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Saturday, July 28, 2012

McCarron: Catch newly acquired Yankees outfielder Ichiro Suzuki while you can before he hits HOF

Sure, Ichiro Suzuki is not in his prime anymore. He’s not the same hits machine with otherworldly bat control who annually made All-Star teams, challenged for batting titles and made Seattle swoon.

But when you watch Ichiro in his new, pinstriped threads, it’s worth remembering that you are seeing one of the game’s all-time greats, a no-doubt Hall of Famer who may be 38 years old, but may still have a little something left, too. Let’s put it this way — he’s declined, obviously, but this isn’t Willie Mays as a Met.

That’s true. Mays was better…much better.

Forget any handwringing over Ichiro’s sinking stats or whether he’s much of an upgrade. Trading two minor-leaguers for him is a no-lose move for the Yankees, and they are getting a guy who can at least still play the outfield and perhaps generate some offense with his legs. There are so many Yankee fans these days who fret over whether all those Bronx Bomber home runs will dry up in October, so celebrate a guy who might manufacture threats with speed or a single.

Heck, maybe he’ll even add some homers. That short porch in right field at the Stadium could help get Ichiro a few quick home runs, rejuvenating him. And maybe playing for the contending Yanks can get him to a wider audience than 12 years of 10 p.m. start times in the Pacific Northwest ever could.

“He’s going to be on nationally televised games a lot over the next two months,” Joe Girardi said. “That’s the way of the Yankees. I think it can do a lot.”

Repoz Posted: July 28, 2012 at 07:03 AM | 64 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: hof, yankees

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   1. bfan Posted: July 28, 2012 at 07:54 AM (#4194387)
it’s worth remembering that you are seeing one of the game’s all-time greats, a no-doubt Hall of Famer


Was this a teen-age intern in the Yankees marketing department that wrote this? I think 5 years past retirement, people are going to see a life-time OPS+ of 113 with uninteresting career totals on a corner outfielder and realize that is they vote him in, they have surrendered huge ground in setting standards. There is an enormous mystique surrounding Ichiro, but I assume that fades over time. I also assume that as time passes, more and more HOF voters are of the modern age, who recognize that walks and extra-base hits are important too. I spent 10 years learning to look beyond a player's BA; I am guessing HOF voters have gotten (or in 5 years, will have gotten) to that stage too.
   2. cercopithecus aethiops Posted: July 28, 2012 at 08:05 AM (#4194388)
And I suspect that five years after Suzuki is retired, we'll be reading a lot of articles about how it's the Hall of Fame, not the Hall of WAR. Only this time, those articles will be written by people who understand (and even like) WAR. Dude led the league in hits seven times, including the all-time single season record. Won ten gold gloves. He's getting in.
   3. Swedish Chef Posted: July 28, 2012 at 08:08 AM (#4194389)
I think 5 years past retirement, people are going to see a life-time OPS+ of 113 with uninteresting career totals on a corner outfielder and realize that is they vote him in, they have surrendered huge ground in setting standards.

They did that already when they elected Jim Rice, Ichiro is a full 10 WARs better than Rice in four fewer seasons.
   4. Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: July 28, 2012 at 08:34 AM (#4194392)
And I suspect that five years after Suzuki is retired, we'll be reading a lot of articles about how it's the Hall of Fame, not the Hall of WAR.
If you give Ichiro credit for his NPB performance, he's a no-doubt Hall of Famer on the merits. All of the claims that Ichiro is not a Hall of Famer rest on judgments that NPB performance does not count toward a Hall of Fame case.
   5. Ron J Posted: July 28, 2012 at 08:56 AM (#4194395)
MCOA I honestly don't see his NPB career as adding much to a HOF case. I know I'm a distinct minority, but what I see is nothing remarkable by value in context, just a player whose skill set was unusually well suited to transition to MLB.

But it won't matter a damn. The voters at large see the same things WAR does. He'd be an unusually poor hitter for a corner OF, but he adds an unusual amount of value in other ways. And he's got storylines galore. He'll breeze in.
   6. Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: July 28, 2012 at 09:15 AM (#4194400)
Ichiro put up an OPS between 900-1000 (once 1005) for seven consecutive years in Japan, with world-class defense and baserunning. I admit I haven't run the numbers (and couldn't without a lot of help), but eyeballing the numbers, he was one of the 2-5 best players in Japan every year for seven years.
   7. Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: July 28, 2012 at 09:22 AM (#4194401)
Ichiro's quickie OPS+ (not park adjusted), year to year, in NPB:

162, 177, 155, 151, 148, 166, 169

Put that in a AAA+ environment, add in how amazing Ichiro's defense and baserunning would have been in his early 20s, and I don't see how that doesn't add significant value to a Hall of Fame case.
   8. Dale Sams Posted: July 28, 2012 at 09:30 AM (#4194405)
If Ichiro had been eligible last year, he would have breezed in...I have no idea what the pile-up will look like 5 years after he retires, but i suspect the writers will break their wrists pencilling him in.
   9. RB in NYC (Now Semi-Retired from BBTF) Posted: July 28, 2012 at 09:35 AM (#4194406)
I think 5 years past retirement, people are going to see a life-time OPS+ of 113 with uninteresting career totals on a corner outfielde
Whether you think Ichiro is a Hall of Famer or not, OPS+ is just about the worst measure of his value, since it totally ignores both his base running and defense.
   10. Enrico Pallazzo Posted: July 28, 2012 at 09:39 AM (#4194407)
Not to mention that it's heavily OBP-skewed.
   11. Darren Posted: July 28, 2012 at 09:51 AM (#4194411)
Why would writers look past the basic stats and then focus on the one (OPS+) that does the worst job measuring Ichiro's value? If they are willing to go beyond BA/HR/RBI/Runs, then they're probably willing to check out his defense, either by considering his 10 gold gloves or his stellar numbers in the defensive stats. And they're probably also going to check out his base running. Or they may just skip straight to his WAR.

When they do, here's what they'll see: a player who was denied entry to MLB through much of his peak, but still managed to: compile 54+ WAR, a respectable number for a borderline/peak HOFer.

Without ever giving him credit for what he did in Japan, but simply by noting that he wasn't allowed into MLB during those years, voters should be able to see a great sabermetric case for Ichiro (in addition to the great one based on traditional numbers).

He's getting in and it won't take him long.
   12. PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth) Posted: July 28, 2012 at 10:06 AM (#4194415)
They did that already when they elected Jim Rice, Ichiro is a full 10 WARs better than Rice in four fewer seasons.


This is what I love about Jim Rice. Everyone's favorite player is qualified by the Jim Rice Standard. Juan Gonzalez could go into the Hall of Fame; he had pretty much the same career as Rice.

Ichiro will cruise in on his first ballot. Well, probably; if he hits the ballot the same time as Jeter and Chipper, he might have to wait a year.

Actually, scratch that. If that happens Chipper will probably wind up waiting a year.
   13. Darren Posted: July 28, 2012 at 10:07 AM (#4194416)
What do you guys think about Ichiro apparently falling off a cliff at 37? Isn't it a bit surprising that a player with his set of skills fell apart so quickly and so completely? I guess 37 is getting up there, but I would have expected something a little more gradual.
   14. Dale Sams Posted: July 28, 2012 at 10:17 AM (#4194417)
What do you guys think about Ichiro apparently falling off a cliff at 37? Isn't it a bit surprising that a player with his set of skills fell apart so quickly and so completely? I guess 37 is getting up there, but I would have expected something a little more gradual.


Willy Mays 41, 131 OPS+
Willy Mays 42, 81 OPS+
   15. Darren Posted: July 28, 2012 at 10:24 AM (#4194420)
Yeah, but... he was 42 and a very different type of player.
   16. Repoz Posted: July 28, 2012 at 10:45 AM (#4194435)
What do you guys think about Ichiro apparently falling off a cliff at 37? Isn't it a bit surprising that a player with his set of skills fell apart so quickly and so completely?

Hasn't losing a step cost Ichiro's infield singles to fall from 55 a year down to 40 done him in?
   17. Ron J Posted: July 28, 2012 at 10:59 AM (#4194441)
MCOA OK I'll buy it. I'd never bothered to do an OPS+, just eyeballed him against known commodities.
   18. BDC Posted: July 28, 2012 at 11:13 AM (#4194447)
I dunno, 37 is not young for any kind of player to start declining significantly. Lots of great players do well at 37 and after, but there are also counter-examples. Max Carey dropped from .343 to .231 at age 36 and never really came back. Willie Keeler lost 50 points in batting average permanently after he turned 35 (part of it due to a deadball downturn in the league, but some of it a real decline). Harry Hooper lost 60 points in BA at age 37, and a couple of years later he was back in the PCL. George Sisler was out of baseball after age 37 – just to cherry-pick some Hall of Famers with similar skills to Ichiro.

EDIT: Check that: Sisler like Hooper went back to the minors for a year, hitting .303 in the International League at the age of 38. I wish more top players would take the Rickey Route and do that nowadays.
   19. bookbook Posted: July 28, 2012 at 11:29 AM (#4194456)
Mike Schmidt lost a step at age 38. A-Rod's lost a few. Ichiro had a bad year last year, but his decline is overstated by crazy Safeco in 2012.
   20. Monty Posted: July 28, 2012 at 12:22 PM (#4194475)
I think 5 years past retirement, people are going to see a life-time OPS+ of 113 with uninteresting career totals on a corner outfielder


I don't think that's what most Hall of Fame voters look at. They look at their memories of The Amazing Ichiro.
   21. John DiFool2 Posted: July 28, 2012 at 12:41 PM (#4194485)
Amazed that Ray hasn't shown up here yet. <climbs back down in tank and securely locks the hatch>
   22. valuearbitrageur Posted: July 28, 2012 at 12:47 PM (#4194489)
What do you guys think about Ichiro apparently falling off a cliff at 37? Isn't it a bit surprising that a player with his set of skills fell apart so quickly and so completely? I guess 37 is getting up there, but I would have expected something a little more gradual.


I think that clear proof of steroids is what keeps him out.
   23. Ron J Posted: July 28, 2012 at 01:24 PM (#4194502)
#18 As I mentioned in another thread, Iron Man Joe McGinnity pitched in the minors till he was 54. Won 207 games in the minors after compiling a (questionable) HOF career and blowing his arm out
   24. AROM Posted: July 28, 2012 at 02:31 PM (#4194545)
"When they do, here's what they'll see: a player who was denied entry to MLB through much of his peak, but still managed to: compile 54+ WAR, a respectable number for a borderline/peak HOFer."

Denied entry to MLB makes it sound like he's Jackie Robinson, that MLB had a policy against Japanese people or something. He was denied the chance to play for Seattle only in the same way Mark Teixiera was denied the chance to play as a Yankee for much of his peak.

That said, it is obvious to me that Ichiro was roughly a .350, 5-15 homer MLB equivalent guy with great speed and defense for about 7 years before he signed with Seattle. And if I were voting, I would take that into account while voting yes on him.

I don't advocate for Saduhara Oh in Cooperstown, even if he was HOF quality. No more than I think Hank Aaron should be in Japan's HOF. I support Ichiro as the first player who should go into the HOF's of both countries.
   25. The Yankee Clapper Posted: July 28, 2012 at 03:39 PM (#4194603)
If you give Ichiro credit for his NPB performance, he's a no-doubt Hall of Famer on the merits.

He's probably not going to get any credit - this isn't the Basketball Hall of Fame which recognizes international accomplishments - but he doesn't need any. It's sufficient that Ichiro's NPB service be regarded as a neutral reason to not penalize him for a somewhat short MLB career. Ichiro's 10 year hit total, stolen bases and great defense stand on their own. He's going to be easily elected.
   26. rlc Posted: July 28, 2012 at 04:58 PM (#4194665)
There is an enormous mystique surrounding Ichiro, but I assume that fades over time.


If he makes one moderately notable defensive play for the Yankees in the postseason, I'm sure you will be wrong.
   27. Jarrod HypnerotomachiaPoliphili(Teddy F. Ballgame) Posted: July 28, 2012 at 06:49 PM (#4194732)
Denied entry to MLB makes it sound like he's Jackie Robinson, that MLB had a policy against Japanese people or something. He was denied the chance to play for Seattle only in the same way Mark Teixiera was denied the chance to play as a Yankee for much of his peak.


But Teixeira was at least playing in the major leagues. Not to equate Ichiro's situation with Robinson's, but MLB did (and still does) have a policy against young Japanese players. They can't be drafted as young American players are, and they aren't eligible for free agency as other international players are. Regardless of ability, Japanese players are subject to restrictions on which league they can join.

No governor stood in a schoolhouse door to keep Ichiro out, but neither was he able to play in the US for several years during his prime. It should be acknowledged that he demonstrated MLB All-Star-level talent for more than fifteen years rather than the ten or so years he actually played in that league.

I'm agreeing with AROM, in other words, but from atop a higher horse.
   28. BDC Posted: July 28, 2012 at 07:26 PM (#4194747)
If he makes one moderately notable defensive play for the Yankees in the postseason

I can see it now: Texas Leaguer just over second base, Ichiro races in from left field to backhand it, spins 360 degrees and pegs it to Jeter running full tilt into the third-base dugout, Jeter flips it over his shoulder to nail the runner coming home.
   29. AROM Posted: July 28, 2012 at 08:21 PM (#4194795)
"But Teixeira was at least playing in the major leagues. Not to equate Ichiro's situation with Robinson's, but MLB did (and still does) have a policy against young Japanese players. They can't be drafted as young American players are, and they aren't eligible for free agency as other international players are. Regardless of ability, Japanese players are subject to restrictions on which league they can join. "

Tazawa signed with the Red Sox out of college instead of signing with a Japanese team.
   30. Walt Davis Posted: July 28, 2012 at 11:24 PM (#4194930)
I find it interesting that although the value of defense and baserunning in WAR are frequently questioned if not downright dismissed, folks seem to have no problem accepting Ichiro's WAR value. (Note, I'm fine with people taking Ichiro's baserunning/defense at "face" value, I just get annoyed when this skepticism is trotted out only when the poster wants to.)

Anyway, he's breezing in and at this point his MLB career has been long and strong enough that I'm OK with it even if I probably wouldn't vote for him myself. But I still don't give any credit for his NPB performance any more than I give Edgar or Boggs credit for minor-league performance. Maybe Ichiro could have been an all-star in MLB -- maybe that's even probable -- but he wasn't, he was playing in a minor league. I understand he didn't have a lot of choice in the matter but them's the breaks.

#18 -- how about some comps from the last 60 years? :-) Seriously, 37 in the 20s and 30s was probably like 40 today. More modern comps would be:

Gwynn -- still hitting 320 at 41 (defense and baserunning long gone by then!)
Carew -- closer, hit 295 at 38 and 280 at 39, he was walking more at that point
Boggs -- didn't slip below 300 until 39, hit 290 39-41
Matty Alou -- had fallen apart long before 37
Moises Alou -- he could probably still hit an empty 300 ... and he was as entertaining on the basepaths as Ichiro :-)
Lofton -- a bit up and down but hit 301 from ages 36-40

Ichiro in mid-30s was probably still relying more on speed than any of these guys except maybe Lofton (who was probably an equal all-around player to Ichiro but won't sniff the HoF).

Lofton's an interesting comp. He doesn't seem to have been drafted out of high school so he really didn't have a choice to play pro ball then. He was more basketball than baseball in college (his "choice" although I'm not sure if he did have or would have had a baseball scholarship) and got drafted in the 17th round (draft and follow?). He didn't make the majors as a full-time player until 25, just 2 years younger than Ichiro. In that first year he had a 107 OPS+ and 6 WAR so it's probably a fair guess that he could have held his own for 1-2 years before his debut despite non-exciting minor-league numbers. I'm not suggesting he had earned that shot yet but, in retrospect, his defense and baserunning would seem to mean he'd have at least been Cameron Maybin. Nobody, especially not me, is even remotely suggesting extra credit for Lofton.

There are all sorts of things beyond a player's control that cut into their MLB careers and I think we delve too much into speculative territory when we start giving credit as if they were MLB players. I know many of you are comfortable with it but obviously the simplest (not necessarily best) solution is to judge on MLB only.

Or I can get on my Rico Carty = Edgar Martinez bandwagon. :-)
   31. Jarrod HypnerotomachiaPoliphili(Teddy F. Ballgame) Posted: July 29, 2012 at 12:26 AM (#4194971)
Tazawa signed with the Red Sox out of college instead of signing with a Japanese team.


Hadn't heard that. Interesting. He wasn't drafted out of high school by NPB and joined a corporate league, where he did well for a couple of years (no college, as far as I can tell). Wikipedia picks up the story:

In September 2008, Tazawa announced his intention to skip the NPB draft in and to pursue a career with a Major League team.[4] During the 2008 season, his manager Hideaki Okubo encouraged him to attempt a career in Major League Baseball without first playing with a Nippon Professional Baseball team. Had Tazawa joined a Japanese professional team, he would have had to either wait nine years to become a free agent, or to hope that his team auction the right to negotiate with him through the posting system.[1]

To avoid conflict between Japanese and U.S. teams, Tazawa asked NPB teams not to select him in the October 30 draft, and the 12 teams complied with the request. However, the teams passed a rule requiring any amateur player who signs overseas to sit out two to three years before he can join a Japanese team; high school players would have to sit two years, while college and corporate players three years.

While Tazawa attracted attention of American scouts, NPB announced that the major leagues of two nations had a gentlemen's agreement against signing Japanese amateurs, and general manager Brian Cashman, whose New York Yankees had a partnership agreement with Yomiuri Giants, said his team considered Tazawa hands off.[1] However, Rob Manfred, MLB’s executive vice president for labor and human resources denied that any gentleman's agreement was in place regarding the signing of Japanese amateur players.

On December 4, 2008, Tazawa signed with the Boston Red Sox, reportedly for $3 million over three years.[5] After his debut on August 7, 2009, he became the third Japanese player, after Mac Suzuki and Kazuhito Tadano, to play in Major League Baseball without first playing professionally in Japan.[6]


A rather unusual scenario that I think bolsters my point. Even post-Ichiro, there was considerable resistance and a number of hoops for Tazawa to jump through. All the more reason to give number 51/31 pioneer credit!
   32. Eric J can SABER all he wants to Posted: July 29, 2012 at 12:59 AM (#4194987)
I find it interesting that although the value of defense and baserunning in WAR are frequently questioned if not downright dismissed

This strikes me as conflating two separate components. The issues with defensive measurements are a very worthwhile point to bring up, but I'm not aware of any particular problems with the baserunning evaluations in WAR; they seem rather straightforward as far as I know.
   33. Walt Davis Posted: July 29, 2012 at 03:55 AM (#4195026)
I'm not aware of any particular problems with the baserunning evaluations in WAR;

Fair enough but see McCoy v Barney 2012. :-)
   34. shoewizard Posted: July 29, 2012 at 05:13 AM (#4195029)
Walt, I don't think there is any doubt at all that if Ichiro had played his entire career in the states, he would have ended up with over 70 WAR, and possibly as high as 80. While I understand not wanting to give him credit for not playing in the states, to me this means that in order to be consistent, you need to forget about giving credit to guys that missed time due to World War 2, and yes, guys that only got to MLB mid career in the late 40's, early 50's due to the color barrier.

Furthermore equating Ichiro starting off at 27 in MLB with Boggs or Edgar is off base too. Ichrio literally hit the ground running, and was great from his rookie season. Wade Boggs got to play in the majors THREE YEARS YOUNGER at age 24. Yes, he was great as soon as he arrives, but he arrived THREE YEARS YOUNGER. Not a comparable situation at all.

Edgar DID get to play in the majors prior to age 27. He had three stints and 280 PA's spread out over ages 24-26. He hit .268 with 2 homers, and a 93 OPS+. I don't think Ichiro would have struggled to hit for average in the majors at age 24.

So neither of these comparisons means much when comparing Ichiro.

If Ichiro is not in your HOF, thats your choice. It would be a lesser HOF without him. But we won't have to worry about that. He is getting in.



   35. CFiJ Posted: July 29, 2012 at 05:32 AM (#4195031)
One does not have to equate Ichiro with Jackie Robinson to recognize that MLB teams weren't even looking at Japanese pitchers until 1995, weren't even looking at position players until Ichiro himself proved they could play when he joined in 2001, are still hesitant to court Japanese players eligible for the NPB draft, and still do not openly compete with Japanese teams for the attention of star high school and college players.

   36. Ray (RDP) Posted: July 29, 2012 at 09:09 AM (#4195047)
"And I suspect that five years after Suzuki is retired, we'll be reading a lot of articles about how it's the Hall of Fame, not the Hall of WAR."

But WAR is what people make his case with.
   37. shoewizard Posted: July 29, 2012 at 09:19 AM (#4195048)
But WAR is what people make his case with.


There are a lot of other ways to make his case, both statistically and aesthetically.

   38. CrosbyBird Posted: July 29, 2012 at 09:44 AM (#4195055)
Walt, I don't think there is any doubt at all that if Ichiro had played his entire career in the states, he would have ended up with over 70 WAR, and possibly as high as 80. While I understand not wanting to give him credit for not playing in the states, to me this means that in order to be consistent, you need to forget about giving credit to guys that missed time due to World War 2, and yes, guys that only got to MLB mid career in the late 40's, early 50's due to the color barrier.

I agree, and that's why I don't give war credit or NeL credit in HOF discussions.

I do not think Ichiro needs anything more than MLB credit to have a reasonable HOF case by the numbers if you consider him one of the best defensive players in the history of the sport. If he's just very good, he's a lousy HOFer by the numbers alone but a perfectly reasonable numbers + story case. (I consider myself a small hall guy, and I'd vote for Ichiro if he retired today.)

Ichiro's now inside the top 200 for PA, so he can't really be said to have a remarkably short career anymore. That really was the last piece that was holding him back for me (when this discussion came up around the start of the 2009 season). His NPB numbers didn't matter to me back then and they don't matter now.
   39. Ray (RDP) Posted: July 29, 2012 at 01:05 PM (#4195141)
What do you guys think about Ichiro apparently falling off a cliff at 37? Isn't it a bit surprising that a player with his set of skills fell apart so quickly and so completely? I guess 37 is getting up there, but I would have expected something a little more gradual.


It's not surprising to me when any player exhibits a serious decline at age 37. And this is what I tried to explain to people a few years ago, who were bizarrely arguing that Ichiro would keep churning out his typical season into his 40s.

He played in a minor league until he was 27. Then he had 10 very good years, on balance, before cratering. And I _do_ hold bad years against a player's HOF case. I don't see any other logical way to do it. A player hurts his teams in bad years just like he helps his team in good years.

He is classic HOVG.
   40. Ray (RDP) Posted: July 29, 2012 at 01:23 PM (#4195151)
MCOA: I believe you were one of the several who a couple years ago agreed that Ichiro's MLB career alone - without NPB credit - was not enough for the HOF. Am I recalling that correctly, and if so do you still hold to that opinion? Because I don't see how the past couple of years have done a single thing to advance his case. "Not getting hit by a bus" has no value in and of itself.
   41. Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: July 29, 2012 at 01:27 PM (#4195153)
MCOA: I believe you were one of the several who a couple years ago agreed that Ichiro's MLB career alone - without NPB credit - was not enough for the HOF. Am I recalling that correctly, and if so do you still hold to that opinion? Because I don't see how the past couple of years have done a single thing to advance his case. "Not getting hit by a bus" has no value in and of itself.
Basically, yup.

On Ichiro's MLB career alone, he wouldn't be anywhere close to the worst mistake in the Hall, but he wouldn't get my vote.
   42. AROM Posted: July 29, 2012 at 01:33 PM (#4195158)
It shouldn't be shocking when a player loses his value at age 37, but I do find Ichiro's rapid decline a bit surprising. He was so consistent at his higher level of play, that absent an injury or showing up out of shape, such a drastic drop off is a little weird. If he had dropped to .295 in 2011 and was hitting .275 this year, then that sort of gradual change would make more sense.

Not unprecedented though, among the rare players who have shown similar skill sets at high levels. We see guys like Lofton, Gwynn, and Brett Butler playing less often, but still hitting to and past age 40. Max Carey, on the other hand, hit a career high .343 at age 35. He led the league in steals for the 10th and final time. Next year he hit .231, OBP under .300, and stole only 10 bases. He never had another good year.
   43. Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: July 29, 2012 at 01:41 PM (#4195166)
I don't see any other logical way to do it. A player hurts his teams in bad years just like he helps his team in good years.
If you consider the Hall of Fame to be equivalent to the Hall of Value, this follows. I don't think it's just a Hall of Value - I credit peak and prime along with career, for instance, well beyond a "Pennants Added" valuation of peak. If what we're honoring isn't simply numerical value, but a fuzzier notion of "greatness", then when considering career value, we can think of greatness as a measure of how long and to what extent they remained a good or great player, rather than merely a sum of plusses and minuses.

Also, Ichiro has not been providing negative value the last two years. He's been providing value that doesn't add meaningfully to a Hall of Fame case, but he hasn't been a negative.
   44. CrosbyBird Posted: July 29, 2012 at 01:42 PM (#4195167)
Because I don't see how the past couple of years have done a single thing to advance his case. "Not getting hit by a bus" has no value in and of itself.

I think 2009 and, to a lesser degree, 2010 helped Ichiro's case.
   45. Ray (RDP) Posted: July 29, 2012 at 02:01 PM (#4195171)
Because I don't see how the past couple of years have done a single thing to advance his case. "Not getting hit by a bus" has no value in and of itself.

I think 2009 and, to a lesser degree, 2010 helped Ichiro's case.


? "Past couple of years" is 2011 and 2012.
   46. Lassus Posted: July 29, 2012 at 02:05 PM (#4195174)
? "Past couple of years" is 2011 and 2012.

Maybe it's just a language thing, but as we're still in 2012, I personally consider - baseball-wise - the "past couple of years" to be 2010 and 2011.
   47. Kurt Posted: July 29, 2012 at 02:11 PM (#4195177)
Maybe it's just a language thing, but as we're still in 2012, I personally consider - baseball-wise - the "past couple of years" to be 2010 and 2011.

Disagree - if Ichiro were hitting .350/.420/.475 with 50 steals and 95 runs scored so far in 2012, the statement " I don't see how the past couple of years have done a single thing to advance his case" would make no sense at all.
   48. BDC Posted: July 29, 2012 at 02:38 PM (#4195194)
I _do_ hold bad years against a player's HOF case. I don't see any other logical way to do it. A player hurts his teams in bad years just like he helps his team in good years

At the end of the 1985 season, Steve Carlton had 82 WAR, an ERA+ of 121, a career W% of .594; he played his way downwards to 78, 115, and .574.

To me it's logical to think that his last three years are irrelevant to his case. A Carlton clone who had quit after 1985 would be no greater or less great a player.

This usually doesn't matter. Most players decline to near-replacement level (that's why they call it replacement level :) and we just factor that in when looking at career totals. Carlton is an easy HOFer anyway, he had an unusually long phase of being really bad, and his decline in rate stats those last bad years is somewhat compensated for in a quick conventional glance at his career by the 16 wins he added despite the badness, which tends to overstate his perceived career value. But his career rate stats do slightly tend to understate his greatness. If he'd spent those last few years in Mexico or Japan or on his own back porch, it wouldn't change a thing about him; it would just mask how bad he was at pitching in those years – just like Pedro Martinez was probably pretty bad at pitching in 2010-12, only we don't know how much.
   49. Ray (RDP) Posted: July 29, 2012 at 04:36 PM (#4195253)
MCOA:
Basically, yup.

On Ichiro's MLB career alone, he wouldn't be anywhere close to the worst mistake in the Hall, but he wouldn't get my vote.


And, if the discussions from a couple years ago are of any indication, then plenty of people here feel the same way you do. Which means that the entire "Ray is unreasonable" meme here boils down to one thing: my refusal to recognize NPB play for HOF purposes.

-----


AROM:
It shouldn't be shocking when a player loses his value at age 37, but I do find Ichiro's rapid decline a bit surprising. He was so consistent at his higher level of play, that absent an injury or showing up out of shape, such a drastic drop off is a little weird. If he had dropped to .295 in 2011 and was hitting .275 this year, then that sort of gradual change would make more sense.


But as you know we've seen this so often. Dale Murphy is an oft-cited example, as he lost it at 32. Was Murphy out of shape? I don't have vivid memories of 1988 but I've never heard that. I don't think Rice was out of shape. They just lost their bat speed.

I know that speed players generally age better, but that never exempted them from the cliff, and Ichiro was a bit unique in that so very much of his value was tied to his speed. That being the case, it's not surprising to me that losing half a step would result in him hitting the cliff. After all, everyone knew that with so much of his offense tied to his batting average, things would not go smoothly for him once his batting average suffered.
   50. Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: July 29, 2012 at 04:46 PM (#4195260)
Which means that the entire "Ray is unreasonable" meme here boils down to one thing: my refusal to recognize NPB play for HOF purposes.
I don't want to rehash it any more than this, but that isn't really correct. I never argued that Ichiro was a slam-dunk HoFer on his MLB career alone, so my frustrations weren't about the thing itself. It was about your general insistence that the use of contemporary methods of measuring offensive and defensive value was somehow either wrong or a strike against a players' candidacy. But I don't care nearly enough to relitigate this, so feel free to disagree with me and I'll let it slide.
   51. Ray (RDP) Posted: July 29, 2012 at 04:51 PM (#4195262)
#50, I am happy to let it slide as well, but I do want to note that my main point was that everything about his defense and non-SB baserunning - particularly the extreme measures of his defensive greatness in a corner OF position - had to be just so for him to have a good case for being a HOFer on merit.
   52. Joe Bivens, Minor Genius Posted: July 29, 2012 at 05:11 PM (#4195272)
Rice didn't lose his bat speed, his vision deteriorated. That made his bat look slow.
   53. DanG Posted: July 29, 2012 at 05:57 PM (#4195321)
OF ages 27-38, OPS+<140, OBP>.85*SLG, WAR>40

Rk             Player WAR/pos OPSRfield  SB  OBP  SLG   PA From   To
1           Pete Rose    62.1  132      8 115 .393 .440 8834 1968 1979
2    Rickey Henderson    58.8  134     36 658 .408 .435 6718 1986 1997
3       Ichiro Suzuki    54.5  113    103 439 .366 .418 8503 2001 2012
4        Kenny Lofton    48.4  108     84 429 .372 .435 6767 1994 2005
5        Brett Butler    45.6  115    
-78 466 .385 .385 7973 1984 1995
6         Fred Clarke    44.6  136     75 261 .380 .419 6350 1900 1911
7          Paul Waner    43.3  131     10  64 .396 .463 7192 1930 1941
8       Tony Phillips    41.2  112     49 134 .383 .394 7078 1986 1997 
   54. CrosbyBird Posted: July 29, 2012 at 07:01 PM (#4195399)
Maybe it's just a language thing, but as we're still in 2012, I personally consider - baseball-wise - the "past couple of years" to be 2010 and 2011.

I was thinking that "a couple" could mean either exactly two or "a few." If I mean exactly two, I say "two." Similarly, 2012 is not "the past" by my reckoning until the season ends; it's the current year.

It's a matter of interpretation, but if the question is whether 2011 and 2012 have helped Ichiro's case, then the answer is no for 2011 and "maybe" for 2012 (depends on how you view his defense and whether he experiences more than a mere park-factor boost to his hitting from the move to a better hitting park). I think Ichiro was a good enough player at the end of 2008 that three more years of his career average would have made him automatic, and lacking enough that no more good years would have kept him out (for my personal HOF; he was a slam-dunk for the real HOF). After 2009 (arguably his second-best season with the bat), he was a lot closer, and after 2010, I think he clinched it.

At the end of this season, Ichiro will almost certainly break the 55 mark in WAR, and I don't think you can get to that level as a position player without at least meriting a healthy discussion, even if you knock 50 runs off of his defense.
   55. Ray (RDP) Posted: July 29, 2012 at 10:00 PM (#4195512)
Rice didn't lose his bat speed, his vision deteriorated. That made his bat look slow.


So all he needed was an hour or less at LensCrafters and the quality of his play could have been restored?
   56. Ray (RDP) Posted: July 29, 2012 at 10:06 PM (#4195515)
It's a matter of interpretation, but if the question is whether 2011 and 2012 have helped Ichiro's case, then the answer is no for 2011 and "maybe" for 2012


He has been worthless as an offensive player for the last 1 2/3 years, even taking into account all that he brings with DP avoidance and baserunning. So his entire case for being worth something this year is partial-season defensive statistics.
   57. RB in NYC (Now Semi-Retired from BBTF) Posted: July 29, 2012 at 10:22 PM (#4195522)
But as you know we've seen this so often. Dale Murphy is an oft-cited example, as he lost it at 32. Was Murphy out of shape? I don't have vivid memories of 1988 but I've never heard that.
I thought Murphy's knees went out on him, but obviously I have even less recollection of 1988 than you do.
   58. AROM Posted: July 29, 2012 at 10:45 PM (#4195529)
Dale Murphy had a bit of a decline in 1986. Still a fine season, but a notch below his MVP seasons and seasons with stats that looked exactly like his MVP seasons. He came back from that to put up his best raw numbers in 1987, but 1987 was just a crazy year.

In 1988, partially in response to the crazy 1987 numbers, MLB expanded the strike zone that umps were expected to recall. Bill James did an article in that year's abstract speculating on how different types of players would be affected, and he thought that oversized power hitters would suffer more than most. He was right. He mentioned Murphy, McGwire, and Mike Marshall as examples of this group. He was right on 2 of 3. Marshall's raw rates declined a bit but less than the league around him, so his OPS+ increased a bit.

I think player style matters a bit though, so I didn't compare Ichiro's decline to that of big power hitters, but to other speedy singles hitters.
   59. Tuque Posted: July 29, 2012 at 11:37 PM (#4195555)
When Ray showed up, I imagined a cannon shot.
   60. Walt Davis Posted: July 29, 2012 at 11:45 PM (#4195558)
Walt, I don't think there is any doubt at all that if Ichiro had played his entire career in the states, he would have ended up with over 70 WAR, and possibly as high as 80.

There should be tons of doubt about this. When it comes to predicting individuals and seasons, the estimates have huge standard errors attached to them, on the order of a standard deviation being 15-20 points of OPS+. Also, Ichiro debuted in NPB at 18 -- players like Ichiro rarely debut in MLB before 22. I don't have a problem with you saying he would be "expected" to have 70 WAR but to have no doubt ... if you have no doubt, you're doing it all wrong.

you need to forget about giving credit to guys that missed time due to World War 2, and yes, guys that only got to MLB mid career in the late 40's, early 50's due to the color barrier.

First, I said using only MLB was the simplest solution while noting it's not necessarily the best. The color barrier is quite clearly in a class of its own and Ichiro's situation bears little resemblance. But even in the case of the Negro Leagues, those players were not subject to a BBWAA vote unless they had 10 years of MLB. I don't know that there's any evidence that the BBWAA ever gave any credit for NL performance or the color barrier. It doesn't seem to have helped Minoso or Doby with the BBWAA.

As to war credit -- indeed I really only give war credit to guys who excelled in MLB before and after the war. And even then I'm not sure it would make any difference on in/out decisions except maybe Greenberg (or am I forgetting somebody).

And, to be consistent, anybody who credits Ichiro with NPB performance needs to give a reasonable amount of consideration to Matsui and Nomo. Matsui's MLB performance was solid, especially for a guy in his 30s; his NPB performance was better than Ichiro's. Between the two leagues he has over 500 HR, 1600 RBI and 1500 R and 2600 hits (and 1400 walks). I can't find a good version of Nomo's career stats but, near as I can tell from the crappy version I did find, he has over 3000 Ks between the two leagues, 201 wins and just under 3000 innings.

So, it seems, NPB stats only count when a guy was a borderline HoF by his MLB career in his 30s not a general substitute for what they (no doubt! :-) would have done in MLB in their prime. (a fair chunk of Nomo's prime was spent in MLB)

As to the comp to Edgar and Boggs, it's a comp only in the sense that both are often offered as examples of guys who were unjustifiably "held back" and some suggest we should consider their minor-league stats or otherwise give them credit. If I was comping Ichiro to Boggs in terms of performance, that would be a huge compliment to Ichiro as Boggs was much better. Ichiro vs. Edgar would be a pretty classic all-around vs. one-dimensional value comparison -- they probably come out pretty close depending on your DH "penalty." (Note, I wouldn't quite vote for Edgar either though I could probably be talked into it and will be fine with him making it too.)


If Ichiro is not in your HOF, thats your choice. It would be a lesser HOF without him. But we won't have to worry about that. He is getting in.

As I said in that post, he is breezing in and I'm OK with it. The only way to get my dander up with Ichiro (or Edgar) is to suggest they're more deserving than Larry Walker.

On another note, some have mentioned WAR's evaluation of Ichiro's "defensive greatness." Once again, Rfield is a comparison to the league average at a particular position. bWAR does not consider Ichiro to be defensively great, it considers him to be defensively great as a right-fielder. The current version of dWAR includes the positional adjustment and is what you should use for "defensive greatness." Ichiro has only about 5 dWAR which means he's an above-average defender at a mythical "average defensive position."

In essence, bWAR simply considers Ichiro an above-average CF playing RF. Judging Ichiro to be an above-average CF is hardly shocking, it's perfectly consistent with contemporaneous opinion. And, for example, in about equal playing time, bWAR gives Mike Cameron 10 dWAR so bWAR considers Cameron to be a substantially better defender than Ichiro. Again, in about the same playing time, Larry Walker has 1.5 dWAR so Ichiro is slightly better than Walker. Luis Gonzalez was a very good LF (for most of his career) and he comes in at -1.3 dWAR.

dWAR puts Ichiro 20 wins behind Andruw, 13 wins behind Blair and Mays, 11 behind Devon White, 10 behind Lofton and (to get us out of the OF) 8 behind Boggs. Even limited to LF/RF, he's 7th but 50 runs behind Kaline (my, Jordan and Barfield do well).

Defensively, WAR basically says that he's been Carl Crawford with an arm. That sounds about right.

   61. AROM Posted: July 30, 2012 at 12:15 AM (#4195570)
And, to be consistent, anybody who credits Ichiro with NPB performance needs to give a reasonable amount of consideration to Matsui and Nomo. Matsui's MLB performance was solid, especially for a guy in his 30s; his NPB performance was better than Ichiro's.


I would, but Matsui falls short of being HOF quality. Ichiro was a better player in Japan too. Sure, Matsui was a better hitter (304/413/582) to Ichiro's 355/418/524. That slight advantage for Matsui did translate over here as well, he beats Ichiro 118-113 in OPS+. It's the speed and defense that puts Ichiro ahead of Godzilla.
   62. AROM Posted: July 30, 2012 at 12:23 AM (#4195574)
As for Nomo, even if I took Japanese stats at face value, I'd get a 201-155 record, 3027 innings, 3122 K, 1496 walks (he was a real wildman in Japan). ERA+ was only 97 in MLB. Don't know what league average was but his ERA in Japan was 3.15. That's nowhere near the levels that Dice-K and Yu pitched at over there.

Seems like HOVG to me, and he looks like a worse HOF candidate to me than Jack Morris, let alone the starting pitchers I would actually support.
   63. mex4173 Posted: July 30, 2012 at 09:48 AM (#4195674)
As to war credit -- indeed I really only give war credit to guys who excelled in MLB before and after the war. And even then I'm not sure it would make any difference on in/out decisions except maybe Greenberg (or am I forgetting somebody).


Enos Slaughter is probably the player who's HoF case hangs on war credit the most.

Hank Greenberg and Joe Gordon are, I think, the other two classic cases, but they have high enough peaks that it doesn't matter (for me anyway). War credit for them, Ted Williams, Johnny Mize etc. is more about positional ranking than raw HoF entry.
   64. BDC Posted: July 30, 2012 at 10:17 AM (#4195697)
I think I did something like this before, but here goes anyway. Extrapolate Matsui backwards and add five years of performance at close to his MLB prime, and you get a career for him of ~8500 PAs and an OPS+ of 122, similar to this bunch of MLB careers:

Player           Rfield   PA OPS+
Jose Cruz            81 8931  120
Carlos Beltran       63 8129  122
Kiki Cuyler          14 8100  125
Paul ONeill           8 8329  120
Heinie Manush        
-1 8419  121
Edd Roush            
-6 8155  126
Cesar Cedeno        
-14 8133  123
Willie Horton       
-18 8052  120
Ellis Burks         
-32 8177  126
Ken Griffey         
-68 8049  118
Gary Matthews       
-94 8189  118 


Some of these guys show up on comps lists for Ichiro's MLB career alone: Cruz, Cedeño, Manush, Beltran. There are three HOFers on the list (Cuyler, Manush, Roush), and one HOM player (Roush). Roush is the best hitter on the list (tied with Burks), and his case for either Hall is made by his being a better CF by reputation than those B-Ref Fielding Runs indicate.

Anyway, the point is to agree with AROM that Matsui would have had to have everything break right for him to get to the outskirts of the Hall of Fame: to come up very early in MLB and play very well. Whereas it's practically a gimme to imagine Ichiro with 3,300 hits, more likely 3,500, had he come directly into MLB: if he can get 242 of them at age 27, it doesn't take many seasons for him to get 800 or 1,000 more than he has now. An Ichiro with 3,300 hits, an MVP award, two batting titles, the single-season hits record, speed/defense, and a unique profile as a singles hitter is going into any reasonable Hall. He'd have a somewhat Nolan-Ryan-like case (I think I recently said this of Derek Jeter as well) in that it's an extremely exaggerated set of skills and records, but a full-career MLB Ichiro is no longer on the outskirts of any Hall.

Just for comparison, here are comps for the unextrapolated Ichiro. If you extrapolate him as I did above with Matsui, there's hardly anyone really like him at all, and we already know the few who are close (Gwynn, Carew).

Player           Rfield   PA OPS+  SB
Ichiro Suzuki       103 8507  113 440
Fred Tenney          84 8809  110 285
Jose Cruz            81 8931  120 317
George Burns         70 8251  114 383
Carlos Beltran       63 8129  122 302
Ed Konetchy          50 8663  123 255
Jake Daubert         23 8744  117 251
Clyde Milan           9 8316  109 495
Cesar Cedeno        
-14 8133  123 550
Amos Otis           
-35 8247  115 341
Ray Durham          
-94 8423  104 273 


An Ichiro who came out of nowhere and had the same 8500 PAs would be the best player on that list (or at least very close, along with Beltran and perhaps Cruz or Cedeño), thanks to his speed and defense. If he'd have had a chance at a Hall is a weird hypothetical. I imagine not much more than Josh Hamilton would if he played another 7 or 8 years at a high level: it would depend on a lot of intangibles and style points.

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