Ichiro Suzuki: No Longer an Elite Fantasy Outfielder in 2011

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Ichiro Suzuki: No Longer an Elite Fantasy Outfielder in 2011
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Some people have a hard time letting go.

Brett Favre with retirement, Guns N' Roses fans with Chinese Democracy and now fantasy owners with Ichiro Suzuki.

Last year, Ichiro was 36-years-old and was still being drafted as the seventh outfielder and 27th overall in fantasy drafts according to ESPN. Despite the age, we all expected him to produce a .300 batting average, 90 runs and 30 stolen bases, which he deliveredfor the most part.

Ichiro Suzuki only scored 74 runs last year.

Now before you look at this as a knock on Ichiro, it's not. He led off for a historically bad offense. Just how bad was it? Fangraphs' Eno Sarris wrote about the subject in yesterday's article and to sum up his thoughtspretty darn bad.

Here are some numbers from Ichiro's 2010 season:

  • 162/732The number of games and plate appearances Ichiro accrued last season. His 732 PAs ranked second only to Juan Pierre's 734.
  • 214The number of hits that Ichiro had that led all outfielders last season.
  • 42The number of bases Ichiro swiped last year, which was 16 more than 2009 and tied for sixth with B.J. Upton.

With those types of numbers one would think Ichiro was a runs machine, but leading off for the worst offense in the majors can have quite the effect on your stats.

Where should Ichiro be drafted among OF in 2011?

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This brings us to our next number43.

That's where Ichiro ranked among all outfielders with his 74 runs last year, which was right behind the likes of Raul Ibanez and Curtis Granderson. Just to put things in perspective, Granderson spent 73 percent of his at bats in the seventh and eighth slots in the Yankees lineup, had 99 fewer hits, went to the plate 204 fewer times and still managed to score more runs than Ichiro.

In 2011, the Mariners will be relying on newly acquired Miguel Olivo, Jack Cust and a full season of Justin Smoak at the heart of their lineup. While that won't strike fear into opposing pitchers, it's at least an improvement.

2011 Fantasy Outlook

It's no secret that Ichiro has been feeling added pressure to carry the Mariners offense. He is the catalyst, but before, all he had to do was get on base; now he has to create runs on his own.

Looking at his plate discipline numbers, there has been a steady rise in his swing percentage on balls outside the strike zone. Since 2007 he has averaged a 30.0 swing percentage on balls out of the strike zone, which is significantly higher than his 21.9-percent mark in his first five seasons atop the Mariners lineup.

Ichiro also topped 80 strikeouts for the first time in his career last year, which just shows that he is swinging more and being less selective. It could be him trying too hard, or pitchers not giving him anything to hit, but either way it's not good.

Ichiro is still a great source of batting average, is above average in steals and should put up .300 and 30 yet again, but without any certainty in that lineup I can't imagine him approaching 100or even 90runs again. Probably someone who should be drafted outside the top 20 among outfielders, rather than around the top 10.

Fearless Forecast

.321 | 79 R | 6 HR | 40 RBI | 31 SB

 

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