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:

Orioles option LHP Bruce Zimmermann to minors

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SARASOTA, Fla. – The Baltimore Orioles have optioned left-handers Bruce Zimmermann and Nick Vespi and reassigned infielder Lewin Díaz, left-hander Darwinzon Hernandez and catcher Mark Kolozsvary to minor league camp.

The Orioles announced the moves Monday.

Baltimore’s spring training roster now has 46 players.

Zimmermann made 13 starts last season. He went 2-5 with a 5.99 ERA.

The competition for rotation spots with the Orioles has been a significant story during spring training, but after the team acquired Cole Irvin and Kyle Gibson in the offseason – and with top prospect Grayson Rodriguez in the mix as well – there were a lot of pitchers Zimmermann needed to beat out.