Ichiro reaches 4,000 hits; Should he be mentioned with the all-time greats?

Who is the greatest hitter of all-time?

8/23/13 in MLB   |   MortonsLaw   |   156 respect

Aug 21, 2013; Bronx, NY, USA; New York Yankees right fielder Ichiro Suzuki (31) waves to the crowd after recording his career 4000th hit during the first inning against the Toronto Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Debby Wong-USA TODAY SportsThere’s been a lot of discussion in the past 48 hours regarding Ichiro and his place in history. Ichiro became only the third player to reach 4,000 career hits. Now the debate is because he didn’t record all 4,000 in MLB, that there’s no way he can be mentioned in the same sentence as the likes of Pete Rose and Ty Cobb.

My immediate reaction to that is—are you kidding me? Had Ichiro put up numbers in Japan that were superior to his MLB numbers; to where there was a significant drop off, then I’d agree. However, in his very first season Ichiro hit .350, had 242 hits, and by the way only won rookie of the year—AND MVP. There is no doubt in my mind, and nor should there be in anyone’s mind, that had Ichiro started his career in the states he would be approaching the milestone he just achieved.

Ichiro’s numbers are mind blowing: 10 consecutive years of 200 hits or more (Only player to achieve that). He set the single-season record for hits in 2004 with 262. He has hit .350 or better 4 times in his MLB career. He also has a career average of .320, and averages 209 hits per season. Plus, in his first 13 years he has recorded the most hits in baseball history.

While I respect Pete Rose’s record, I don’t see how you can call him the greatest hitter of all-time. The same can be said for Emmitt Smith and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar with their respective records. Records don’t necessarily mean the best. I think most would agree that Jim Brown was the greatest running back of all-time, and either Michael Jordan or Wilt Chamberlain were the greatest scorers of all-time. Rose does match Ichiro with 10 seasons of 200 or more hits. However, Rose’s best average for a season was just .348. Rose never had more than 230 hits in a season.

When you look at hits per season and career average, I’m not sure where I put Pete Rose on the list of greatest hitters in the history of the game. Ty Cobb, Ted Williams, Tony Gwynn, Wade Boggs and several others had superior career averages to Pete Rose. In fact, Rose’s career average was just .303. Now I’m not going to be naive and call Rose a compiler, because he was great for many years. I just think numbers prove he was far from the greatest despite the record.

Guys like Ted Williams had insane on base percentage numbers courtesy walking well over 100 times a year. In fact, Ted Williams has the highest OBP in the history of baseball with .482. Conversely, Rose’s was just .375. Let’s not forget Williams also missed 3 years of his prime fighting for our country in World War II. Williams finished with just 2,654 career hits. Is there anyone who can say Rose was a better hitter than Williams?

And as to whom the greatest hitter of all-time is: Look no further than Ty Cobb. Check out these numbers if you haven’t already seen them.

Cobb essentially hit off a tee. It just wasn’t fair to any pitcher when he was in the batter’s box. Keep in mind Cobb and anyone before 1968 faced pitchers with a 15 inch mound. Pete Rose only played under those conditions for 5 years, before they changed the mound to 10 inches.

This debate is fun, everyone will have their favorite. People may even debate eras and level of competition. I can’t do that because then we have to get into our era of players being performance enhanced.

My final question that I hope people reply to is, if you need one hit, who would you want up?
 
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8/27/13   |   ML31   |   3672 respect

One must also consider that the NBL season is not quite as long as the MLB season.

8/24/13   |   Wards_Page   |   248 respect

Ted Williams is the best hitter ever. Also lost some time serving in Korea. Guy was a hitting machine. Cobb played in deadball era so we forgive low home run total, but competition wasn't nearly as good either. It's Williams.