Could Ichiro Suzuki Break the All-Time Hit Record?
The title of this posting is meant to be provocative. Obviously Ichiro won’t break Pete Rose’s all-time MLB hits record of 4,256, given that he played his first nine seasons in Japan before coming the USA. But what if you combine his MLB and Japan statistics? I want to review Ichiro’s career numbers and consider what his combined lifetime numbers, particularly his hits total, might end up looking like.
Ichiro Suzuki (see his stats here and here) joined the Mariners in 2001 and as a 27-yr-old rookie took home AL Rookie of the Year and MVP honors leading the league with a .350 average, 242 hits, and 56 stolen bases. He led the league in average again in 2004, hitting at a .372 rate. He has stolen 30+ bases every MLB season so far. Remarkably, Ichiro has led the AL in singles every year since joining the league, and so far is leading it again this year. He’s been an All-Star every year, and has taken home Gold Glove defensive honors every year too. He has paced the AL in hits a total of five times, collecting 200+ hits in all of his first eight seasons playing in the majors.
This means his totals so far in MLB are:
- 1,888 Hits
- 911 Runs
- 78 HRs
- 324 SBs
- .332 Batting Average
If he retired today, would his MLB accomplishments alone warrant election to the Hall of Fame? In my view, the answer is yes. However, the MLB HOF has a 10-year minimum playing requirement rule, so unless they made an exception for Ichiro given his Japanese playing time, I fear he couldn’t yet be elected. Short of a catastrophic injury, since he is still going strong — .356 average and 9 SB so far this year — he should have more than enough playing time remaining to warrant election.
But of course before joining the Mariners in 2001 Ichiro had been a star in Japan. After two partial seasons in 1992-93, He hit .385 with 53 stolen bases in 1994. He displayed more power in Japan, smacking 118 HR inÂ 3619 at-bats compared toÂ only 78 HR in 5693 at-bats in the majors. His high was 25 HR in 1995. His batting average (.353) was also, not surprisingly, a bit higher in Japan as well. Here are his career numbers from 1992-2000 in Japan:
- 1278 Hits
- 658 Runs
- 118 HR
- 199Â SBs
- .353 Batting average
Before I continue, I want to grant the obvious: adding together statistics from MLB and Japan is not really legitimate, because just about everyone would admit the talent level, overall, is greater in the majors. Nonetheless, as a fun exercise, consider these combined career numbers:
- 2,284 Games
- 9,312 At-Bats
- 1,484 Runs
- 3,166 Hits
- 196Â HRs
- 1,015 RBIs
- 776Â Walks
- 879 Strikeouts
- 523 SBs
- .340 Batting Average
As many already know, thisÂ means that the combined Ichiro has eclipsed the career 3,000 hit mark already — last summer sometime.
Now, let’s do some conservative estimations. Let’s say he ends up this year with 210 hits, that would put him at 3,293 for his combined career. He turns 36 on October 22nd. So I’ll assume he has four more solid years, averaging 200 hits each season. Then let’s add on justÂ two more after that, at ages 40 and 41, where he’ll get another 100 hitsÂ in each.Â That would add another 1000 hits in all, and he’d then have 4,293 — which means he will have passed Pete Rose’s mark of 4,256!
Again, I’m not really suggesting we could then legitimately consider Ichiro the all-time hits leader — since 1,278 of them came while playing in the Japanese league. But surely we would then have to consider carefully where we’d want to rate Ichiro amongst all-time hitters, and I think we’d have to consider him (if not already) amongst the top five singles or batting-average hitters (non-power) of all-time.
Keep it up Ichiro!
P.S. Per the comment I received from Gilbert Martinez, I’ve updated this post with what I now assume to be the correct numbers for Ichiro’s time in Japan, obtained from this website. I had been using the numbers from this Sportsline page, but they oddly have double entries included for his 1992 and 1993 seasons, something I noticed at the time I wrote this post but forgot to look into further before finishing my article. Sorry for any confusion!
Â P.P.S. As further noted in the comments received, when I made the change noted above I forgot to update my math at the end. I’ve now re-written the last part of this article to take this into account.