Probably tonight or perhaps tomorrow, Ichiro Suzuki will get his 2,500th hit as a major leaguer. He’s currently just one away, though that was also the case a couple of days ago; Ichiro went 0-for-4 on Sunday and was given a rare day off on Monday.
Obviously, Ichiro’s pace is slowing down. The hope was his down 2011 season was just an aberration, but after 67 games in 2012, the 38-year-old is sporting the same .645 OPS he finished 2011 with.
It also looks like he’ll finish well shy of 200 hits once again. He’s at 71 through the Mariners’ first 69 games, putting him on pace to finish at 167.
Through 10 big-league seasons, Ichiro never finished with fewer than 208 hits. He peaked at 262 in 2004. However, he slipped to 184 last year, even though he played in 161 games.
If Ichiro finishes with 167 hits this season, it means he’ll enter 2013 with 2,595 hits. Barring a sudden resurgence at ages 39 and 40, he’ll have to play regularly into 2015 in order to reach 3,000. He’ll be 41 then, and chances are he’ll be a real liability as a starting outfielder. There’s a real threat that no one is going to want him, at least not as a starter. His five-year, $90 million contract with the Mariners expires at the end of this season, and with the way things are looking now, the team might opt to move on.
So, maybe Ichiro will simply pack it in before he gets to 3,000. It’s not like his legacy is in doubt. One can argue whether a singles-hitting right fielder such as Ichiro belongs in the Hall of Fame, but there’s no doubt he’s getting in. He’s a legend regardless of whether he finishes his MLB career with 3,000 hits. In truth, he already has 3,777 anyway, adding in his remarkable numbers from Japan. He doesn’t have anything left to prove.