Ichiro's 2010 Projection

=== Ichiro's Future ===

How long will Ichiro be able to play in this second stage of his career, the 320/380/360 stage?  

He seriously wants to play until he's 50.  I'll bet he can cut down his swing and swat the ball through the hole until he is 45. 

Rickey had pretty good years at ages 42 and 43.  But Rickey was right handed, and nowhere near the HIT guy that Ichiro is.  Ichiro has five completely different swings, and once his reflexes go, he'll have to limit himself to two or three of them, the least-ambitious ones.

I wonder just what kind of a batting average Ichiro could post, if he wanted to hit 0-4 home runs, slap the ball hard on the ground for a 65% grounder rate, and bunt a lot.  I bet you'll see Ichiro hit .368 when he's 41, or something.


Obviously Ichiro is a workout freak.  When you're guessing "number of peak years" for him, you bet the Over.   Like Jamie Moyer before him, Ichiro is a man who will extend his career through sheer discipline, health, and work ethic.

I don't think it is logical to project Ichiro to even begin his decline ANYwhere before age 38.  It may be later than that.


=== Work Environment ===

The real change for Ichiro worked like this:

  • Age 34:  310/360/385, did not enjoy coming to work
  • Age 35:  350/380/465, did indeed enjoy coming to work

At age 36, Ichiro is going to enjoy coming to work again.  I wouldn't bet anything that I was afraid to lose, that Ichiro wouldn't replicate 2009 inch-for-inch. 

In fact, as Dr. Naka notes, there may even be room for upside, since his EYE of 0.45 was a bit low for him, as were his 26 SB's.  True, Ichiro's BABIP was a few ticks higher than his usual .360. But what we Americans forget is that Ichiro was quite sick for a good part of the early 2009 season.


=== Dr's Prognosis ===

Ichiro's EYE -- actually his BB% -- dropped a bit from 7% to 5% as his power went way up, from .385 SLG to .465 SLG.  Ichiro's enthusiasm showed up in the way he wound up the spring to attack pitches with gusto.

 Objectively speaking, the usual indicators (age, James Index etc) all but guarantee a decline for 2009.

But in this case, the slide rules and spreadsheets are going to miss the factors that actually matter in Ichiro's case: 

  • He's incredibly fit
  • He's happy again
  • He's a HOF'er with a HOFer's age-arc

Figure Ichiro to repeat 2009.  .350 with 30 doubles, 10 homers, and an inner-circle HOFer's leadoff game.

That is, unless this is a year for one of those runs at .400.


Dr D



Take Ichiro's career batting line, prorate it to 725 PA, post the figures with a shrug.
Almost all of Ichiro's changes in performance are tied to BABIP because almost all of his game is tied to BABIP.  He's had some lucky seasons (e.g. 2004), some unlucky seasons (2005) and some solidly in between seasons.
All we can say with the slide rules, if we project that Ichiro won't age in 2010 (and I don't think he will...not much, at any rate) is career "established level of performance" persistence.
The "correct" projection (mathematically) is .333/.378/.434 (30 SB, 6 CS, 8-9 HR, and 22-26 2B...+/- 10% of that production rate.
That doesn't invalidate your projection, Doc...you're trying to beat persistence with psychological factors that may or may not be accurate descriptions for why changes in Ichiro's performance have occurred...it iwll be interesting to see if you're right.  My point isn't to disagree with you so much as demonstrate the way to project a player when all of the projection systems show extremely high uncertainty as they have in the past with Ichiro.  Project persistence and shrug.  Have to admit the limitations of the math.


I wouldn't argue with that approach at all.
One thing to keep in mind is Ichiro's unique ability to choose which part of his game to emphasize.  As Shandler noted, last year he deliberately sacrified BB% for PX -- he chose to swing for the fences more.  The gaps in front of them and the seats behind them, that is.
Most hitters are one guy, but Ichiro is literally three or four different hitters in one package, and another approach to forecasting him is guessing as to which game he'll lean towards :- )


Gotta keep in mind too that Ichiro is an odd duck as it pertains to H%.  Shandler rewrote his entire Expected Batting Average formula to try to capture Ichiro...
He just hits different than other players do.


Most prediction systems fail to project Ichiro and Moyer.
Most players get fat with age.
It should be a projection of weight or fat% and performance.
Most MLB palyers gain weight and fat% with age.
So it was age ~ weight and performance.
Ichiro and Moyer are exeptions that they did not gained weight by aging.
I think it is one major reason that all prediction systems fail to project.


... and I wonder why I've never heard it before.
That would go along with speed players, like Lofton and Rickey, aging well.
Another Zen-simple, weighty idea, worthy of investigation.
According to this logic, would Griffey be able to bounce back if he lost 10 lbs.?


IIRC M's player have all the measurements 1st day of spring training.
So GM and coaches all know about weight and fat%.
Sometimes the figures are reported in media but you do not get all data from all players.
This is something GM knows and sabre does not.
Other things are time of begin of pitch motion to plate.
The first base coach is measuring it and tell it to the 1st base runner.
There are some left hand pitchers who are very slow on that and you can steel a base.
I think Eric Byrnes did it knowing that.
Yes Jr can have better season.
It is not weight alone.
Flexibility of the junctions (which decrease with age if you do not work hard in conditioning) will be very important too.
M's are in right direction to mandate Yoga to some players during offseason.


That's what I tend to do with most mid-career hitters -- take their career line, then tweak up or down depending on other factors.
With Ichiro, his pattern has been one to NOT do what he did last year.  If he has a high-power season, the next season, he's a singles hitter.  If he has a good walk rate one year, he gets more aggressive the next.  And, of course, 2009 was pushed by the psychological impact of playing with Junior.
I view 2009 as a 'minor' career year, pushed by an increased aggressiveness at the plate AND the psyche impacts of the CHANGE IN CLUBHOUSE.  This is the part that gets lost.  It is not JUST that the clubhouse was good -- it was also that the clubhouse went from horribly bad to wonderfully good.  Going from wonderfully good to wonderfully good NEVER has the same effect.  Having Griffey around is certainly not going to be a bad thing -- but I think it a bit naive to expect the same pyschological boost for Ichiro in 2010.  (That's for Doc, Matt - not you).
I expect a better walk rate in 2010 -- but I think this is because Ichiro is soooo darn smart.  He knows the enemy will look at his 2009 stats - see the extra dingers - the fantastic average, and the miniscule walk rate -- and that every organization out there will create a plan of attack against Ichiro that contains the word "nibble" in it.  So, he'll choose to be a bit more patient.  With Figgins behind him - he'll also likely see the double-dip advantage of having TWO leadoff hitters taking lots of pitches "wearing down" the starters who might get sloppy when facing Lopez et al. 
I wouldn't be at all surprised to see Ichiro set a career high for pitches per -- while still only hitting .325.  I agree that there is "little" danger of any significant aging decline.  The bigger danger is just the one of injury -- where even the best conditioned athletes get hurt in odd ways.  At his age, minor nuisance injuries that he used to play through simply WILL NOT heal as quickly, increasing the odds of turning a minor -- needs a day of rest -- into an oops, 14-day vacation.
Can he get 700 PAs?  Sure.  Given the over 700 or under 600, I'd bet on the over.  Unfortunately, like it or not, Ichiro is approaching the age (or might already be there), where his pride in being a literal every-day player may become a detriment.  My line is the "just under" on his career production.  I think, given his age, the smart thing to do is to continue projecting the "just under" on his career numbers until he does hit the wall.

Add comment

Filtered HTML

  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd><p><br>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.


  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.