Congrats to Ichiro for reaching 4000 hits in his professional baseball career dating back to when he was 18 years old and playing in Japan. He did only bat .253 as an 18 year old, but he definitely was able to improve on that total as he moved on in his professional career. He ended up batting .353 in his Japanese career, and .320 in the majors, so far. This is really impressive for this era of baseball. Since 2001, the year Ichiro entered the MLB, he has had the 5th highest batting average of ALL major league players.
Obviously, he has had a really impressive MLB career and will most likely be a first ballot Hall of Famer, but definitely a Hall of Famer. So my question is, how close could Ichiro have gotten to being the Hit King in the MLB? Japanese baseball is widely consider “AAAA” baseball. It is not as good as the MLB, but it is better than playing in AAA. So, I would say that it is hard to translate his statistics to the majors. However, I will try. First, I am going to assume that his age 18-20 seasons would have been spent in the minors to be conservative, so those stats won’t count for my MLB translation. From his age 21 to age to 26 season, he had a .354 batting average and accumulated 1032 hits over that time. I would think that over the course of some of his best baseball years, his average wouldn’t dip too much. I am going to say that he would have batted .330 over those 6 seasons in the MLB. His MLB career average is .320, so I think it isn’t ridiculous to assume that he would have batted .330 in his pre-prime and early prime years. He also would have had more at bats because each year he would have about 20 or more games; the Nippon Baseball League plays between 130-140 games a year, while the MLB plays 162. If I say 115 extra games with 4 at bats a game (he batted leadoff so unless someone threw a perfect game, he would definitely had 4 at bats), that is an extra 460 at bats. Those extra at bats would have given him 3,374 at bats over those 6 seasons. If he batted .330 in those years, that comes out to 1,113 hits, or 1,038 if he batted.325. That is actually MORE hits than he accumulated over that time in Japan. Added to his actual MLB total, that would give him 3,835 hits over this whole hypothetical career. I do think that there is a chance he could have been called up in the middle of his age 20 season and that would probably have given him about 100-150 more hits or so. In this hypothetical Ichiro career, he would definitely hit 4,000 hits, and if he was able to play 2 more years after this, he would have a realistic shot to pass Pete Rose’s mark of 4,256 hits. I think Ichiro’s achievement is a big deal and he deserves a significant amount of recognition for this acheivement of 4,000 hits over his entire career. He is easily a first ballot Hall of Famer if I had a vote.
Oh Jason Heyward’s jaw breaking? I just wrote that a hit to the face would at least cause a jaw fracture. It is actually fractured in 2 places. Obviously, Jonathon Niese did not mean for that to happen, but pitchers try to do this on purpose. Heyward is probably out for the year and if that happened on purpose, that is ridiculous. That is what needs to stop.