Ichiro Suzuki, from the “Land of the Rising Sun”, provided the sunshine in the first inning of the game with the Blue Jays when he drove an outside knuckleball delivered by R.A. Dickey into left field for his 4000th hit. His 4000 hits represent the sum of his 1278 hits in Japan (1992-2000) for the Orix Blue Wave and his 2722 hits in MLB (Major League Baseball 2001-2013).To Ichiro’s surprise the entire Yankee team came out of their dugout and walked toward first base to hug and congratulate him. Ichiro then showed his respect by bowing to the fans and then to R.A. Dickey. For this moment in the first inning, the dark cloud over the Yankees, caused by the conflict between Alex Rodriguez, Major League Baseball, and the Yankee management, was lifted. All I can think of was here was a Japanese born ballplayer acting as a role model for MLB. Ichiro, now 39 years old, takes care of his body the correct way. If you watch him in the outfield he is always stretching. Ichiro has never talked trash to any opposing player, coach, or umpire. Yes, I too congratulate Ichiro for not only getting his 4000th hit but doing it the right way. Of course, there are people who do not believe Ichiro belongs with Cobb and Rose in the 4000-Hit-Club. My own opinion is in spite of the fact that Ichiro does not have 4000 MLB hits he is in the same class with Cobb and Rose. The rest of this posting will use a formula from sabermetrics called the Equivalence Coefficient Equation (ECE) to answer the following question:
If Ichiro Suzuki had played his entire career in MLB, how many hits would he have at the end of play on August 21, 2013? In order to use this formula the following baseball statistics for Ichiro, as of August 21, 2013, are needed: His total MLB at-bats (MLBAB = 8509), his total MLB base-on-balls (MLBB = 538), his total MLB hits (MLBHits =2722), his total plate appearances in Japan (JPA = 4003), his total hits in Japan (JHits = 1278). If Ichiro had played in the US for the years 1992-2000 his additional at-bats
(AddAB) = [MLB AB/(MLB AB+ MLBB )]*[JPA] = [8509/(8509+538)]*=3765.
We are now ready to apply the ECE formula: ECE =[1+ (AddAB/MLBAB)]*k. The reason for the constant k is to adjust the formula to take into account the period of time we are estimating. Since the Japanese baseball season is shorter (140 games a season) than in MLB, I will let k = 1.10 to add an extra 10% to his additional at-bats. ECE = [1 + (3765/8509)*1.10] = 1.48
The product of his MLBHits and his ECE gives a prediction of his total hits, assuming he played his entire career in MLB. Ichiro’s Predicted Number of hits = (MLBHits)*EC = 2722*1.48 = 4046. If you ignore the adjustment factor of k = 1.10, the predicted number of hits would be 3926.
From a sabermetric point of view, based on whether an adjustment factor is used or not used, the starting point for each of his future hits will be either 3926 or 4046. So either Ichiro is in the 4000-Hit-Club already or will soon enter the 4000-Hit-Club. I understand that a purist will not accept this logic. Yes, I do remember the Roger Maris asterisk debate about him breaking Ruth’s home run record with the new 162-game schedule.
Since Ichiro averaged over 200 hits a year in his MLB career, holds the record for most hits in a season (262), has an MVP Award, has 10 Gold Gloves, has 9 All-Star appearances, and has three silver slugger awards, his invitation to the Hall of Fame will come. Of course, since he keeps himself in such great shape, he will continue to increase his baseball statistics.
When he was asked about his most meaningful hit, he thought his game-winning hit for Japan in the 2009 World Baseball Classic meant the most to him. Interestingly, this is not one of his 4000 hits.