Ichiro Suzuki

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Ichiro Suzuki (鈴木 一朗)

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Biographical Information[edit]

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 in the league's history. 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 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, 2001, 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 wona total of 10 Gold Gloves in the majors. He was also selected to 10 All-Star squads after 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 remainder of 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 Yankees defeated the Orioles 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."

On January 23, 2015, he signed a one-year contract with the Marlins. He played 153 games, hitting only .229, by far his worst average as a major leaguer. He finished the season with 2,935 major league hits, amid speculation that he would not return for another season that could give him a chance to join the 3,000 hit club. On the final days of the season, October 4th, he made the first and only pitching appearance of his career, pitching the 8th inning of a 7-2 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies, giving up 1 run on 2 hits. However, he did return to the Marlins in 2016 with the goal of joining the 3000 hit club foremost in his mind. First, however, he set another rare mark when he stole the 500th base of his career on April 29th. By mid-June he was closing in on Pete Rose's mark of 4,256 hits as a major leaguer, and the nearing of major milestones had seemingly rejuvenated him, as he was hitting an excellent .336 after 52 games. He passed Rose on June 15th, when he collected hit number 4,257 with a 9th-inning double off Fernando Rodney of the San Diego Padres. The feat prompted a debate among columnists about who was greater, Rose or Ichiro, and how significant Ichiro's feat truly was. However, with Miami playing well, and its three regular outfielders - Giancarlo Stanton, Marcell Ozuna and Christian Yelich - all healthy at the same time, Ichiro found it hard to get playing time in July. He was only 3 for 11 for the month when he got a rare start in place of Ozuna on July 17th, and he responded with a pair of singles against the St. Louis Cardinals to move within 6 hits of the magic 3,000 number. But getting those last few hit to reach the milestone number took a while, given his limited opportunities. On August 6th, he got number 2,999 as a pinch-hitter in the 8th inning against the Colorado Rockies, then stayed in the game. In his first attempt at 3,000 in the 9th inning of that game, he hit a comebacker to P Scott Oberg whose throw to first beat him by half a step. Not willing to let the suspense endure longer, the Marlins announced that he would be in the starting line-up on August 7th. Batting 6th and playing centerfield that day, he collected the historic hit in the 7th inning, a triple off Chris Rusin off the wall at Coors Field. He was the 30th player to join the exclusive club, but his route to the milestone was probably the most remarkable, given he was already 27 when he collected his first big league hit. Ironically, his milestone hit came on the day when former teammate Alex Rodriguez, who had been the last player to join the vaunted club the year before, announced his retirement effective in a week. Shortly after the milestone hit. RF Stanton was lost for the season to a groin injury, with the result that Ichiro would once again receive regular playing time over the remaining six weeks, allowing him to progress further up the career hit leaders' ladder.

On April 19, 2017, he picked an appropriate venue to hit his first road home run in over four years, doing so against his former team, the Mariners at Safeco Field. He went yard against Evan Marshall in what was his first return to the Pacific Northwest since his trade to the Yankees in 2012. On June 14th, he hit a pinch single against the Oakland Athletics, giving him a total of 365 hits in interleague games; that surpassed Derek Jeter to set a new record. On June 25th, he became the oldest player to start a game in center field, passing Rickey Henderson. On July 6th, he collected two hits in a 4-3 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals to become the all-time leader in the category for players born outside the United States with 3,054, passing Rod Carew. That season he also broke the Marlins' all-time record for pinch hits in a season; the previous mark had been 21, by Ross Gload in 2009, and he collected his 22nd on August 26th. He finished with 27 in 109 plate appearances. The latter total was a new major league record, as was his 100 at-bats in the role, while the former was one short of the all-time best of 28 set by John Vander Wal in 1995. He finished the year at .255, bringing his career hit total to 3,080. On November 3rd, however, the new Marlins management under former teammate Derek Jeter announced that they would buy out his option for 2018 for $500,000. He had been a personal favorite of former owner Jeffrey Loria, and it was not clear that any other team would be willing to give him another shot, in spite of his avowed wish to play until he is 50.

One team that did bite was the Seattle Mariners, the team with which Ichiro is most associated, as they began negotiations with him during spring training in 2018; the M's interest suddenly increased when OF Ben Gamel went down with an injury that would force him to miss the start of the year and a one-year deal was finalized on March 7th. On March 31st, he came up with an age-defying play as he robbed Jose Ramirez of the Cleveland Indians of a home run by climbing over the left field wall at Safeco Field in the 3rd inning. Two days earlier, he had been the Mariners' Opening Day starter at the position. However, on May 3rd, the Mariners announced that they were releasing him as a player and offering him a position as a special assistant to the Chairman. With Gamel back and other outfielders available, Ichiro was no longer required to help out, and as he was hitting just .205 with no extra-base hits, the decision to let him go was made easier. His role was to be a uniformed pre-game instructor - but not as a coach. He was not prepared to call it a career just yet, and he stated that he would try out with the team again the following season, with the added motivation that Seattle was scheduled to open its season in Japan that year. "I'll retire when I start using a cane", he explained. While the original plan was that he would not be a coach, that changed on May 12th, at least, when manager Scott Servais took a leave of absence to be at his daughter's graduation; Bench coach Manny Acta took over as manager for the doubleheader the M's played against the Detroit Tigers that day, with Ichiro sliding over into his role on the bench. The following January, GM Jerry Dipoto indicated that, if he was healthy, Suzuki would be on the team's roster for their opening series in Japan that March, when the M's would be allowed to have 28 players on their active roster. He signed a one-year contract worth $750,000 on Janueary 23rd.

Ichiro started the first game of the 2019 season in right field at the Tokyo Dome, against the Oakland Athletics. At 45, he was the second-oldest player ever to start on opening day, after Julio Franco, and he was the focus of much of the attention in his home country. Batting 9th, he made an out in his first at-bat, but in the 4th, he drew a walk against Liam Hendriks after a good battle, contributing to a Seattle run. Manager Scott Servais then replaced him in the bottom of the inning. In the second game, on March 21st, he went 0 for 4 before being replaced in the bottom of the 8th. His mission accomplished, he announced his retirement after the game. Meanwhile, the Mariners swept the two-game series. He was then quickly confirmed in his new role as special assistant to the Mariners' chairman, John Stanton, working as an instructor with the organization major league and minor league players. In 2020, he was a spring training instructor with the Mariners and impressed observers by his outstanding shape and the quality of his pitches in batting practice. In 2021, he did get to take to the field, as he and former teammate Mike Cameron, also a spring training instructor, suited up and played the outfield in an intrasquad game on March 7th, set up so that various pitchers in camp could get some work in against real hitters. Both older statesmen took good cuts even if they failed to get hits.

In addition to collecting over 3,000 hits, he was the 86th Player to Score 1,400 Runs in the major leagues.

Notable Achievements[edit]

  • 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)

2000 2001 2002
Jason Giambi Ichiro Suzuki Miguel Tejada

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

Records Held[edit]

American League records[edit]

  • Most at-bats by rookie, season: 692 (157 games in 2001)
  • Most at-bats by lefthander, season: 704 (161 games in 2004)
  • Most seasons leading the league in at-bats: 8 (2001, 2004–2008, 2010–2011)
  • Most consecutive seasons leading the league in at-bats: 5 (2004–2008)
  • Most hits, season: 262 (2004)
  • Most hits by rookie, season: 242 (2001)
  • Most hits by lefthander, season: 262 (2004)
  • Most consecutive seasons leading the league in hits: 5 (2006–2010)
  • Most games with one or more hits, season: 135 (2001)
  • Most seasons with 200 or more hits: 10 (2001–2010)
  • Most consecutive seasons with 200 or more hits: 10 (2001–2010)
  • Most consecutive seasons with 200 or more hits, from start of career: 10 (2001–2010)
  • Most hits, two consecutive seasons: 474 (212 in 2003, 262 in 2004)
    • tied with Ty Cobb (Detroit Tigers, 248 in 1911, 226 in 1912)
  • Most games with five or more hits, season: 4 (July 29 (13 inn.), August 3, September 4, September 21, 2004)
    • tied with Ty Cobb (Detroit Tigers, May 7, July 7, July 12, July 17, 1922)
  • Most batting streaks of 20 or more games, career: 7 (2001 (2), 2004, 2004–05, 2006, 2007, 2009)
    • tied with Ty Cobb (Detroit Tigers, 1911, 1912, 1917, 1918, 1920, 1926, Philadelphia Athletics, 1927)
  • Most singles, season: 225 (2004)
  • Most singles by rookie, season: 192 (2001)
  • Most singles by lefthander, season: 225 (2004)
  • Most seasons leading the league in singles: 10 (2001–2010)
  • Most consecutive seasons leading the league in singles: 10 (2001–2010)
  • Most consecutive seasons with 150 or more singles: 10 (2001–2010)
  • Hits in 4-year span: 924
  • Hits in 5-year span: 1,130
  • Fewest grounding into double plays by rookie, season [min. 150 games]: 3 (2001)
  • Most seasons leading the league in fewest grounding into double plays [min. 150 games]: 4 (2001, 2003, 2005–2006)
  • Most consecutive stolen bases without caught stealing, career: 45 (29 April 2006 – 19 May 2007)
  • Only inside-the-park home run in MLB All-Star Game history: 10 July 2007, 1 on, off Chris Young, 5th inning, AT&T Park, San Francisco
Set with teammates

National League records[edit]

  • Most at-bats as a pinch hitter, season: 100 (2017)
  • Most plate appearances as a pinch hitter, season: 109 (2017)

Further Reading[edit]

  • Barry M. Bloom: "Ichiro's perseverance paying off in chase for 3,000 hits", mlb.com, July 27, 2016. [2]
  • Barry M. Bloom: "With no MLB offer, Ichiro might return to Japan: Agent holding out hope that he can find a big league job for outfielder", mlb.com, January 17, 2018. [3]
  • Anthony Castrovince: "Baseball reflects on marvel of Ichiro's career: Japanese star moving into front-office role with Mariners for rest of '18", mlb.com, May 3, 2018. [4]
  • Alyson Footer: "Exploring the lighter side of Ichiro: Big Papi, others explain Japanese star's quirky humor", mlb.com, March 18, 2019. [5]
  • Scott Gleeson: "Ichiro Suzuki says he will retire 'when I start using a cane'", USA Today Sports, May 3, 2018. [[6]
  • Greg Johns: "Ichiro transitioning from field to front office: Iconic outfielder 'not retiring'; return next season possible", mlb.com, May 3, 2018. [7]
  • Greg Johns: "Ichiro arrives in stellar shape, focused on Tokyo", mlb.com, February 16, 2019. [8]
  • Greg Johns: "Ichiro retires after emotional finale in Tokyo", mlb.com, March 21, 2019. [9]
  • Greg Johns: "Reliving Ichiro's best a year after final game: Outfielder wowed baseball fans with his glove, arm and bat", mlb.com, March 21, 2020. [10]
  • Richard Justice: "Ichiro's feat astounding, but Rose rules hit parade: With 4,256 hits in Majors, all-time grinder deserves renewed recognition", mlb.com, June 15, 2016. [11]
  • Richard Justice: "Baseball fans should cherish Ichiro's return", mlb.com, January 23, 2019. [12]
  • Elliot Kalb: "Ichiro holds one seemingly unbreakable record", mlb.com, May 5, 2018. [13]
  • Jessica Kleinschmidt: "With Ichiro headed back to Seattle, let's relive 8 of his best moments with the Mariners", "Cut4", mlb.com, March 5, 2018. [14]
  • Daniel Kramer and Andrew Simon: "20 incredible facts about Ichiro's career", mlb.com, March 21, 2019. [15]
  • Jake Mintz: "Six reasons why Ichiro should be the next unanimous Hall of Famer", "Cut4", mlb.com, January 24, 2019. [16]
  • Bob Nightengale: "As Ichiro closes in, Pete Rose chafes: 'They're trying to make me the Hit Queen'", USA Today Sports, June 14, 2016. [17]
  • Bob Nightengale: "Ichiro Suzuki rekindles love affair with Mariners: 'Seattle has always been home'", USA Today Sports, March 7, 2018. [18]
  • Bob Nightengale: "Ichiro Suzuki: Baseball's greatest enigma upon his arrival - and departure", USA Today Sports, May 3, 2018. [19]
  • Bob Nightengale: "Ichiro Suzuki, 45, signs minor league deal with Seattle Mariners in hopes of triumphant return", USA Today, January 23, 2019. [20]
  • Bob Nightengale: "'He's like a folk hero': 45-year-old Ichiro continues to awe at Mariners spring training", USA Today, February 16, 2019. [21]
  • Jorge L. Ortiz: "Ichiro Suzuki: The last of his kind in home run era", USA Today Sports, May 3, 2018. [22]
  • Tracy Ringolsby: "Ichiro's road to 3,000 paved in Emerald City: Japanese star adapted quickly after making jump to Majors with Mariners in 2001", mlb.com, August 7, 2016. [23]
  • Andrew Simon and Matt Kelly: "DYK: Ichiro joins 3,000-hit club", mlb.com, August 7, 2016. [24]
  • Clark Spencer: "Ichiro can’t fathom retirement: ‘I think I’ll just die'", The Miami Herald, March 29, 2017. [25]
  • Ben Weinrib and Joe Frisaro: "3-chiro: 3B for 30th to reach 3,000 hits!", mlb.com, August 7, 2016. [26]
  • Jesse Yomtov: "5 most memorable moments of Ichiro Suzuki's MLB career", USA Today Sports, May 3, 2018. [27]

Related sites[edit]