The Seattle Mariners are getting nice output from Ichiro Suzuki again this year, possibly proving that age is just a number with the 10-time All-Star. After a rough 2011 season, there were questions about whether Ichiro could still perform at an elite level. Through his first 26 games in 2012, though, his batting average is back north of .300 once again.
Playing against the Tampa Bay Rays on Wednesday night (May 2), Ichiro went 2-for-3 to post his third straight multi-hit game. He now has a .312 batting average on the season (34-for-109), a pace that would have Ichiro surpassing the 200-hit mark for the 11th time in his MLB career. That's exactly what the Mariners and their fans want to see happen during his 12th season. I had been hopeful he would have a season like this, and I am quite pleased that manager Eric Wedge has kept him in the lineup.
Hitting in the third spot for the Mariners has given Ichiro new life, possibly allowing him to see how pitchers are handling the two hitters ahead of him in the lineup. The unfortunate par,t though, is that Chone Figgins and Dustin Ackley have struggled a lot lately, resulting in very few RBI opportunities when Ichiro strides to the plate. In fact, despite having 17 hits in his last 10 games, Ichiro has zero RBIs in that span.
These are the numbers that could resurrect Ichiro's pursuit of 3,000 career hits in the U.S. He now sits at 2,462 hits through the first 26 games of 2012, possibly indicating that he could hit that magic number near the end of 2014 if he can continue to produce. A free agent at the end of the current season, it's hard to predict if the organization will give him a new contract though.
With the rebuilding efforts fully underway, he may not have a place in the future of the organization. With everything that he has given the Mariners, I really hope that the plan is to offer him an extension and let him play it out in right field. The Mariners have room to allow a veteran like Ichiro to play out his entire career in Seattle and it would certainly become exciting to have a countdown to hit No. 3000.
It's still early, but it would be pretty cool if Ichiro made the All-Star team again this year.
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*Ryan is a lifelong Seattle Mariners fan who never misses an opportunity to attend a game at Safeco Field. He has been attending games since 1985, and has fond memories of The Kingdome, Edgar Martinez, and the historic 1995 team. Sodo Mojo!