says:


                  No, it’s NOT six weeks into the season. It’s 2 years and six weeks into his decline, sans about 4 weeks in 2012. Have you not been reading anything we’ve written?

                • WhittakerWalt says:

                  John Kruk played baseball, too, at the big league level and everything. And that guy’s a fucking imbecile. Some of the guys on my high school team could barely spell their own names. Intelligence has very little to do with baseball ability.
                  Which is not to say Ichiro’s dumb, not at all. He’s a very smart player. He didn’t lose his baseball IQ overnight.
                  The physical skills are what’s diminished. He’s not as strong or fast as he once was.
                  It’s really not a big mystery.

            • jjyank says:

              You realize that FIP is a pitching statistic, right? Get off your high horse dude. Teixeira doesn’t bunt like Ichiro because Ichiro can’t hit it into the upper deck. Comparing those two players just makes me think that it is you who don’t play baseball.

              • Michael says:

                Yes I do play baseball, and I played semi-pro as a youth.

                Teixeira can’t hit it in the upper deck against a quality righty. No way. They spin a curve on the outer half and he pops up to short.

                But he would be able to bunt and get a hit against such a pitcher.

                But he doesn’t. And he makes how much, 20 million a year?

                What a waste of money.

                • jjyank says:

                  I like how you moved the goalposts on Ichiro and now trying to use Tex to win the argument. Funny.

                  And I don’t have time to play baseball anymore, but that means jack shit. You’re only making yourself sound desperate.

                  • Cool Lester Smooth says:

                    Damn you, jj for having a job!

                  • WhittakerWalt says:

                    The “you must not have ever played baseball” argument is almost as low as it gets on the internet. The only thing lamer than that is bragging about all the martial arts you know.

    • LK says:

      I’m assuming you’re trolling, in which case well done. If not, I’m still impressed, in that I didn’t think anyone was uninformed enough to think Ichiro could still hit.

      • Michael says:

        Check out Ichiro’s numbers in the series that really counted last year, the ALCS. Luck?

        • LK says:

          Check out Ichiro’s numbers since the start of the 2011 season. Sucking?

        • jjyank says:

          You’re picking a four game sample out of 2+ years of being terrible and asking if it’s luck? And actually expecting us to say that it isn’t? Wow.

          Luck, coincidence, whatever. I notice how you didn’t care to respond to my post where I pointed out that Ichiro has been in the bottom 10 of offensive performers in the last 2+ years. Convenient.

        • Need Pitching & Hitting (but mostly hitting) says:

          Hot streak. And a well timed one. Doesn’t cancel out his last 2.25 seasons.

  35. monterowasdinero says:

    I’m in the (all things considered) pro Ichiro camp. Love his hustle down the line and difficulty to double up keeps innings alive. Still has an excellent arm-especially in YS and those two things do NOT show up in stats as innings are kept alive and runners do not take the extra base.

    He’ll get hot again and then we can attack the next slumping “Yank du jour”.

    • Need Pitching & Hitting (but mostly hitting) says:

      It doesn’t seem like his arm has much if an effect anymore, especially since he’s dreadfully slow to get rid of the ball.
      His GIDP % is a league average 11% so far this year (granted SSS).
      And those things do show up in some stats, UZR and DRS account for the impact of his arm (at least to some degree). bWAR accounts for avoiding double plays.

      He does have some usefulness. It’s just a question of how much.

  36. WhittakerWalt says:

    As gifted a hitter as Ichiro has been throughout his career, let’s face it: the writing is on the wall. Yes, he may still have the occasional hot streak, but his days as an elite player are over.
    That once beautiful swing has been reduced to flailing. The secret to getting him out these days is to simply not throw him strikes. You know he’s not going to take ball 4, which means he’ll chase any old junk you throw up there regardless of how far out of the zone it is. He just can’t make the kind of contact he used to. He looked awful against Felix yesterday. And yes, I realize Felix is awesome but Ichiro swung at some pitches that were in another zip code.

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