At a time when Miami is dealing with a few issues, namely Christian Yelich's back spasms and Giancarlo Stanton's serious slump at the plate, one thing remains constant: Ichiro Suzuki's blistering start to 2016.
The Japanese star, taking Yelich's place in the lineup, collected four hits in a game for the second time this week to help the Marlins mount a comeback against the Rays last night and keep the team over the .500 mark. Ichiro is now just 40 hits shy of 3000 in his MLB career.
Even though baseball's most high-profile fourth outfielder hasn't seen much game time this season due to the successes of Yelich and Marcell Ozuna, he has stepped-up when called upon, which often wasn't the case a year ago.
Expectations weren't high for Ichiro when he signed for Miami, as they shouldn't be for a player who, by his incredibly high standards, hadn't played well since 2010. However, even the former superstar himself would have been disappointed to have posted the worst batting average of his career by a whopping 33 points.
It is worth noting that because of the injuries and demotions that occurred in Miami's outfield over the course of the season, Ichiro played in 153 games at the tender age of 41. Therefore, his poor performance probably had a lot to do with running out of gas down the stretch, as his second half numbers were particularly ugly. The Marlins, though, wanted to give the future Hall of Fame inductee the chance to join the exclusive 3000 hit club, so they brought him back on a one-year deal.
That has proven to be one of the best moves the organization made all winter. Ichiro has mainly served as a pinch-hitter, but over the last three games where he has taken Christian Yelich's place in left field, the veteran has hit an incredible .769 (10-for-13), showing that he is still capable of producing at a high level on any given night.
After basically declaring Miami's outfield one of the best in baseball again just a week ago, things have taken a turn for the worse for one of Miami's biggest strengths, although Ozuna would probably disagree. With Ichiro Suzuki waiting in the wings, though, there is no reason to panic; Yelich's back spasms will ease with rest, and Giancarlo Stanton won't keep striking out forever.
It has been mentioned before but Ichiro really is invaluable to this team. Now, more than ever, Miami needs him to deliver, and he is doing just that.