And that storyline is this: Will 2012 mark the continued decline of one of the greatest pure hitters of our time, Ichiro Suzuki, a man whose astounding career has been wasted on a mostly moribund team?
After all, Ichiro will make $17 million in the final year of his contract. He’s 38, and his always-impressive numbers took a dive the last couple seasons, last year bottoming out with a .272 average and a .310 on-base percentage, both career lows. Those are barely acceptable numbers for a power hitter, much less a player like Ichiro, the man who made the single sexy again (and who once told the New York Times, “I think there’s sexiness in infield hits because they require technique”). He finished last year with only 30 extra-base hits, including only five home runs.
...“Ichiro is his own coach,” Mariners hitting coach Chris Chambliss told FOXSports.com. “He doesn’t really confer with me, and why should he? He’s had a great career without me. Ichiro knows what he’s doing. He knows how to play the game. He knows how to hit. A lot of the adjustments he makes are on his own.”
This adjustment, in theory, ought to make him less of a singles hitter and more a middle-lineup guy who drives the ball. And, in theory, it ought to help a Mariners offense that was the majors’ worst in 2011, scoring a league-low 556 runs and hitting a league-low .233.
“He’s swinging the bat great,” Chambliss said. “He’s hitting the ball all over the field with authority. And that’s what we want. His lifetime average is .326 — we want Ichiro to hit .326. Whether he does it from one stance or another stance is not a factor… His stance looks different, and everybody’s making a big deal over it. But he’s been a great hitter for a long time, and he’ll continue to be, because he knows how to get the bat on the ball.