Does Ichiro Really Help the Yankees?


I recently got into a discussion (more like an argument) with somebody over the Ichiro Suzuki trade. This person claimed the 11-year veteran didn’t improve the current New York Yankees roster. I was flabbergasted, outraged, and felt that this particular person had no idea what they were talking about. Specifically, he claimed that Dewayne Wise was every bit as good as Ichiro this season and shouldn’t have seen his playing time and roster spot disappear. Furthermore, he added Ichiro is only good by name, not by the numbers. So, I’m going to put their stats side-by-side and let you decide who you’d rather have. The only caveat is I’m not going to tell you which player is who.

Player A

  • .262/.286/.492 batting line
  • Three home runs
  • 44.3 UZR/150
  • .358 wOBA

Player B

  • .262/.290/.355 batting line
  • Four home runs
  • 25.9 UZR/150
  • .283 wOBA

Notice I didn’t add in at-bats, as that would be a dead giveaway as to who is who. So with that, who would you pick? You’re probably thinking Player A, and you’d have a strong case, albeit a flawed one. Firstly, if you haven’t guessed it, Wise is Player A and Ichiro is Player B. Second, when we add in the at-bats (409 vs. 61 in favor of Ichiro) it’s easy to see Ichiro has held those statistics for most of the year. Third, looking at their respective track records, Wise has never hit above .250 in a full season let alone in more than 150 ABs, so there’s much unknown beyond that. Oh yeah, he’s also age 34.

He also brought up the argument that Ichiro is in a sharp decline, which is absolutely true. However, the Yankees are viewing him as a stop-gap player who has a VERY similar skill set to Brett Gardner, whom he’s directly replacing in the field and in the batting order. Ichiro is merely a rental, and should be looked at as such, not a long-term solution to the position. In fact, looking at Gardner’s batting line from last season (.259/.345/.369) it’s very similar to what Ichiro brings to the table, despite his low OBP in 2012. Meanwhile, while Gardner may have more speed in the field, Ichiro has superior arm strength. On the base paths, Ichiro seems to have the better instincts (16-18 in stolen base attempts in 2012 compared to 49-62 attempts for Gardner in 2011).

Also, something needs to be said about Ichiro not being the main focus of the offense and the pressure it will take off him. The Mariners offense went as Ichiro hit, if he was slumping, you could count on the Mariners being woeful at the plate, and vice versa. In the Yankees offense, he’s only looked to as support; Get on base, steal a bag, and let the big thunder behind him hit him in. With Alex Rodriguez out of the lineup for an extended period of time, it will allow Ichiro to set the table in the leadoff spot, a role he’s best suited for.

My final point to my opponent was that if Ichiro gets hot, he would run circles around any streak Wise could put together. While he’s in his late thirties, Ichiro can still hit, run, and play terrific defense. If he somehow turns things around and gets hot at the right time (playoffs!), the Yankees will be even more dangerous. His upside, despite his age, is what has me giddy about this trade.

Overall, Brian Cashman did a terrific job getting a carbon copy replacement for Brett Gardner. This was a complete surprise to everybody and I hope Ichiro has the opportunity to participate in some playoff baseball (hopefully a World Series) after playing on some pretty horrible teams in Seattle. If there’s one player in baseball I think deserves a World Championship, it’s Ichiro and I’m glad I can wholeheartedly root for him because he’s now a Yankee.