Sunday, September 05, 2004

223

The Amazing Ichiro! went 5-5 yesterday, as all of you who didn't crawl under a rock for Labor Day Weekend already know.

To those who have suggested teams will not pitch to Ichiro!, and that he will see a lot more walks down the stretch, let me offer this quote from yesterday's pitcher, left-hander Mark Buehrle (against whom Ichiro! is now 9-20 lifetime):

"I threw the ball an inch off the ground, over his head and he still hit it. I even tried an eephus pitch. I can't get him out with my other stuff, so maybe that would work."

The only way you're gonna walk Ichiro! is if you throw four wide ones. Even then, you better make sure they're out of his reach.

There is simply no evidence that teams have tried to pitch around Ichiro! as he has gotten hotter in the second half (or at least, if they have, there is no evidence that it has worked). Ichiro!'s walk per plate appearance rate has actually declined in every month since June (his highest rate, at .094 BB/PA) -- .084 BB/PA in July, .050 BB/PA in August, and .058 so far in September. His walk rate from July on (.066) is not significantly different from his career walk rate (.061).

Ichiro's PA/G rate suggests he will get another 110-120 AB this season, even if he is walked at higher than his career high rate (.094 BB/G). With that many ABs, Ichiro! needs only to hit somewhere between .292 to .318 the rest of the way to break Sisler's record. While certainly improbable, I don't think you can even say .400 is completely out of the question. To reach .400, Ichiro! will have to hit somewhere between .504 and .509 the rest of the way (59 to 62 more hits, depending on how many ABs he gets). That seems impossible, but then again, Ichiro! has started off September hitting .647, and he has hit .490 since July 18, with each month after June being a bit hotter than the month before.

Ichiro! and Barry Bonds are the only players in baseball today that give me the feeling that nothing is impossible. I consider myself privileged to have seen both players play this historic season.


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