Thursday, August 25, 2011
ICHIRO's 200: FIGURING THE ODDS
And let's face it--as a total package Ichiro! Suzuki ain't exactly Rod Carew, or Wade Boggs, or even Tony Gwynn. Despite setting baseball's all-time single season hits record, Ichiro! is a pale rider on a pale horse that even an all-day baseball sucker like Marianne Moore would refrain from twisting her knickers about.
He is just a singles machine, a more inscrutable version of Pete Rose--and it's ol' Pestilent Pete himself who dialed this topic up with another of his "eight the hard way" quotes.
"I don't think he's gonna do it," said the ever-eloquent Rose--meaning Ichiro! and his quest for an eleventh consecutive 200-hit season. Pete, of course, is currently tied with Suzuki for the most 200+-hit seasons, though he didn't collect his consecutively.
Ichiro! is 54 hits away from 200 this year, with 33 games to play. At 37, he's showing tangible signs of decline, with a batting average hovering around .270, a sudden inability to hit against power pitchers (he's hitting just .191 against them in 2011--with a pitiful .461 OPS).
The way we're going to do that is the way we always do these things around here--which is to look at a couple of strange charts that may or may not mean anything to anyone else. First, let's find out how often Ichiro has managed to amass 54 hits in 33 games over the course of his career with the Mariners.
We've examined his game logs, and calculated the distribution of his 33-game hit totals. There are 1684 of these data points in Suzuki's career as of this morning (this is 8/25/11), and they are all represented herein. The range for Ichiro over 33 games is a low of 26 and a high of 75, with an median of 41 and an average of 46.
If Ichiro! is able to reach his lifetime average for 33 games, he'll come up eight hits short in his quest for 200.
Another way to look at that data is to note that Ichiro! has 304 33-game stretches over his career where he's had 54 or more hits. That's just a bit over 18% of his total number of 33-game stretches.
So by that measure, his chances of getting 54+ hits over the remainder of the season is about one in five.
Let's conclude this by looking at a rather spectacular variation on that distribution chart. Here's the full sequence of Ichiro's nearly 1700 33-game units, shown in career chronological order. This is a proxy for his 33-game batting average: we're just seeing it displayed in hits.
You can see the ebb and flow (and we're getting into another chart that looks just a bit too disturbingly like the NYSE here), the great hot streaks and the precipitous cool-offs.
The bad news for Ichiro! is that his lowest low (26 hits in 33 games) occurred during 2011.
The good news is that he does seem to be mounting something of a comeback. He's pushed back over 40 in the last few 33-game units.
Will Ichiro pull it together and prove capable of making what is clearly an almost vertical climb? Or is he like Walter Neff, the too-smart-for-his-own-good insurance salesman whose reach exceeded his grasp and wound up all washed up?
As we always say at this point (because you asked for it!!)...