2016 stats: 143 G, 365 PA, .291 AVG, .354 OBP, 22 RBI, 10 SB, 1.4 WAR
When the Marlins signed Ichiro Suzuki to be their fourth outfielder before the 2015 season, expectations were not especially high for the future Hall of Famer despite the numerous accolades he had under his belt. He was 41-years young, after all.
Even so, the organization did not expect Ichiro to post the worst season of his MLB career, resulting in a WAR of -0.7 over 153 games. The explanation for this drastic downturn in form was simply overuse, as long-term injury woes for Miami’s outfield led to the veteran playing almost everyday.
Despite the poor offensive numbers, the Marlins brought Ichiro back for 2016 due to his positive clubhouse presence and national and international appeal, as well as to give the Japanese legend the chance to join the exclusive 3,000-hit club, as he was only 65 knocks away at the end of 2015.
That proved to be a very wise decision by Miami; Ichiro rebounded in a big way this past season. In a reduced yet more effective role, he finished the year batting .291, and was only denied an astonishing eleventh major league season hitting over .300 by a late September slide.
He produced the second-highest walk rate of his career at 8.2%, and managed to raise his WAR by over two points, which was a bigger improvement than AL MVP Mike Trout!
Undoubtedly, the highlight of Ichiro’s 2016 season with the Marlins was the triple he hit on August the 7th in Denver which made him the 30th player in MLB history to reach the 3,000-hit mark, and only the third to do so after eclipsing 40 years of age. Even if the Marlins had not exercised his option for 2017, that moment will go down as one of the most memorable in franchise history.
Overall, Ichiro was a solid contributor coming off the bench in 2016, and the Marlins could not have asked for much more out of him. At 43 years old, Ichiro may have a harder time producing effective numbers in a similar role for Miami in 2017, but it is well within his abilities and he will be an important clubhouse piece throughout the season nonetheless.
As long as he is not thrust into regular starting duties, like in 2015, Ichiro should be a dynamic player down the stretch next season and a veteran presence to guide this young team towards success. Whatever happens in 2017, though, Marlins supporters should be thankful that a future first ballot Hall of Fame player is continuing to make history in Miami, and is having fun while doing it.