Ichiro Suzuki May Lead Mariners to Playoff Contention in 2009

Kevin CacabelosSenior Analyst IJune 1, 2009

ANAHEIM, CA - MAY 31:  Ichiro Suzuki #51 of the Seattle Mariners hits a double in the first inning against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at Angel Stadium on May 31, 2009 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

Ichiro is heating up right now and he could very well put the Mariners back into contention if he keeps it up.

Yesterday against the Angels, Ichiro went 4-for-5 with a home run, two doubles and a single.

He currently is riding a 24-game hit streak and is getting everyone excited for a possible chase at Joe Dimaggio's 56-game hit streak. I decided to take a more in-depth look at Ichiro's success this season. Please refer to the glossary at the bottom of this post for any questions regarding the stats I refer to.

Stats as of May 31, 2009. Courtesy of FanGraphs.
Ichiro currently has an on-base percentage of .376, which is up from last year's .361. This is despite his walk percentage, which is 4.6 percent, way below his career percentage of 6.4 percent. This means Ichiro is hitting the ball well this season. The only time Ichiro's walk percentage was below five percent was in 2001, when he had 242 hits.

Some people have criticized Ichiro for swinging at too many pitches. They do so with this evidence: Ichiro's O-swing percentage is at 32.2 percent, the highest it has ever been in his career.

However, Ichiro is just swinging at a lot more pitches  and making contact at an unprecedented rate in his career. His O-contact percentage and Z-contact percentage are both at career highs. For his O-contact percentage, he is at 88.8 percent. For his Z-contact percentage, he is at 95.7 percent.

Collectively, he is at a career high when considering his contact percentage overall, which is at 93.2 percent. Ichiro is also hitting for more power than he did last year, as his slugging percentage has jumped from a career low .386 to .449 this season.

He already has four home runs this season ,which will easily top out last season's total of six home runs (hopefully he'll end up hitting in the home run derby, which would be a sight to watch).

With all this considered, Ichiro is having an above-average year by his standards. He is seeing the ball better and making contact at an unprecedented rate in his career. Despite walking a lot less, he is still getting on base efficiently. Lastly, despite missing the first eight games of the season, it is a strong possibility Ichiro will reach his usual 200 hits this season.

Now would be the time for Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik to sell Ichiro and try to restock the farm system. Any team serious about contending will benefit enormously from Ichiro's bat and glove.


Quick Glossary

O-swing percentage—Percentage of pitches a batter swings at outside the strike zone

Z-swing percentage—Percentage of pitches a batter swings at inside the strike zone

Swing percentage—Total percentage of pitches a batter swings at

O-contact—Percentage of times a batter makes contact with the ball when swinging at pitches thrown outside the strike zone

Z-Contact percentage—Percentage of times a batter makes contact with the ball when swinging at pitches thrown inside the strike zone

Contact percentage—Total percentage of contact made when swinging at all pitches