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One, Singular Sensation

Joe Pos on Ichiro!

Ichiro’s singles percentage is higher than Ozzie Smith’s. It’s higher than Jason Kendall’s (yes, it is). It’s higher than that of Luis Aparicio, Bert Campaneris, Bill Buckner and Kenny Lofton. It’s not the all-time mark — other very good hitters such as Richie Ashburn, Stuffy McInnis and Lloyd Waner have higher singles percentages. But in fact, those are probably the ONLY three good hitters who have higher singles percentages — maybe Maury Wills, depending on how good a hitter you think he was.

So, what’s wrong with a single? Nothing. But it ain’t a double. Ichiro’s .430 slugging percentage is certainly low for a .331 hitter, especially in today’s big-hitting era. Jef Cirillo slugged .430. Hal Morris slugged .433.

So, mainly what Ichiro gives you are lots of singles — line drives, hard grounders up the middle, bloops, bleeders through the infield, high-choppers. Are these aesthetically pleasing? Absolutely. Are these valuable? You bet. Are these more valuable than walks? Yes, of course, well, somewhat. But do a barrage of singles without many walks put Ichiro in the luxury line of hitters with Albert Pujols or Miguel Cabrera or Josh Hamilton or Robinson Cano or those sorts of guys?

I’d have to say no.


1 OldYanksFan   ~  Sep 27, 2010 11:34 am

Let's see:
mentions Singes: check
mentions SLG: check
mentions Walks: check

Does NOT tell us Ichiro's OBP!
How good Singles, SLG and walks are can only be looked at relative to OBP... right? Ichiros career OBP is .376... quite excellent... although it certainly could be higher considering his BA of .331. He has a career OPS/OPS+ of .807/117.

I'm surprised to see his career wOBA is only .355. Considering an OBP of .376 and his SBs, I would think it would be higher considering his speed and that I believe FanGraph's wOBA takes SBs into consideration. Why is it 'so low'?

Looking at Ichiro's OPS/OPS+ and wOBA would tell you he's a very nice, but not great offensive player. While looking at Ichiro as a ball player, his great D and amazing arm have to be taken into consideration.

I think of Ichiro as 'Great' because he is both well rounded and unique.
Would a team of 9 Ichiro's be a great team?
An OPS+ of 117 says no.... but my gut says yes.

I ask.... How would a team of Ichiro's stack up against the 2010 AL East?

2 Shaun P.   ~  Sep 27, 2010 1:01 pm

[1] The problem is context, OYF.

Ideally, a high OBP should be due to hits (of all kinds) plus walks. In a vacuum, his .376 career OBP is quite excellent. But then you look at this career batting average of .331, and that's an isolated patience of .045. That's just not great.

Just to compare, unfairly, Jose Molina's career isolated patience is .044. To use someone thought of as a better hitter, Cano's career isolated patience is .037. That's why Ichiro!'s career wOBA (which I don't care for, personally) is so low.

I'm pretty sure a team that fielded a lineup and bench of all Ichiro!'s would probably do OK - fielding and pitching concerns aside - but they'd win fewer games than the Yanks, Rays, Red Sox, and probably the Blue Jays. The lack of power would come back to haunt them, especially when singles became outs and their OBP went down (as has happened to the real Ichiro! in 2003 and 2008, for example).

3 OldYanksFan   ~  Sep 27, 2010 2:00 pm

[2] hmmmmm... I absolutely understand the concept of isolated patience, but I'm not sure it factors into the wOBA formula.

Lets say you have 2 players:
(a) has a BA of .280 and an OBP of .376
(b) has a BA of .331 and an OBP of .376
They have Identical numbers in EVERYTHING ELSE...
(exept BA.)

Player (a) obviously has a better isolated patience.
Are you telling me he ALSO has a better wOBA???
I don't think so.

Theoretically, wOBA was SUPPOSED to be a better stat then OPS/OPS+ because it put more emphysis on OBP (as opposed to OPS, which puts the same emphysis on SLG and OBP). As you may know, most tatheads agree that OBP (not making outs) is more important then SLG (how many bases). One belief is that OBP should have 1.7 times the value of SLG. Another one says 1.4 imes .

So in theory:
(a) has a OBP of .400 and a SLG of .400
(b) has a OBP of .300 and a SLG of .500

They BOTH have an OPS of .800....
but (a) SHOULD have a higher wOBA
(and is theoretically more valuable)

Do you agree?

4 monkeypants   ~  Sep 27, 2010 2:33 pm

[3] Of course, the relevant comparison is not between the .280/.376 hitter and the .331/.376 hitter, but between the .331/.376/.430 corner OF and other corner OFs in his same era. On that ground, Ichiro is just not that great---even taking into account his defense and baserunning. Very good? Heck yeah. Great? Maybe not. HoF? In my book, no way. But that's just me.

5 Jon DeRosa   ~  Sep 27, 2010 2:44 pm

[2] You have it reversed, the ideal OBP is comprised entirely of hits, because hits are more valuable than walks. But lots of hits are based on luck, so walks project better to be consistent year to year. If you see a guy w/ an OBP entirely based on BA, then you raise a red flag because he might not do it again. But if comparing two OBPs, same number of PA, the one based on more hits is the superior value looking backward.

[4] I can think of Manny, Sheff & Vlad off the top of my head as guys I'd rather have than Ichiro. But I'm not coming up w/ any other guys right away. Did you have anyone in mind?

6 Jon DeRosa   ~  Sep 27, 2010 2:45 pm

[5] ...But if comparing two IDENTICAL OBPs...

7 Sliced Bread   ~  Sep 27, 2010 3:18 pm

great headline, Alex. I love Ichiro's brand of baseball consistency (singles and steals in bunches) and consider him absolutely Hall of Fame worthy. Pos does present some eye-opening analysis, but it doesn't diminish my appreciation of him as a flatout hitter.
Step up to the plate, son, keep your eye on the ball, hit what they throw you, and run yer ass off. Then, when you see an opening, run yer ass off again. Do this at a high level of consistency for 10 years, and I say you're a player that future generations should get to know and appreciate. Konnichiwa, Cooperstown. Simple as that.

8 Sliced Bread   ~  Sep 27, 2010 3:31 pm

[1] it's an interesting question: how would a lineup of Ichiros fare in the AL East. I think they'd run wild on the likes of the Yanks and Red Sox, and would create havoc in the division. But alas, [2] Shaun P. is probablyright. In the Land of The Longball, the Ichiros would likely struggle. But I think they'd be a helluva lot more fun to watch, and root for than a lot of these teams.

Any team in the past decade would be better to have an Ichiro on it. He's a superstar in my book

9 monkeypants   ~  Sep 27, 2010 4:17 pm

[5] I made an offhand comparison between Paul O'Neill (career OPS+ 120) and Ichiro the other day. I am pretty convinced O'Neill was more valuable in his peak seasons than Ichiro, and their overall career value is probably closer than most would guess. If Ichiro is more or less comparable to the Paul O'Neills of the baseball world, then he is not a HoF player, in my opinion.

Some other comparisons: Magglio Ordonez, Adam Dunn, Brian Giles (higher career oWAR than Ichiro), Tim Salmon, Ryan Klesko, JD Drew.

Ichiro is probably better than all of these guys taking everything into consideration, but again, not by that much.

10 RIYank   ~  Sep 27, 2010 4:47 pm

I'm late to this, but I'm pretty sure a line-up entirely composed of Ichiros would outscore the Yankees and Red Sox. My reasoning is maybe too simplistic. Ichiro has a higher OPS than the Yankees as a whole have. Of the two components of OPS, OBP is more important than SLG. So he's more productive than a slugger who has the same OPS. Finally, a very evenly talented line-up is more productive than a line-up with much more concentrated hitting talent.

Any flaws in this that I just missed?

11 Shaun P.   ~  Sep 27, 2010 4:50 pm

[5] Fair point. The ideal OBP is all hits BUT only when a batter never makes an out, or almost never. I'm not sure where "almost never" ends though, but that's another question for another day.

I was trying to say: "If a guy has a .376 OBP, its better if his batting average is .276 and he walks a lot, than if his average is .336 and he doesn't walk much, because the first guy is likely to keep his OBP at .376; the second one is not."

I'm also not sure that the .276./376 guy has provided less value via OBP than the .336/.376 guy, but now we're in "Communism was just a red herring" territory. The .376 OBP is great, however one gets it.

12 Shaun P.   ~  Sep 27, 2010 5:11 pm

[10] Works for one game, possibly (of course leaving aside all defensive concerns).

But some of the Ichiro!s' SLG would undoubtedly fall over time, and the more balanced offensive attack would, I think, ultimately prevail over a season of games.

"Of the two components of OPS, OBP is more important than SLG. So he’s more productive than a slugger who has the same OPS."

Right, but every Yankees' regular but two already tops Ichiro!'s OPS, so that gives the Yanks an advantage at (in theory) 7 slots. DH may be questionable - Thames doesn't DH all the time - and of course something Posada doesn't catch, but still, that's a significant advantage.

The other two Yankees are of course Jeter, who is beat by his SS Ichiro! - and Brett Gardner. Gardner has a very similar OPS to to Ichiro!, .758. But Gardner's OBP is actually higher than Ichiro!'s - .382 - and thus by your logic Gardner is also better than Ichiro. That's a +8 advantage, if you will.

It all goes out the window when the bench comes into play, but how often does that happen anyway? =)

13 RIYank   ~  Sep 27, 2010 6:38 pm

I may have misunderstood. I thought the lineup of Ichiro's were supposed to be his average career numbers. If it's this year's numbers, then the all-Ichiro lineup would be much worse than the Yanks. But if it's his career numbers, then that would be quite a bit better.

Gardner's numbers are not close to Ichiro's career numbers. When two players are close in OPS, you should use the higher OBP as a kind of tie-breaker (unless you want to get all serious and recalculate using the proper OBP/SLG weighting, which is too much trouble for me to bother with).

I honestly can't see how an all-Ichiro lineup could be good for one game but not for a season. Why on earth would his SLG start to decline???

14 Diane Firstman   ~  Sep 27, 2010 11:58 pm

Then again, it seems like Ichiro COULD hit for power/XBH if he wanted to ... his bat control is so good, and he CAN hit the ball out of the park when needed.

15 Diane Firstman   ~  Sep 28, 2010 12:04 am

The guy's career GIDP rate is 4%, a career OPS of 117 ... I'll take him in my lineup ... I'd bat him 3rd.

16 Diane Firstman   ~  Sep 28, 2010 12:12 am

A lineup of 9 2010-version Ichiros would average 5.016 runs per game.

17 joejoejoe   ~  Sep 28, 2010 3:19 am

[3] Here are two real life examples from the Mariner's 116 win season in 2001 when Ichiro was both AL Rookie of the Year and AL MVP. Both players won the Gold Glove too.

Ichiro Suzuki .350/.381/.457 .838 126
Mike Cameron .267/.353/.480 .832 123

I remember Ichiro-mania. Mike Cameron-mania not so much.

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