On-Base Perception

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Why you should be wary of the Ichiro Suzuki trade

Ichiro Suzuki doffs his batting helmet as fans

Ichiro Suzuki doffs his batting helmet as fans cheer as he steps up to bat in the third inning. (July 23, 2012) (Credit: AP)

The trade that brought Ichiro Suzuki to the Yankees kicked off a back-page bonanza. It should have prompted a shrug of the shoulders.

It's not that the trade was all that bad. Any trade in which a team gives up two spare-part pitchers for a low-cost addition can't be categorized as bad.

It's just that the trade wasn't all that inspiring, either.

With Brett Gardner a goner for the season, Brian Cashman had said he didn't want to “overexpose the old guys,” Andruw Jones, 35, and Raul Ibanez, 40.

But prior to the Ichiro trade, Jones and Ibanez combined for a .236 average, 24 home runs, 44 runs, 67 RBIs and 33 walks. Ichiro had hit .261 with four home runs, 49 runs, 28 RBIs and 17 walks during the same time frame.

Who was truly being overexposed?

And considering Ichiro's age, 38, the Yankees are merely replacing old players with an old player.

Add in that Ichiro is being asked to move to a new position; in 1,802 career regular season games in the field, he's never played left field. And bat in an entirely different part of the batting order; he'd batted lower than third just 12 times (no starts).

The name Ichiro may forever conjure up images of the speedy, exciting outfielder during the early-to-mid portion of last decade, a perennial All-Star and MVP candidate who recorded hits with nearly the same ease that we mere mortals breathe.

But those days are long gone.

The hit-machine is only batting .261 this year. His on-base percentage, which was always heavily reliant on his average, has become garish: .288. A career-worst walk rate of four percent hasn't helped.

And it gets worse.

Ichiro is 2-for-13 with a double and no walks at Yankee Stadium this season. So much for “that short right field porch will revive his career” arguments.

He's 19-for-80 (.237) with a double, triple and three walks against the Orioles, Jays, Rays and Red Sox.

Even his .261 average is a bit of a mirage. Ichiro got fat off interleague play, hitting .324 in 74 at-bats against the National League. Without that padding, he's hitting just .246.

If the Yankees wanted to capture lighting in a bottle, they had to look no further than their own bench. Dewayne Wise, a career journeyman, was serving as a spark for the team. He was used to spot starts and being a defensive replacement. He was used to batting in the lower part of the lineup. He was coming up with key hits. But instead he was designated for assignment when Ichiro came aboard.

The Yankees cut a .262/.286/.492 hitter in order to add a .261/.288/.353 hitter.

The trade for Ichiro didn't cost much. It was a minimal investment.

But it's likely to have just as small a return.

Tags: Ichiro Suzuki , Brian Cashman , Yankees , Andruw Jones , Raul Ibanez , Brett Gardner

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