Of Arms and Two Men, Ichiro and Vlad

Jeff · February 4, 2005 at 9:32 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

After picking on productive-out pusher Buster Olney by proxy below, it seems appropriate to point out that he’s selected Ichiro’s right arm as the most accurate in the majors.

This comes as no surprise after reading Eric Neel’s piece from yesterday on the strongest arm in baseball, which he said belongs to Vlad Guerrero. But Neel also said this:

In fact, [A’s third base coach Ron] Washington says, sometimes smart is running on Guerrerro. As powerful and aggressive as he is, his lack of accuracy makes him beatable. A guy like Ichiro will almost always read the situation, make a determination about whether to let fly or not. Guerrero on the other hand, tends to throw first and ask questions later.

“Vlad has a hell of an arm,” Washington said, “but if you talk about accuracy, he’s lacking. He has super power, but he doesn’t always know where the ball is going to go and he sometimes makes unnecessary throws. When I decide if I’m going to take a chance, I’ll take a chance on him before I will on Ichiro.”

Draw your own conclusions about the in-game implications.

Olney’s article speculates that Japanese players like Ichiro and Hideki Matsui have simply practiced the types of throws outfielders need to make in games more than their stateside counterparts have. It’s still customary in Japan to make throws to each base from your outfield position before games start.

The conclusions of the article are hedged a bit, though, since Olney says Ichiro’s most-accurate-arm status is a “consensus among some scouts and executives.”

This is a great phrase that I am going to steal. Isn’t everything a “consensus among some,” as long as more than one person believes a particular thing to be true?

It is a consensus among some that Bert Blyleven should be in the Hall of Fame. So let’s make it happen, Buster!


26 Responses to “Of Arms and Two Men, Ichiro and Vlad”

  1. Conor Glassey on February 4th, 2005 10:42 pm

    I’m not surprised Washington’s talking up Ichiro’s arm. He had the best seat in the house for “The Throw.”

  2. Chickenhawk on February 4th, 2005 11:04 pm

    I am a consensus of one believing Jack Morris should be in the hall. Morris dominated every important game I saw him pitch. Correct me if I am wrong – I was a teenager and impressionable – but Morris was awesome.

  3. chris d on February 5th, 2005 12:31 am

    Did “the Throw” cut down Terrance Long when he was with A’s?

  4. Adam S on February 5th, 2005 12:53 am

    That’s clearly pretty poorly written. I assume he surveyed a number of scouts and executives, but not all of them. And of those surveyed there was a consensus. That said, consensus implies group and two is not a group.

    He must have asked at least four people, given that scouts and executives are both plural 🙂 But I have no clue if it was 4, 40 or 400.

  5. Shoeless Jose on February 5th, 2005 1:23 am

    As great as The Throw was, the one against the Blue Jays a couple of years ago was even better (someone remind me who was trying to run on him?) I have several friends in Canada who follow the Blue Jays and every one of them called or emailed me later saying more or less the same thing: “What the %$#@ was that? He was a good runner with a huge lead, it didn’t look like Ichiro had a chance, and the ball was waiting for the runner in the 3rd baseman’s mitt when he arrived. How is that possible?”

  6. Marty Lighthizer on February 5th, 2005 2:06 am

    Re #5
    I can’t help you on that one, but I think I saw the same play, too — I remember a time when Ichiro threw an absolute perfect strike to McLemore playing third. Mac didn’t even have to move his glove…

    For some perspective though (and this was mentioned in the same article), watch the video of Ichiro himself being thrown out by Alexis Rios.

  7. Conor Glassey on February 5th, 2005 4:42 am

    Jose – I agree, that one against the Blue Jays was amazing! It resulted in the hardest high five of my life! I remember it very well – it was Reed Johnson trying to run on Ichiro. J.J. Putz also made his Major League debut that night…

  8. RB in the UK on February 5th, 2005 7:14 am

    This comes with the usual caveats of being based just on watching the games, but H. Matsui has a weak arm (which is fine, they’re not playing in RF or anything) but a horrible habit and fielding a ball that’s gone to the wall picking it up and just throwing as he whirls around, with the ball going every which way. I think he threw one into the stands in the 2003 ALCS that way, so I’m not sure how much I buy Olney’s theory on Japanese outfielders

  9. David J Corcoran on February 5th, 2005 8:53 am

    Jeez, Jeff, you trying to take my spot? Of the 6 threads on the home page, 4 are yours, 1 is DMZs and 1 is Daves! The only difference is that your stuff is more interesting and substantive to read than mine, and that you are one of the official USSM folk posting official USSM stuff on the official USSM page, and I am a commenter.

    Nah, but Ichiro’s throw is freakishly awesome. Looking at the trajectory of them, it doesn’t even look like he is throwing a baseball, but rather a football or somethin’. How he does it, I dunno. But it’s pretty darn cool.

  10. John on February 5th, 2005 9:40 am

    Off-topic – loved the title of this blog entry, have you read the Robert O’Connell book? I am reading it now.

  11. Phil on February 5th, 2005 11:07 am

    Jeff – good piece. It’s good to have you and Peter on board.

  12. Matt on February 5th, 2005 12:10 pm

    You could properly use “consensus” in the way he did, assuming that the “some scouts and executives” is a discrete group (a pretty big assumption, but certainly possible). For instance, USS Mariner readers are a group consisting of “some Mariner fans” that could form a consensus that, for instance, the Mariners should have made some moves in 2001-03 at those years’ respective trade deadlines.

    That said, it’s bad writing … much like Finnegan’s “forte” comment, though, and numerous writers’ incorrect use of “beg the question,” among other things, my suggestion is to ignore it and focus on the intent of the writer as much as possible. I believe Gammons is the worst “writer” on any major site right now, but his column certainly is worth attempting to decipher due to his connections and insights.

    Again, prefaced with the foregoing, I’m not sure why ESPN is running off all their good writers and having Olney write what seems to be a majority of their baseball-related pieces. I know several in the blog world, including all of the resident writers here, who would be much better. Who knows.

  13. Matt Staples on February 5th, 2005 2:05 pm

    Re: #8 —

    Every time I’ve seen Matsui in the field, I’ve been struck by the same thing. Respectable speed, awful arm, but a quick release due to the fact that he just wings it. I’m not sure that’s a virtue, especially where a mis-throw to third probably often results in a run scoring.

  14. err0r on February 5th, 2005 2:05 pm

    I believe Ichiro was a pitcher at some point

  15. Jim Thomsen on February 5th, 2005 2:07 pm

    One wonders if Rob Neyer is considered a “good” or “bad” ESPN writer. The “consensus of some” here is that his VORC — Value Above Replacement Columnist — slipped into negative integers about two years ago. His ascent and fall, in season notation, roughly parallels that of Sammy Sosa.

  16. David J Corcoran on February 5th, 2005 2:24 pm

    Re 13: Actually, in a Japanese all-star game in 1998 I think, we saw Ichiro pitching to Pinch-Hitter Shingo Takatsu.

  17. Paul Covert on February 5th, 2005 4:04 pm

    After further review, it turns out that the Toronto play was August 12, 2003. (Putz’ debut was actually the day before; but it was indeed Reed Johnson who got nailed.)


  18. Bela Txadux on February 5th, 2005 8:16 pm

    Regarding “the Throw,” Ichi’s made at least three beauts to my recollection, first against Oakland his first year, than when he cut down Reed Johnson of Toronto, and at least one other last year when I was in the stands against Oakland. Of the three, I agree that his throwing out Johnson was the best: hardest throw, most accurate (one-boune perfectly glove high at 3rd), against a good baserunner going flat out from a respectable lead. I can’t remember who Ichiro got on the Oakland team the first time, but it _wasn’t_ Terence Long, I think. The guy said he “was trying to make something happen”—and he did. But that something attached to someone else’s name, not his.

  19. Paul Covert on February 6th, 2005 12:26 am

    Apparently it was Terrence Long (or at least I can’t find any other plays with an Oakland runner thrown at third from the outfield against Seattle in April 2001): http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/baseball/mlb/al/gamelog/2001/04/11/athletics_mariners/ (see 8th inning).

  20. rockymariner on February 6th, 2005 9:49 am

    Yes, it was Terrence Long. That throw from Ichiro was about 3 feet off the ground the entire way to third.

  21. Evan on February 6th, 2005 10:36 am

    I recall Mark McLemore’s comments regarding Ichiro’s throws to third. He said that if he didn’t catch the ball, they’d all hit the bag. All of them.

  22. Jake Brake on February 6th, 2005 8:24 pm

    One wonders if Rob Neyer is considered a “good” or “bad” ESPN writer. The “consensus of some” here is that his VORC – Value Above Replacement Columnist – slipped into negative integers about two years ago. His ascent and fall, in season notation, roughly parallels that of Sammy Sosa.

    I’ve been waiting to hear someone else say this for, well, a couple of years now. Gone from a somewhat insightful, mostly entertaining writer to a shrill, humorless orthodox sabermetrician in just a few short years. Mostly I just wish he would move away; he can’t handle the PNW.

  23. Ralph Malph on February 7th, 2005 10:19 am

    I haven’t read Neyer since he became “premium content” or whatever they call it. Am I the only person too cheap to pay for that?

  24. Joshua Buergel on February 7th, 2005 11:10 am

    Not any more, you aren’t. I used to keep ponying up for the Insider content at ESPN, but when Jim Baker left, I realized that I no longer enjoyed Neyer and the rest of the Insider content wasn’t interesting.

  25. The Leak on February 7th, 2005 9:37 pm

    Forget Ichiro’s toss…The greatest throw ever in a Mariners game remains Bo Jackson’s gun down of Harold Reynolds at the plate, which he threw on the fly from the warning track (off-balanced).

    End of story

  26. Bill Hudson on November 18th, 2005 9:39 am

    Any idea whether video is available on this “throw”? I attended this game at the Kingdome, but believe it or not, I left early. Never saw the video of the throw as of yet. Please advise.