After 19 years in the Major Leagues and nine seasons in Japan, the great Ichiro Suzuki is retiring. His next stop will be Cooperstown and a sure-thing induction to the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility.
Ichiro stopped playing in May of last season, taking a job with the Mariners’ front office. While career retrospectives followed that announcement, Ichiro made a point to say that he was not yet retiring. It was clear why he kept his options open: he wanted to end his career in a Mariners uniform in front of fans in Tokyo for the 2019 Japan Series. He didn’t have any success at the plate in his final two games — he went hitless in five at bats with a walk before being removed after taking the field in the bottom of the eighth inning — but allowing him to say goodbye to both Mariners fans and fans in Japan in one fell swoop made for a fitting finish for him all the same.
Ichiro ends his big league career with a line of .311/.355/.402, with 3,089 hits and 509 stolen bases. He was the MVP and Rookie of the Year in 2001, took home 10 Gold Gloves and three Silver Slugger Awards and made the All-Star team ten times. He set the all-time record for hits in a season in 2004 with 262 safeties. He topped 200 hits ten times and led the league in hits seven times, including four years running between 2006 and 2010.
That was just part of it, obviously, as Ichiro was a megastar in Japan before coming to the United States, leading the Orix Blue Wave for nine seasons. His 1,278 hits there, combined with his 3,089 here, give him a career total of 4,367, which are more than any man to ever play the game. Pete Rose may still be the MLB hit king, but Ichiro is certainly the global hit king.
Other statistical highlights:
- Only one player led the league in hits more often than Ichiro: Ty Cobb. Tony Gwynn and Pete Rose also led the league in hits seven times;
- Ichiro’s 3,089 career hits, are the 23rd-most in MLB history. There are only 32 members of the 3,000 hit club currently;
- 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).
Ichiro will, quite obviously, be called to Cooperstown in 2025, his first year of eligibility. Not that he will need that to ensure his immortality. He is one of the greatest and one of the most memorable players of all time. Both his fame and his accomplishments stand unique.