Ichiro Suzuki hasn’t disappointed the Yankees. So far, so good. Did the team and fans expect him to hit 15 home runs? No. Was he expected to eclipse 100 hits with the Yankees? No. For what was expected of him, he’s done exactly that, if not more: He’s filled in for Brett Gardner, spelled Raul Ibanez and Andruw Jones in left, and he’s stolen a few bases. So how is he exceeding expectations? It’s all in his consistency.
He’s hit safely in 13 of 14 games in pinstripes, including a hit in 12 straight. Now he’s not tearing the cover off the ball but he’s offered consistency at the plate. His number may not suggest that he’s doing anything special (.250/.250/.357) however heads start to turn when a guy has a 12 game hit streak with his new club, mine included. This Ichiro was supposed to be dead, gone and buried out back. Sure his streak was nowhere near the type of streak Cano had earlier this season, but Ichiro isn’t the same player as he was and he never will be but the Yankees need this type of steadiness from him. If Ichiro continues to get a hit a game, his average will most likely continue to rise. Not rocket science but it’s good to know that he’s acclimated nicely.
Ichiro is currently the best defensive outfield option in left and right field. He’s clearly the best alternative to anything that Raul Ibanez offers and what Andruw Jones produces when he’s in left. According to Fangraphs in 2012, Ichiro’s Wins Above Replacement (WAR) is a 1.6, Andruw Jones a .9, and Raul Ibanez has a .6. Honestly, this is pretty shocking because of the batting component but again, Ichiro’s value comes from his defensive work and his base running abilities.
Point: Ichiro’s consistency is leading to better production than anticipated. Counterpoint: Ichiro in 14 games is hitting .250/.250/.357. He’s also drawn zero walks. He’s stolen three bases in 14 games, which isn’t too bad, but you’d want to see that number increase a little bit. It’s a problem when greater than expected is a 12 game hitting streak but only reaching base 25% of the time. It’s not an ideal situation. But what’s the saying, “You’re handed lemons, so you make lemonade?”
Ichiro is on a steep career decline. This is nothing new however with a consistent approach and solid defensive work, he’ll never perform below what he was acquired for. That’s all anyone can ask of him and as long as he continues his efforts, whether it be in the form of stolen bases, 12 game hit streaks, or stellar outfield play, he’ll exceed what I pictured happening. His 1.6 WAR is much better than I thought he’d be at this point in the season, let alone it’s better than the other options that the Yankees can play. If Ichiro stays consistent, never mind exceeding expectations, he’s going to shatter them.