VERDICT on Ichiro's Return
not much way to measure "legend factor"


Superb discussion from the Think Tank.  When we see 24 hours as frantic as this, it's usually July 31 :- )  Denizens have jelled into several well-formed camps:  the I Like Heredia camp, the Where's Our Bench camp, there is an Ichiro camp, and a couple other camps are out there.



gnatto phrased the problem well:

Can't say I'm at all excited by this. I didnt watch the Ms or baseball between 1999 and 2008. So I missed all of Ichiros heroics and have no real connection to him. He was good in 2009 and 2010 as well I think, but my memory of 2011 and then 2012 before he was traded was that he was really quite bad. Maybe the numbers dont play that out, but that was certianly my impression. Without all the history of what he has done and was capable of, I have no expectation of him being anything other than 5 years older and worse than he was when he last played for us.


Whereas for Dr. D, the feeling is exactly as if they suddenly found a lost Bruce Lee movie, in the can and ready for release.  Enter the Dragon, Return of the Dragon* and premiering March 29th at Westfield Theaters, Last Stand of the Dragon, shot Feb-Jun 1973.

So Dr. D is outrageously biased towards the big face on Mariner Mt. Rushmore doing a computer-morph, and walking down to play RF for us, one last season.  In fact my family is looking at Opening Day pricing, just to hear the crowd when Ichiro's announced, and hopefully starting the game.  It's way too emotional for me, dude.  You get biased analysis on this one.  For refunds dial 1-800-GWILDER



The Mariners had to have an OF to replace Gamel, whoever it was.  Ichiro batted .299/.384/.379 in the second half last year and if his name were Al Kaloon, we'd have been fine with it.  That's a slash line better than Ichiro's age-34 season in Seattle.


Bad ending?  There we have to be confident in Jerry Dipoto:  "Ichiro, it's a one-year deal and you have to play well to stay on the roster."  Do you Denizens think Dipoto told him that?


Replacing Heredia OR Gamel in May and forward the rest of the year.  Here, I'll admit it.  Objectively speaking, once both are healthy, Ichiro's return becomes mostly a fan move.


However!  If Ichiro is swinging it, batting .300+ and putting on his clinic in RF/LF ... Heredia has 2 options left and Ben Gamel has 1, which is assuming that none of them (with Haniger) get hurt during that time, which is assuming a lot.

You hate to point it out, but Heredia didn't hit much last year.  He finished at .249 with a .315 OBP and did his SLG help his cause?  That was .337.  Heredia's OPS+ was 78 and the Mainframe believes that two months in Tacoma, May-June, would not be a tragedy for him -- again, if Ichiro is batting .300.



Dr. D objectively believes that Ichiro is intelligent and will figure out the best way to scrape the mayo jar clean.  In 2008 Ichiro's go-to weapon, when pressed by great pitching, was the KBIZLT arm-swing knocking a single between the 3B and the SS; he rolled these through like Steph Curry hitting free throws, and only pride kept him from making it his every-night game for a .380 AVG.  

The only way he got into slumps was when he two-bounced balls to the second baseman, a result of swinging too ambitiously.  We predicted, then, that this is what you would see from the Ichiro who neared retirement.

In addition to the cue-shots through the SS hole, he also knew how to (against great pitching) work a count and line the ball hard someplace.  He had 4-5 different ways to get on base.  It says here that Ichiro will, in desperation to impress the home fans, reach into the bag of tricks and select those that he's still capable of.  Or, that's the hope.

Malcontent had a similar but more data-intensive take, compared to Dr. D's intuition on the matter:

I love playing with Fangraphs' Split Tool.  It is one of the easiest way to ask yourself questions about a player.  Like did Ichiro change after the All Star Break.   ....  from mid-July 2013 through July of 2016, Ichiro hit 3 home runs in 1,151 AB, while striking out 13% of the time, then, from August of 2016 through June 2017, he hit 3 homers in just 234 AB while striking out 19.3% of the time; 28% of his hits were XBH with a .273 BABiP.  By June, 2017, Ichiro was striking out 23.6% of the time (season total). 

One almost wonders whether someone FINALLY convince Ichiro to try out his power 43 - who knows.  But from July 1st forward, a very intersting version of Ichiro appeared, he hit just one more home run, but struck out less than 10% of the time while walking a surprising 11.8%, XBH made up 17% of his hits (.333 BABiP).  Of course that was just 110 PA, but he had just come off 3 consecutive months of striking out more than 20% of the time, so at least it shows that there was real improvement to his game.  


In other words, (1) the 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 1H Ichiro was one kind of player ... (2) then for a year (2016 2H and 2017 1H) he swung for the fences.  Finally (3) in 2017 2H, Ichiro's EYE rocketed over 1.0 ... 11 walks, 10 strikeouts ... as he decided to control the zone.

Leading us to ... 



Like with Dee Gordon, I went to the tape, and sure enough, there's a batting stance change.  Early in 2017, Ichiro seems to hold his hands a little higher, bend his knees a little more, and hold the bat head nearly perpendicular above his shoulder.  As the season progressed past July, the bat head started to tilt up, and Ichiro's posture became a bit more upright overall, and to my eyes, his swing looks a bit slower, like he's coming back to KBITZLT...or whatever you guys call it (Keep the Bat In The Zone a Long Time?).  I figure I might as well get myself a little hopeful for some actual production, what do you guys think?


This is the Ichiro with no bat load, the Ichiro who resembles LAST year's version of Dee Gordon, the guy who's pulling out all the stops to hit .300 and assert himself as a factor.  (The smoked line drive comes from the fact that the ball was hit so squarely - compare an LPGA tee shot.)



I'm confused.  Wasn't it previously only Heredia, Romine, and Marjama?

But that said, the M's 25-man roster is nicely fluid and there should be times the Mariners are capable of a 7-man relief staff.  It's still not clear to me what the M's are going to do at 1B; fill me in.

And we're using the term "bench" rather sloppily here.  The outfield is 4-to-make-3.  Especially, Mo' Dawg's Ichiro-vs-LHP factor may loom large in the platooning.


Another problem is that it is hard to get too worried about your bench when your 1-9 starters comp off to the Big Red Machine.  Well, Let’s not get too crazy… The little blue bicycle, anyway. right Daddy- O?   My friends and I had one thought about Cincy’s bench: please don’t let any of them play today.



Larry stone pointed out aN Ichiro statistic  that blew my mind: of Ichiro’s 196 at bats, 100 were pinch-hit. He win 27 for 100 with four extra base hits.

Any chance we could find a starter who needs help against left-handed pitching?



1.  If you resent the loss of developmental time for Heredia and/or Gamel, don't expect Dr. D to argue with you.  Your argument is logical and probably correct.  

He would only remind that both players are part-timers in the big picture; neither is going to be a 155-game starter here, so let's not make it out like Ichiro is taking Mitch Haniger's place.  Ichiro, if batting .280-.300, would be taking a year out of the life of one role player or the other.  Neither Heredia nor Gamel are going to star in the AL.

If you like Heredia's or Gamel's UPside to be a full-time impact player, if you think one of them is going to be a minor star, good on yer.  Keep it comin'.


2.  Heredia clearly the starter over Ichiro? ..... hmmmmm .... I wouldn't bet anything I was afraid to lose, that Ichiro won't simply be a better player than Heredia in 2018.

I do like Mo' Dawg's argument that Ichiro should gobble up the LHP AB's in a 4-man rotation.  Although Ichiro did bat .280 with an 0.75 eye against RHP just the year before last, 2016.

One thing we're pretty sure about:  we're talking 4-to-make-3 OF's, not Ichiro as benchie.  (Right?  Right?)


3.  We'll be very excited to assess Ichiro's wheels in ST.  

If he's got the 2016 footspeed, 130-ish SX, then he'll contribute [between 0.5 to 1.0] WAR pro-rated as a defender.  And chip in a few more runs on the bases, bringing the total on bases/defense to about [1.0].

the UPside is 2.5 WAR pro-rated, based on his clinical defense of the Safeco pastures.  That was the way in 2012 and he had to hit only .283/.307/.390 to get there.


4.  The curmudgeonly Ryan Divish reports on Ichiro's return with a simple obituary.  No cheering in the press box, dude.  This is JOURNALISM.  Have another shot, amigo - the awards are coming any time now.

:- ) We kid, we kid.  Divish does a great job and it's his life, we realize.  We're just trash-talking a little bit.  (But, hey, an obit is a leeeeetle over the top, ain't it?)

Larry Stone frets about the potential messy ending, as Junior's certainly was, but of course Ichiro won't have the clubhouse gravity to help pull down a manager and destroy a clubhouse, the way Junior did.

Stone does allow that Ichiro sets a "fantastic clubhouse presence" in the way he works to stay in shape and prepare for games.  Stone sees Ichiro as bringing excellent intangibles to the 2018 season, if not much of a threat to the scoreboard.

Luke Arkins at Prospect Insider argues the move is a clear indication that the Mariners want to lose this year.  Well, as he phrases it, that they're not serious about winning.  Once again Dr. D chides the peanut gallery in the press box:  even a little confidence in Jerry Dipoto carries with it the knowledge that Ichiro will be retired gracefully if he does not play well.

Marc W at USS Mariner allows that the move "kinda makes sense" on the field, with an upbeat attitude not unlike Dr. D's, and he argues that --- > the FACT that the Ichiro move makes sense, is a rather sad commentary on the offseason Jerry Dipoto just had.


Dr. D thinks the M's needed an outfielder, and they found one that played very well in the second half last year, and there's no reason not to wring the last few drops out of Ichiro's legend in Seattle, take the last month or two's worth of clubhouse work ethic and sheer fan excitment from the context.  

Your opinion may differ :- )

:: whew :: Our longest post, by miles, since we fell down and bumped our head three months ago. Glad to have the energy back just as the fun starts.

Rock on,

Dr D




Were affected by the unannounced repetitive shoulder injury.  And before a beaning on Aug 23 bruised his forearm he was... wait, I already did this and you copied it to a front page...

"I liked Heredias .734 OPS through the 23rd of August, when the injury...Beaned in the forearm multiple times in a week?  This is a thing now?  OK.  Then he played the final 28 straight games amassing .377 OPS of futility.  .734 to .652 in a month.  Now everyone sees a much lesser player than he was every time they see his 2017 line.  Hoping for a swift recovery.  He's still going to be my 2018 jersey."

He is up to 950 total stateside plate appearances but handles pitchers from the box better than most of the veterans on the team.  I've never thought Gamel should start over Heredia, unless it's to send Heredia down to focus on pitcher reads, timing and stealing.  His OBP Aug 23 represented his lowest stateside at .347.  That with 14 2b, 6 HR, 46 K, 21 BB in 329 PA.  Interestingly, the team was 52-43 in games he was in to that point.  I'm sticking with my preference of H's flanking the Dee out there. 

Basically still think Heredias upside is not yet fully established whereas Heredia (through Aug 23) is probably Ichiro's upside.  Give (some defense) or take (some steals).

The biggest point right now is the only OF that's fully healthy wasn't even an OF 6 months ago.  Ichiro may not be the last brought in.  Well Andereoli, Lake or Perkins might be worth a longer look if anything else creeps into the season. 


  One thing I am not going to do is argue against his ability.  :- )

Only thing I would say is that he is an unknown and under those circumstances  it’s not tragedy to use one of his options. 

 But for those who want to push him on unapologetically, bring it :- )


Ichiro made a 99 loss team something you had to tune in to.  It is almost unbelievable looking back that I watched as much that year as I did, but the hit race was so exciting.  Like Rickey Henderson on the bad 82 Oakland team but more so. 

RoY+MVP for the second time in history.  Half of the teams only pair of 200 hit players in the same year.  Before Ichiro A-Rod was the only player to have even cleared 200 in Seattle (twice in the 2-teens).  Them Ichiro goes 10 years straight.   (Dee, Segura and Cano have all cleared 200 hits in at least 1 previous year.  Dream on that.)  Star Wars.  Spider Man...

I get the nostalgia tour.  Just don't want it to mess with the parade.  


so here we have it. The Denizens are expexcting far more from the season than they let on, And the Ichiro angst is the tell for that!  LOL!

Sorry, by the way, for the sloppy punctuation on this mobile phone


Ichiro was a terrific ballplayer for the M's. Obviously. Who can forget the electricity of that early season 2001 rocket throw that nailed Terrence Long at 3B? I thrilled to Ichiro until those who ran the franchise decided it was okay to build the offense around him. Even then it wasn't Ichiro's fault the M's were (1) chintzy and (2) incompetently GM'd, as subsequent results made evident. 

But I was really glad when Seattle traded him. It needed to be done for some time. To be impactful he needed a genuine offense around him. If Seattle wasn't going to be shrewd or generous enough to do that, then his salary and presence on the team was sorta like a bowel obstruction (no offense intended, just a metaphor). We weren't going to make progress until the obstruction was gone. Trading him made room for a good GM to rebuild and revitalize the team. It wasn't Ichiro's fault that Jack Zduriencik was, like Bill Bavasi before him, utterly futile in his efforts. Z was put in a position to wildly succeed, as the Astros have now done. He just wasn't up to it.

Enter 2018. With Gamel's injury the M's needed something, nearly everyone agrees with this. If you're not going to spend the money for an above average MLBtm left fielder (Jay?), then what you need is someone who (a) is a short-term solution who (b) is likely to produce acceptable results and (c) has some upside but (d) will present no personnel issues if he doesn't live up to expectations.

With this in mind, Ichiro makes sense. If he reaches Doc's hoped for heights, and if the M's have an up season, he can be a difference maker that helps you get over the 15 foot wall. If he doesn't, he probably doesn't hurt you that much. If he does hurt you that much, either he voluntarily retires or you nudge him that direction.

Even though I participated as a zealous fan during the Ichiro era, I don't have an Ichiro obsession like some had. Thassokay. I respect that. Still, either the M's are chintzing out again, or holding their chips for next year, or DiPoto is convinced that one of Gamel/Heredia is indeed a full time player. My guess is mostly the latter and partly the hold-your-chips angle. 

To me the situation must be looked at in context of the encrusted resentment of M's fans towards the team because of the playoff/respectability/worth-the-effort-to-watch drought. If the feel-good nostalgia is part of the reasonaing, it upsets me. We've had too much of that over the years. Like many fans, I am sick of nostalgia as a substitute for deploying an ALCS contender. But if the nostalgia is really just a side-benefit, and Ichiro is really considered the best solution to this particular set of problems, then by all means, let's enjoy Ichiro and hope he makes us really glad he's on board.


Agreed. If Ichiro is just a cheap trick to distract the fans, then that is one thing.

It looks more like a kill two birds with one stone kind of thing to me, though. Seems to me Dipoto wants to win but his aversion to giving out a decent contract is really starting to grate.

tjm's picture

. . . especially his annual All-Star state of Ichiro address. So, when I first saw the news I said, Great!. Then I said, Oh, no.

I think this is a horrible move for a team that wants to contend. I'd much rather Jay, CarGo, or if we're really that cheap just throw Braden Bishop out there for a couple months.

I sure hope I'm wrong about this, but so far as I know Father Time is undefeated.


Car Go already signed with the Rays on the 21st. Jon Jay signed today with the Royals who are giving him a chance to play every day.  Since that's what he was looking for and its questionable whether we could or should offer the same I don't know that signing him would have been possible or wise either. 


Carlos Gomez signed with the Rays, but the player actually known as CarGo is unsigned. And Jay was unsigned at the time of the post (at which time we didn't know what he was willing to accept).

Gonzalez will probably be after a full-time role as well, though.


I'm moving into the Terry camp.

I can't see us letting Ichiro go just 17 or 25 or 30 games into the season.  So you have him for a while.  Fair enough.  But it is unlikely that he goes far north of .700 vs. RHP.  Ditto, by the way, Heredia.  .675 might be an expected ceiling for him.  And if you keep them both, then the 8-man bullpen, so carefully constructed, isn't happening.  OK, you can mitigate that some with the Tacoma Trolley/Cheney Choo Choo, but bringing Ichiro on may have just warped the best layed plans of mice and Dipoto.

And if you keep both Ichiro and Heredia, then you've just lost Ford, unless Healy is still tweaked.

I haven't seen what we're giving Ichiro, but if we're going cheap, then I would rather we give Andreoli the job for 3 weeks, or just Heredia, and keep Ford.  Or take a 3 week look see at Bishop (agreeing with Terry here, too).

The more I think about it, keeping Ichiro (and assuming Heredia is on the 25-man) is sort of a death knell for Ford, barring injury or trade.

I am telling you, you're better off, if going with a 13-man staff, when you have two multi-positional guys on the bench.  Healy's ability to go to 3B, and the good 2B we have in CF, mitigates that to some degree.  But if you get a "day-to-day" injury to Segura or Cano, we get hamstrung pretty quickly.

Ichiro is one of my very favorite players of all-time.  Top 5, easily.  I am tickled to have him back, but with a 12-man staff and Ichiro as #4 it makes way more sense.

But since he's now ours, I hope he gets 20 starts in LF and we start Heredia in AAA.  Cruz would become the 4th OF in that situation.


 Statement of the simple and clear anti-Ichiro POV.  Certainly there is no disputing that he subtracts from the developmental time for ML-ready assets, esp. Ford.

Nathan H's picture

Is Cam Perkins hurt? If so, I haven't heard. He must be wondering if he tripped and fell into Vogelbach's doghouse. I mean...why was he acquired if not for this exact scenario? SMH


I do think you have an example of a GM stop loss player, and he thinks an opportunity came up (Ichiro) who can add significantly more than Perkins would be able to.

Nathan H's picture

Fair take. I guess my assessment of Cam as a player is on the optimistic end of the spectrum. Guess that makes me the conductor of the Perkins train.
Then again, Darnell Coles was my favorite non-Edgar baseball player growing up. So take my opinion with large doses of sodium

Balkyboy's picture

Bob Dutton links us to an article by Tracy Ringolsby entitled, "Ichiro to Wrap Up MLB Career Where it Began -- Seattle" (  

The article includes a description of how Ichiro came to be a Mariner.  For example, according to former Mariners president Chuck Armstrong, "Mr. Yamauchi told us whatever we have to spend, we needed to spend what it took to get him...". 

Does anyone think that Kevin Mather or other M's ownership still give specific personnel mandates.




with reapect to NPB players it has always been up to ownership.


His friend and former Orix BP pitcher, Koji Okumura, says Ichiro's swing has changed over the years. He now opens his hips and shows his chest to the pitcher earlier. "His eyesight is deteriorating," Okumura says. "He's trying to adjust to survive. He knows his death as a baseball player is getting closer."

Confirmed, then, that he's now both more upright and more open in his stance and confirmed that it likely produced the short-term gains in both walk rate and BA in late 2017


My son sent it to me and said it reminded him of Brooks being institutionalized in The Shawshank Redemption.

Let’s hope he finds his redemption after baseball.


I’ll try, but I come here to learn more than to add anything new. You guys all have your fingers on the pulse. I will enjoy jumping in on the game play by play in the chat box. Always a blast. Hope it’ll work!

I did post an article a month or so back. Did you not see it?


Was having trouble with my account, and kinda got out of practice :-)

All working now. Btw, I see you follow Scott Adams. Do you follow his periscopes (Live video podcasts)? I’m hooked.


Thinking on this for a bit, the nostalgia without regard for winning that we're blaming the M's for is not recent.  Thinking all that could be is the worst of what has previously taken place is not a healthy attitude.  Nostalgia is not a proven previous motivation by Dipoto or Stanton.  We shouldn't simply assign that to them based on our fears.

The situation is we're probably an OF short for 2 weeks to a month.  After that the team and fans are mostly ok to happy with the 4 guys in place.  Don't need a long term fix.  Don't even have room on the roster after April.  Nobody you're going to get is going to have much impact even if the need becomes longer and they manage to clear 50 AB.  Who manages a win in 50 AB that you're going to get cheap?  That's right, the limited amount of play we're talking about can't possibly swing the W-L columns much if at all.  Or do you pay to improve an offense that shouldn't need extra help moving Gamel to 5th OF once healthy?  

I think we mostly would agree that this team actually needs to save resources for a SP improvement mid season if they're going to have a good chance to advance in the postseason.  Assuming they can make it in of course. 

Ichiro is playing in Japan if he doesn't get an MLB invite.  There's reasons in details deeper than annual BA or OPS to believe that he can still have some impact on offense.  He's not locking out anyone unless he is producing.  Any other signing or trade has longer term impact and likely costs more.  It's only fears that make this look bad and those fears are yours.  They're internal and imaginary.

Dipoto and Stanton didn't bring back Griffey.  They didn't then extend him either.  Besides that, Dipoto has shown an ability to learn and adjust.  The negative reaction has mostly been based on what if's combined with assuming the worst.  How about some benefit of doubt? 


I'm buying a jersey.

I was already planning to, due to the upcoming Under Armour change over (complete with UA logo on the front), but this makes it easy to pick which number I wanted.

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