Monday, October 29, 2012

Offseason Decisions: Ichiro Suzuki

And I tip my hat to you, sir.

I wouldn't mind if Ichiro Suzuki returned as a part-time player, but I don't want to count on a guy that had an OPS+ of 86, 95, and 84 in his last 2+ seasons in Seattle, as a regular player. I understand the idea that a player can become disinterested and unmotivated being on a bad team, but I just don't buy into it. When we acquired Ichiro I hoped that a move to a contender made a difference, but I'm not going to lie and say I expected it to. The fact of that matter is, if the game itself can't motivate them, not to mention a salary of $17 million, then I can't help but question that player's ability and/or makeup. I'm not a professional athlete, so I could be totally off on this point, but it's really hard for me to believe in somebody like that.

Another thing that gives me pause about Ichiro being an everyday player is that he just turned 39, which to be honest isn't that big a problem since he'd only command a one year contract... two at most. But we're talking about a guy who's value is largely wrapped up in his legs. I mean, if Ichiro can't steal 30+ bases in a season, and cover as much ground in the outfield, then his value to a team goes down quite a bit. And we mustn't forget that Brett Gardner should be healthy next season to pick up that part of the game for the Bombers.

Although Suzuki is unlikely to bat .300+ again, he still hit .272 and .283 the past two seasons. So there's certainly reason to like him in that regard. But look at his on-base percentage the past two seasons... .310 and .307, which is way off from his career OBP of .365. Looking at his numbers you may think his walk rate was the issue. Ichiro's career BB% is 5.9%, and his 2012 number was a major outlier at 3.3%. If he'd had the same BB% in 2012, his OBP would have been .321 thanks to walking 14 more times. So walks were not the only issue.

When I said "walk" this is what popped into my head.

The other 44 points missing from his OBP simply come from not getting as many hits. Unfortunately his batting average on balls in play, along with his line drive percentage, tells me that it wasn't a matter of being a unlucky. To be frank, age is catching up to him, as it would to any professional athlete (except for Derek Jeter, apparently). So even if Suzuki was able to increase his walk rate to normal levels, would you really want a guy that hits .280/.321/.390 (.390 was his slugging percentage in 2012, which was higher than in 2011) in the regular starting lineup? I mean, Eduardo Nunez hit .292/.330/.393 this past season, and he even played a bit in the outfield, so he could be almost the same guy as Suzuki anyway... and Eddie is already in the organization in 2013.

Ichiro has apparently said that he'd like to return to the Yankees, and that money is not an issue. The question in my mind is "would he come back as a part-time player?" If he's looking for a full-time gig in New York then perhaps he should see if the Mets are interested, because at that point I'd rather thank him for what he did in 2012 and wish him the best elsewhere.

No thanks, I think I'd rather retire.

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