This is a small follow up to Jeff's blurb on Ichiro Suzuki in his latest post. Jeff mentioned Ichiro's ten walks and seven strikeouts. Of note is that only one of Ichiro's walks has been intentional, leaving him with nine drawn of his own accord. That leaves him on pace to draw about 50 on the season, easily a career high.
Ichiro drew 68 walks in 2002, but 27 were intentional. That gave him a 5.8% actual walk rate once you dismiss the intentionals. His rate in 2011 so far is 6.8%. Even including hit by pitches -- which Ichiro has none of in 2011 -- doesn't affect the ranking. His 2002 free pass rate increases a few tenths, but is still below his 2011 numbers.
For completeness, Ichiro's worst season at working free passes was 2009 when he struck out 71 times and worked just 17 unintentional walks and led directly to this post which was then reviewed here. It's early into 2011, but Ichiro's swing rate at pitches outside the strike zone is back to his career levels, thus eliminating the one and only concern I could find in his 2010 numbers. Furthermore, Ichiro's strikeout rate has been fairly constant since his inaugural season. With an average of just under 10%, it has strayed only as low as 8.5% in 2004 to as high as 12% last season. It's down to 5.3% this year, also easily a career best rate.
Ichiro is fine. Just 717 more hits until 3,000 in the Major Leagues. Anyone want to take a bet that he won't make it? Start making plans for July, 2014.