There are two ways to look at Ichiro Suzuki's .261 batting average and .288 on-base percentage. The negative view is that age -- he is 38 -- has decayed his skills to where he hits for little power or anything else, while still playing very good defense. The more optimistic point of view is that playing for a poor Seattle team has sapped Ichiro of some motivation and he hasn't been the same player because of it.
There is probably more than some truth in both theories, but a scout I spoke with this morning thinks that Ichiro in pinstripes will be a better player. Probably not elite or even great, but better.
"I think it is a good fit," AL scout said. "He's been a great player. I think he'll play better. He is not the man so he should have less pressure and better performance. He'll be more motivated."
Here is the thing about Ichiro as a Yankee -- his hitting might just be a plus. His defense is really going to be a market upgrade. While Raul Ibanez and Andruw Jones have been streaky good at the plate, they don't play great defense at this point in their careers. Ichiro still does. If you can't have Brett Gardner back in left, Ichiro is as close as you are going to get.
Ichiro will probably not play every day, but he will be in there against righties and then sit against some lefties, allowing the Yankees to continue to put Ibanez in left, while using DH as a resting spot for Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter. Ichiro is a .278 hitter with a .317 on-base guy this season against righties. Versus lefties, those numbers tumble to .236 and .242.
Ichiro is still a world star, but as a Yankee he is just another guy. So, after the brief honeymoon, his playing time will be based mostly on how he is performing.
This is what Ichiro wanted. He asked for a trade because he desired at least one more chance at the spotlight and a ring.
"It is a big stage and he is a big-time player," the scout said. "That ballpark is catered to him too with the right field porch."