The at bats Ichiro needs for 4,257

IchiroSuzuki-620x400Two major milestones are on the horizon for Ichiro Suzuki. An additional 134 hits would tie him with Pete Rose at 4,256 professional base hits. If he gets 22 hits beyond that, he would then reach the 3,000 hit threshold in MLB. An incredible accomplishment given that he spent his first 9 seasons in Japan before coming to the Major Leagues in 2001.

As fans, when we think of hitting, we are used to thinking about at bats [AB’s], but plate appearances [PA’s] is the more precise way to measure, since it includes walks and sacrifices which don’t count as AB’s. Barry Jackson has reported that while Ichiro’s base contract with the Marlins is for $2 million, it could increase up to $4.8 million based on additional PA’s. The bonuses start kicking in at 300 PA’s in increments of 50 up to 600.

So barring a major injury, which Ichiro has avoided throughout his 23-year professional career, getting enough PA’s is all that stands between him and international professional baseball history happening in Little Havana. In my informal review of how local bloggers have weighed-in on the subject, Joe Frisaro and Michael Jong’s article as of March 2015, both estimated 340 PA’s. Interestingly, in a Jan 2015 article before the Ichiro signing, Jong was much more pessimistic about Ichiro’s expected PA’s.

Here is a rundown on my starting point to estimate Ichiro’s 2015 PA’s:

  • 385 – Ichiro’s 2014 PA’s with Yankees
  • 340 – Estimated PA’s for Ichiro by Joe Frisaro & Michael Jong [March]
  • 300 – PA’s at which contract bonus begins to kick in
  • 201 – Reed Johnson 2014 PA’s with Marlins / Jong [January]

But how did they get to 340 PA’s? While Jong is very detailed in his use of analytics, he did not not specify his assumptions on getting to 340. Frisaro added up the PA’s by the 6 Marlins bench players used as pinch-hitters or reserved outfielders last year. As such, Frisaro’s 340 strikes me as too generous, whereas January Jong too stingy in allowing that Ichiro might only match Reed Johnson.

There is a consensus that Ichiro will not be platooned and will not play first base. So his role will be as the first pinch-hitter off the bench and a typical 4th outfielder, playing in case of injury or spotting starters a day off. Further, given that Yelich is a Gold Glove winner and Ozuna and Stanton are considered above-average defensively, it is unlikely that Ichiro will be used extensively as a defensive replacement.

Based on those factors, my search criteria for determining which MLB outfielders during 2014 best approximated Ichiro’s role in 2015, are as follows:

  • National League player – due to reprehensible DH
  • Started ≤50% games played – to avoid platoon players
  • Min 250 PA’s – below that level there is no chance for reaching records

Here are the 2014 National League outfielders who met that criteria:

That’s it. Even Snider’s 359 PA’s are a bit of an outlier, since he began the year as a starting outfielder.

Ichiro is on a 2-year plan to get 156 hits, or 78 hits per year. Unless the Marlins outfielders have a major injury, Mike Redmond will be hard pressed to get Ichiro more than 300 PA’s. Here are the number of hits 300 PA’s would translate to:

  • 74 – based on .264 batting average [Ichiro’s average last year]
  • 78 – based on .280 batting average
  • 84 – based on .300 batting average

It will be that close. While Ichiro is a famously classy guy, I wouldn’t blame Christian, Marcell & Giancarlo for always walking behind him. As a sign of respect of course.

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The God Particle to Miami Marlins fans

Up with Carl Loria

Up with Carl Loria

Gary Nelson’s question to Jeffrey Loria properly identified what truly binds [aka ¹God Particle] Miami Marlins fans, he asked:

Your organization and you are, quite frankly, much despised among many in this community…. Can a deal like this wash that much bad blood away?

Nelson’s point was deliciously undeniable. Jeffrey Loria is [sports] despised by an overwhelming majority of Miami Marlins fans. It is an enmity earned by repeated lies and obfuscation. It will not go away until he goes away. It binds us.

Two great things have happened for us Miami Marlins fans as a result of the Stanton signing. First, given the way the contract is structured, heavily back-loaded after the first 3 years, we can now see the light at the end of the Loria ownership tunnel. Second, we get to have Giancarlo Stanton on our team for the next 6 years. In that order.

So for us Marlins fans, Nelson’s question during the televised press conference carried the emotional equivalent of D’Angelo Barksdale asking Stringer Bell, “where Wallace at?”

Like Stringer, who must have assumed he could con D’Angelo one more time, so too Loria must have thought that the Stanton signing would at least provide a temporary respite from the enmity. While listening to the question, and no doubt noting the mortified straight-ahead gazes of his employees, the unlikelihood of any PR rehabilitation must have registered deep in an area other humans refer to as a soul.

Yo Jeffrey, where Miggy at?


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Marlins fan pesadilla draws to an end?

Graphics by Gabriela Costales

Graphics by G. Costales

Pesadilla is the Spanish word for nightmare and a feminine noun. For Miami Marlins fans, pesadilla is a particularly accurate description for having our MLB team owned by a Manhattan bred arts dealer who made his bones running Expos out of Montreal. But this nightmare is likely coming to an end soon, since selling the team now constitutes Jeffrey Loria’s best option.

While I believe selling the team makes business sense, personal factors also point to a sale. Being the Marlins owner in 2013 appears to be a miserable use of septuagenarian millionaire’s time. This without even considering potential health issues and whether his spouse–on whom he appears to have about a quarter-century of life head start on–has an opinion about being married to a locally despised figure.

In addition, the Non-Relocation agreement’s penalty for early sale is not significant enough to deter the sale. The additional amount due the County if the team is sold between now and the next operational phase [April 2014], would be around $2 million — assuming a sale price of $450 million — or roughly the equivalent of what a typical Babalao would earn for not managing your team for one season.

Business reasons to sell sooner rather than later:

  1. No factors which would increase that the value of the franchise over the next few years. The ballpark was a great success, with potential parking and traffic issues proving to be manageable in the 1st year. The expected significant increase in national broadcast contracts would already be factored into any sale negotiation.
  2. No long-term, heck, no commitments period on the team’s payroll. A team paring down salary for profit, would still have keep at least one of their free agent signings for appearances sake if nothing else. When they all were shipped out, that’s how ‘dead’ owners roll.
  3. Attendance – The Marlins drew 2.2 million in the new ballpark and that figure is widely described as both inflated and disappointing for a 1st year stadium. However, Guillen’s Castro comments stifled enthusiasm that the Marlins should have enjoyed at the beginning of the season. Despite that, the Marlins averaged 28,988 during the 1st half of the year [thru July 1st] when their record was at 38-40 — average attendance ended up at 27,400 for the year. Soon afterwards, the trades of Ramirez, Sanchez and Infante signaled that ownership had given up on the season. The point is that a case can still be made that MLB in this market is *viable, in comparison with overall MLB attendance. Owning the team past the coming season, could begin to undermine that argument.
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On pins and creedals

Fans have a creed too. Unlike the Church, ours is not spelled out or even welcoming. Our creed is a winnowing process based on loyalty. Doubting one’s team in between playoff games earns you a lifetime ban from this church. You show loyalty to a team whose ownership are cartoonishly dishonest about their business dealings, we are impressed.

Think about it. Since the end of the 2005 season, being a loyal Marlins fan would put you near the top of the Fan pyramid as surely as Gordon Cooper was atop the Astronaut pyramid on May 21st 1963. The Marlins had at least one fan with the right stuff. His name was Louis Mendez, Sr. and the stuff he used were commemorative pins.

Louis Mendez, Sr. – The Pin Man

I’ve heard it mentioned–and I agree in part since I was there with a few of my Emmaus brothers–that if we had to pinpoint the moment the Miami Marlins began benefiting from a home field advantage at their new ballpark, it happened in a May 21st game against the Colorado Rockies. In the 4th inning of that game, Giancarlo Stanton hit a bases loaded home run against Jamie Moyer. That’s one way to describe it.

Here’s another. A 22 year-old hit a grand slam off a 49 year-old pitcher who was was in MLB before the hitter was born. The pitch came in at 72 mph and came off the bat at a record speed of 122 mph. It was a home run even a Roy Hobbs would have bragged about, if he drank.

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