Despite a carbon fiber exoskeleton and an arsenic-based respiratory system, the great Mariners outfielder Ichiro! is not immune to the ravages of age. Though he looks no older today than he did in first major league at bat, Ichiro! is actually 37. For the first time in his career, his numbers reflect it.
By design, Ichiro! makes getting on base his mission. His otherworldly bat control and lightning-quick reflexes allow him to spoil pitches he can’t handle or dump singles into unguarded corners of the field. His unique swing mechanics (essentially running towards first while swinging) helps him beat out a high number of infield singles (a staggering 273 since 2005, best in baseball and more than 100 ahead of second place Derek Jeter.)
While he leads baseball again this year with 15 infield hits, it appears Ichiro! is not the Ichiro! we know and love enough to bestow the editorial exclamation mark.
Always a player who maintains a high BABIP due to his speed and control over the Earth and stars, Ichiro! currently finds his in-play average more than 50 points lower than his career mark. His control of the strike zone remains consistent with his career marks. His line drive rate is slightly down and his ground balls are up.
His “speed” score is well below his career numbers and some fielding metrics suggest he lost a step in the outfield. It finally might be time for Ichiro! to abandon his genetic freak style of hitting in favor of something more conventional.
The thing is: Ichiro! doesn’t do anything conventionally. He is an enigma wrapped in a riddle wrapped in thousand dollar jeans. And inside those jeans (genes?): power!
Stories of Ichiro’s batting practice power displays are legendary. The man known best for his dedication to compiling singles lets loose in BP, sending shots careening into the upper reaches of the right field stands. His famous quote, delivered to Jeanne Zelasko in 2007, speaks to this ability.
Q. If you concentrated on hitting for power, how many home runs do you think you could hit?
ICHIRO SUZUKI: Tough question. If I’m allowed to bat .220, I could probably hit 40. (Laughter.) But nobody wants that.
While Ichiro! is joking here, there might just be something to it. What if Ichiro! adjusted his AI to “Three True Outcome” mode? Sure, his batting average would suffer but the home runs! His walk rate is already above average and his strikeouts are minimal, if he made a concerted effort to increase the former while disregarding the latter, it could happen!
Think of the possibilities! Look at the image attached to this post. This photo was taken moments before Ichiro! launched a home run at Yankee Stadium. Notice his body isn’t flailing and he remains in the box to make a powerful pass at the ball. And the taters follow suit!
Don’t take my word for it, take a look at the below video of Ichiro! swinging away. Smoooooooth. The Mariners surely need the boost of offense a patient slugger provides. Ichiro! extends his career, the fans get what they want. Everyone wins! Do it, Mr. Suzuki. Do it for the children.