Ichiro Suzuki: not as bad as you think

Curtis Granderson, 2.0 WAR
Nick Swisher, 1.8 WAR
Ichiro Suzuki, 1.6 WAR
Andruw Jones, 1.0 WAR
Raul Ibanez, 0.5 WAR

Ichiro is only .2 WAR less than Nick Swisher–and no one has any problem with Swish. But how can Ichiro have such badf offensive numbers and still be worth more than one and a half wins above a replacement-level player?

He’s still really, really good at defense.

After watching Curtis Granderson make a couple of serious miscalculations yesterday–he just cannot seem to get his routes to the ball straight–and after seeing Andruw Jones and Raul Ibanez make a mockery of playing left (and Swish, well, he’s fun to have in right), it seems more and more clear to me that the Yankees could really do with a better-fielding player somewhere in the outfield.

Ichiro has a 14.9 Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR), and 12 defensive runs saved (DRS) this season; he has a career UZR/150 of 10.9. Over the past three years, he has averaged about a 9.0 UZR. He’s a fantastic defender. And he remains a fantastic defender.

Curtis Granderson has a career 0.6 UZR/150, and over the last three years (the best way to judge the metric), he has had a UZR around -9. Nick Swisher has a career UZR/150 around 2.8, and over the past three years he has sat around 3.3. Raul Ibanez…well, he stinks and we knew it coming into this. He has a career UZR/150 of -5.0, and over the past three years he has an average UZR of about -8.9. Andruw Joneswas actually pretty good when he was younger, but over the past three seasons of inconsistent play, he has managed about a 3.0 UZR average. Not terrible, but not fantastic.

If anything, Ichiro balances these guys out. He helps the team not simply because of his defense and his speed (which might not even be all there any more), but because he brings a little balance to the defensive lineup. He’s the kind of defensive player this team desperately needs, even if he’s the type of offensive player (this year) that no one would ever need.

I’m in on Ichiro, if only because he’s one of my favorite players to ever be in MLB. But I think you should be in on him too, and for pretty solid baseball reasons.

And hey, when Brett Gardner comes back next year? Well, maybe we’ll be able to work something else out.


One thought on “Ichiro Suzuki: not as bad as you think

  1. I think letting Swisher walk and signing Ichiro to 1 year deal would be the best move financially at this point if they want to be under that $189M threshold by 2014. Who would be a better option at this point who would be around the same value $ wise and with the same defensive tools and upgraded offense?