21-29, Hitting Numbers and Ichiro

Ichiro's never been the same since THE KID left.

Before today's game even began, I figured I would devote some time into talking about Ichiro. While he has looked phenomenal in the field this season, the hitting numbers have not rebounded the way many hoped. Looking into it however, I'm struck by how much about Ichiro is the same as it ever has been and how one particular thing has changed.

Ichiro Suzuki's BABIP from 2001 through 2010 was .357 with a ground ball to fly ball ratio of 1.3 and a 21% line drive rate. In 2011 and so far (not counting today) in 2012, Ichiro's BABIP has dropped to .295 with the same 1.3 ground ball to fly ball ratio and only a slight dip in line drives to 20%.

A drop in nothing but average on balls in play is usually explained by a couple things. Ichiro could be getting slower. He is aging, it wouldn't be a surprise. It's an easy narrative crutch to use, but the numbers don't support that conclusion. Ichiro's been slightly more aggressive the past two years at taking the extra base, he's swiping bases with regularity and still with great success. If there's evidence of Ichiro slowing down, it's minute and unconvincing.

The other likely culprit for a drop in BABIP with no change to batted ball distributions is random chance. I'm hesitant to rely on that as well since that's burned us so often in the past, but it remains the most likely explanation given what we can see.

Batter #P PA RB 1B/2B/3B/HR nBB SO (sw) Sw (cnt) GB/FB/LD/IF
D Ackley 19 4 1 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 1 0 (0) 5 (4) 0 / 3 / 0 / 0
C Figgins 12 2 1 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 1 0 (0) 5 (5) 1 / 0 / 0 / 0
(PH) M Saunders 4 1 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 1 (1) 2 (0) 0 / 0 / 0 / 0
I Suzuki 13 4 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 1 (1) 5 (4) 3 / 0 / 0 / 0
J Montero 16 4 2 0 / 1 / 0 / 0 1 1 (1) 5 (4) 1 / 0 / 1 / 0
J Smoak 17 4 2 2 / 0 / 0 / 0 0 (0) 6 (6) 3 / 0 / 1 / 0
K Seager 15 4 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 2 (2) 7 (2) 2 / 0 / 0 / 0
A Liddi 12 3 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 2 (2) 6 (4) 1 / 0 / 0 / 0
M Olivo 6 2 1 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 0 (0) 3 (2) 1 / 0 / 0 / 1
(PH) J Jaso 6 1 1 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 1 0 (0) 1 (0) 0 / 0 / 0 / 0
B Ryan 11 2 0 / 0 / 0 / 0 2 (2) 3 (1) 0 / 0 / 0 / 0

P = number of pitches seen, RB = reached base, nBB = unintentional walks and hit by pitches, sw = swinging strikeouts, cnt =contact

So going 0-3 on the balls in play isn't going to help Ichiro certainly.

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