Ichiro Suzuki‘s arrival in pinstripes always seemed surreal, even as the playoffs came and went (too soon). Perhaps it was his performance that lent to the lasting feeling of disbelief. While it was easy to assume that leaving Safeco Field and the more-than-feeble Seattle offense for the greener pastures of Yankee Stadium and the more potently rounded New York lineup (in which he wouldn’t be the focal point) would lead to an offensive improvement, few could have predicted the renaissance-style performance e put up as a Bomber.
In 67 games (240 plate appearances) for the Yanks, Ichiro hit .322/.340/.454, good for a .342 wOBA and a 114 wRC+. His IsoP with the team was .132; for posterity, his career high in IsoP is .133 (2005). In typical Ichiro fashion, he also stole 14 bases (though he was caught five times). While he was weak against the Orioles in the ALDS–his first playoff action since 2001–he was one of the only Yankees to have a pulse at the plate against the Tigers in the ALCS; in the four game series, he tallied six hits and a walk. Ichiro, it seems, is back. And for him, the timing couldn’t be better.
Ichiro is a free agent this Hot Stove Season and the Yankees will assuredly have an opening in the outfield. Given his age and recent pre-New York production, any sort of long-term deal is not going to happen and that’ll make him attractive to the Yankees with Plan 189 looming in the ever-nearing distance. His cost and time commitment will likely be low and short and that prospect is probably the biggest thing going in his favor regarding a repeat performance in the Bronx. In terms of off-field factors, Ichiro was well-liked by the fans and, by all accounts, was a hit in the clubhouse. On the field, his midseason turnaround speaks for itself. Yankee Stadium is usually an offensive booster in and of itself and that held true for Ichiro. After being traded to New York, he hit .359/.385/.564 at home, bringing his career line at YS3 to .350/.374/.539 (194 PA).
After the last few months, the idea of Ichiro in pinstripes for the next season or two is certainly a good one. But of course, there is another side of his coin: he doesn’t walk much (he never has, though) and he doesn’t provide much power for a corner position. There is also the non-zero possibility that Ichiro’s performance in New York was a “dead cat bounce.” After all, he is an older player and looked to be in steep decline heading into the middle of this season. However, Derek Jeter has provided a damn solid counter-argument to my last point: never count out an immensely talented hitter.
When this trade first went down, i couldn’t imagine Suzuki staying with the Yankees past 2012. Now I can, even if he wouldn’t be my first choice.
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