More importantly, while Ichiro is a better fielder and base-runner than Swisher, he’s actually not as good a hitter. In the years that he hit .350 and up, he was roughly as good a hitter as Swisher, not better. In the years when he hit .315 or lower, he plainly wasn’t as good. The simple reason for this is that a .250 average with 35 doubles, 25 home runs, and 80 walks is far more conducive to generating runs than a .315 average, 25 doubles, nine home runs, and 40 walks, even with 40 stolen bases thrown in.
I’m not trying to take anything away from Ichiro. He’s a likely Hall of Famer, and I would be tickled if he hung around long enough to pick up his 3000th hit in this country to go with the 1,278 he had in Japan. However, we should understand that his central skill, an ability to (at his peak) slap .350-.370 in singles, combined with the durability to play 162 games a year, has a certain amount of value, but as right fielders go it really isn’t anything special in terms of offensive production; it looks better than it is.
If you like OPS, Ichiro has a career .784, Swisher .814. If you want that league- and park-adjusted, it’s 113 for Ichiro, 118 for Swisher. If you prefer wOBA it’s .339 for Ichiro, .359 for Swisher. True Average? .284 for Ichiro, .288 for Swisher.
As my old friend Dick Nixon used to say, let me make one thing perfectly clear: I am not claiming that Swisher is a better player than Ichiro, just a comparable hitter who arrives at the same place via a different set of ingredients. Comparable hitting plus better baserunning and defense makes Ichiro the better all-around performer. However, now we have to remember the seven-year age difference between the two. All-Around Ichiro is peak Ichiro, and peak Ichiro may or may not be gone. Swisher is still at his peak, though we can’t be sure for how long he’ll remain there.