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Ichiro Suzuki

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Ichiro Suzuki

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[edit] Biographical Information

Ichiro Suzuki was a huge star in his native Japan before moving to the United States to become the first Japanese position player in the major leagues in 2001, and finding tremendous success and popularity in North America as well. He holds the single-season record for hits in the major leagues.

Ichiro was drafted in the fourth round by the Orix Blue Wave in 1991. Ichiro's first manager Shozo Doi said at the time that Ichiro would never hit with his batting stance. He won one minor league batting title. Doi was let go by the Blue Wave after the 1993 season, and new manager Akira Ohgi was hired; Ohgi placed Ichiro at the top of the lineup, and Ichiro responded with an all-time Nippon Pro Baseball hit total of 210 in 1994 which he held until 2010 (when Matt Murton broke it after NPB expanded their schedule by 14 games), batting .385/.445/.549 with 13 HR's and 54 RBI. He also set records for most consecutive games reaching base (69 in 1994), times hit by a pitch (18 in 1995, a mark broken within a decade) and most at bats without a strikeout (216 in a row in 1997). Ichiro would continue to shine in the NPB, becoming one of the best players ever. Ichiro batted .353/.434/.522 with 118 HR's and 429 RBI. Ichiro totaled 1,278 hits and stole 199 bases over his 9 year NPB career. Ichiro won 7 consecutive batting crowns from 1994 to 2000 (every year he was a regular in NPB), won 5 consecutive hit crowns from 1994 to 1998, was a 3-time MVP (1994-1996), was selected to seven Best Nine squads (1994-2000), and was a 7-time Gold Glove award winner (1994-2000). Ichiro has the highest career batting average in NPB history among players with 2,000 or more at bats - runner-up Randy Bass is 16 points behind. His seven batting championships tied the record set by Isao Harimoto. He led the Pacific League five times in OBP, once in steals, three times in total bases, five times in hits, 4 times in runs, once in doubles, once in RBI (part of a 3-way tie) and six times in intentional walks. He held the record for singles in a season in Japan until it was broken first by Norihiro Akahoshi and then Norichika Aoki during the 2005 season.

Ichiro.jpg

Ichiro spent spring training with the Seattle Mariners in 1999. He was posted by the Orix Blue Wave in the 2000 offseason. The Seattle Mariners won his rights for $13,125,000. Ichiro shined in his first year, batting .350 with 8 HR's and 69 RBI and 242 hits. Ichiro was named the American League MVP and Rookie of the Year, being the first player to win both MVP and ROY since Fred Lynn did it 1975. Ichiro broke the all-time Major League Baseball single-season hit record in 2004 with 262 hits; the record was previously held by George Sisler.

In his first ten seasons in the major leagues (2001-2010), Ichiro, had a .331 average with 90 HR's and 558 RBI and 2244 hits in the majors. Ichiro displayed excellent defense in both right field and center field with the Mariners, with a great arm and overall defensive ability. Ichiro has won 10 Gold Gloves so far in the majors. He has also been selected to 10 All-Star squads since switching countries. Also, Ichiro holds the record with the most hits in his first five years, breaking the previous record held by Paul Waner.

Ichiro meets the President before the 2009 All-Star Game

Ichiro appeared in the second to last episode of Furuhata Ninzaburō [1], a Japanese television police drama that he loves; the episode aired January 4, 2006. He played a fictionalized version of himself who kills someone and is arrested.

Ichiro Suzuki went on to play with the winning Japanese team in the first World Baseball Classic, batting .363 (12-33) with 1 HR and 5 RBI.

He went 3 for 3 in the 2007 All-Star Game to win the All-Star Game MVP Award. He hit the first inside-the-park homer in All-Star Game history that year. On July 29, 2007, Suzuki reached 1,500 hits in his 1,060th major league game. Only Al Simmons (1,040) and George Sisler (1,048) had taken fewer games to get to 1,500 hits in the major leagues. Suzuki topped 220 hits for the fourth time that year, becoming only the third major leaguer to do so that often - only Rogers Hornsby and Jesse Burkett had done so before. Exactly a year later, Ichiro collected the 3,000th hit of his MLB-NPB career; only Isao Harimoto had reached 3,000 in NPB. The Associated Press and other media ignorant of international sports claimed Suzuki had 1,278 hits in "the Japanese League" when there is no such league.

Ichiro assumes his signature bat stretch during his first home at bat in 2011

On September 17, 2008, against the Kansas City Royals, Ichiro recorded his 8th consecutive 200-hit season, tying "Wee" Willie Keeler (1894-1901) for most consecutive 200+ hit seasons. He broke Keeler's record in 2009, then in 2010 tied Pete Rose for the most 200-hit seasons in a MLB career (10).

In the 2009 World Baseball Classic, Suzuki was Japan's right fielder and leadoff hitter. He hit .273/.273/.364 with 7 runs in 9 games. He tied Akinori Iwamura for the team lead in runs. He had the third-worst OPS of a regular position player on Samurai Japan, ahead of only Kosuke Fukudome and Michihiro Ogasawara. He still tied Keun-woo Jeong and Iwamura for 5th in the Classic in runs and tied Norichika Aoki and Frederich Cepeda for the most hits (12). He saved his best for last, however, getting four hits in the finale as Japan beat South Korea, 5-3, to win its second straight Classic; the 4th hit was the game-winning two-run two-out 10th inning single off Chang-yong Lim, scoring Seiichi Uchikawa and Iwamura with the winning runs.

On April 16, 2009, Suzuki got the 3,086th hit of his pro career, a single off Joe Saunders. That broke Isao Harimoto's record. Suzuki reported that back in 1995, Harimoto had told Suzuki he was the "only guy who could break my record." On April 2, 2011, ten years to the day after his major league debut, he overtook Edgar Martinez for the most hits in Mariners franchise history. On June 19, 2012, he collected his 2,500th hit in the major leagues; he was the 4th quickest player to that total, needing 1817 games. Only Al Simmons, Ty Cobb and George Sisler had been quicker, putting him in very elite company indeed. However, he was only batting .255 at the time, well below his career mark of .323, giving rise to questions about how long he could keep his position as a starter given that batting average is at the heart of his offensive output.

On July 23, 2012, Ichiro was traded by the Mariners with cash to the New York Yankees for pitchers D.J. Mitchell and Danny Farquhar. He was hitting .288 in 95 games for Seattle, leading the AL with 402 at-bats and 5 triples. The Yankees had recently announced that LF Brett Gardner was out for the season. In his first game for the Bronx Bombers, facing his former teammates less than 4 hours after the deal was announced, he started in right field and batted 8th, singling off Kevin Millwood in his first at-bat in pinstripes as the Yankees beat the M's, 4-1. He had a rebirth with the Yankees, hitting a solid .322 with 5 homers and 27 RBI in 67 games as the Yankees managed to finish ahead of the Baltimore Orioles in the AL East. In his first postseason action in over a decade, he was 5 for 23 (.217) as the Yankeed defeated the O's in the ALDS, and then 6 for 17 (.353) with a homer as the Yanks' best hitter in their four-game sweep at the hands of the Detroit Tigers in the ALCS. After the season, he re-signed with the Yankees for two years.

Suzuki went into spring training with the Yankees in 2013 guaranteed to be the starter in right field, following his solid performance down the stretch the previous season. Indeed, with the Yankees struggling with age and injuries, and having lost a number of key players to free agency, he was counted on as a cornerstone of the team's offense. However, things almost went very bad for him on March 2nd, when his sports utility vehicle was totaled in a three-car wreck a couple of miles from the Yankees' spring training complex in Tampa, FL. He was not at fault as another driver plowed into him as he was making a left turn, and his airbags deployed properly to save him from serious injury. He was one of the mainstays of the Yankees' line-up in the season's early months as the Yankees got off to a much better start than expected in spite of a slew of injuries. On August 21st, he hit a 1st-inning single against R.A. Dickey of the Toronto Blue Jays for the 4,000th hit of his career between Japan (1,278) and the United States (2,722). He was the third player to reach the milestone at such a high level of play, following Ty Cobb and Pete Rose who had gotten all of their hits in the U.S. major leagues. His manager, Joe Girardi, put the feat in perspective: "I didn't have 4,000 hits in my whole career and you can go back to T-ball. To me it's an unbelievable feat, and he's some kind of hitter."

[edit] Notable Achievements

  • 2001 AL Rookie of the Year Award
  • 2001 Topps All-Star Rookie Team
  • 10-time AL All-Star (2001-2010)
  • AL MVP (2001)
  • 2007 All-Star Game MVP
  • 10-time AL Gold Glove Winner (2001-2010)
  • 3-time AL Silver Slugger Award Winner (2001, 2007 & 2009)
  • 2-time AL Batting Average Leader (2001 & 2004)
  • 8-time AL At Bats Leader (2001, 2004-2008, 2010 & 2011)
  • 7-time AL Hits Leader (2001, 2004 & 2006-2010)
  • 10-time AL Singles Leader (2001-2010)
  • AL Stolen Bases Leader (2001)
  • 100 Runs Scored Seasons: 8 (2001-2008)
  • 200 Hits Seasons: 10 (2001-2010)
  • 50 Stolen Bases Seasons: 1 (2001)


AL MVP
2000 2001 2002
Jason Giambi Ichiro Suzuki Miguel Tejada


AL Rookie of the Year
2000 2001 2002
Kazuhiro Sasaki Ichiro Suzuki Eric Hinske

[edit] Records Held

  • At bats, left-handed batter, season, 704, 2004
  • Hits, season, 262, 2004
  • Hits, left-handed batter, season, 262, 2004
  • Seasons with 200 or more hits, 10 (tied)
  • Consecutive seasons with 200 or more hits, 10
  • Consecutive seasons with 200 or more hits, from start of career, 10
  • Singles, season, 225, 2004
  • Singles, left-handed batter, season, 225, 2004
  • Seasons leading league in singles, 10
  • Consecutive seasons leading league in singles, 10
  • Consecutive seasons with 150 or more singles, 10
  • Hits in 4-year span, 924
  • Hits in 5-year span, 1130

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