Ichiro and Boxes

I know Matthew wrote about this a few weeks ago, but hopefully, you’ll bare with me as we revisit the topic of Ichiro’s value. It has become prominent again in the local discussions of the Seattle Mariners, as J.J. Putz and Adrian Beltre have expressed frustration with his style of play.

In the last three years, here’s the Win Value leaderboard for major league outfielders.

1. Grady Sizemore, +20 wins
2. Carlos Beltran, +18.4 wins
3. Matt Holliday, +18.1 wins
4. Curtis Granderson, +14.7 wins
5. Ichiro Suzuki, +14.5 wins

Over the last three years, Ichiro has been a more valuable player than Manny Ramirez, Magglio Ordonez, Alfonso Soriano, or Vladimir Guerrero. Do you see their teammates complaining that they don’t play the game the right way (okay, Manny, but that’s a different kind of issue entirely)? Do you see them continually being derided for what they don’t do?

We’re in desperate need of a paradigm shift. For too long, baseball players have been put into boxes and defined based on how well they fit a preconceived notion of what is valuable. If you don’t do those certain things, then your value is diminished, regardless of how well you do everything else.

A player’s value is the sum of his total contributions on the field. And those contributions come in all shapes and sizes. You don’t have to hit home runs to be a star. You don’t have to play defense to be a star. You don’t have to be nice to the media to be a star. If you have a deficiency in one area, you can make up for it with superlative greatness in another.

Ichiro is a star. That he doesn’t produce like Guerrero or Ramirez doesn’t make him less valuable, just because he doesn’t look like a right fielder.

Let’s just toss our preconceived notions of what a player should do overboard and evaluate them on what they actually do. We care about their tangible value, not our interpretation of whether their value fits the mold.

Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.

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13 years ago

But, but… he doesn’t dive for balls!