When the Yankees acquired Ichiro Suzuki from the Mariners in an unforeseen trade yesterday, they made leaps and bounds in replacing Brett Gardner for the remainder of the year. At worst, the Yankees have upgraded their defense and gained some much needed speed. At best, they received a superstar who will be rejuvenated by a pennant race and playing for a first place playoff-bound team – Ichiro’s only appearance in the playoffs came in his rookie year in 2001.
What the Yankees also did when Ichiro donned a Yankees uniform was put themselves in the history books. Last night, the Yankees became just the third team EVER to have three players with at least 2,500 hits play on the same team at the same time. They join the 1927 Philadelphia Athletics (Ty Cobb, Eddie Collins, Zack Wheat) and the last team to do it, the 1928 Athletics (Cobb, Collins, and Tris Speaker).
Besides Ichiro (2,534 hits), of course, are Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez. Jeter has amassed 3,212 hits while Arod has 2,871, and will reach the 3,000 hit plateau sometime next season. All together between the three superstars there are 8,617 hits.
Ichiro is one of the greatest players to ever play the game – his stats are just mind boggling. If you were to take his numbers from his seven years in Japan and add them to this US numbers, he would have over 3,800 hits and would likely be able to approach Pete Rose’s record. From 2001 to 2010, Ichiro collected at least 200 hits every season, which is a record. In 2001, Ichiro burst on to the scene by hitting .350 (242 hits) and 56 stolen bases. His 262 hits in 2004 broke an 84 year record held by George Sisler for hits in a single season. That year, Ichiro hit a career best .372. Simply put, Ichiro is one of the best pure hitters to ever play. The ability to hit almost any pitch thrown at him in any location makes Ichiro very dangerous. Since he has a running start out of the box and good speed to begin with, he’s that much more difficult to throw out on the basepaths.
Obviously, Ichiro isn’t what he was. However, many people believe he became complacent playing for the last place Mariners every year. His defense and speed are not diminished by any means. Scouts still clock him at just over 4 seconds from home to first – not what he was in his prime – but still fast. The Yankees hoped to catch lightning in a bottle with Pudge Rodriguez – didn’t work. They tried the same with Lance Berkman – didn’t work.
Something tells me it WILL work with Ichiro. Getting away from the cavernous Safeco Field and into the friendly confines of Yankee Stadium I think will help him. At Safeco this year, Ichiro hit just .215. On the road in 2012, he is a .296 hitter. I strongly believe he’ll be more than a .261 hitter from this point forward. I think that when it is all said and done, Ichiro will contribute greatly to this Yankees team. He wants to win, and win in October. If he can play even remotely close to how he used to for New York, the Yankees are well on their way. The fans hope that between Jeter, Arod and Ichiro, there are plenty more hits to come.
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