Ichiro at the top? Not this decade

August, 7, 2012
8/07/12
6:21
PM ET
In this business, you sometimes have to ask a question that you already know the answer to. Today, it was my turn to do that with Joe Girardi -- on the subject of Ichiro Suzuki, and the possibility that the former Mariners leadoff hitter could reclaim that spot in the Yankees lineup.

As I said, I already knew the answer, but sometimes you need to hear the manager re-state the obvious, just to get it on the record.

Here is what Girardi said: "You could [bat Ichiro leadoff]. But as much as you'd like to say he's getting on base 40 percent of the time, he's not. It's about 31 percent of the time. And then you've got Grandy who's higher than that, and Jeet's higher than that, and Cano's higher than that. If it were three or four years ago, it's probably a different story."

In other words, Ichiro, at 38, is no longer good enough to bat leadoff in the Yankees lineup. In an era in which a player's ability to get on base is valued more highly than just about anything else, Ichiro simply does not measure up anymore.

Not only is his .269 on-base percentage -- the manager was being generous when he said it was .310 -- by far the lowest of any Yankees regular, including Russell Martin, it is nearly 20 points lower than his OBP in Seattle for the first half of the season. So is his batting average -- .240 in 13 games as a Yankee, as opposed to .259 with the Mariners.

When you look at the numbers -- Curtis Granderson's OBP is .339, Derek Jeter's is .358, Nick Swisher's is .338, Mark Teixeira's is .336, Eric Chavez's is .335 and Robinson Cano's is a team-high .373 -- Suzuki, despite his career record and reputation, might be among the worst choices to hit atop the Yankees lineup.
Wallace Matthews has covered New York sports since 1983 as a reporter, columnist, radio host and TV commentator. He covers the Yankees for ESPNNewYork.com after working for Newsday, the New York Post, the New York Sun and ESPN New York 98.7 FM.
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