Ichiro's IBB's

Interesting bit of fresh perspective in the "1 Slot" thread, wondering whether Ichiro really deserves credit for any more RBI ability than the next leadoff hitter...


=== Service ===

Looking at the ISO for both Ichiro and Chone, I really don't see any difference at all.

Career-wise, Chone: .097 -- Ichiro .101.  So, we're arguing RBI machine based on 4 points of ISO?!?  Heck, if not for the .042 ISO from 2008 for Chone, (he HAD to be hurt), I think he might have a higher career ISO.  (It was .107 prior to the 2008 debacle - and he posted a .096 in 2009.)

Look at their career 2B/3B/HR lines per 162 games?

Ichiro: 26/8/10

Chone: 26/9/5

An extra HR every 5 weeks?!?  Heck, they're darn near identical hitters if you equate 50 infield hits to 50 walks.  (But Ichiro looks lots better on the OPS chart, mostly because those infield singles get added to BOTH OBP and Slugging.)  Me?  I'm not in favor of putting *ANY* single-digit-per-year Home Run hitter in the #3 slot.


=== Volley ===

Well, point A is:  we're talking about Ichiro as a 2 hitter, not a 3 hitter.  If Ichiro is going to SLG .425, I agree, #3 is not the right spot for him.  (If you were talking about Ichiro choosing to SLG .465 in Safeco, as he did last year, that would be OK -- not ideal -- at the three.


OK, so Chone Figgins hits the ball as hard as Ichiro, let's say.  'Splain to me this:

  • Ichiro:  142 IBB career
  • Figgins:  5 IBB career

Can you imagine Chone Figgins leading the league in IBB's?  Yet Ichiro is routinely 1st, 2nd, or 3rd here.

We're thinking about the interested, invigorated Ichiro,  the one who had 46 extra-base hits last year.  We're all expecting the 2009 Ichiro redux, now that he's not in a hostile work environment.

The 2009 Ichiro slugged .465 in Safeco, not far off what Raul Ibanez often did.

Maybe this one has to do with watching a lot of M's games in the NW, I dunno.  Ichiro loads up on the ball pretty good when he wants to (such as when a 2B will win the game).  None of us in Seattle think of Ichiro as a banjo hitter.  We watch him smoke the ball off the right-center wall and think of him as belonging at #2 or #3, sort of in Rod Carew fashion.


Point B:  ISO is not the point with Ichiro.   SLG drives in runs, not ISO.  

A guy with a .350 AVG and .450 SLG drives in a whale of a lot more runs than a guy with a .290 AVG and .390 SLG.   If you could give me an .800 hitter with all singles, I'd bat him fourth...


Point C:  Ichiro is unique in baseball, in that he selects clubs out of his golf bag and matches his ambitions to the at-bat.

Sixth inning, down four runs, Ichiro is going to three-hop a ball to the SS hole, leg out a hit, and keep his average up.

Sixth inning, tie game, two men on, Ichiro's going to wind the bat up and rip the pitch off the right-center wall.

That, I believe, is what AL managers are thinking of, when they IBB Ichiro fifteen times a year.   Any time Ichiro wants to be, he's a .500 SLG man.


For all that, if the point is that Ichiro is not exactly a 100-RBI slugger, your point is well taken.  I don't want Ichiro, or Pete Rose, or Rod Carew, batting cleanup.  Their SLG doesn't justify it.

But also, let's not confuse Ichiro with guys who can't drive in runs.  He sure as shootin' can.  He just never gets to.  :- )


Dr D



Figgins doesn't get walked as much as Ichiro because Figgins has traditionally had some other scary dudes hitting right behind him in the Angels' go-go offense who are similarly going to be tough outs while Ichiro has been protected by...no one.


It's not that Figgins doesn't get walked *as much* as Ichiro.  The ratio is 28 to 1.  ;- )
In 2001, when the M's led the league in scoring, Ichiro was IBB'ed 10 times (twice as much as Figgins' career total).
In 2002, when the M's scored 814 runs with Boone, Edgar, and Olerud behind Ichiro, he was IBB'ed 27 times.  That season.


Ichiro quickly got a reputation as a SUPER clutch hitter in the AL...I don't think anyone has ever tacked that label onto Figgins...and I don't know whether that's justified.  They both hit better with men on base (because both of them do better when the defense has to play out of position and when they can leg out infield singles more easily).  I'm not seeing any clear cut numerical reason why Ichiro should, at present, be more feared in the box than Figgins except that Ichiro hits .333 while Figgins hits .285 and his walk rate increase is a recent development.


The .350/.450 hitter does *NOT* drive in more runs than the .290/.390 hitter **IF 60 POINTS OF HIS AVERAGE COME FROM INFIELD SINGLES!.
In point of fact, Ichiro's HIGHEST BA (.372), he drove in 60.  Meanwhile, his LOWEST BA, (.303), he drove in 68.  He SLUGGED 20 points higher in that .372 season.  But, go and compare the ISO's for those two seasons?  .082 in the .372 60-RBI year, compared to .133 in his .303 68-RBI season.  These seasons were consecutive and the team scored 698 and 699 runs in the two seasons, And, in case you're interested - the 8/9 hitters fared much WORSE in his higher-RBI season.
Your premise assumes that the .350 hitter is hitting the same percentage of outfield singles as the .290 hitter.  In that case, your theory might hold water.  With Ichiro, it clearly does not, and we have actual real-world data to prove that with the very guy we're talking about.


Gee, I get to be all contrary twice in one thread.  LOL  (wink)
This is one where my George Costanza opposite-mind kicks in.
1) Intentional Walks are SOLELY AND COMPLETELY in the hands of the opposition.  Treating them specifically as a player skill of any kind is inherently confusing.  Using them as evidence of the PERCEPTION of a skill by the opposition might be possible -- while I appreciate the argument that if the enemy THINKS this is true, then either the enemy is correct, or the enemy is an idiot.  For 100 years the base-on-balls was seen as a WEAKNESS for hitters.  That was the mass perception by baseball.  That perception was wrong.
2) But, FEAR does lead to dumb decisions routinely.  Bonds was walked 4 billion times -- and there's little evidence at all that doing so actually led to better aggregate results than not.  In truth, we can only speculate at the path not taken. 
3) The 1000 OBP of the IBB is nice, sure.  But, isn't the reality that the enemy is willing to IBB Ichiro a CONDEMNATION of the idea to put him in an RBI slot?  Very simply, if you are WANTING singles to drive in runs, you do NOT put the guy the enemy WILL walk routinely in the RBI slot. 
The enemy will almost never INTENTIONALLY walk Chone.  Therefore, in RBI situations, Chone is more likely to be pitched too, (and more likely to get an RBI ***CHANCE***).  Ichiro, being more "feared", is more likely to be intentionally walked, meaning the opponent will specifically reduce RBI "opportunities" for Ichiro compared to Chone. 


There's no question that Ichiro and Figgins will still be under contract when The Talented Mr. Ackley arrives in April 2011/September/June/April 2010. Now you got three Rose/Carew guys at the top of the order.
Spoze they bat Ackley 9th while he gets his feet wet?  Hard to imagine they'll plop him right into the 3-hole.  I don't think they'll want too much pressure on his SLG right away.
Long-term, though, it probably shakes out as Ichiro-Figgins-Ackley, right?  But there are still plenty of skeptics that Ackley will consistently produce SLG in the majors.


Rose: .303/.375/.409 (but, eyeballing it, his SLG was more like .430 before his age 39-45 years when he was only hitting singles) -- 167 IBB (7.0/yr)
Carew: .328/.393/.429 -- 144 IBB (7.6/yr)
Ichiro: .333/.378/.434 -- 142 IBB (15.8/yr)
Figgins: .291/.363/.388 -- 5 IBB (0.6/yr)
Rose: leadoff 2300 GS, #2 808 GS, #3 323 GS, all other slots 6 GS
Carew: leadoff 356 GS, #2 1132 GS, #3 674 GS, all other slots 129 GS (but 0 GS at #9)
Ichiro: leadoff 1397 GS, #2 0 GS, #3 13 GS, all other slots 0 GS
Figgins: leadoff 643 GS, #2 135 GS, #3 9 GS, #4-8 13 GS, #9 94 GS
Looks like Carew mostly hit third when Lyman Bostock .311/.365/.427 was playing.  Bostock was tragically killed at age 27 during the 1978 season.

Taro's picture

Would you believe that BOTH Ichiro and Figgins drive in runners at a slightly above league-average clip for their careers?
Ichiro is a little better by about 0.5-1% accounting for opportunities he loses with IBBs.
The biggest advantage for batting Ichiro 2nd are the gained 1 and 3rd opportunities in addition to the added bases when when the opposition throws the ball away due to the threat of an infield hit.


If 60 points of Ichiro's AVG come from infield singles ... and if he would still get these when attacking the pitcher with men on ... then you bet.
But of course XX% of Figgins' .290 average are infield singles too...
What % of Ichiro's singles *do* come in the infield?
And what are your thoughts as to whether, with men on base, Ichiro is going to go to his 3-iron?  :- )


If your point is that we should not make a big deal out of the difference between Ichiro's and Figgins' RBI's.  :daps:
Selecting from an array of points, I'm still going to emphasize the fact that Ichiro has a 3-iron in his bag, however.   And what is a .465 SLG, in Safeco, translated to a neutral park?


this could be my bias showing.  Carew was a superstar when I started following baseball, and I always thought he should hit 2 or even 3.  His line drives seemed wasted in the 1 slot.
I dunno, what do you NW-based fans think?  If Ichiro hit 2 or 3 with the intent of hitting the ball harder, are Carew-Damon-Gwynn comps out of order, or is Ichiro a pure leadoff man?
I think he did hit 3 for Orix, right.  In a different game.
We need to do more controversial stuff.  Run the comments totals up in an 8-1 ballgame.  :- )

Taro's picture

I'm Taro. Though I apologize for impersonating Sandy. :-)
I like Ichiro better in the 2nd spot personally. His advantage in singles, hitting runners in, and the error he draws are all more benefitial with a speedy runner on base.
You also make a good point about the park. Adjusting for park thats probably another advantage for Ichiro. Figgins shouldn't be too hurt by Safeco, but its another factor in Ichiro's favor.
The bottom line is that I prefer a Figgins' BB followed by an Ichiro 1B then the other way around.

IcebreakerX's picture

Perception is where it's at. I haven't watched Figgins enough to say much, but with Ichiro, we all know he's pretty much a master of the game. If anything, he proved his upper-echelon-ness when he ripped a Rivera cutter into the seats like it was a batting practice pitch.
(Ichiro himself said that it was the first time he sort of 'let go', almost wondering if he could do what he precisely did before that AB... And that it was only possible because he got his 200th hit a few days before.)
But it also reinforces what we know of Ichiro; the batting practice home runs, the reputation from infielders for the hardest hit dribblers on the planet, the immaculate practice routine, etc. It's not hard to imagine Ichiro batting second or third and succeeding.


The frequency of intentional walks is not determined at all by a player's raw talent, but by the (percieved) difference in quality between the guy up to bat and the guy on deck (taking into account platoon splits). That's it. So guys like Rey Ordonez will get intentionally walked in the National League despite being terrible hitters who aren't intimidating at all simply because they bat 8th. If you were to clone the 70 home run version of Barry Bonds and bat the copy and the original back-to-back, how many IBB's would the one higher in the lineup have? None. He wouldn't ever get intentionally walked, unless the opposing manager decided to walk both Barrys.
So Ichiro has occasionally led the AL in intentional walks ahead of guys like ARod and Manny not because he is more feared than those sluggers, but because the guy behind him was much worse the the batters who followed the other top hitters. Batters like Mark Maclemore, Carlos Guillen and Jose Lopez have typically hit second even in good years for the M's offense and that isn't much protection.
But you're right, we should be looking at Slugging, not just ISO.


So, all y'all, the exec sum is:
1.  Ichiro's teammates are all way different from other AL players,
2.  AL managers pretty much don't know baseball like we do,
3.  This week's AL roundtable declaring Ichiro the most scary AL West hitter is just misplaced reputation, and
4.  The 142 IBB's in 9 years don't really tell you anything about what AL managers think of Ichiro.
Got it!  Good stuff.  ;- )
Here is a career leaderboard for IBB's.  The players at the top of it are a random collection of AL hitters, some good some bad, who had weak teammates in the 2 slots behind them, as you amigos logically deduced.
No doubt if Chone Figgins and Ichiro had traded places in 2002, Figs would be the guy with 140 IBB's and Ichiro the one with 5, right?


Yep -- my point is that I don't see evidence that there would be any significant difference in aggregate results by swapping Ichiro/Figgins.  In looking at Fangraphs charts - Ichiro has typically gotten 40-50 infield hits, while Figgins sits more in the 7-17 range.  This is my point, that Ichiro's extra INFIELD hits roughly equate to Figgins extra walks.  (And while Ichiro is IBBed much more often - Figgins actually walks a LOT more than Ichiro, (in that similar 30 or more general area).
My initial response was based a lot on the title of the original thread, which specifically talked about Ichiro batting third, (the title of the thread).  It wasn't clear to me that we were talking only about a swap until you made that clarification.
This is one of the failings of many of the advanced stats -- that they DO treat all singles as equal -- and for most players that is fine.  But, while quick to laud Ichiro's IBB as a league leading indicator, you don't want to seem to treat his infield hit numbers (equally, or perhaps more stark numerically). 
In addition, the linear weight models typically SUBTRACT offensive value for intention vs. unintentional walks -- an attempt to adjust for the tactical/situational benefits of the IBB, (usually employed with fewer than 2-outs, with a man on 2nd, and 1B open). 
But, you keep referencing Ichiro's ability to alter his approach to 'go long' when he wishes.  And that's true.  But, you ignore the COSTS - only noting the positive impact.  In truth, Ichiro's historical production - his OBP and avg go DOWN as his power goes up.  It's not all gain.  It's a trade-off. 
But, given Ichiro and Figgins have both averaged exactly 59 RBI per 162 games for their MLB careers, I'll stick by my assessment that swapping them really shouldn't make much difference.  Perhaps, mathematically, one could show a few runs gained with Fig/Ich instead of Ich/Fig --- but my feeling is that Ichiro's and Figgins' comfort level is likely more important in this situation than the math.

Taro's picture

In truth Ichiro is the better fit for the 2 hole, but the fact of the matter is hes also a better fit for leadoff spot too for the simple fact that hes a better hitter. :-)
The gain you get from batting Ichiro 2nd might be offset by losing those handful of ABs to Figgins batting 1B. Its hard to say without delving into it deeper, but when you look at it it probably doesn't make much of any difference either way. 
Regarding the infield hits, I did a study on it a while back. Its marginally less valuable than an average single, more valuable than a BB. Overall, its a very insignificant penalty on Ichiro's overall value (roughly 2 runs).


Except for points 1 through 4
1. His "teammates" in general don't matter, what matters is who is batting second. That is just about never an above average slugger.
2. I never said managers don't know as much as me, rather that they aren't looking at just the current batters stats when deciding whether to intentionally walk a guy. How he compares to the guy coming up next is the primary factor (do you doubt this?).
3. I don't know what roundtable you're referring to but Ichiro is certainly not as feared as sluggers like ARod
4. The number of IBB's only tells you what the managers think of Ichiro compared to the typical #2 batter for the M's
As for the leaderboard, that list makes my point. Ichiro is certainly not as feared as Chipper Jones or Jim Thome, and he's definitely not more feared than Lance Berkman, Gary Sheffield, Ryan Howard, Bobby Abreu, Jason Giambi, Alex Rodriguez, etc. If you batted any of those guys first and kept the typical mediocre slap-hitter at second, they'd have more IBB's than Barry Bonds.
Notice that such luminaries as Alex Gonzalez (career .247/.294/.395 hitter), Jasone Larue (.232/.316/.398) and Paul Bako (.231/.303/.318) are also on that list. Were they intentionally walked 120 times because managers were terrified to pitch to them?


I really don't disagree with this column. Ichiro is a better hitter than Figgins and that is what drives the difference between the two hitters IBB totals, not their ISO numbers. Having a hitter of Ichiro's caliber bat first excacerbates the foolish insistence of managers to put mediocre contact batters second and I've long felt the team needed to get smarter about their lineup choices, either by batting Ichiro second or putting another top hitter there. Figgins is NOT a good choice for that spot.

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