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Wednesday, December 02, 2020

Ichiro to coach high school baseball team

Imagine this: You’re 15, 16 years old. You’ve just made your high school baseball team. You grab your glove, your cleats and race out to the field and find Ichiro—the international hit king, future Hall of Famer and bonafide baseball rock star—telling you to take some ground balls.

Sounds impossible, right? Sounds like a dream you had after eating a particularly spicy chili? Well, it’s real.

As reported in The Asahi Shimbun, Ichiro is set to become a temporary coach at an unnamed Japanese high school that has won the prestigious National High School Baseball Championship (also known as “Summer Koshien”) at least once, sources told The Asahi Shimbun.

Though coaches are usually required to leave their professional teams—whether in Japan or abroad—before taking on the job, officials made an exception for Ichiro. The Mariners great was also certified to coach amateur players in February, enabling him to take the position.

“High school baseball is ‘baseball,’ but Major League Baseball is a ‘contest,’” Ichiro said at the annual National Newspaper Convention in November. “It’s mainly about how far you can hit the ball and that’s hardly baseball. High school baseball is very exciting. I’m really interested in amateur baseball.”

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: December 02, 2020 at 04:07 PM | 18 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: ichiro suzuki

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   1. Howie Menckel Posted: December 02, 2020 at 04:39 PM (#5992098)
Howie sets this one to just above the volleyball net - who spikes it home?
   2. stevegamer Posted: December 02, 2020 at 05:03 PM (#5992107)
Ichiro does it himself - because he could do that if he wanted to.
   3. SoSH U at work Posted: December 02, 2020 at 05:13 PM (#5992108)
“High school baseball is ‘baseball,’ but Major League Baseball is a ‘contest,’” Ichiro said at the annual National Newspaper Convention in November. “It’s mainly about how far you can hit the ball and that’s hardly baseball. High school baseball is very exciting. I’m really interested in amateur baseball.”


My sentiments exactly.
   4. Harmon "Thread Killer" Microbrew Posted: December 02, 2020 at 05:26 PM (#5992109)
Student athlete: "Coach, I hear it can get quite hot in the United States during the summer season. Is this true?"

Ichiro: "Kansas City in August . . .
   5. caspian88 Posted: December 02, 2020 at 06:14 PM (#5992119)
I think I'd rather watch amateur baseball than major league baseball today, too.

...

Just how good was Ichiro, as a player?

I built a spreadsheet using BBREF WAR and a system similar to what Bill James used for the NBJHBM. I use a combination of raw totals and totals adjusted for several factors - I award credit for missed seasons (military service, segregation, trapped in the minors) as the mean of the two seasons prior and two seasons subsequent to the missed years, or the two seasons subsequent if the service happens at the start of a player's MLB career; I normalize WAR totals for the length of the season (divide WAR by games available to play/162), which also provides credit for partial seasons (which does not include seasons where a player is in the minors or injured, just partial seasons for military service and so on); I zero out negative WAR seasons.

The spreadsheet looks at seven factors - total career WAR, average of his three best seasons by WAR, and best five/six/seven/eight consecutive seasons by WAR. I average the raw and adjusted totals for each of these factors, normalize them to an (arbitrary) baseline (60 career WAR, 7.0 WAR average of three best seasons, 7.0 WAR per season for best consecutive seasons), average the four "prime" numbers together, and then average the "career," "peak," and "prime" outputs together. Averaging raw and adjusted totals together means adjustments are essentially halved in the final output (so the 4.6 WAR I give Enos Slaughter for each season from 1943-1945 works out 2.3 WAR per season in the final calculation).

I don't have timeline factors in, and I haven't figured out how to account for differing league qualities.

Look at Ichiro specifically. BBREF has him at 59.7 career WAR. His three best seasons average 7.57 WAR. His best consecutive seasons total 29.9/35.2/41.0/46.4 WAR. He gets no adjustments for season length and I zero out a few later seasons, giving him adjusted career WAR of 61.3, with no adjustments to his peak or prime years. (59.7+61.3)/60 = 1.006 career factor, 7.57/7 = 1.081 peak factor, 0.839 prime factor (you get the picture). Average those three numbers together and Ichiro comes to 0.975 - a little below my arbitrary standards because his prime was relatively weak to what I thought of as a small Hall of Fame-quality total.

Where does this put Ichiro? I have him behind Ruth (2.22), Aaron (1.642), Ott (1.373), Robinson (1.318), Clemente (1.296), Kaline (1.194), Heilmann (1.119), Reggie Jackson (1.098), Larry Walker (1.071), Waner (1.019), Gwynn (0.994), Sosa (0.983), and Sam Crawford (0.977), for fourteenth place. The rest of the top twenty are Dwight Evans (0.947), Bobby Bonds (0.931), Abreu (0.922), Guerrero (0.921), Flick (0.904), and Winfield (0.901).

I don't know how that appears to anyone else, but it seems reasonable at first glance. Obviously the apparently precision of these figures relies essentially on accepting BBREF WAR on faith, which of course you shouldn't do. Still, it's a useful tool and interesting and I don't think its imprecise enough to completely throw away or render this sort of discussion useless.

But that doesn't account for Ichiro's Japanese career. I think it's reasonable to argue that Ichiro deserves credit for his play in Japan - he couldn't have played in the USA without great difficulty, and I think it's reasonable to believe that Ichiro, over his seven full seasons with Orix, was basically the same player he was in Seattle (a high average hitter with modest power, great speed, great outfield defense, relatively few walks and strikeouts). As a result, I took the unusual step of simply averaging Ichiro's first ten years in Seattle and awarding him 5.5 WAR per season for his time in Japan, and calculated five, six, and seven seasons of credit (I think six is the most reasonable, given how good his rookie year was, which would essentially see him become a full time player at 21). The calculation winds up giving Ichiro final numbers of 1.061, 1.076, and 1.091, depending on how many seasons of credit you think he deserves. Six seasons of credit see Ichiro surpass Larry Walker and finish ninth all time among right fielders on my list.

Is that reasonable? Well, that basically gives Ichiro sixteen seasons as Ichiro! - a .331/.376/.430 hitter who plays every day, runs the bases extremely well, and plays excellent defense in right and center fields. Tony Gwynn had sixteen full seasons in his career and was a similar player, except he hit for a higher batting average and walked more, but was slower, less capable defensively, and missed more games. I think it's reasonable that Gwynn's MLB career surpassed Ichiro, but not by a lot, and that Gwynn's MLB career might have been overshadowed by the combination of Ichiro's MLB and Japanese careers.

Paul Waner also had sixteen fullish seasons in his career, and was a similar sort of player as well - a high average hitter with modest power and a good batting eye, durable, and good defensively (I don't know how much speed Waner had, given how rare the stolen base was in his day). Waner did not have sixteen prime full seasons, though - from 1938, he was basically a league average hitter or a little better than average, missed a lot of games and spent a lot of time pinch hitting (he was past 35 and probably not much defensively, either) - whereas I am postulating sixteen full prime seasons for Ichiro, plus a few more seasons where he was clearly in decline but still valuable (sort of the equivalent of later Waner or Gwynn after 1999). Again, I think you can make the case for Ichiro's combined career being better than Waner, and that's before timelining.

I'm not going to look in depth at Ichiro versus Larry Walker or Reggie Jackson or Sammy Sosa - I looked at Gwynn and Waner because they were pretty similar players and very good points of comparison.

Could Ichiro be one of the ten greatest right fielders of all time? I think it's close and arguable - I'd probably put him there, but I can see the argument keeping him out (especially if you choose to leave out his Japanese career). I don't know that I could see keeping Ichiro out of the top twenty.
   6. Howie Menckel Posted: December 02, 2020 at 06:43 PM (#5992124)
1. Howie Menckel Posted: December 02, 2020 at 04:39 PM (#5992098)

Howie sets this one to just above the volleyball net - who spikes it home?

2. stevegamer Posted: December 02, 2020 at 05:03 PM (#5992107)

Ichiro does it himself - because he could do that if he wanted to.


we'll accept that response, but were looking for "I could if I wanted to" - ideally followed by 100 more of same, until someone made "Ichiro" their screen name and.....
   7. Ron J Posted: December 02, 2020 at 07:19 PM (#5992130)
#6 I am afraid that "could if he wanted to" is inextricably linked to Ty Cobb in my mind. RSB alum will probably remember why.
   8. John DiFool2 Posted: December 02, 2020 at 08:00 PM (#5992137)
Here's the real question of the day:

Would Ichiro have a shot at Rose's record, if he started playing here at age 20?

He actually got 4367, 111 more than needed to tie Rose.

He hit .333 from ages 27-35 in MLB, .353 in Japan. So applying his MLB average there to his JPL AB's gives him 73 fewer hits.

But their seasons were apparently shorter by 28 games or so. Giving him 155 games per year means about an additional 200 hits, a net gain overall of ~125 more hits. So, unless he gets a major injury, Rose is toast.
   9. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: December 02, 2020 at 11:37 PM (#5992199)
“It’s mainly about how far you can hit the ball and that’s hardly baseball.
”Not that I couldn’t have hit the ball very ####### far...” he added quickly.
   10. Astroenteritis Posted: December 03, 2020 at 01:33 PM (#5992266)
I had the chance to watch my high school play in the state championship a few years ago (yes, they won the title) and what struck me the most was how much fun the players on all the teams were having. They actually enjoyed playing baseball, which was refreshing. Some of that can be chalked up to youth, sure, but it was fun to watch. I imagine playing for Ichiro would be a blast.
   11. SoSH U at work Posted: December 03, 2020 at 01:41 PM (#5992268)

I had the chance to watch my high school play in the state championship a few years ago (yes, they won the title) and what struck me the most was how much fun the players on all the teams were having. They actually enjoyed playing baseball, which was refreshing. Some of that can be chalked up to youth, sure, but it was fun to watch. I imagine playing for Ichiro would be a blast.


My son played three years of varsity ball (his final season was COVIDed out).

There are two major reasons why I'd just as soon watch a HS game as an MLB contest: balls in play and pace of play. There's so much less time between pitches (my son is a particularly quick worker on the hill). And none of the TTO options is all that prevalent (other than the Ks in a mismatch and occasionally the BBs against an inferior foe).
   12. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: December 03, 2020 at 01:59 PM (#5992271)
I imagine playing for Ichiro would be a blast.
Eh...Ichiro is by all accounts a good guy, smart, good sense of humor, etc. But he's also famously one of those people who is singularly driven and fixated on his chosen occupation. I could see him not having much comprehension of, or patience for, high school kids who want to play baseball but also, you know, be high school kids.
   13. vortex of dissipation Posted: December 03, 2020 at 02:17 PM (#5992278)
Eh...Ichiro is by all accounts a good guy, smart, good sense of humor, etc. But he's also famously one of those people who is singularly driven and fixated on his chosen occupation. I could see him not having much comprehension of, or patience for, high school kids who want to play baseball but also, you know, be high school kids.


That's absolutely true. But the school is described as a "...Japanese high school that has won the prestigious National High School Baseball Championship (also known as “Summer Koshien”) at least once". Considering how seriously Koshien is taken in Japan, I'd imagine that the players for such a school would already be regarding playing for that team as the most important thing they've ever done in their lives. I can't see them as being anything but intensely committed (maybe not as committed as Ichiro was during his entire career, but still...)
   14. Ziggy: social distancing since 1980 Posted: December 03, 2020 at 02:32 PM (#5992283)
He actually got 4367, 111 more than needed to tie Rose.

He hit .333 from ages 27-35 in MLB, .353 in Japan. So applying his MLB average there to his JPL AB's gives him 73 fewer hits.

But their seasons were apparently shorter by 28 games or so. Giving him 155 games per year means about an additional 200 hits, a net gain overall of ~125 more hits. So, unless he gets a major injury, Rose is toast.


The problem here is that Ichiro is unlikely to have been a regular at 20 in MLB. He was not good as a teenager. Mostly he rode the bench, but in 95 AB as at 18 he hit 253, and in 64 at 19 he hit 188. It wasn't until he was 20 that he had his breakout. In the US he would have spent those teenage years in the low minors. Granted he was playing at Japan's top level, but a buck eighty-eight is pretty bad. He's not getting promoted for that. So he'd have to spend his breakout season climbing up through the minors. Maybe he gets a cup of coffee at 20, but it's very unlikely he's up to start the year. That's going to cost him something in the range of 210 hits. And once you subtract the hits that he collected as a teenager, he's really in a dead heat with Rose. I think that the best you can say is that if he had spent his whole career in the US, he might have beat Rose.

OTOH, if he had spent his entire career in Japan, Harimoto really would be toast.
   15. willcarrolldoesnotsuk Posted: December 03, 2020 at 09:38 PM (#5992357)
please please please please please please please please attend classes and be a player-manager
   16. asinwreck Posted: December 03, 2020 at 10:49 PM (#5992363)
I think Ema Ryan Yamazaki has her next documentary subject. Would fit well with her last film.
   17. Slivers of Maranville descends into chaos (SdeB) Posted: December 03, 2020 at 11:12 PM (#5992365)
I award credit for missed seasons (military service, segregation, trapped in the minors) as the mean of the two seasons prior and two seasons subsequent to the missed years, or the two seasons subsequent if the service happens at the start of a player's MLB career; I normalize WAR totals for the length of the season (divide WAR by games available to play/162), which also provides credit for partial seasons (which does not include seasons where a player is in the minors or injured, just partial seasons for military service and so on); I zero out negative WAR seasons.


Wouldn't it make more sense to simply reduce the baseline rather than giving credit for something that didn't happen? I mean, if you normalize to 60 WAR and the average HOFer has a 15 year career, that's 4 WAR per year. So someone in the military for 2 years would be normalized to 52 WAR.
   18. Yanigan Posted: December 04, 2020 at 09:42 AM (#5992400)
Can't wait to find out what his pre-game pep talks sound like.

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