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The Ichiro problem

May 17, 2013, 8:55 PM EDT

ichiro getty Getty Images

Derek Albin at Pinstriped Bible looked at the numbers and concluded that Yankees right fielder Ichiro Suzuki isn’t likely to be much more productive than he has been thus far in 2013. The 39-year-old has a .239/.280/.328 line in 145 trips to the plate, putting him on pace for the worst season of his career by far.

To answer the title’s question: Ichiro’s certainly done as a regular, and truthfully has been finished since 2011 with the exception of one month. The other outfield candidates are simply better: Brett Gardner gets on base more frequently and is an elite defender, there’s reason to be cautiously optimistic about Vernon Wells for the rest of the season, and Curtis Granderson needs no rationalization.

The Yankees signed Ichiro to a two-year, $13 million contract back in December on the heels of a productive second-half tenure — including the post-season — with the club after coming over from the Mariners. But if he continues to struggle offensively, it wouldn’t be hard to see the Yankees reducing his playing time, especially now that Granderson is back.

  1. zakharovsa - May 17, 2013 at 8:58 PM

    Thanks, Randy Levine and Lonn Trost, buying into three good weeks and gambling that Ichiro would get his 3000th hit as a Yankee!

    It’s not huge money but this could become one of the dumbest contracts in recent memory. You know he’ll get more playing time than he deserves because he’s ICHIRO!!!

    • kjericho43 - May 17, 2013 at 9:22 PM

      If Wells keeps it up with his Yankee pixie dust, they’ll sign him to an extension too. They love their old guys….not wise.

  2. vallewho - May 17, 2013 at 9:17 PM

    I’m not sure if Ichiro can accept being a role player, maybe playing 2-3 a week. I can see him retiring, if he does not improve by the all-star-game.

    • duckthefodgers - May 17, 2013 at 9:24 PM

      Seppuku is another option.

    • cackalackyank - May 18, 2013 at 9:56 AM

      I think the more honorable thing would be to see if Seattle would take him with some cash for Ibanez or another older player, this way Ichiro ends his MLB career as a Mariner.

      • vallewho - May 18, 2013 at 1:33 PM

        I think the boat from Seattle has sailed….last summer in fact. I can understand that Ichiro wants to get 3K hits in MLB, but at this point it’s just a question of whether his desire to get there is greater than his pride. By all accounts, Ichiro is all about honor, so I don’t know if his willing to toil 2 more years as a role player just to get there. In my view, he has nothing else to prove. He’s one of the best ever to play the game. Anywhere.

  3. icanspeel - May 17, 2013 at 9:19 PM

    In Ichiro’s defense he is in a 1-16 slump and prior to that was hitting .260+ with an OPS almost 100 points higher. Sure those numbers still aren’t great, but less of a problem until the last 6 games.

  4. dondada10 - May 17, 2013 at 9:21 PM

    I’m still wait and see with Vernon Wells. Having Ichiro around, even at his bloated salary, isn’t the worst thing in the world.

  5. JustMeMike - May 17, 2013 at 9:36 PM

    As Baer correctly points out Ichiro has been disappointing. No denying it. But he’s not even close to being the biggest disappointment in baseball.

    Mike Moustakas, Dan Uggla, Jeff Keppinger, Pedro Alvarez, Miguel Montero, Rickie Weeks, Danny Espinosa, Adam Dunn, Ike Davis, and Aaron Hicks are all batting under .200.

    But if you are going to discuss bad seasons and big contracts – start with B.J. Upton.

    At least Ichiro has batted .276 with runners on base, and .265 with RISP. These stats are miles ahead of Upton’s stats of 111 an 077 in the same categories.

    • sirrealrainman - May 17, 2013 at 9:52 PM

      Josh Hamilton also says “hello… argh, damn allergies.. can’t see.. lights. too. bright. hello?”

      • badintent - May 18, 2013 at 12:01 AM

        The Boobirds at Texas are still affecting him , .. he has a emotion teddybear addiction that requires weekly sessions with Dr Phil……………………………………………..

    • henryd3rd - May 18, 2013 at 5:31 AM

      Let’s not leave out Josh Hamilton and Hanley Ramairez’ contract

  6. swu32733 - May 17, 2013 at 10:01 PM

    Ichiro’s game is predicated on speed. When he lost a step several years back his game went south. But what a great player he was for years with the Mariners.

  7. badintent - May 18, 2013 at 12:02 AM

    We smacked down Mariners with guys that I’ve never heard of. More injuries ? Who cares. Queen of the West. MORE PIXIE DUST !! The Force is with us .

    • badintent - May 18, 2013 at 12:03 AM

      my bad Blue Jays,

    • mustang6984 - May 18, 2013 at 3:33 AM

      Yea, I believe you might want to re-check that…you won 7 games to our 4, but scores were not that far out there, and we did win 4 from you.
      This year…well…yea…so far…I think we have the edge.

  8. coryfor3 - May 18, 2013 at 3:18 AM

    So what’s the problem? Sit him or trade him.

    • mustang6984 - May 18, 2013 at 3:33 AM

      No one will want him now, not with his salary. He’s on borrowed time.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - May 18, 2013 at 9:39 AM

        He’s making $6.5M a year, and this year would be prorated so even less. Combine that with the Yanks possibly picking up some/half the salary, so you’d pay about $3M a year. That’s a lot?

      • 18thstreet - May 18, 2013 at 10:29 AM

        I’m with Church.

        Question: does Ichiro have value as a platoon player/defensive replacement/etc.? Because, in the best case scenario, a player with very limited skills can still be VERY useful. In that scenario, you’ve traded for Dave Roberts.

  9. mustang6984 - May 18, 2013 at 3:30 AM

    As a Mariner fan since day one, I have seen a lot of players come and go. Ichiro was just the last in a line (not overly long) of players who’s ability overshadowed their egos. Around 2011, Ichiro’s ability started to slip below his ego.
    It was rumored as early as 2007 that his ego was getting in the way of clubhouse civility, and that eventually led to the decision by then manager Mike Hargrove to leave the Mariners in mid-season. Additionally, there were ball players who chose to leave rather than negotiate for new contracts due to Ichiro’s lack of team “chemistry”.
    His entire time with Seattle he refused to ever speak English, even though everyone knew he could. One of the most irritating things for Seattle was when he went to New York and proceeded to give an interview in English. He also was annoyed last year by his demotion in the batting order, and purposely (in many eyes) tanked some of his at bats. This was pretty well confirmed when he was grudgingly put back in the lead-off slot, and did better…though not as well as before. To have him then go to New York and say that he would play anywhere and do what ever was asked to help the team was just more evidence that he was all about ego first in his last days-weeks-months-years as a Mariner.
    Ichiro’s lack of personality and “warmth” was as destructive to the Mariner organization as any other problems they experienced over the last 6-8 years. Evidence of how the rest of the team took his departure was pretty blunt. Starting with the very first game he played for New York, the Mariners went on their best winning streak of the year last season, winning ELEVEN (11) straight games. So much for disappointment.
    This year, one of the early topics of discussion from EVERYONE was how much better this clubhouse was gelled and how much earlier they became a team. Further, it was noted that the cohesiveness of the team this year was better than it had been in many years. Only MAJOR factor here is the absence of Ichiro.
    Good luck with him…you’re gonna need it. he isn’t missed here by those who know the game, the team and the facts!

    • ghstmnnfrst - May 18, 2013 at 2:17 PM

      How much of Ichiro’s lack of “clubhouse chemistry” and leadership could be attributed to ambivalence bred from a lack of winning culture and general ineptitude of the front office to put a winning product on the field the last several years?

      Back when he first came to the States and a couple years after, the team won and things were kosher. Several terrible trades and losing seasons later, everything (including Ichiro) was different. His treatment toward the end of his Seattle tenure was mostly justified, but is it that big of a leap to conclude that his move to New York and the difference in his attitude might be rooted in a strong underlying desire for a ring?

      Egos aside, he is a professional competitor. He is a lead off hitter and always has been. It’s a joke that in Seattle he was batting third with little to no help in the lineup. I think he knew it and played his way out.

      I’m not saying that’s completely the right thing to do in that situation, but I can hardly blame him.

  10. bigmeechy74 - May 18, 2013 at 6:24 AM

    Everything works out for the Yankees so it doesn’t really matter. They just keep screwing up the draft, keep giving out bad contracts, and are injury plagued. Doesn’t matter. They will just have one of their 38 year olds dominate for no reason. Just like how they pick up retreads like Lyle Overbay and vernon wells (who had the worst on base % of any corner outfielder in over 100 years in 2011 and wasn’t much better in 2012) and they are great FOR NO REASON. While other teams have been acquiring young talent and waiting for them to develop, the yankees just keep getting older and less talented but they still win. It’s so annoying. Basically their lineup is Cano and a bunch of garbage with a staff of a bunch of 38 year old guys that can’t hit 90 on the radar gun and they ARE 10 GAMES OVER .500!!!!! HOW?????

    • pauljgoff - May 18, 2013 at 7:17 AM

      Pitching and defense. It’s been the formla for winning since the game was invented

      • bigmeechy74 - May 18, 2013 at 9:12 AM

        First of all… that’s nonsense. Hitting is every bit as important. But that’s not the point. Do you think the Yankees are a great defensive team? Or do you think there pitching staff is great? They have CC (who is losing velocity), a 41 year old guy, a 38 year old guy (who is quite good I admit), an over-hyped as a prospect hughes, and then…. David Phelps? Ivan Nova? What’s your point? And Why do you think the Yankees are a better defensive team than almost any other team in MLB? Just saying a cliche “pitching and defense” without thinking or backing it up doesn’t work for me. Sorry.

      • cktai - May 18, 2013 at 10:03 AM

        Actually, the Yankees pitching and defense has been pretty good. Their RA/9 is the second lowest of the entire AL. Meanwhile, in scoring runs, they rank below average. In this case, it really is defense and pitching that helps the Yankees win. Just don’t ask me how.

    • 18thstreet - May 18, 2013 at 10:31 AM

      I’m saying this as a somewhat bitter Red Sox fan (not that bitter, because my team’s doing so much better than I expected). But, really, how are they doing it? Have they played a weak schedule so far?

      Pitching, defense, whatever — that lineup, outside of Cano, has a bunch of role players. I don’t understand it at all. And the runs have to come from somewhere. Cano is not that good a hitter to explain it.

      • bigmeechy74 - May 18, 2013 at 3:24 PM

        Yeah I know. THey are winning again today. The immortal David Phelps is pitching a gem. Why wouldn’t he?

    • louhudson23 - May 18, 2013 at 3:03 PM

      Simple answer is the game is played by baseball players on a field,not by digital computations on a spreadsheet….keep in mind that the Yankees have sucked(relatively) for(relatively) long periods of time in the mid 60’s to mid 70’s and again through much of the 80’s with no pixie dust in sight …..but a winning culture exists by infecting those who breathe it and suddenly see and feel the game in different way…….you can’t quantify the human spirit or capability…..or foresee the end result of a long season of baseball ……best to enjoy it while it happens and know that the game is still the best thing about baseball…….

      • bigmeechy74 - May 18, 2013 at 3:24 PM

        Yeah I understand that but a perfect example is today Phelps is dominating again. If this entire squad switched uniforms with the mariners or twins etc they would be 10 games under .500. I mean look at the rays pitching staff then look at the yankees. How on earth do the yankees pitch better??? Culture doesn’t explain pitching and hitting. I mean vernon wells? Lyle overbay? Serious?

    • anxovies - May 20, 2013 at 7:52 AM

      They been feeding you sour grapes?

  11. stellabrock - May 18, 2013 at 8:13 AM

    I’m sure you weren’t complaining when he was batting .280 last week. But no because he’s in a slump for acouple games, that means he’ll have a bad year.

  12. jdrew506 - May 18, 2013 at 10:02 AM

    Doesn’t really matter what works for you or doesn’t work for you. The fact of the matter is most people have been saying the same thing about the Yankees for the last 5-10 years yet they keep on being one of the best teams in baseball each and every year. People will say yet are not cause they don’t win the series every year however most teams, owner, manager would probably sell their souls to have the history and attitude that the Yankees bring to the game. Most people who claim to know the game predicted the Yankees to be really bad this year coming in 3rd to last place and Toronto to come in first, and all we heard on here before the season was Doom for the Yankees. Wonder where those people are now…

  13. ballparkprints - May 18, 2013 at 10:24 AM

    He’s good for business, we don’t know what the Japanese TV media is paying the Yankees for broadcasting rights. I also see Japanese tourist at the games (I have a 41 game plan) I go to. Baseball is a business and in the end it comes down to $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$, not what we the fans think

  14. genericcommenter - May 18, 2013 at 7:37 PM

    3000 seems like a real long-shot, unless he’s going to hang on as a part-time player 5 years into his 40s like Omar Vizquel. The biggest reason he even has a chance at 3000 hits at this point is because he swings at everything. If he gets 3000 with the Yankees, that’s a bad thing because it means they sucked enough to be able to give him that many at-bats. At this rate he would have to play 2 more full-time seasons after this one. Is there even a team in baseball that has a spot for a 40 year-old who only gets on base 28% of the time and has zero power.

    Oh, this also reminds me of all the comments here during the Winter and all the downvotes I got from commenters who said the Yankees needed someone like Ichiro who “gets on base” and not a guy who hits a lot of home-runs with a OPS 200 points higher..When this guy hasnt gotten on base in 3 years.

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