Ichiro has basically replaced Dewayne Wise on the Yankees’ roster. Wise had 63 plate appearances before he was DFA’d, just two more than Ichiro. Wise’s OPS was .778 compared to Ichiro’s .635. And Wise had more pop and was more of a deep threat AND he was a better outfielder at this stage in their relative careers. The difference is that the Yankees did not consider Dewayne Wise an every day player and certainly, playing Wise against lefties was not a good idea. But then again, neither is playing Ichiro against lefties. There is this assumption that Ichiro Suzuki is a hitter feared by pitchers. That hardly seems true anymore. Wise was better than this current Ichiro.
And before Wise was another outfielder that got away. His name is Justin Maxwell who had a fantastic Spring Training for the Yankees. The guy just looked like a ballplayer. And though Spring Training means very little, Maxwell looked like the best player on the Yankees. But he was unproven in the big leagues. The Yankees had a tight 40-man roster and keeping Maxwell would have caused problems with that roster, so they simply cut him loose.
Maxwell has ended up in Houston and is one of the brighter stories for an Astros team that has had a dark cloud of a season. In 85 games with the Astros, covering 222 plate appearances, Maxwell has put up an .822 OPS and a 122 OPS+. And his fielding is rated higher than Wise’s whose fielding was rated higher than Ichiro’s.
So what we have here is a progression from good to worse. Maxwell was a better player than Dewayne Wise who is a better player than Ichiro Suzuki. .822 is better than .778 which is better than .635 (.641 overall). Maxwell has been worth 1.7 rWAR this season compared to Wise’s 0.4 compared to Ichiro’s -0.4.
The one difference is that Wise and Ichiro bat left-handed. Maxwell was a right-handed batter. But how about considering who the Yankees kept as their right-handed hitting outfielder: Andruw Jones. Jones has a .780 OPS, a 104 OPS+, 0.6 rWAR and has saved two runs on defense (how?). Justin Maxwell beats every one of those scores in about forty more plate appearances. Plus, Maxwell was a more versatile outfielder that could play every position.
Perhaps it is unseemly to cry over spilled milk. Maxwell is gone for good. Wise is now gone for good. We are left with Ichiro and Jones. The progression of choices has seemingly gone down hill. Perhaps Ichiro still has something to offer down the stretch run. But the early results when compared to his season in Seattle do not look promising. And Andruw Jones at this point seems like a lumbering wraith of his former self who runs into a fastball once in a while. Is it wrong to wistfully look at Justin Maxwell from afar and wonder what could have been?