This season has really shed some light on the “real hitters” with players like Albert Pujols and Joe Mauer being thrust into the spotlight for all to see. Pujols is a legitimate complete hitter while Mauer is well on his way to solidifying himself as one.
While players like Pujols and Mauer steal the spotlight there is a player who is quietly one of the greatest hitters in the history of baseball. We all know who it is, we just don’t necessarily associate him with greatness. He is an All-Star every year but just doesn’t get the credit he really, truly deserves. That player is Ichiro Suzuki.
This year Ichiro is hitting .358. No typo, it’s .358. Joe Mauer may be leading the majors in BA but he is also having a career year. Ichiro does this every single year. Ichiro’s lifetime average is .332. That’s after he played 8 seasons in Japan, where he hit .353 with 1,278 hits. After 8 years of excellence in Japan he packed his bags and landed in Seattle. He has been the backbone of the franchise ever since but has been overshadowed by players like Alex Rodriguez, Albert Pujols and Hanley Ramirez.
Ichiro doesn’t bring the home run often, but true students of the game know that despite his small frame he has power. It just isn’t his game. He would much rather slap a single or bunt his way on and then steal second base. By the way he has 21 stolen bases so far this year. He doesn’t walk often but he doesn’t strike out often either. In his 391 at bats this season he has struck out just 35 times. His career high in strikeouts came in 2007 when he struck out 77 times. He is obnoxiously consistent while being one of the most durable players in the game. Since coming to the United States he has played in no fewer than 157 games.
Ichiro does it all. Since joining MLB he has been an All-Star every year while earning Rookie of the Year honors in 2001. Not only did he win the ROY in 2001, he won the MVP for the American League while hitting .350 with 56 stolen bases. He has taken home a Gold Glove every year and is a 2-time Silver Slugger and 2-time AL batting champ.
When looking at his short time in MLB his statistics still warrant him the Hall of Fame on the first ballot. When combining his statistics with the his time in Japan he is one of the greatest hitters the game has ever scene. If you were to combine his statistics from both careers he would have 3,223 hits, 429 doubles, 1,023 RBI, 535 stolen bases and a .343 batting average.
There is no doubt that Ichiro is one of the best players in baseball. He is a household name but just does not receive the credit he deserves. He combines incredible bat control with outstanding defense and speed. Pujols, Rodriguez, and Mauer may have the power, but Ichiro has the complete game.
Over the past 20 years there have been dozens of pitchers that have challenged the best hitters in the game. They pushed the best teams to their limits and challenged some of the greatest records the game has to offer.
Pitchers like Roger Clemens, Randy Johnson, Tom Glavine, Mariano Rivera, Joe Nathan, and John Smoltz have lead the way. Through all the controversy there has been one pitcher who has truly weathered the storm. He has played the game with all the class in the world while bolstering one of the greatest resumes one could ever hope for. That player is #31, Greg Maddux.
On Friday Maddux will have his number retired by the Atlanta Braves. This is after he has had his number retired by the Chicago Cubs earlier this season. Here’s a look back on arguably the greatest pitcher in the last 50 years.
Greg Maddux began his career as a lanky pitcher for the Chicago Cubs in 1986 at the age of 20. Maddux would spend the next 7 season in Chicago, winning at least 15 games 5 times and at least 18 games 3 times. Despite having an excellent resume Maddux’s career was just about to take off. Maddux would then sign with the Atlanta Braves and begin a streak of dominance that has yet to be contested.
Maddux would spend the next 11 seasons with the Braves and would collect 3 of his 4 Cy Young Awards while accumulating 194 wins. Maddux’s best season came in 1995, where he went 19-2 with a 1.63 ERA. He would throw 10 complete games to go with 3 shutouts on his way to his 4th and final Cy Young Award and only World Series victory.
Maddux is an 8-time All-Star and an 18-time Gold Glove winner. Maddux was able to redefine the position from a defensive standpoint on his way to cementing himself as the great defensive pitcher of all time.
Maddux lead the league in wins 3 times (1992, 1994, 1995) and in ERA 4 times (1993, 1994, 1995, 1998). He lead the league in WHIP 4 times (1993, 1994, 1995, 1998) as well as walks per 9 innings pitched 9 times (1995, 1996, 1997, 2000, 2001, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2008). Maddux’s durability further proves why he is one of the greatest. In a stretch from 1990-1996 Maddux finished no worse than 2nd in the National League in innings pitched. That streak included 4 years (1991-1995) in which he lead the NL in innings pitched with no fewer than 202.0 (1994).
When it comes to all-time statistics Maddux ranks 13th in innings pitched (5008.1), 8th in wins (355), 4th in games started (740), and 10th in strikeouts (3371). This goes without mentioning he has only walked 999 batters in his entire career.
Not only is Maddux one of the greatest on the field, he has been an amazing human being off the field. In 1993 Maddux formed The Maddux Foundation which has raised over $850,000 for other various charities.
There is no doubt that he is a first ballot Hall of Famer and is one of the greatest pitchers to ever grace the field. A tip of the cap to a Hall of Fame player and a Hall of Fame person.
“Hitting is timing. Pitching is upsetting timing.”– Warren Spahn