In 2001 Ichiro came over from Japan and immediately took over the MLB by storm. He doesn’t have power but what he does contribute is amazing. He has incredible speed, gets on base and has an amazing arm. Has he done enough to get into one of the most prestigous clubs ever though? Let’s find out.
In his first season as a Mariner he was about as good as you can be. His OBP was .381 which is just what you want for your leadoff hitter. His .369 wOBA was also excellent. Ichiro demonstrated a great eye at the plate, striking out only 7.2% of the time but only walking 4.1% of the time. His .102 ISO wasn’t a big deal because well that wasn’t his game. His .369 BABIP was very high but Ichiro is an extreme groundball hitter and groundball hitters tend to have higher BABIPs. His GB% for his rookie year was 55.1%. He had an exceptional 130 wRC+ which would actually be the second highest of his career so far. His highest is 134 which he posted in 2004. Once Ichiro gets on base you can bet he’ll steal, in his first season he swiped 56 bags. Not only did all of that result in a 6.1 WAR, he also received rookie of the year honors and MVP.
His career numbers are just as good. He walks 6.2% of the time for his career and strikes out only 9.2% of the time. His .371 OBP and .349 wOBA are both solid career numbers as well. Like I’ve said he doesn’t hit for much power, he only has a .095 ISO but he more then makes up for it. His career BABIP is unusually high, .352 but that can be contributed by his career 55.9 GB%. His career WAR is 52.4, I doubt he’ll reach 60 WAR but he came when he was 26 years old. If he played an extra 3-5 years earlier he would easily have been past 60 WAR by now.
Ichiro’s defense is what’s really remarkable. His career UZR is 103.6! He’s had 5 years where he’s had more then 10 UZR. If you’ve ever seen him play you would know those numbers are no fluke.
Some of you still may be wondering if those are hall of fame numbers. Let’s take a look at two hall of famers and one potential hall of famer. Here’s a WAR graph comparing Ichiro to Kenny Lofton, Tony Gwynn and George Sisler.
Besides struggling this year, Ichiro compares pretty well to all of those guys. By looking it looks like he compares the best to Kenny Lofton. I made a spreadsheet on google docs comparing all of four of them as well. I can’t figure out how to get it on here so you’ll have to click this link.
Based on all of this information even though Ichiro has only played for 10 years and has accumulated under 60 WAR he still should be honored in the hall of fame. He is truly a unique player but also an excellent one and should be honored as such.