Sunday, October 24, 2010

Ichiro's Consistency

Hi, I love baseball, so I'll probably post a lot of baseball related stuff on here...

The Seattle Mariners' Ichiro Suzuki has been remarkably consistent in his 10 year MLB career as these graphs from will show.

Not a lot of variation in those green lines. There does seem to be a slight trending up in his strikeout rate the last three years, which could be worrisome, but, that trend is exaggerated by his low strikeout rate in 08. Strikeout rate is critical for batting average because batting average is dependent on balls in play. A strikeout is an out with no ball in play. Note the similarity between Ichiro's batting average and his BABIP graphs.

Look at how similar the graphs are.  Basically identical.  As Ichiro's BABIP  goes, so goes his batting average.

A graph of Ichiro's batted ball profile
Ground balls, fly balls, line drives.

Ichiro hits an insanely high amount of Ground balls, and an insanely low amount of fly balls compared to most hitters.

Average BABIPs for the the three types of batted balls are roughly:
Ground balls = .240, Fly Balls = .140, Line Drives = .750

Since ground balls have a higher BABIP than flyballs, Ichiro helps his batting average by avoiding fly balls in favor of ground balls.

Ichiro, also has an extremely high BABIP on groundballs-.311 for his career.  This is because he is extremely fast and gets an insane amount of infield hits by slapping the ball to the left side and outrunning the throw to first.

Notice 2004 in all of the above graphs.  2004 is the year that Ichiro hit .372 and broke the major league hits record by recording 262 hits. 
Ichiro's K rate was slightly lower than his norm, meaning he put more balls in play.  
Ichiro's BABIP was the highest of his career.  Ichiro put more balls in play, and more of them fell in for hits.
Ichiro's groundball rate spiked to over 60% and his flyball rate dipped to under 20%.  Almost unheard of numbers.  

Everything was perfect for Ichiro to get a ton of hits.  Low strike outs, lots of ground balls and few fly balls.

Is Ichiro starting to decline?  It's hard to see it. A slight uptick in strikeouts.  Line drives have been trending down since 2005 but nothing too apparent.  As long as Ichiro is fast he'll keep getting hits. He'll have to slow down (literally) eventually, but I'll be rooting for him to get to 3000.

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