All Time All Mariner Roster: Right Field

Dave · July 18, 2008 at 11:20 am · Filed Under Mariners 

Derek:

Ichiro! 2004. He hit for a ridiculous average (.372!) took his walks to get to a .414 OBP, and hit for a little (very little) power. Plus, he’s Ichiro! so he’s got that going for him. His batting average is the highest ever recorded by a Mariner regular — second place is Alex at .358 in 1996. That .414 OBP is the tenth-highest in Mariner history, behind a lot of Edgar Martinez/Alex Rodriguez seasons (and one Alvin Davis). In total contribution to his team, Ichiro’s 2004 may not be top ten, but it’s top twenty, and when he’s running up against Griffey, Edgar, and Alex, that’s amazingly good.

I wondered how to rate Ichiro’s seasons defensively in right. The 2003-2007 UZRs have him at +14, 0, +2, -1 in right for the 03-06 seasons. It would have taken a huge defensive season in 2001 combined with a defensive zero in 2004 to make up the difference in offensive contributions, and I don’t see it.

There’s so much to say here, about Ichiro, my appreciation for his play, his position on the team and in fandom, and everything else, but I would say this — Ichiro is the greatest example I’ve ever seen of how a good enough player can break roles. Someone can play outstanding defense at a position where defense isn’t valued, can play a dead-ball era game when right fielders are expected to whiff or hit the ball a long, long way.

Alex did this, but Alex followed Cal Ripken Jr, who established that shortstops could be big and hit well. Ichiro is without modern comparison, especially in the outfield — Tony Gwynn’s best years gave you the average, Ted Williams gets you average and huge walks and power, and Ichiro… we’re all lucky to have seen him play for the Mariners, in the same way that we’ve been blessed to see Alex, and Griffey, and Edgar, and I wish there was some way I could make people appreciate that.

Dave:

I agree – 2004 was Ichiro’s best year, and even though he’s not the prototypical right fielder, it was the best year the M’s have ever gotten from the position. Jay Buhner had a great underrated run from 1994 to 1997, with ’97 probably being the best of that bunch, but he didn’t have any single season as good as Ichiro’s ’04. His walks and power were great, but the offensive value was at best equal to Ichiro’s best year, and while Bone had a great arm, the defensive comparison isn’t even close.

You could also make a case for ’78 Leon Roberts (an .879 OPS when the league average was .711), but not a good enough one to overcome the year with more hits in a season than any other in history. Unlike left field, there are some good performances here, and Ichiro doesn’t win by default – he was just that good.

So, with boring agreement between the two of us, let me use this space to make a quick statement on one of the common knocks people make against Ichiro now that he’s been moved back to right field – that he doesn’t hit for enough power to justify a spot in a corner OF position. There’s a well established belief among many that the correct way to build a roster is to get good defensive players up the middle (C, SS, 2B, CF) and get lumbering power hitters in the corners (3B, LF, RF, 1B). You’ll often hear comments about how offense from up the middle spots “is a bonus” and you rarely see people realizing just how much defense matters in a corner (Carlos Lee’s paycheck says hello) because of this preconceived notion of what kind of player you’re supposed to have in each position.

It’s crap. A player’s value is determined almost entirely by his ability to create and prevent runs and it doesn’t matter the way in which those runs are created or prevented. Whether you produce 30 runs of offense through death of a thousand singles or 25 home runs, the fact remains that the run creation is the same. If you have a great defender who has just an okay bat, but you already have a center fielder, that doesn’t mean you have to get rid of Defensive Stud simply because you can’t put that type of player in a corner OF spot. The 2001 to 2003 Mariners were playing three guys who were premium defenders (Winn, Cameron, Ichiro) but none of whom were classic sluggers, and they won a ton of baseball games.

Runs are runs, and you should almost never sacrifice aggregate run totals in order to fill a preconceived notion of what a certain position player should look like. The argument that the M’s should get rid of Ichiro in order to fill RF with a classic power hitter with inferior defense stems from ignorance of how baseball games are won. To the anti-Ichiro crowd – stop focusing on cliches and start focusing on production. He’s a great player, and just because most singles hitters play CF does not make him a liability in RF.

Derek:

It’s funny — I started to write that in my intro, but I stopped, said “I shouldn’t rant about this, at least not in the intro” and deleted it. My take was a little different, though — I absolutely agree with what you’re saying, but moreover, Ichiro often reveals more about those who attempt to evaluate him than about Ichiro himself.

To appreciate Ichiro’s value, you have to see past traditional roles, past recent dogma favoring Adam Dunn-type power/walk/no glove lineups, past all of this to the fundamental thing everyone who seriously follows baseball has been trying to figure out: how do you win more games?

We make this point all the time about players: it’s about what a player can do, and how they can contribute, not what they can’t do, whether that’s hit home runs or whatever. And I’ve no patience for attacks on the “leadership” of someone who works so hard, so consistently. Ichiro absolutely plays, and he helps his teams win.

Dave:

Yea, the leadership/chemistry thing is the last resort of a guy who doesn’t have any leg left to stand on, but refuses to admit that he was wrong. I’d love someone to explain how Ichiro’s routine that is apparently so harmful to this team now was also part of the 116 win “greatest chemistry ever” club in ’01. Or, if his personal stretching program (you know, the one that keeps him remarkably healthy and in the line-up every single day) is such a divisive issue that causes his teammates to underperform, how did last year’s team win 88 games with a massive lack of talent?

Even if you believe that chemistry is hugely important, and that Ichiro doesn’t have the right kind of personality to fit your predisposed opinion of what a good team player is, and even if we accept that you could predict good or bad chemistry ahead of time, there’s never been any kind of real position for why Ichiro’s one of the bad chemistry guys. Seriously, go through the articles where the old white guys criticize the eccentric Japanese guy, and the evidence boils down to “trust me, I’m there, I know more than you”. With guys like Bonds or Kent or Milton Bradley or David Wells or Izzy Alcantara, at least there was a stated basis for why they harmed clubhouse chemistry – so and so gets in fights with teammates, throws things at coaches, comes to the park hungover, whatever. With Ichiro, the basis is apparently “he doesn’t speak English” and “he stretches by himself”.

Sorry, but that’s not a real argument. That’s ethnocentric judgmentalism at its worst. The media is never more exposed as a biased collection of old white guys with preconceived notions (usually incorrect ones, at that) than when they write about Ichiro and clubhouse chemistry. It’s sad, really.

Comments

65 Responses to “All Time All Mariner Roster: Right Field”

  1. khardy on July 18th, 2008 11:37 am

    Great post.

    I remember before the 2001 season when there was a debate over whether or not Ichiro! could succeed in the majors. Bobby Valentine went on the record and said he thinks Ichiro could absolutely hit .300…and that was considered going out on a limb to make that prediction.

    I wonder what the reaction would have been if Bobby V said he could hit over .350?

  2. TumwaterMike on July 18th, 2008 11:37 am

    I agree with your assessment. The one thing that Buhner never gets much credit though for his club house presence. I heard he would pat you on the back and kick you in the butt at the same time. Something lacking in this current team. He also did what he needed to do to win. Didn’t he lead the league in Sacrafice Flys one year? Also he was willing to move to first base to help the team. That experiment only lasted 1 day but he was willing to do it. For these reasons he has always been my favorite Mariner.

  3. dnc on July 18th, 2008 11:50 am

    Great stuff guys. Absolutely love this series.

  4. Jeff Nye on July 18th, 2008 11:58 am

    Sorry, but that’s not a real argument. That’s ethnocentric judgmentalism at its worst. The media is never more exposed as a biased collection of old white guys with preconceived notions (usually incorrect ones, at that) than when they write about Ichiro and clubhouse chemistry. It’s sad, really.

    I feel myself avoiding this issue all the time when Ichiro gets discussed, but I’m really glad you bring it up in this context.

    There are a lot of people in sports media who, even if they don’t outright HATE Ichiro for being Japanese, continually try to cast him as some sort of Charlie Chan figure and it drives me insane.

    I think that a lot of the reason Ichiro says some of the things he does is that he’s a smart enough guy to realize this factor is in play, so he might as well have fun with it.

    “No matter what I say, they’re going to make me sound like I got my script from a fortune cookie, so why not run with it?”

  5. Grizz on July 18th, 2008 11:58 am

    Leon Roberts ’78 edges Lee Stanton ’77 (.852 OPS, 130 OPS+) for Honorable Mention, Old Timer Division.

  6. jsa on July 18th, 2008 12:01 pm

    Runs are runs, and you should almost never sacrifice aggregate run totals in order to fill a preconceived notion of what a certain position player should look like. The argument that the M’s should get rid of Ichiro in order to fill RF with a classic power hitter with inferior defense stems from ignorance of how baseball games are won. To the anti-Ichiro crowd – stop focusing on cliches and start focusing on production. He’s a great player, and just because most singles hitters play CF does not make him a liability in RF.

    There are a LOT of people who post here that need to re-read that quote over and over again. Comparisons against league average production for a given position while ignoring total production seems to be a common misapplication of statistics.

  7. notanangrygradstudent on July 18th, 2008 12:05 pm

    Funny you should mention Adam Dunn in there, when many Cincy fans clearly think he sucks. I think it is pretty much safe to say that your average fan has no idea what wins games. Case-in-point, my niece recently played a game for her high-school softball team and came up to bat with the bases loaded. She drew an eight-pitch walk…and got booed. Her team won the tournament.

    Baseball (and softball) fans are clueless. How can we expect them to love the greatness that is Ichiro?

  8. notanangrygradstudent on July 18th, 2008 12:07 pm

    [fixed]

  9. msb on July 18th, 2008 12:08 pm

    That’s ethnocentric judgmentalism at its worst.

    there is a classic example of it affecting young guys as well currently up at Bleacher report, in a piece that is wrong in so many ways.

  10. Nate Dogg on July 18th, 2008 12:11 pm

    I’m a little disappointed that you resorted to calling someone who questions Ichiro’s leadership racist. Your point about people making that argument, about Ichiro’s clubhouse presence, not having a leg to stand on could be turned around on you saying it’s just a bunch of old white guys not understanding an ethnocentric Japanese guy. Except that you actually have data that goes a long way to show how valuable Ichiro is.

    Fans, right or wrong, expect players skill on the field to translate to leadership in the club house. Especially here in Seattle where our star players, Edgar, Buhner, Boone, Griffey from the fans perspective, were all so charismatic. When people watch the Mariners struggle and look like they don’t care, they look to Ichiro. They see a player that is aloof, both to the media (aka the fans) and seemingly towards his team mates. And with the exception of an article about his pre-All Star game pep talk, we’ve seen nothing to contradict that. I know personally I’d be very surprised if he was some kind of unifying presence in the club house.

    The question becomes what impact that has on wins and loses. And this is where I think you sometimes argue the wrong points. While Ichiro’s leadership issues are certainly overblown, both in terms of how lacking his leadership is and how much value leadership brings, it doesn’t change that he could be better in that department. I think you’re going to gain far more ground explaining just how good Ichiro is than you are trying to dismiss questions about his club house presence a plot of the racist, good ol’ boys media. Especially since Ichiro! really is awesome, and you’ve gathered more than a few stats to show it.

  11. msb on July 18th, 2008 12:12 pm

    just reminded myself of the Rick Reilly quote from 2001:

    “What torments the 47 [Japanese reporters] most is that after they leave, Ichiro suddenly becomes Carrot Top. He does imitations. Yelps Snoop Dogg lyrics. Walks up to opposing Latin catchers and asks, “¿Qué pasa?” He’s loved by teammates, who call him the Wizard. They wear T-shirts that read HE’LL FIND A WAY. The other day, in Baltimore, they stole his clothes, leaving him only a Hooters’ waitress uniform to wear on the plane home. He vamped the whole way.”

  12. Dave on July 18th, 2008 12:19 pm

    I’m not saying the media is racist – I’m say that the fact that 95% of them all have the same cultural background makes it almost impossible for them to understand someone from a different cultural background.

    I’m not saying they don’t like Ichiro because he’s Japanese. I’m saying they don’t understand Ichiro because he’s Japanese. And their inability to understand him leads to really bad conclusions.

  13. DMZ on July 18th, 2008 12:20 pm

    “Fans” don’t expect skill on the field to translate into leadership in the clubhouse except for certain limited definitions of fan.

    Also, that neglects leadership through example and Ichiro — you’re comparing his presence to a bunch of US players and finding him lacking.

    The media is not the fans. There’s no evidence Ichiro is aloof to teammates. There is copious evidence that Ichiro makes friends and gets along fine with his teammates, and that you ignore this doesn’t make it tree. Look just at the easily-locatable articles on him actively learning English (which is not an aloof act) from the team when he came over, and how much fun everyone had. This should qualify him as a “joker” leader.

    If leadership doesn’t matter that much, then focus on it is overblown. If Ichiro could be better but it wouldn’t matter that much to his contribution, why criticize him for it? And all of that posits that he’s not a good clubhouse guy, of which there’s 0 evidence.

  14. optigan on July 18th, 2008 12:26 pm

    But fans do love Ichiro, if by fans we mean, as we should, pre-teen boys. That’s core stuff, from which all other fandom springs. If you go to a Little League game anywhere around here, count the number of batters who tug the bat-side shoulder of their jersey as they prepare to take a pitch.

  15. msb on July 18th, 2008 12:28 pm

    thinking about it, I’m sure the clubhouse is different the last few years for a lot of players, what with the changes, the threat of more changes, and the losing. It has to be just as hard on Ichiro, who apparently has had all the guys he was closest to leave or retire, which can’t help.

  16. msb on July 18th, 2008 12:30 pm

    “Fans” don’t expect skill on the field to translate into leadership in the clubhouse except for certain limited definitions of fan. Also, that neglects leadership through example and Ichiro — you’re comparing his presence to a bunch of US players and finding him lacking.

    I dream of the day some caller repeats the ‘he’s not a clubhouse leader’ mantra and the radio host tosses back, ‘so, we should have gotten rid of Edgar, then, too?’

  17. msb on July 18th, 2008 12:33 pm

    ooh, missed this Cleveland quote

  18. TomC on July 18th, 2008 12:48 pm

    The team leadership criticism is a red herring.

    The fans don’t hold any perceived lack of leadership against Ichiro. The last time I was at Safeco, the fans chanted EECH-EE-RO whenever he came up to bat. I saw numerous jerseys in the stands with his name on the back. I did not hear Vidro or Silva chants. I did not see anyone lining up to buy Cairo or Washburn jerseys. I think it is fair to say that “the fans” (defined as the general population of persons who root for the Mariners) like Ichiro a lot and wish there were 8 more guys like him in the lineup.

    The sports media, however, would dread having to rely on interviews with 9 Ichiro types. Nobody to ask deep and penetrating shallow and vapid questions like “were you disappointed that you struck out” and “why did you attempt a double play instead of getting the force at home.” I simply don’t care if the players make it easy for the beat guys to write their post-game stories. I like players that are good, help my team win, and entertain.

    By the way, shouldn’t the manager and coaches be the primary source of “leadership” for any baseball team?

  19. msb on July 18th, 2008 12:50 pm
  20. Adam S on July 18th, 2008 12:56 pm

    Wow, 2004 must be a heck of a season. Ichiro was MVP in 2001 and that season only gets mentioned in passing. Not saying Ichiro 2001 was better than 2004, but you spend more words talking about A-Rod than Ichiro’s MVP season. Is 2001 the second best RF season by a Mariner; how far behind 2004 is it offensively?

    On the RF/CF thing. I think the Mariners decision to play him in RF instead of CF is a roster/lineup construction error. It’s easier to find a useful part to stick in a corner OF than CF. And the M’s should get blamed for that. But sometimes that blame spills over to Ichiro which really isn’t right.

  21. srp on July 18th, 2008 1:02 pm

    To those who argue that Ichiro should be traded, they should not discount the very real value that Ichiro provides to the team completely aside from his actual performance on the field. Even beside the attraction to Japanese fans, both tourists and those who live in the US, kids just love Ichiro. My son is 4 years old and owns four Ichiro T-shirts. My wife and I have to make sure that at least one is clean every day, otherwise we are big trouble. His two best friends at his preschool also show up almost every day in Ichiro apparel. Ichiro is the face of the Mariners to kids today just as Griffey and Edgar were to the previous generation.

  22. JMHawkins on July 18th, 2008 1:05 pm

    …because of this preconceived notion of what kind of player you’re supposed to have in each position.

    It’s crap. A player’s value is determined almost entirely by his ability to create and prevent runs and it doesn’t matter the way in which those runs are created or prevented.

    And furthermore, if most everyone else is following that preconceived notion in constructing their rosters, it’s going to drive up the price of guys who fit the model and drive down the price of guys who don’t. Smart teams will use that differential to find value and field a better team than they could have competing with everyone else for the same slugging corner OFs and leather-flashing SS.

    The “leadership” thing is just another effort to manufacture criticism by people who, for whatever reason, just don’t like Ichiro.

    “Well, sure, he’s a fine singles hitter and defender and all, if you like those sorts of things, but really, he doesn’t hit for power/walk/provide clubhouse leadership.”

    I could understand it if it was coming from Yankee fans, or A’s fans, or other such louts with a pre-existing bias towards M’s players, but I really don’t understand it when it comes from local writers or the handful of people sitting on their hands and glowering while everyone else does the “I-chi-ro” chant. I guess these same people complained about Edgar’s accent, probably called the Big Unit a whimp for letting his back keep him out of the rotation, and thought Griffey didn’t hustle enough. Eh, whatever.

  23. DMZ on July 18th, 2008 1:35 pm

    I have Ichiro’s 2001 as second. It’s a fair gap between them, though — that 20+ points of OBP is a lot of runs over the course of the year. 2001 does get some SB though.

    Plus, I’d just say that these bits are about our debate on who’s first and, as they occur, related arguments and thoughts. We’re not structuring this with a “who’s in second-tenth” mandatory section or whatever. It’s me and Dave, talking about seasons.

  24. Pete Livengood on July 18th, 2008 1:51 pm

    Adam S. wrote:

    On the RF/CF thing. I think the Mariners decision to play him in RF instead of CF is a roster/lineup construction error. It’s easier to find a useful part to stick in a corner OF than CF. And the M’s should get blamed for that. But sometimes that blame spills over to Ichiro which really isn’t right.

    I agree with this. While I whole-heartedly buy into the argument Dave made, that runs are runs and it doesn’t matter how you get them as long as you get them, the fact of the matter is that it is easier to get another productive bat into the line-up if Ichiro is in CF instead of RF, and Ichiro is the best defensive CF the Mariners have, to boot. BUT, if all it means is Ichiro plays CF, and the Bloomquist/Reed platoon plays RF, it absolutely doesn’t matter – it only matters if it freed the Mariners to plug RF with a player who offers something (power, OBP) the line-up currently lacks.

    I don’t think Dave or Derek would disagree with this, or that it negates their point at all, but I’d be curious for their reaction.

  25. Jeff Nye on July 18th, 2008 1:53 pm

    I’m not saying they don’t like Ichiro because he’s Japanese. I’m saying they don’t understand Ichiro because he’s Japanese. And their inability to understand him leads to really bad conclusions.

    I’m willing to chalk up about 90% of the way Ichiro gets talked about in the media to this; a lot of people can’t get away from the idea that their cultural background is “normal” and anything else is “weird”.

    And it really is difficult to understand just how different Japanese culture is from our own. It’s almost another planet, the cultural norms are so divergent.

    What happens is, media types get all flabbergasted because they can’t pigeonhole Ichiro the way they do other players, so they have to find something “wrong” with him; the “not enough power for a corner outfield spot” and “clubhouse leadership problem” are just easy digs to take that don’t really require any quantification to write about.

  26. joser on July 18th, 2008 2:01 pm

    The press doesn’t like Ichiro because he makes their job harder. Some of them may not understand him at all, and some of them may even be racist. But all of them have to come off automatic pilot when the deal with him, and that annoys them. And that annoyance carries into what they write and say. Of course they’re not going to write “Interviewing Ichrio is hard, and I want to get back to my gin and tonics.” So they dress it in the vague garments of “team chemistry.” Because who can question that? It’s an ineffable thing, and we readers aren’t in the clubhouse, so how can we know? It’s a lazy claim, unsupported by any observable facts, but they can toss it off and move on.

  27. msb on July 18th, 2008 2:08 pm

    And it really is difficult to understand just how different Japanese culture is from our own. It’s almost another planet, the cultural norms are so divergent.

    one reason I wish Brad Lefton wrote more locally.

  28. joser on July 18th, 2008 2:20 pm

    a lot of people can’t get away from the idea that their cultural background is “normal” and anything else is “weird”.

    Yeah, I call this ELM disease (“Everybody’s Like Me”). It’s really a pervasive problem, and it’s kind of surprising in the US considering the diversity here, but birds of a feather flock together and these things become self-reinforcing. I can’t count the number of times I’ve encountered “This must be universal, because all my friends like/want/do/believe it.” Add to that the visceral assigning of bad intentions to “the other” and you pretty much have a recipe for malign misunderstandings.

    “Looking back on it, in the four days I spent here, I found a really cool pair of sneakers.”

    I’d love to see what Ichiro counts as “really cool” kicks.

  29. hark on July 18th, 2008 3:23 pm

    joser (28)–

    On Ichiro!’s episode of “Mariners All Access” on FSN, he revealed that he once spent something like $100 on a shinkansen ticket to Kyoto so he could buy the new Air Jordans on their release date as a teenager. They were asking him what his favorite purchase was, or which one was the best memory for him, as he is something of a fashion whore*. And that was his answer.

    Just to give an idea of what his shoe leanings are. So I think it’s safe to assume that his “really cool sneakers” are indeed “really cool”.

    *The most awesome fashion whore ever.

  30. Matt the Dragon on July 18th, 2008 4:02 pm

    Yeah, I call this ELM disease

    Guess we’re in need of a lot of PINE reporters…

  31. DMZ on July 18th, 2008 4:04 pm

    I had Leon Roberts 78 as my highest non-Ichiro non-Jay season. Jose Guillen’s 07, for all the press it got, wasn’t that great.

  32. joser on July 18th, 2008 4:08 pm

    Oh, I know. this and this is why I asked.

    (These are both from the hilarious Ichiro fashion/quote thread from Spring Training, which can be found by picking the first result when googling for “ichiro’s oversized jock” — just as I predicted in that thread. And no I’m not kidding.)

    Aside: Holy Crap! We have comment editing. Wooo hooo!
    Keanu voice: Whoa. it works.

  33. msb on July 18th, 2008 4:26 pm

    Jose Guillen’s 07, for all the press it got, wasn’t that great.

    that’s ’cause he was so busy being a good clubhouse influence.

  34. msb on July 18th, 2008 4:42 pm

    ahh, Ichiro!

    more and more and more

  35. pinball1973 on July 18th, 2008 4:44 pm

    Ichiro’s problem is of course ONLY with the sportswriters, and history has little good to say about this odd breed, and very little that is complementary.
    The typical sportswriter is clearly not now a real reporter. (In earlier ages they were obviously not reporters in any way, but publicists.) As others have mentioned, they do not seem very interested in the players, sometimes not even in the game, but in getting a job their writing might lead one to assume they dislike, even despise, done quickly.
    Ichiro, having dealt with the voracious, even more fomulaic (but hugely enthusiatic) Japanese sports press, knows that to be the player he is he has to keep his own public image under his own control. Not speaking English to these faux-reporters allows him control of the interview process.
    Nomo likely set the example of using this technique, BTW.

    And there clearly is a weird, weird, unexplainable air of racism in LOTS of what is written and said about Ichiro, more than all the other Japanese MLs. I can’t understand it, but it bowls me over in its unmistakable tone.
    I think it’s like, in a calmer and more covert way, what Japanese press reports did to Randy Bass.

    Love you, Ichiro! You aren’t Willie Mays, but you make me and my sons just as happy being who YOU are!

  36. mln on July 18th, 2008 5:23 pm

    To be frank, many of these sportswriters bring to mind the Infinite Monkey Theorem in terms of the quality of their writing.

  37. metz123 on July 18th, 2008 5:39 pm

    The whole Ichiro in CF vs RF is very context dependent. When the M’s had Guillen in RF last year, Ichiro’s value to the team was increased because he played CF. This year, when we have tried several loaves of bread in RF, it really didn’t matter if he played RF or CF because where ever he didn’t play Reed/Bloomquist was going to.

    The fact that he’s currently playing RF for the rest of 2008 better not lock the brain trust into looking only for a CF for next season though. It is probably “easier” to find a better than replacement RF for next year and slide Ichiro back to CF, than vice versa. Ichiro’s flexibility is a great benefit to the team.

  38. James T on July 18th, 2008 5:45 pm

    Can he truly be called a great player when his career slugging percentage is .432 and his career on base percentage is .378?

    The latter is a very good mark but not great. The former is unexceptional. I know that Suzuki brings fielding and baserunning value to the table. And there’s no definite standard for “great”. But as a fan of another team, the Red Sox, I wonder if I can take the emotion out of it more easily than you guys. I thought Dwight Evans was an absolutely great player in the early to mid 80′s. But I realize now that he was a bit short of that.

  39. gwangung on July 18th, 2008 6:05 pm

    Can he truly be called a great player when his career slugging percentage is .432 and his career on base percentage is .378?

    How come you’re looking at only HALF of what makes a player great? Can you be truly called a fan if you’re looking at only half the picture?

    I know that Suzuki brings fielding and baserunning value to the table.

    Then why are you ignoring them? That’s exactly what you’re doing, you know.

  40. Breadbaker on July 18th, 2008 6:23 pm

    What? No love for Al Cowens?

    Yes, that is a joke.

    As great as Ichiro was in 2004, let me put in two cents for the 2001 season. Ichiro had 32 win shares in 2001, compared to 27 in 2004 (and 33 last year, but he was a centerfielder, which actually skews his win shares). I’m not a great lover of that stat, it points up a basic point, which is that in 2004, Ichiro’s feats didn’t result in wins, whereas in 2001, with he and Boone filling in for the void left by A-Rod’s defection and Buhner’s injury, his feats did result in many, many wins.

    My vision of 2004 is watching Ichiro run all over the place fielding hard line shots hit off Travis Blackley, Matt Thornton, Clint Nageotte and Cha Seung Baek, as they proved themselves not to be the coming rotation for the team that we had not traded in 2002 or 2003 because they were too valuable for the future. And Scott Spiezio, Greg Dobbs and Justin Leone doing bad imitations of major league third basemen while Rich Aurilia and Jose Lopez proved that we didn’t have a shortstop on the roster. Three catchers (Ben Davis, Pat Borders and Miguel Olivo) batting under the Mendoza Line, with Davis posting a 253 OBP (I’m excusing Rene Rivera’s .000 in one game).

    I’m not denying that the stats show that Ichiro was better in 2004, but dredging up the memory is painful. No painful memories of 2001 before October at all.

  41. DMZ on July 18th, 2008 6:25 pm

    Win shares is a terrible, terrible stat. It’s like putting all the other stats in a blender, adding a lot of filler, and then pulsing until it’s unrecognizable. It’d the definition of Dave’s anti-knowledge.

  42. James T on July 18th, 2008 7:54 pm

    Is fielding really half the game? ARod was something like 90 runs better than a replacement player on offense last year (according to BP). Is anyone ever 90 runs better than replacement in the field? I don’t think so.

    How do different metrics see Suzuki’s fielding anyway. A couple stats are cited at the beginning of this thread and they seem to see him as better than average but not hugely so.

    Is there a fielding metric which says he brings enough value to make his SLG% and OB% combined with his fielding numbers seem great as a package?

    His baserunning numbers are very good. They were terrific a few years (2006, IIRC) and one or two years his caught stealings pretty much negated the value of his steals.

    You really have to show that his brings terrific value to his team as a fielder or I don’t see how the word ‘great’ can be applied. Great is pretty much a superlative term. Willie Mays was great. Ted Williams was great.

  43. James T on July 18th, 2008 8:07 pm

    Dewan’s Fielding Bible had Ichiro as the 5th best rightfielder in MLB in 2006 but only the 10th best centerfielder in 2007.

    2006 Rightfielders
    Winn +22
    Rios +20
    Drew +19
    Giles +18
    Suzuki +17

    2007 Centerfielders
    Beltran +25
    Andruw Jones +24
    Coco Crisp +22
    Granderson +21
    Nook Logan +21
    Amezaga +21
    Jacques Jones +13
    Jerry Owens +11
    Juan Pierre +5
    Suzuki +4

  44. Dave on July 18th, 2008 8:16 pm

    Do you think Manny Ramirez is great? Because Ichiro is clearly better.

  45. James T on July 18th, 2008 8:26 pm

    I think Manny is almost the opposite of Ichiro. Manny is no longer a great hitter but, for his career, was. Manny was an acceptable right fielder with the Indians but then a lousy left fielder with the Red Sox. The overall package may have been a “great” player for a year or two with the Indians. If Dewan’s numbers are reasonable representations, Suzuki’s a very good player but great would seem to be hyperbole.

  46. Dave on July 18th, 2008 8:31 pm

    Since arriving in 2001, Ichiro is 10th in baseball in runs created. The guy ahead of him are Pujols, Rodriguez, Helton, Berkman, Bonds, Ramirez, Abreu, Vlad, and Chipper. Ichiro is obviously the best defender of the ten, and once you adjust for defense, he easily gets up to 5th.

    So, unless you definition of great is “top four players in the game”, it’s not hyperbole. Ichiro’s a great player.

  47. James T on July 18th, 2008 8:37 pm

    Is or was? Is he still producing at anything like the rate of 2001 or 2004?

  48. Dave on July 18th, 2008 8:49 pm

    Is.

    He hit .351/.396/.431 last year – it was the 3rd best year he’s had as a Mariner.

  49. James T on July 18th, 2008 9:01 pm

    If you look at his VORP totals from over at BP, his offense, while still obviously very good, doesn’t look quite as impressive as from that runs created comparison you cited.

    Year–VORP-Rank in MLB
    2001–50.9–35th
    2002–33.6–61st
    2003–28.5–78th
    2004–69.6–10th
    2005–34.3–59th
    2006–46.4–40th
    2007–63.5–16th
    2008–24.5–49th (so far)

  50. Dave on July 18th, 2008 9:39 pm

    There’s a reason I don’t use VORP.

    And, look, you obviously have your mind made up already, so believe what you want.

  51. Rtheb on July 18th, 2008 10:58 pm

    Ichiro’s OPS is a joke. We lose so many low scoring games and the only thing this guys does is slap infield hits. For $90 million I think we should expect a player to do some real damage. Not slap infield hits and wait for the next guy to do pick up the slack. Oh wait. Ichiro steals basis when were down or up by several runs. He actually stole a base against the Tigers when in the top of the 6th when were down 8-1 earlier this season. This guy is a farse. Nick Markakis is having a far superior year. He should have been an all star. Let’s get some impact bats!

  52. gwangung on July 18th, 2008 11:26 pm

    Is fielding really half the game?

    I dunno. Where do everyday players spend the time when they’re not on offense?

    You’re not impressing me with such sloppy thinking. You’re better when you’re actually using numbers.

  53. joser on July 18th, 2008 11:36 pm

    There’s no “kind of” about it. When mouth-breathing morons need someone for their microcephalic kids to laugh at, they find people like Rtheb.

    Oh, and James T — love Manny’s play tonight. Running around in circles, losing your hat, and then falling on the ball = genius fielding. Doing the worm / limbo to try to get the ball out from under ass = comedy gold. Even by Manny ass-over-teakettle standards, that was extreme.

    All in all, though, I’ll take less humor and more Ichiro, thanks.

  54. James T on July 19th, 2008 7:09 am

    I’m not sure what Manny has to do with Suzuki, Joser. Both you and Dave seemed to think that because I identify myself as a Red Sox fan, that attacking Manny is somehow defending Suzuki.

    Why? I didn’t say Manny is better. I didn’t say Manny’s a great player. I think he might have been great for a year or two with Cleveland but has had so much negative fielding value with the Sox that, even before his decline of the last year or two, it put him below that threshold.

    As for fielding being half the game because your team is in the field half the time, that’s silly. What about pitching? Most of the time any player is standing in the field his pitcher is the prime determinant of whether runs are given up. IIRC, when Bill James was trying to figure out how to correctly value fielding, pitching and hitting, his best guess was that it was clearly a smaller value than hitting. But neither UZR, cited at the start of this thread, nor Dewan’s numbers were calling Suzuki a superlative fielder. Dewan seemed to think he was much closer to that as a right fielder, anyway.

    As to my mind being made up, well, yeah, pretty much. I think Suzuki’s a very good player and I wish he was on the Red Sox. I’d love for them to have him. But I don’t think he’s a great player. On a runs created per game basis, his numbers are very good and certainly that of someone I’d like to have on the Red Sox but not great. I’ve got the rc/game numbers from Shandler somewhere and I’ll try and dig them up.

  55. DMZ on July 19th, 2008 7:29 am

    In 2004, just on the basis of his offense, Ichiro was rated the 10th-best player in the major leagues by VORP, which doesn’t include defense.

    Are there only nine “great” players in the majors at any time?

  56. James T on July 19th, 2008 7:46 am

    Of course not, but there are certainly fewer than 35, 61, 78, 59, 40 or 49. Where’s the line? That’s very hard to say, and it’s a subjective judgement.

    Again, please don’t infer from my not wanting to put the label of “great” on him that I don’t think he’s a very good player. I’d love for him to be on the Red Sox. I think he’s an all star quality player. But there are, what, 60 all stars? They’re not all great players.

  57. andrew23 on July 19th, 2008 8:02 am

    I think you need to look at RC/27. Ichiro leads off, so he benefits from a lot of extra PAs.

    I think the standard is 15 PA for every drop down in the lineup, so if you give a guy who usually hits 3-4-5 an extra 8 years * 15 PA *(2, 3, or 4), there are probably some guys in the 11-20 range that leap ahead of Ichiro.

    Might want to take a haircut off that number (10-15%) to account for days off/injury.

    Also, I was wondering: do you plan on trying to simulate a season with the 25 man that you create?

  58. joser on July 19th, 2008 10:42 am

    Uniqueness doesn’t make you great. Being very good doesn’t make you great. But being very, very good and unique? If it doesn’t make him great, it certainly makes him legendary. Twenty years from now there are going to be a lot of people proudly saying they watched Ichiro play (and a fair number of them probably aren’t watching right now, just like all the “long-time Red Sox fans” who couldn’t tell you anything about any Red Sox team prior to 2004.)

  59. Benne on July 19th, 2008 12:03 pm

    Ichiro’s OPS is a joke. We lose so many low scoring games and the only thing this guys does is slap infield hits. For $90 million I think we should expect a player to do some real damage. Not slap infield hits and wait for the next guy to do pick up the slack. Oh wait. Ichiro steals basis when were down or up by several runs. He actually stole a base against the Tigers when in the top of the 6th when were down 8-1 earlier this season. This guy is a farse. Nick Markakis is having a far superior year. He should have been an all star. Let’s get some impact bats!

    (points and laughs)

  60. metz123 on July 19th, 2008 12:27 pm

    funny thing is….back when I was more baseball ignorant I used to say the same things about Wade Boggs when he was playing for the Sox. I used to fall for the “arguments” made by sportswriters that….

    Boggs hit a lot of home runs in BP, thus he should try to hit more during games.

    Boggs was being selfish by getting on base at a .450 clip. He should have been doing “more for the team” and “hitting for more power”.

    Boggs needed to “alter his batting strategy based on the game situation” and walk less with runners on base.

    Boggs left it to others to pick up the slack because he didn’t “go to right field and move the runner along”.

    If you don’t have the tools to analyze the game, you can really fall for these sorts of arguments because they make anecdotal sense. It’s not until you truly grasp the concept that, not making an out is the primary result of any plate appearance, that you start to really appreciate the great hitters. Lucky for me that Rob Neyer, ESPN and the web came along to open my eyes.

    Toss in Ichiro’s defense and running skills and he’s truly a superstar. He’ll just never satisfy those that think that only sluggers are superstars.

  61. metz123 on July 19th, 2008 12:34 pm

    oh yeah…btw – Boggs OPS during those years averaged around .900, he averaged 40+ doubles a year, and walked around 100 times a season. Yet, the boston sportswriters never wrote a positive thing about the guy.

  62. James T on July 19th, 2008 6:06 pm

    Actually, I think the boston writers treated Boggs very similarly to how Suzuki has been treated in some ways. At first there was a near chorus of cheers at his amazing ability to hit liner after liner. Then, the novelty of it wore off and they took for granted his 200 hits and 100 walks a season and wanted to see something different. I guess it would have been impossible to write another article about his amazing discipline at the plate. So that ability was taken for granted. But, by most accounts, he was a bit of a jerk. And he was the most annoyingly cautious baserunner in the history of MLB. He was like the opposite of what Whitey Herzog wanted to see. Boggs seemed to feel that being thrown out once canceled out 20 instances of being safe when you went for an extra base. But, still, the man was getting on base almost 300 times a year for about 5 years there.

  63. James T on July 19th, 2008 6:25 pm

    Alright. I found those runs created per game from Ron Shandler’s 2008 Baseball Forecaster. I think it’s the same as RC/27.

    Anyway, Shandler has the numbers for the last 5 years. And his formula takes into account stolen bases and caught stealing.

    Suzuki’s rc/game the last 5 years were 5.03 in 2003, then 6.07, 5.17, 5.15 and 5.62. So his average per year is 5.41.

    Going laboriously and probably stupidly (there must have been an easier way) through Shandler’s book and looking at every batter, I found 32 other players who were full time players those five years who had higher rc/game averages than Suzuki.

    There were another 25 guys who had higher rc/game averages than Suzuki but who missed significant playing time through injury or who had not arrived in MLB until the last few years (Drew, Fielder, Giambi, A. Gonzalez, Carlos Guillen, Holliday, Ryan Howard, Derek Lee, Mauer, Morneau, Hanley Ramirez, Utley and even Varitek among them.)
    Here are the 32 guys with higher rc/game than Suzuki’s 5.41 over the last 5 years who were full timers all those years(these are these guys’ averages over that 5 year period):

    Bonds – 10.53
    Albert Pujols – 8.55
    David Ortiz – 8.25
    Helton – 8.18
    Manny Ramirez – 7.94
    Berkman – 7.72
    ARod – 7.63
    Chipper Jones – 7.53
    V. Guerrero – 7.30
    Dunn – 7.18
    Miguel Cabrera – 7.16
    Abreu – 6.95
    Delgado – 6.94
    Beltran – 6.77
    Teixeira – 6.69
    Posada – 6.62
    Giles – 6.60
    Glaus – 6.37
    Aramis Ramirez – 6.31
    Burrell – 6.31
    Kent – 6.26
    Konerko – 6.05
    Carlos Lee – 5.98
    V. Martinez – 5.91
    Jeter – 5.87
    A. Jones – 5.86
    Soriano – 5.82
    Ibanez – 5.65
    Mike Lowell – 5.64
    Michael Young – 5.55
    Damon – 5.52
    Mike Cameron – 5.47(injured but included)

  64. hark on July 19th, 2008 10:04 pm

    James–

    What formula for RC does Shandler use? The basic formula…does he include stolen bases, park factor, the 2002 formula? Big question.

    Secondly, now subtract from those RC/27 RA/27. What are the defensive contributions of those players? Ortiz, Bonds, Cabrera, Giles, Glaus, Jeter, Soriano, Ibanez, Lowell, Young (and I like Young), Lee and Dunn are all average fielders at best, mediocre if we’re being honest and downright terrible if we’re being brutal. Not to mention that the contributions from regular DH’s are not on the same level as contributions from position players.

  65. James T on July 20th, 2008 6:26 am

    There’s no park adjustment in Shandler’s calculation of runs created per game. And, I’m not sure what the “2002 formula” is.

    Here’s Shandler’s formula, from the glossary of his book. It’s so long, I’m going to break it into two parts.

    Numerator:
    (H+BB-CS)X(Total bases+(.55xSB))/(AB+BB)

    Denominator:
    ((AB-H+CS)/25.5)

    And, you’re right that a lot of those players above Suzuki aren’t great defenders. But, the UZR numbers cited for him at the start of this thread weren’t exactly great, either(0, +2 and -1 from 2004-2006). And Dewan saw him as a very good right fielder but nothing special as a centerfielder. How many of those guys would Suzuki actually pass, as it were, with an all encompassing measure of contributions?

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