Ichiro Suzuki just accomplished an incredible feat by picking up hit no. 4,000 of his professional career and that number gets combined with his time in Japan and in Major League Baseball.
With the Seattle Mariners he primarily hit leadoff and after getting traded to the New York Yankees in 2012 and he’s only batted first in the lineup 45 times in 186 games. Here’s a look at his numbers on a yearly basis while leading off.
Ichiro’s batting average is certainly good, yet his on-base percentage, walk totals, stolen bases, and extra base hits are low. Still there are many who believe he’s among the greatest lead off hitters in MLB history and the numbers don’t justify his inclusion among the greatest.
What’s important is how one determines greatness in that role. Average doesn’t necessary signify it as Rickey Henderson’s career average in 25 seasons was .279. Walks and OBP need to get looked at first as it means making the pitcher work, something Ichiro has never done well. Henderson walked 2,190 times in his career and had a OBP of .401.
Once on-base it meant stealing bases and keeping the pitcher occupied. When Ichiro first joined the Mariners in 2001 he did that stealing 56 bases as his career progressed those numbers dropped until 2006 when he stole 45. His speed still allowed for him to score over 100 runs in seven of his first eight seasons also in 2001 he set a career high with 125 runs scored.
There aren’t many leadoff hitters who come close to the accomplishments of Henderson. The question then isIchiro top five of all-time? Answer to that is no, yet there are many who will over inflate his hit numbers to put him in that position.
Here’s a look at the career numbers of the better lead off hitters:
Tim (Rock) Raines
Ichiro as a leadoff hitter is above average at best and he certainly doesn’t belong among the top five in MLB history.