Thursday, August 19, 2004

Ichiro!

Sorry for so many delays in posting. August is vacation month; Jack's just back, and I am about to leave once again (for a week, for my traditional camping trip during which the M's tradition is to lose nearly every game), but we'll be better in September.

For now, though, here is a little tidbit: Ichiro! is doing things I would have said 6 weeks ago are impossible. So who's to say that he can't break George Sisler's record of 257 hits in a (154-game) season?

Ichiro! has hit .483 in 145 AB since the All-Star Break, and .508 over 65 AB in August. Even though he hit only .255 in April, and just .274 in June, he is now hitting .3663 for the season. While I usually don't advocate the arbitrary practice of engaging in "if you don't count these two months . . ." kind of analysis, I can't help but marvel at the fact that, if you do take out those two months, Ichiro! has managed to hit .435 over 60% of his at-bats (308) for the season.

So let's engage in a little bit of "what if" projection. Since the Royals decided it was better to bean Ichiro! than to pitch to him, there is a good chance that Ichiro! won't play all of the Mariners' remaining 43 games. Conservatively, let's say he plays 40 of the 43 (I say "conservatively" because I doubt his beaning will cost him more than one game, and if he is at all close to Sisler's record, I don't think Melvin will sit him in September) games left.

If Ichiro! maintains his current AB/G pace (4.373 AB/G):

* If Ichiro hits at his seasonal average pace (.3663) the rest of the way, he will get 253 hits (64-for-175). If he manages to get 185 AB instead of 175 -- either through getting more AB/G or playing more games -- and hits for his seasonal average, he will tie Sisler's record.

* If Ichiro! hits at the pace he has since his awful April start (163-for414, or .3937), he will get 69 more hits and break Sisler's record by one. If he gets 185 AB instead of 175 (and his current AB/G pace will give him 184 more AB if he only misses one of the Mariners' remaining games), at that pace he will finish with 262 hits.

* If Ichiro! maintains the torrid pace he has maintained since the All-Star Break (.483 over 145 AB), he will absolutely shatter Sisler's record, finishing with 274 hits. Even if he slowed to a possibly-human pace of .400 over the likely 175-185 remaining AB he should get, he will easily break Sisler's record, finishing with 259-263 hits.

How likely is it that Ichiro! can maintain any one of the projected paces? Well, normally I would say not very likely, but he has already done that and more over a similar extended period (Ichiro! has 86 hits over his last 187 AB, or .460), so who am I to say he can't do it?

I am probably not the first to say it, but I will say it anyway: Ichiro! is the one guy in MLB I think is capable of someday hitting .400 for a season. Hell, if he had just hit for his career average (.336) in April and June of this year, he would be flirting with .400 right now (he would be hitting about .395 and looking at a stretch drive fueled by the knowledge that he could slow down and still reach .400).

Regardless of what super-human feats you can see Ichiro! performing the rest of the way, though, he's not going to hit .400 this year. To do that, he would have to maintain something very close to his .508 August hitting pace for the rest of the year. If you project Ichiro! to 691-700 AB for the season, he'll need to hit right around .500 the rest of the way to finish with the 277 to 280 hits it will take for him to finish with a .400 average. I suppose it's only fair to Ichiro! to say that's not impossible, but I think it is pretty damn close to impossible to do.

If Ichiro! has taught me one thing this year, though, it is "never say never."



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