For those who haven't read it, here is Part One.
Ichiro’s praise is almost never combined with statistical comparison. Ichiro is widely considered to be the best leadoff hitter in baseball. As a leadoff hitter, it is Ichiro’s job to get on base and, ideally, to work a pitcher.
Considering that about 81 percent of Ichiro’s hits in the MLB have been singles, the baseball cliché “a walk is as good as a hit” is eerily true for Ichiro. However, the uber-coordinated leadoff hitter has only 365 walks in his career to this point.
One can’t help but be frustrated seeing Ichiro foul off "ball four" multiple times in an at-bat, or any ball way out of the strike zone for that matter.
Theoretically, since Ichiro hits mostly singles, a walk is actually more valuable than a hit, because it forced the pitcher to throw at least four balls.
Salary (’05-’07 in millions)
While many of those players are clearly not the leadoff hitter that Ichiro is, it is clear that he is far from the best leadoff hitter in baseball. Ramirez and Sizemore are both better statistically, nearly equaling Ichiro in OBP, and greatly outslugging him.
What is interesting is that in the past three seasons, even before Ichiro signed his ridiculous extension, the other five players combined to make just over half of what Ichiro alone made.
Ichiro also sees 3.58 pitches per plate appearance for his career, compared to Sizemore (4.02), Figgins (3.97), Ramirez (3.90), DeJesus (3.76), and Eckstein (3.81).
Chone Figgins, who is clearly not quite the leadoff hitter that Ichiro is, has been willing, and able, to play every position on the field besides first base, catcher, and pitcher.
While he seems to be a mainstay at third base for the Angels now, there is a major misconception that third base is a premium position in baseball. There are very few elite offensive third basemen.
Ichiro, by contrast, has done all but urinate in right field to mark it as his territory. These are all right fielders who made less than Ichiro from 2005-2007.
This does not include corner outfielders like Pat Burrell, Manny Ramirez, Bobby Abreu, Vladimir Guerrero, Alfonso Soriano, or Adam Dunn who have either made slightly more than Ichiro, or play left field.
Ichiro is playing at a power position, a position which is much easier to find power hitters who would outperform the likes of Jeremy Reed or Willie Bloomquist, who have been playing center field since Ichiro moved back to right field.
Speaking of other Mariners, here is a look at other, “lesser”, Mariners outfielders.
That last name, remember that guy? The free-swinging, all-or-nothing strikeout and home run machine? From the age of 27-34, Ichiro’s time with the Mariners, Buhner actually outproduced Ichiro.
Forget the huge home run disparity, Buhner had a .864 OPS compared to Ichiro’s .810. Hell, even Buhner saw 3.94 pitchers per at-bat for his career.
A lot of commentators claim that Ichiro could be a power hitter if he wanted to be. Frequently, the evidence they use is the amount of home runs he hits during batting practice.
Truth be told, on the driving range I look like a scratch golfer, but I don’t think that would convince the PGA to give me a tour card.
The Yankees, Dodgers, Diamondbacks, Mets, Phillies, and White Sox may all be interested in Ichiro’s services, and their farm systems were ranked in the preseason fifth, sixth, 15th, 17th, 22nd, and 28th by Baseball America, respectively.
All stats compiled using www.baseball-reference.com