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Putting Ichiro’s career into historical perspective

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Earlier today, the Mariners announced that outfielder Ichiro Suzuki would be ending his season to take a new job in the club’s front office. While the announcement did not use the word “retire” or “retirement,” it’s reasonable to say that the 44-year-old may be done as a player in Major League Baseball. So now is as good a time as any to put his Hall of Fame career into perspective.

Ichiro debuted in 2001 as a 27-year-old, coming to the Mariners from Japan. He led all of baseball with 242 hits and 56 stolen bases while leading the American League with a .350 average. He won the AL Most Valuable Player and Rookie of the Year Awards. The only other player to win both awards in the same season is Fred Lynn (Red Sox, 1975).

Ichiro set the single-season hits record in 2004 with 262 hits, surpassing George Sisler who had 257 knocks in 1920.

Ichiro led the league in hits seven times. Only one player did it more often — Ty Cobb. Tony Gwynn and Pete Rose also led the league in hits seven times.

Ichiro has 3,089 career hits, 22nd-most in MLB history. There are only 31 members of the 3,000 hit club currently. (Albert Pujols should soon join the club as he’s at 2,998.)

Ichiro is one of only 17 players to rack up 300 or more hits in his 40’s.

Ichiro hit .291 in 365 plate appearances as a 42-year-old in 2016 with the Marlins. The only hitters to put up a higher batting average in 300-plus PA at the age of 42 or older are Julio Franco (.309, 45 years old in 2004) and Luke Appling (.301, 42 years old in 1949).

Ichiro led the league with a .372 batting average in 2004. It is the seventh-highest batting average among qualified hitters since 1945. The others: Tony Gwynn (.394, 1994), George Brett (.390, 1980), Rod Carew (.388, 1977), Ted Williams (.388, 1957), Larry Walker (.379, 1999), and Stan Musial (.376, 1948).

Ichiro has a career .311 batting average across 18 seasons and 10,728 plate appearances. Only five hitters have a higher career batting average with at least 10,000 PA since 1945: Tony Gwynn (.338), Wade Boggs (.328), Rod Crew (.328), Stan Musial (.328), and Roberto Clemente (.317). Just 16 hitters have a career .300 average with 10,000-plus PA.

Ichiro stole 509 bases in his career. There are only 39 total members of the 500 steals club.

Ichiro is one of only seven players to have both 3,000-plus hits and 500-plus stolen bases in his career. The others: Rickey Henderson (3,055; 1,406), Paul Molitor (3,319; 504), Lou Brock (3,023; 938), Eddie Collins (3,315; 741), Ty Cobb (4,189; 897), and Honus Wagner (3,420; 723).

Many thanks, of course, to the indispensable Baseball Reference Play Index. They found some other great nuggets:

And That Happened: Monday’s Scores and Highlights

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Where we stand:

  • The Brewers and Cubs both won, giving them each a half-game boost over the Phillies and a full game boost over the Mets, who lost, but keeping the status quo between themselves. Chicago has a one-game lead over Milwaukee for the second Wild Card and a five-game lead over both New York and Philly;
  • The Nationals lost to the Cardinals, reducing their lead for the top spot in the Wild Card race to a half game. We’ve sort of assumed for a couple of weeks that they were a lock at the top but, know what? They’re not;
  • The Twins put a half-game more on their lead over the idle Indians in the AL Central, making the margin five;
  • The Rays and Indians both had the night off while the Athletics lost, putting the Rays a game and a half behind the A’s in second and first, respectively, in the AL Wild Card race while Cleveland trails Tampa Bay by one and a half.

Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Tigers 5, Orioles 2: When I did yesterday’s recap I didn’t realize that this was a wraparound series and none of you corrected me so I guess that tells ya how this matchup rates in our collective consciousness. Jordy Mercer hit a two-run homer in the first inning and Victor Reyes hit a two-run double in the second to help Detroit earn the split.

Brewers 5, Padres 1: Corey Spangenberg spent five years with the Padres before this season but he set any residual loyalties aside while facing his old comrades, driving in three runs, including a tie-breaking, two-run triple in the fourth inning. Zach Davies, meanwhile, allowed one run over five and the Milwaukee pen held San Diego scoreless for the final four innings. The Brew Crew has won ten of eleven.

Twins 5, White Sox 3: The Sox took an early 2-0 lead but those were the only two runs Twins starter José Berríros allowed while pitching into the eighth inning. Jorge Polanco hit a sacrifice fly and Nelson Cruz knocked an RBI single in the second to tie things up and Mitch Garver‘s RBI double in the fifth put the Twinkies ahead for good. They didn’t hit a homer in this one. I hope they feel OK.

Cardinals 4, Nationals 2: Marcell Ozuna drove in all four of the Cardinals runs with a two-run homer and a two-run double. He also nailed a runner at home plate in the fourth to keep the Nats from tying things up:

The Nationals are looking over their shoulder and seeing the possibility of three NL Central teams making the postseason while they’re on the outside looking in. Not saying it’s gonna happen, but it could.

Cubs 8, Reds 2: Kyle Schwarber hit a three-run homer and Nicholas Castellanos hit a two-run double while five Cubs relievers tossed five and two-thirds scoreless innings. Schwarber — who we have always identified with stellar defense, right? — also made this diving catch:

Rockies 9, Mets 4: Rockies pitcher Antonio Senzatela hit a tying, two-run single in the fourth after which Trevor Story, a far more usual offensive contributor, smacked a three-run homer to blow things open for Colorado. In all the Rockies roughed up Steven Matz for seven runs on six hits in four innings. Before that single, Senzatela had been 0-for-44 on the year.  Brandon Nimmo and Jeff McNeil each homered in a losing cause for New York.

Diamondbacks 7, Marlins 5: Robbie Ray pitched five and two-thirds innings of no-hit ball and left the game after allowing only one run in six innings. Once he was gone, however, the Fish put up a five-spot in the top of the seventh to come back from being down 3-0. Their lead didn’t last long as the Snakes put up a four-spot in their half of the seventh, including a bases-clearing three-run double by Jake Lamb, to give themselves back the lead and, ultimately, the game. Lamb also knocked in the game’s first run while being hit by a pitch with the bases loaded in the first. There are easier ways to get an RBI but whatever works, right?

Royals 6, Athletics 5: The A’s six-game winning streak comes to an end thanks to some late inning heroics by Royals batters. Specifically, Brett Phillips hit a tying home run off Liam Hendricks in the ninth after which Adalberto Mondesí hit an RBI double to put Kansas City on top. That Mondesí double isn’t an RBI if not for the fact that, one batter earlier, Whit Merrifield reached second thanks to a Ramón Laureano letting the ball simply pop out of his glove. Oops.