Comparing Ichiro Suzuki to MLB's All-Time Hit Leaders
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Ichiro Suzuki has officially put himself in a unique place in baseball history.
The 39-year-old collected his 4,000th hit against the Toronto Blue Jays on Wednesday, Aug. 21. For those fans who dismiss his Japanese statistics, 2,722 of his hits were achieved in the U.S.
From the get-go, it wasn’t particularly surprising that Ichiro would eventually eclipse the 4,000-hit mark. In his rookie season of 2001, the Japanese import led the league with 242 hits and a .350 batting average. Not only did Ichiro win the Rookie of the Year honors, he also took home the MVP.
Ichiro would go on to lead the league six more times in hits, including a 262-hit season in 2004. He collected at least 200 hits from 2001 to 2010, averaging 224 during that span.
The veteran’s production has slowed in recent years, as he's “only” compiled 184 and 178 hits in 2011 and 2012, respectively. Regardless, it’s still plausible that Ichiro will become a 3,000-hit man in Major League Baseball; he’s just 278 short of the achievement.
What follows are the five all-time hit leaders and how Ichiro compares to them.
All statistics from Baseball-Reference.com.
5. Tris Speaker: 3,514 Hits
Ty Cobb, who played in the same era as Tris Speaker, collected 675 more hits than the legendary outfielder. But Cobb also garnered five percent fewer extra-base hits than “The Grey Eagle.”
By comparison, Ichiro is the definition of a singles hitter, as only 18.8 percent of his hits have been doubles, triples or home runs.
Speaker is also the all-time leader in doubles (792).
4. Stan Musial: 3,630 Hits
Like Hank Aaron, Stan Musial was a big power hitter. But the pair were great overall hitters too.
In addition to his 3,630-hit total, Musial owned a lifetime .331 batting average and 475 home runs. Stan “The Man” would perhaps have eclipsed the 500-home run and 3,700-hit marks if he had not missed the entire 1945 season due to military service.
Both Musial and Ichiro share similar career averages (Ichiro’s is .320), but Musial’s park-adjusted 159 OPS+ easily trumps Ichiro’s 112 OPS+.
It’s also worth noting that 37.9 percent of Musial’s total hits were extra-base hits.
3. Hank Aaron: 3,771 Hits
Arguably the most impressive player on this list is Hank Aaron.
In addition to collecting 3,771 hits, Hammerin’ Hank swatted 755 home runs. That means over 20 percent of Aaron’s hits were dingers. The next best in the top five is Stan Musial, who owns a 13 percent home run per-total-hits rate. In addition, 39.1 percent of Aaron’s hits were extra-base hits—again, the most of any player on this list.
It goes without saying that Ichiro Suzuki couldn’t be more different from the former all-time home run leader. Suzuki has just 110 home runs in 13 major league seasons.
That said, considering Ichiro’s hitting approach focuses on finding the gaps and stealing bases, 110 home runs is actually a respectable total for a slap-hitter.
2. Ty Cobb: 4,189 Hits
If there had been 162 games in a season from 1905 to 1928, Ty Cobb would likely be the all-time hits leader today. Considering Cobb’s 4,189-hit total is just 67 hits shy of Pete Rose’s record—and both players were active for 24 years—it’s not an unreasonable statement.
On the surface, Cobb and Ichiro share similar styles of play. Cobb never slugged more than 12 home runs in a season, owning a career mark of 0.01 home run per at bat. Like the Detroit Tigers’ great, Ichiro too owns a mark of 0.01 home run per at bat.
Of course, while both players' games centered on hits and speed, Cobb also boasted a career park-adjusted 168 OPS+. By comparison, Ichiro has a career 112 OPS+.
1. Pete Rose: 4,256 Hits
Aside from his permanent ban from baseball, Pete Rose is known for being the all-time hits leader. From 1963 to 1986, Rose collected 4,256 hits—which is 67 more than the next-best player (Ty Cobb).
Rose enjoyed 10 years of 200 or more hits too, including a 230-hit campaign in 1973. The Cincinnati native also won the MVP that year. By comparison, Ichiro’s finest hitting year was in 2004, when he punched out 262 hits while leading the major leagues with a .372 batting average.
Interestingly enough, “Charlie Hustle” only owned a career .303 batting average.