When the Marlins signed Ichiro Suzuki as a free agent in January of 2015, they knew they wouldn’t be getting the Ichiro of old, but they expected solid production. Instead, in 2015, Miami got Ichiro’s worst season of his career. He slashed only .229/.282/.279 last season and had a wRC+ of 55 in 438 plate appearances, all of which were the worst numbers of Ichiro’s career.
Ichiro came into the 2016 season as the fourth outfielder, but because of the multiple injury problems Miami has had, the 42 year old was tossed into an on-and-off starting role. Now, with Giancarlo Stanton basically unavailable, Ichiro has become an everyday starter, and unlike in 2015, he has not disappointed. In 340 plate appearances through September 13 this season, Ichiro is slashing .304/.371/.396 with a wRC+ of 110, all which are his best numbers since his 2010 season with the Mariners.
What has caused Ichiro’s turnaround is him doing a lot of the things he did in his early days with the Mariners. When Ichiro was in his prime in Seattle he was always an extremely disciplined hitter and could always hit the fastball, which are both things he has been able to do so far in 2016. He is only chasing 26.6 percent of pitches outside of the zone, which is his lowest number since 2007, and his walk rate is the second-highest of his career. Ichiro’s value against the fastball this season has been 5.1 (his highest since 2009) after it dropped all the way to -15.9 in 2015 (this stat’s average is zero and usually ranges between -20 and 20). This basically shows that he is hitting the fastball this season the best that he has since 2009.
Not only has Ichiro improved his stats in most of his hitting categories from 2015 to 2016, he has put up some of his best numbers since his prime. Here’s a look at how his 2016 stats stack up to his 2015 numbers and the numbers from his prime.
|Stat||2015 Numbers||2016 Numbers||Best Numbers Since|
|Hard Contact Percentage||13.5%||22.2%||2007|
|Line Drive Percentage||18.3%||28.6%||Best of Career|
So, even with the huge loss of Stanton and the second-half struggles of Marcel Ozuna, the Marlins have been okay because of the resurgence of Ichiro Suzuki. We all know that Ichiro basically wants to play forever, and if he continues to hit .304 in his 40s, he may not have a problem doing that. On the Marlins end, they have the option to pick keep Ichiro around for 2017 for only $2 million, and if he continues to hit like this, the soon-to-be 43 year old could still help the Marlins.