Position Roundtables: Right Field
Jeff: Starting Right Fielder: Ichiro
My first car was a Volkswagen Fastback. Vintage 1969, one of the first
years they put an automatic transmission in the terrapin of
fahrvergnugen, so there were bugs aplenty. The muffler fell off from
time to time. The door panels were rotting. Once, a heating vent stuck
open, bathing passengers in heat during dead summer.
That car was a heap. But I loved it.
Most of all, I loved the stereo I’d installed myself — the only part
that always worked. When the transmission gave out, I could at least
sit in the driveway and pretend I had a way out of my hometown. In a
way, I did, but it was Guided by Voices, Dinosaur Jr. and Husker Du
that were paving the way, not my green given-up-the-ghost car.
In a lineup that has seen a real overhaul, Ichiro is the one part that
you pencil in from last year and expect great things from. This should
be the easiest roundtable, but it isn’t.
What is there left to say about Ichiro? Dave touched on his unbelievable 2004. Derek has noted how unique he is and considered a Hall of Fame case. Nate Silver admits that he throws PECOTA for a loop.
How about, as Larry Stone mentions, that he appears to be the most likely player to make a run at .400? No, we can’t talk about that: if a respected baseball writer is openly musing about Ted Williams territory (and Dimaggio’s 56-game streak), that territory has to be played out. Right?
That’s Ichiro. The stupefying becomes conceivable, the incredible
Well, we could speculate about No. 51 breaking the Mariner record for
runs in a season now that he’ll be batting in front of Beltre and
Sexson. Oops: it’s been done, with John Hickey even discussing the major-league
run records as well.
Now, I’m not necessarily saying that Ichiro will come through with
another record-setting performance this year, and neither are the
authors of any of the pieces I’ve linked to. That’s the point of his
forecast-busting nature. No one really knows what the guy is going to
What we do know is what to do with Ichiro: plug him in, watch him,
enjoy. Lather, rinse, repeat.
Dave: Umm, what Jeff said.
Seriously, Ichiro is awesome. He’s a remarkably valuable player, extremely unique, exciting, and marketable, all rolled into one mini package. Ichiro makes going to the ballpark more fun in a way that other great players don’t. The Ichiro experince goes beyond his BA/OBP/SLG and and the tangible value of his production. Ichiro is great for the game. Ichiro is great for Seattle.
I-chi-ro. I-chi-ro. I-chi-ro.
Jason: Jeff didn’t find one of my posts to quote… but then, I guess I haven’t gushed about Ichiro here on the USSM. I knew I had somewhere, though, so I did some digging. Ah yes, here it is, the August 2003 issue of the Grand Salami.
By the time 2002 rolled around, all was right with the world. Ichiro was seemingly having an even better season, hitting .357 at the All-Star break. He was even drawing more walks, having eclipsed his total from the previous season in just 62 games, leading to a stellar .430 on-base percentage. What was I thinking, having doubted this guy?
Then the second half came. Ichiro hit .282 in August and just .248 in September, dropping his average 36 points after the break. He also stopped walks, and when he did get on base he wouldnâ€™t attempt to steal second base even in a close game. Again, I wondered if this guy was all he was cracked up to be. In his defense, it turned out he had never fully recovered from an injury suffered when he ran into the outfield wall in Oakland late in the year, but still…
Given his performance in the second half of 2002 you can imagine my angst when he started slowly this year, hitting just .243 in April. I wondered aloudâ€”and wrote as much in this very magazineâ€”if Ichiroâ€™s star was beginning to fade. He seemed ordinary, no longer the dynamic offensive catalyst he once was. After all, he was hitting a mere .258 over his last 300-plus at-bats, and itâ€™s not as if he was making up for it with power or walks.
Iâ€™m happy to say thatâ€™s the last time Iâ€™ll ever doubt Ichiro. He quieted me in May by hitting .389 with four homers. He shut me up in June by hitting .386 with ten steals and two more homers. And just for good measure, he smacked me silly in July by hitting well over .400 in the ten games leading up to the All-Star break.
Donâ€™t doubt him. Donâ€™t knock him. Just when you think heâ€™s down, heâ€™ll whiz a line drive single past your ear. Ichiro, you the man.
Should he play center? Yeah, sure. Should he walk a bit more? Yeah, probably. But c’mon. Given all the good he does — and the problems elsewhere on the team — it’s hardly worth wasting words on such minor quibbles.