Monthly Archives: September 2011

Season-End Report, Part 1: What Happened?

This isn’t what we hoped for.

Back on Opening Day, I figured I’d be blogging about Ichiro cruising to his 11th straight 200-hit season — surpassing Pete Rose’s record of ten such seasons — as well as his 11th-straight .300 season, All-Star Game, and Gold Glove award. As usual, the expectations of him going into this year were quite high, and why not? He was coming off an unparalleled, Hall-of-Fame-worthy decade.

Instead, 2011 turned out to be a huge disappointment — as I said in my mid-season report, “yikes.” Let’s look at the numbers, noting that the “Career Averages” only include his stats prior to 2011…

Career Average: 159
2011: 161
Difference: +2

At Bats
Career Average: 680
2011: 677
Difference: -3

Career Average: 105
2011: 80
Difference: -25

Career Average: 224
2011: 184
Difference: -40

Career Average: 26
2011: 22
Difference: -4

Career Average: 7
2011: 3
Difference: -4

Home Runs
Career Average: 9
2011: 5
Difference: -4

Runs Batted In
Career Average: 56
2011: 47
Difference: -9

Career Average: 46
2011: 39
Difference: -7

Career Average: 68
2011: 69
Difference: +1

Stolen Bases
Career Average: 38
2011: 40
Difference: +2

Batting Average
Career Average: .331
2011: .272
Difference: -.059

On-Base Percentage
Career Average: .376
2011: .310
Difference: -.066

Slugging Percentage
Career Average: .430
2011: .325
Difference: -.105

On-Base Plus Slugging
Career Average: .806
2011: .645
Difference: -.161

So Ichiro had a couple more stolen bases this year than his career average, but otherwise, he experienced painfully sharp drops in most every category. Apart from failing to reach 200 hits, his .310 OBP and .645 OPS were among the worst numbers for all leadoff hitters, as well as all regulars with his amount of plate appearances, and the very worst of any right fielder in the majors. On defense, he committed four errors for the third consecutive season. His career-worst was five errors in 2008, yet he still won the ’08 Gold Glove for the eighth time in ten seasons. Still, this year he occasionally looked shaky in right, so I’d be surprised if he’d be rewarded with yet another Gold Glove.

Following Wednesday’s season finale, Ichiro spoke through interpreter Antony Suzuki about his subpar season. According to Seattle Times Mariner blogger Geoff Baker (source of much of this info, and more), “Ichiro seemed to bristle when asked by reporters whether he’d thought often about extending his own major league record and reaching 200 hits for an 11th year in a row”…

This year, I’ve never mentioned about 200 — ever — during the season, nor in spring training. Nor did I mention that last year, too… I feel the communication is very tough because I’ve never mentioned it, nor have I thought about it. So, the psychology is very interesting from my standpoint. Because you never know what people think about you when you don’t show them. So, this year I felt I learned a lot as a human being. Not just as a player. Because that’s a part of being who I am. Knowing how people around me think psychologically.

Not sure what exactly he meant about that psychological stuff, and apparently he didn’t offer any explanation about the rest of his season’s shortcomings, but the “nor have I thought about it” line is hard to swallow. In previous seasons, though he might not have admitted it beforehand, once he reached the 200-hit milestone, he would then confess to it weighing heavily on his mind all along. After reaching the mark for the ninth consecutive season in 2009, he said of the pressure he felt from Japan: “For me, it’s not allowed for me to not accomplish this.”

So, what does this all mean? Was this just an off year, or are his abilities finally diminishing with his age? Has he lost a step? Has he lost his swing? Or was he distracted by something outside of baseball?

In any case, it seems that Ichiro’s career has come to a fork in the road. I’ll address what might lay ahead for him in my next post.

Game 162: 0-for-3 in 2-0 Loss vs. Oakland

At Bats: 3
Runs: 0
Hits, Game/Season: 0/184
Runs Batted In: 0
Walks: 1
Strikeouts: 1
Left on Base: 0
Average: .272
Notes: Flyout, walk, flyout, strikeout… Finished 2011 with a career-low 184 hits, snapping his streak of ten 200-hit seasons… First sub-.300 season since 1993… On the other hand, he led the majors with 677 at-bats, if that means anything… I’ll post more end-of-season wrap-up stuff in the next day or two.
Next: Game 1 vs. Oakland at the Tokyo Dome; March 28, 2012.

Ichiro on TV: The Tenth Inning

September 28, 2010: One year ago today saw the premiere of The Tenth Inning, the follow-up to Ken Burns’ epic 18-1/2-hour documentary Baseball, which first aired on PBS in 1994. Ichiro was interviewed for a cool seven-minute segment (above), summarizing his career to date in both historical and global contexts.

Bonus interview clips with Daniel Okrent and Tom Verducci may be seen here.

Game 161: 1-for-4 in 7-0 Loss vs. Oakland

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

At Bats: 4
Runs: 0
Hits, Game/Season: 1/184
Runs Batted In: 0
Walks: 0
Strikeouts: 0
Left on Base: 0
Average: .273
Notes: Single, groundout, groundout, groundout.
Next: Game 162 vs. Oakland, 7:10 Wednesday.

Ichiro on TV: Talking with Hideki Matsui

Following the 2003 season — after Ichiro’s third year with the M’s and noted pornography enthusiast Hideki Matsui’s rookie campaign with the Yankees — the two sat down for a long-ass conversation in a Japanese TV studio. Though I don’t understand what they’re saying, Ichiro and Godzilla appear to cover a variety of topics, judging by the little picture-in-picture videos in the corners. The whole thing runs about 94 minutes over a dozen segments, with the first one at the top and the other eleven below.

Game 160: 1-for-4 in 4-2 Win vs. Oakland

Otto Greule Jr. / Getty Images

At Bats: 4
Runs: 0
Hits, Game/Season: 1/183
Runs Batted In: 0
Walks: 0
Strikeouts: 2
Left on Base: 1
Average: .273
Notes: Strikeout (above; A Kurt Suzuki dropped the third strike but threw Ichiro out at first), groundout, strikeout, infield single.
Next: Game 161 vs. Oakland, 7:10 Tuesday.

It Was Two Years Ago Today: Ejected!

September 26, 2009: During a 5-4 loss in Toronto, Ichiro was ejected for the first (and so far, only) time in his major league career. After a called third strike, Ichiro had some harsh words for home plate umpire Brian Runge, and used his bat to trace the pitch’s path on the far side of the plate. Runge immediately tossed him, and the angry Ichiro had to be “restrained” by then-manager Don Wakamatsu. Roll tape…

It sure looked like a ball to me. Here’s a fan-made dramatization…

Bad call.