Miami Marlins: Is Ichiro still a usable Outfielder?


Sep 29, 2015; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Miami Marlins right fielder

Ichiro Suzuki

(51) at bat against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. Tampa Bay Rays defeated the Miami Marlins 4-2. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

By this point avid fans of the Marlins should be aware that Ichiro Suzuki has been resigned and will appear on the 2016 roster. At the moment his role will be limited purely to that of 4th outfielder, just an extra guy to be thrown out there when one of your regulars needs a day off. Unfortunately, as with last year, that also means that he’s the first guy to take over the starting job when/if it opens up, something that Stanton’s injury history and the rumors swirling around an Ozuna trade make all too likely.

But at 42 years old is Ichiro even capable of major league production? Well according to advanced metrics the answer is a resounding no.

In 2015 he produced -0.8 WAR. If your not familiar with that statistic it stands for Wins Above Replacement, and essentially takes a players over all stat line and boils it down to one number. This line is then compared with the approximate performance we can expect from a easily found replacement player (a minor league free agent, non prospect you could pay the minimum for), and it’s estimated as to how many games the players team won, or lost in this case, than they would have if said player was replaced. Essentially having Ichiro on the roster and in the lineup cost the team a win in 2015 , a win they would have had if someone you’ve never heard of was in his spot.

But that’s just the overall outlook, how does that number break down into the three basic aspects of value?

Well in the first, hitting, Ichiro was shockingly bad. Over 438 plate appearances he produced a wRC+ of 53. The average for that stat is always 100, and it’s adjusted for park and environment factors so there’s no excuses, the guy just can’t hit anymore. Among all outfielders with a minimum of 400 PA’s (79 qualified players) only Billy Hamilton‘s 52 was worse, the next lowest was 68 by Michael Bourn. It’s incredibly difficult to be an above replacement level player when you’re that inept at the plate , you’d have to be exceptional at the other two aspects and as you’re about to see, Ichiro was not.

On the base paths the Wizard was closer, though still below, an average player. He posted a BsR of -0.8 (coincidentally the exact same as his overall WAR). That ranked him as 61st in our sample size of outfielders with at leas 400 PA’s, just ahead of Tori Hunter’s -0.9. By itself -0.8 isn’t that bad, it’s not helpful obviously but nor is it disastrous; however when you combine it with the aforementioned wRC+ fiasco it quickly becomes inexcusable.

Finally were on to the one aspect that Ichiro actually still does pretty well, kind of. While playing the outfield his defense was rated as having saved 6 runs, not elite but solidly above average. The problem is when you break it down into the three spots. In the corners he saved 9 runs, all of them while playing RF, curiously over the course of 221.2 innings in left Ichiro managed to save exactly 0 runs. As I’m sure you’re aware that leaves a CF score of -3 DRS, the Wizard was anything but in center last year. At this point I would typically warn of small sample size, but that number is pretty consistent with the rest of his career, Ichiro Suzuki has simply never been very good at playing center field.

So in summation the Marlins will pay a 42 year old glove only corner outfielder 2 million dollars in 2016. There is no argument, Suzuki is here based on name value alone, and for a team that constantly claims to be trying to win that’s completely unacceptable.