Ichiro Suzuki to Yankees: How Will It Affect His Legacy?

Charles BennettSenior Analyst IJuly 23, 2012

NEW YORK, NY - JULY 27:  Ichiro Suzuki #51 of the Seattle Mariners against the New York Yankees on July 27, 2011 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx borough of New York City.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
Nick Laham/Getty Images

It's being reported by ESPN that 38-year-old Japanese baseball player Ichiro Suzuki has been dealt to the New York Yankees.

It's clear how Ichiro's presence will affect the Bombers: they get a consistent hitter for average and baserunner to make up for the loss of Brett Gardner (out for most of the rest of the season due to a knee injury), and add a much-needed bat during a tight-as-always AL East race.

But, I'm wondering how this affects two other things: Ichiro's chasing of the 3,000 hit plateau and his chances at the Hall of Fame.

Ichiro needs 467 hits to get there. To figure out if he will, I'm going to consider his projected performance based on park factors and previous average.

The new Yankee Stadium is widely regarded as a launchpad for moon shots, with a home run park factor of 1.148.  However, in terms of hits, it is actually below the MLB average, at just a .917 park factor.  (In terms of runs scored park factor, New Yankee Stadium is right around the MLB average.)

However, though Yankee Stadium is below average, it is far above the only home Ichiro's had, Safeco Field. It is the worst park in the majors for hits with only a 0.727 park factor

Ichiro is a career .322 hitter (10 straight 200-hit seasons from 2001-2010), but his lone non-200 hit season was last year. Also, he's been batting just .268 in the last two seasons.  

The combination of his drop-off in the last two seasons and the fact that he's not getting any younger—but a more favorable park factor—leads me to project him to bat .260 from here on out.

That would mean it would take him almost 1,800 at-bats to get to 3,000.  At a conservative estimate of 700 at-bats a season from here on out.  

So, we'd be looking at Ichiro getting his 3,000th hit early in 2015, when he'd be 41.  Not completely impossible. 

There are a couple of ancillary plateaus that could be reached in Ichiro's 3,000 chase.  In the time it will take him, he'll also have reached the 500 stolen bases plateau. The Yankees' power numbers also mean he has a chance at 4,000 total bases.  

Even with the potent Yankees lineup and more favorable runs scored park factors, 1,500 runs scored is likely unattainable until well into the 2015 season. 

As for the Hall of Fame while, until recently, Ichiro had been regarded as on the bubble, most metrics now are listing him as in—regardless of whether or not he gets to the 3,000 mark.

Playing all or part of your career as a Yankee has the effect of knocking a couple of years off your Hall of Fame wait time. If Ichiro gets his 3,000th hit and wins a ring, we could be looking at him being in on the first ballot.

That's not even considering the numbers Ichiro put up in Japan which, of course, it's been proven MLB doesn't.

Bottom line: Ichiro to the Yankees both benefits his 3,000 chase and his Hall of Fame chances.