There have been countless players from Nippon Professional Baseball and the Far East in general who simply struggled to adjust to Major League Baseball once they got there. Some find sustainable success and become household names and regular players. Then there’s Seattle Mariners legend Ichiro Suzuki.
In 2001, Ichiro jumped into the big leagues and not only achieved success, but he would be considered one of the greatest players worldwide.
In 2001, Seattle Mariners star Ichiro won the MVP, Rookie of the Year, Gold Glove, batting title and was an All-Star selection
He joined the league at the age of 27 with nine years of experience in the NPB. While Japanese baseball has plenty of talent and is highly competitive, there is still a talent gap between the two leagues. Likewise, he had to deal with lifestyle changes and the language barrier. He was definitely a newbie on the other side of the world.
Watching Ichiro captivate the league with his unorthodox attitude and then-iconic run swing was very fresh. Not only was it different, but it was to have The league does that.
In hindsight, it’s great to see the bigger picture of Ichiro’s career knowing that his first year wasn’t an anomaly. He would end up doing that in the MLB for the next decade and then some.
To add to the legend of Ichiro’s performance in his first year in the MLB, the Mariners have won a historic 116 games. He was the main differentiator, the catalyst for their offensive attack. No one has had more fingerprints in all of these winnings than Ichiro.
Although he is best known for his pure Legendary strikes, he will also be impressive on the field. He is best known for having one of the best guns in baseball history. Combined with his impeccable range factor and efficient flyball trajectory, Ichiro was a sight to behold in right field as well. In the 152 games played in right field, scoring over 1,300 runs, Ichiro would only commit One Error.
Paragraph Ichiro’s offensive numbers that year wouldn’t do him justice. It was so good that year that a list should be made 🙁wide indicates major majors)
- 350 batting average
- 8 hours
- 69 RBIs
- 242 hits
- 56 stolen bases
- .838 OPS
- at bats (692) and plate appearances (738)
- 127 runs
- 34 doubles
- 8 three times
- 316 total bases
Ichiro caught 53 times over the course of the season, meaning he had more stolen bases than strikeouts. The massive amount of baseball he played, combined with his minuscule number of hits, resulted in a 13.1 at bats per strikeout ratio.
Because of Seattle’s 116 win, Ichiro finds baseball in October much easier than the others in their first campaign. His first-ever MLB Postseason Series saw Ichiro on fire as he went 12-for-20 against Cleveland in the series without a strikeout.
Perhaps the impact he would have on America’s youth was stronger than Ichiro’s Pre-America year. Many kids will soon put up a poster of Ichiro on their walls, mimicking his unique swing, and design their game after him. Who got into the league from the start and had the biggest impact on the sport? Babe Ruth? Ted Williams? Ty Cobb? Shuhei Ohtani? Very decent company.
We all see and witness Ohtani’s massive talent, which also hits the ground running in the MLB. While he’s a very different player who seduces the league in his own unique way, one can’t help but remember the last time a Japanese player traveled halfway around the world to play baseball better than anyone on the planet. Cooperstown’s next unanimous pick may not be a mystery, and Ichiro didn’t make that decision too hard, right from the start.