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…

Games
Career Average: 159
2011: 161
Difference: +2

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

Runs
Career Average: 105
2011: 80
Difference: -25

Hits
Career Average: 224
2011: 184
Difference: -40

Doubles
Career Average: 26
2011: 22
Difference: -4

Triples
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

Walks
Career Average: 46
2011: 39
Difference: -7

Strikeouts
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
Box
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
Box
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
Box
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.

Game 159: 2-for-5 in 12-5 Loss at Texas

Ronald Martinez / Getty Images

At Bats: 5
Runs: 0
Hits, Game/Season: 2/182
Runs Batted In: 0
Walks: 0
Strikeouts: 0
Left on Base: 0
Average: .273
Box
Notes: Groundout, single, groundout, groundout, single.
Next: Game 160 vs. Oakland, 7:10 Monday.

Ichiro and the Seahawks

Today marks the Seattle Seahawks’ 2011 home opener at Seahawks Stadium Qwest Field CenturyLink Field, two blocks north of Safeco Field. The Hawks have a pre-game tradition of getting a local celeb hoist a “12” flag over the stadium in tribute to the team’s noisy fans, collectively known as the “12th Man.” The Seahawks even retired the number in 1984.

Ichiro raised the flag on October 21, 2007. Here’s video…

I dig Ichiro’s peacoat — I have one just like it! — but as I’ve written before, the 12th Man is stupid.

See also: Ichiro and the Sonics.

Game 158: 0-for-4 in 7-3 Loss at Texas

Brandon Wade / Getty Images

At Bats: 4
Runs: 0
Hits, Game/Season: 0/180
Runs Batted In: 0
Walks: 0
Strikeouts: 0
Left on Base: 3
Average: .272
Box
Notes: Groundout, grounded into double play, groundout, groundout.
Next: Game 159 at Texas, 12:05 Sunday.

Ichiro’s Fans #5

Back in ’01, some guy wore this giant homemade Ichiro head to a game at Safeco Field.

Looks like he got some autographs on its face.

Game 157: 1-for-4 in 5-3 Loss at Texas

Ronald Martinez / Getty Images

At Bats: 4
Runs: 1
Hits, Game/Season: 1/180
Runs Batted In: 1
Walks: 0
Strikeouts: 0
Left on Base: 2
Average: .274
Box
Notes: Groundout, groundout, RBI single, grounded into a force out… Scored 80th run of the year (above).
Next: Game 158 at Texas, 1:10 Saturday.

Baseball Card of the Week: 2011 Topps Heritage #317


This one’s the last Baseball Card of the Week of the season. It’s particularly fitting for the occasion, as it commemorates an event that happened one year ago today (see previous post). Moreover, it’s from the same 2011 Topps Heritage set as the first BCOTW of the season. Put together, they nicely bookend the year.

See all 24 installments of Baseball Card of the Week — plus some faux cards mixed in — here.

It Was One Year Ago Today: Tenth 200-Hit Season


September 23, 2010: In a 1-0 Mariner loss in Toronto, Ichiro got two hits to reach the 200-hit mark for the tenth straight season, tying Pete Rose for the Major League record of 200-hit seasons. Most incredibly, it took Rose 17 seasons to reach the mark (he was 37 at the time), while Ichiro did it in just ten, when he was 36… It’s not likely that Ichiro will get a record-breaking 11th 200-hit season, at least not this year. He’ll try again next year, when he’ll be 38.

Above are some of his fans at the game.

Game 156: 1-for-4 in 3-2 Loss at Minnesota

Hannah Foslien / Getty Images

At Bats: 4
Runs: 1
Hits, Game/Season: 1/179
Runs Batted In: 1
Walks: 0
Strikeouts: 0
Left on Base: 3
Average: .274
Box
Notes: Single (above), RBI sac fly, groundout, flyout, and a tie-game, bases-loaded groundout to end the eighth.
Next: Game 157 at Texas, 5:05 Friday… Needs 21 hits in final six games to reach– ah, the hell with it.

The Ichi-Meter

The “Ichi-Meter” is a common sight at Safeco Field, hanging above the outfield wall behind Ichiro’s  defensive position in right. It’s the creation of season-ticket holder Amy Franz , who hails from Algona, about 25 miles south of Seattle. At nearly every home game, Franz sits in the front row of the right field stands (known to some as “Area 51”), where she manually updates her counter after each of Ichiro’s hits. TV broadcasts of Mariner games often cut to the counter at such moments.

The Ichi-Meter first appeared in 2004, when Franz began documenting what turned out to be Ichiro’s record-breaking 262-hit season. That original Ichi-Meter (above) is now on display in Cooperstown, atop a display case containing Ichiro’s game-used artifacts from that historic year — bats, batting gloves, wrist bands, sunglasses, spikes, an elbow guard, and a jersey. She’s used another Ichi-Meter since then.

Here’s the Ichi-Meter’s official site, and also its Facebook page. Photo found here.

Game 155: 2-for-4 in 5-4 Win at Minnesota

Jim Mone / AP Photo

At Bats: 4
Runs: 1
Hits, Game/Season: 2/178
Runs Batted In: 1
Walks: 0
Strikeouts: 0
Left on Base: 0
Average: .274
Box
Notes: Flyout, reached on fielding error, single, two-out RBI double… Scored on a Kyle Seager double (above)… Manager Eric Wedge talked today about the possibility or Ichiro losing his leadoff position next year — link.
Next: Game 156 at Minnesota, 10:10 a.m. Thursday… Needs 22 hits in final seven games to reach 200.

Ichiro Rock #6: At-Bat Music

Culled from a variety of sources, these are some tunes that have accompanied Ichiro’s Safeco Field at-bats over the last decade…

“In Da Club” by 50 Cent
“Lady Marmalade” by Christina Aguilera, Pink, Lil Kim and Mya
“In the Ayer” by Flo Rida
“Jump” by Flo Rida
“Sugar” by Flo Rida
“Shut It Down” by Pitbull
“S&M” by Rihanna
“Identity” by Ringo Shiina
“Yokushitsu” by Ringo Shiina
“The Sweet Escape” by Gwen Stefani
“All I Do is Win” by T-Pain
“Take It to da House” by Trick Daddy
“Yeah!” by Usher
“Super Mario Brothers Theme”

The dumb illustration comes from this Seattle Weekly article.

Game 154: 1-for-5 in 5-4 Win at Minnesota

Jim Mone / AP Photo

At Bats: 5
Runs: 1
Hits, Game/Season: 1/176
Runs Batted In: 0
Walks: 0
Strikeouts: 1
Left on Base: 0
Average: .273
Box
Notes: Tripled on the game’s first pitch, groundout, groundout, flyout, strikeout… It was Ichiro’s 15th career leadoff triple.
Next: Game 155 at Minnesota, 5:10 Wednesday… Needs 24 hits in final eight games to reach 200.

It Was Seventeen Years Ago Today: Ichiro’s First 200-Hit Season

In 1994, in his first full pro season, Ichiro had 210 hits for the Orix BlueWave, setting a Nippon Professional Baseball record. No previous NPB player ever had 200 hits in a single season, which, until that time, lasted only 130 games. That works out to 1.615 hits per game, an average he bettered with the M’s in 2004 with 1.617 hits per game (not to mention in a longer 162-game season, in which he played in just 161 games). Although his 262 hits in ’04 topped George Sisler’s 257 hits in ’20, Sisler’s former MLB record was set during a 154-game season, averaging a head-spinning 1.67 hits per game. Just imagine: had Sisler maintained that per-game hit average over a 162-game season, he’d’ve wound up 270 hits.

In any case, Ichro got lei’d, possibly by BlueWave mascot Neppie, off to the side in the above pics. Below, a genuine commemorative autographed something-or-other…

Since Ichiro’s record-breaking 1994 season, four other NPB players have reached the 200-hit plateau, though some (or all?) have happened during an expanded 144-game NPB season.

Regardless, Ichiro’s 210 hits in 1994 remains the NPB single-season record. Ichiro’s record was broken in 2010 with a 214-hit campaign by Matt Murton of the Hanshin Tigers, albeit in a 144-game season… Thanks to commenter Richard for setting me straight!