September 29, 2010 16 Comments
Everybody knows that the Japanese make high quality machinery, and one of the best products to come out of Japan is the machine-like Ichiro Suzuki.
Last week, Ichiro became the first player in Major League history to have 200 hits in an astounding 10 straight seasons. Of course, with any phenomenal stat for any athlete there is always talk of where that athlete ranks towards others of his kind. There have been so many great hitters that have come and gone in the Major Leagues, and we have to wonder where Ichiro ranks among them?
There is no doubt in my mind that Ichiro is one of the greatest hitters of all time, but what is questionable is his status of the greatest ever.
How about we compare some statistics.
Ted Williams, the one player that many people have failed to mention in this discussion, could possibly be the greatest. In 19 seasons Ted Williams finished with a career batting average of .344, a staggering .482 on-base percentage and 521 home runs. However, what is even more impressive about those numbers is that he missed 3 seasons in the prime of his career from 1943-1945 because of World War II. Even at the age of 41 Williams still hit a solid .316 in 113 games. Oh yeah, he was also the last player to hit above .400 in a season.
A .366 career batting average, .433 on-base, and never having a season with a batting average under .323. The man who put up these astounding numbers is Ty Cobb. Cobb also had 9 consecutive seasons with at least 200 hits.
Whenever you speak of the best hitters in baseball history Babe Ruth is going to come into the conversation 99% of the time. This is not without good reason. We all know about the 714 home runs that he hit, but we sometimes forget that he also hit for average. Ruth finished his career with a .342 batting average and a single season high at .393. He also had an on-base percentage of over .500 in multiple seasons.
Of course there are a number of other players that I would love to go through, but the above are the ones that I felt are in need of going further in-depth of. Other hitters that I could have gone farther in-depth with include Pete Rose, Tony Gwyn, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, etc. If you feel that I am missing anyone desperately important then please let it be known.
Let’s get back to the man in question.
Ichiro is one of those once in a forever players and not just because he is a great player. It is the quirky way in which he hits the ball and conducts himself as a person on and off the field. Albert Pujols is a great hitter, but he has as technically a sound swing as it gets. On the other hand, I’m not going to be telling my kid to pull away from the ball à la Ichiro
With that being said, the way in which Ichiro conducts himself has nothing to do with how good of a hitter he is. Despite his 10 straight 200 hit seasons, there have been a number of seasons in his career that have not been too impressive. If you include this season, there will be four years in his MLB career in which he has batted under .315, and only once has he had an on-base percentage above .400.
Personally, I don’t believe that on-base percentage is a big part of being a great hitter because it does not actually involve hitting the ball. With that being said, it still is a part of being an all-around hitter and Ichiro flat out does not walk very often.
Moreover, Ichiro has played 7 of his 10 seasons in the Majors over the age of 30, which means we have no idea what he could have done if he had started his career at say 23 years of age rather than 27.
Now, even though Ichiro is my favourite baseball of all-time, I think that there is enough evidence to conclude that he is not the greatest hitter of all-time. Top 5, yes. Best ever, no.
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