Thursday, February 14, 2013

Meet A Prospect : Ichiro Suzuki

Ichiro Suzuki, or more commonly known as just Ichiro, was born on October 22nd, 1973 in Kasugai, Japan where he went to High School at Aikoudai Meiden High School in Nagoya, Japan. With a frame a little on the smaller side at 5'11" and 170 lbs Ichiro has made his mark by slap hitting and wreaking havoc on the base paths as he marches towards hitting 3000 hits in the Major Leagues after having 1,278 hits while playing in Japan. We have Ichiro for two more years as he marches towards 3K so we may as well get to know him, wouldn't you think?

Ichiro started his High School career in Nagoya Japan as a pitcher, not an outfielder, which would explain why he has such a strong and accurate arm. He still did hit the cover off the ball even in High School compiling a .505 batting average with 19 years in his High School career. That was not enough to be drafted until the final round of the Japanese Amateur Draft mainly because of his small frame in 1991. From 1992-1993 Ichiro spent his time in the Japanese League team Orix Bluewave's farm system and finally got his shot in 1994 at age 20 and responded by setting a Japanese League record 210 hits in the lead off spot becoming the first ever Japanese player to ever hit more then 200 hits in a season. He also hit .385 that season en route to his first of seven consecutive Japanese League batting titles while hitting 13 home runs and stealing 29 bags. Ichiro would win his first of three consecutive Pacific League MVP Awards that season as well. He followed up the rookie campaign in 1995 by leading his Bluewave team to their first pennant in twelve years hitting 25 home runs with 80 RBI's and stealing 49 bases. Ichiro was posted by his Bluewave team in 2000 even though he was still a year away from free agency and the Seattle Mariners won the rights to negotiate with him with a bid of $13 million. In November of that year Ichiro signed a three year contract worth $14 million ending a nine year career in the Japanese League that included 1,278 hits, a .353 career batting average, and seven Gold Glove awards.

Ichiro made his Major League debut in the states with the Mariners in 2001 but not without a little controversy as the Mariners issued him the #51 jersey which was previously worn by Randy Johnson. Ichiro made Mariners fans say "Randy Who?" when he hit a rookie record 242 hits in the season with a .350 batting average while stealing 56 bases. He also had two separate hitting streaks of 23 games and 25 games respectively in his rookie campaign. Ichiro also became the first rookie to ever lead all players in voting for the All Star Game and later added a Rookie of the Year award and a Most Valuable Player award. In 2002 Ichiro compiled 208 hits and followed that up in 2003 with 212 more hits becoming the first Mariners player to ever have consecutive seasons of 200 hits. Ichiro broke a 84 year old record held by George Sisler when he hit 262 hits in a season passing Sisler's 257 hit campaign. Ichiro followed up the 2005 campaign with his second worst season in his career only getting a meager 206 hits becoming the first player in Major League history to get 200 hits in each of his first five seasons in the majors.

2006 started off well with Ichiro as he got to represent his home country Japan in the inaugural World Baseball Classic in March. Ichiro's Japanese team would win the World Baseball Classic by beating Cuba 10-6 in the finals. Ichiro finished the WBC with twelve hits, one home run, seven runs, and four stolen bases. Ichiro would ride that momentum into the 2006 Major League season when he hit a Major League leading 224 hits pushing his career total to 1,354 hits in his six year career topping Wade Bogg's previous record for highest hit total in a six season span. Ichiro signed a five year extension in 2007 with the Mariners, his final year before free agency, worth a staggering $90 million with payments deferred through 2032(no that is not a typo). Ichiro collected 218 more hits in 2008 making that his eight consecutive season with at least 200 hits tying a 107 year old record set by Wee Willie Keeler. On July 29th Ichiro hit his 3000th hit with his Japanese League and Major League careers combined being the  youngest player to ever do it surpassing Ty Cobb.

2009 started off with the second World Baseball Classic and Ichiro was once again representing his homeland of Japan. Ichiro struggled a lot in this tournament but did deliver the game winning hit in the championship game against Korea in a 5-3 Japan win for their second World Baseball Classic title. A bleeding ulcer put him on the disabled listed for the first time in his career to start the 2009 season and in September of that season hit his 2000th Major League hit becoming the second fastest player to ever do it behind Al Simmons. He also hit his 9th consecutive 200 hit season when he ended up with 225 hits in 2009 while leading the Major Leagues in hits once again. Ichiro would finish the 2012 season with 214 hits making that the 10th consecutive season reaching that plateau, which has never been done in Major League history. Ichiro also won his 10th consecutive Gold Glove that season tying Ken Griffey Jr, Andruw Jones, and Al Kaline and only trailing Willie Mays and Roberto Clemente with twelve for the most Gold Gloves for an outfielder in Major League history. Ichiro broke a Mariners all time record in 2011 when he hit his 2,248th career hit passing long time DH Edgar Martinez for the team record. 2011 was not a great season for Ichiro as it was the first time in his career that he did not make the All Star team, hit for a .300 average, and did not get the 200 hit plateau. The decline of Ichiro begins.

Ichiro hit his 2500th career hit with the Mariners in 2012 but later requested a trade mid season and was traded to the New York Yankees. Ichiro responded by hitting safely in his first 12 games as a Yankee including his first at bat as a Yankee against his former Seattle Mariners team in his former home, Safeco Field. In 67 games for the Yankees Ichiro batted .322 with a .340 OBP with 28 runs scored, 27 RBI's and  5 home runs. The Yankees recently re-signed Ichiro to a two year deal for 2013 and 2014 worth $13 million and will be chasing 3000 hits in pinstripes through his age 41 season.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Sorry for the Capatcha... Blame the Russians :)