Ichiro Suzuki could provide solid defense and speed for the Tigers, but is his age a concern?

Leon Halip

Ichiro Suzuki struggled for the Mariners in 2012 before rebounding in New York, but does he have enough left in the tank for a whole season (or more) in Detroit?

Today's target needs no introduction, but he gets one anyway. Ichiro Suzuki, long-time Seattle Mariner, is a free agent and would fit pretty nicely in the two slot (and right field) if talks break down between Torii Hunter and the Tigers.

Who is he?

I feel like this section is largely irrelevant because anyone who has even heard of the sport of baseball has probably heard Ichiro's name before. Anyway, his career MLB numbers are beyond bananas. He's a .322/.365/.419 hitter in 12 seasons after coming over from Japan and is a sure-fire Hall of Famer when he hangs up the spikes. He spent 11 1/2 of those 12 seasons with the Mariners before being traded to the New York Yankees last July for a couple of minor leaguers. The trade was facilitated largely by Ichiro's desire to win a championship before he retires, and history suggests that New York is the place to go for that goal.

Why should we care?

Ichiro is still an excellent contact hitter with above average speed and an excellent glove and arm in right field. While his numbers have declined over the past couple seasons (more on that below), his strikeout rate has still hovered around 10% and he stole a combined 69 bases in 2011 and 2012. He also responded well after leaving Seattle, hitting .322/.340/.454 in 67 games with the Yankees. He lit up the Tigers in the ALCS, hitting .353/.389/.529 in the four game series. His track record speaks for itself and his game should age better than most players who depend heavily on speed because of his other tools.

Why should we stay away?

His declining numbers with the Mariners in 2011 and 2012 are pretty concerning. His walk rate declined from 6.1% in 2010 to just 3.3% last season. His career BABIP is close to .350, but has hovered around .300 over the past couple years. Normally, this is attributed to statistical regression, but in Ichiro's case I think it's due to his age. He isn't as quick out of the batters box now, which I'm assuming has decreased his infield hit total over the past couple of years.

Side note: where the heck do I find stats on infield hits? Does nobody keep track of this? WHAT IS THE WORLD COMING TO?

Will he end up in Detroit?

I wouldn't bet on it. Ichiro might be a nice upgrade for the Tigers on a 1-2 year deal, but something tells me that he wouldn't want to play in Detroit. My gut feeling tells me that he will be back with the Yankees in 2013, filling the void left by the departing Nick Swisher in right field.

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