First Pitch: Ichiro's OBP

March, 30, 2013
3/30/13
6:00
AM ET
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Before the exhibition game against the Nationals on Friday, a loud grunting sound kept emanating through the corridor that connects the road clubhouse to the field. Swing after swing, Ichiro Suzuki, alone in the batting cage, made guttural noises that could have rivaled Monica Seles in her heyday.

It was just the meticulous Ichiro going about his work. As Kevin Long threw ball after ball, Ichrio had his usual laser-like focus.

There is little doubt Ichiro puts in the time, the energy and the intensity to be successful, but how good he will be in 2013 is still in question.

There is a segment of the Yankees fan base that believes Ichiro will be better in the regular season than Nick Swisher. I don't see it.

But what is Ichiro's potential? Well, it comes down to how much he gets on base. That is where he does his damage, because even at 39 he still can run.

To really make an impact, Ichiro must use his legs. That is why is he has to get on base at a .350 clip or better. Ichiro has reached this mark every season in the majors, except for the last two.

The thing about Ichiro is that he does not walk. In 2012, he only walked 22 times. So Ichiro's average needs to be well above .300 to be a .350 on-base guy. I don't think he makes it there and that is why I believe the Yankees will miss Swisher in the regular season.

UP NOW: We have predictions from the entire staff. I have the Yankees going 84-78 and finishing fourth, out of the playoffs.

I projected the Yankees' 25-man roster. Sweet Lou will throw out the first pitch on Monday. Lyle Overbay made the team, while David Aardsma did not.

ON DECK: The Yankees are in West Point to face Army. The very valuable Matt Ehalt will make his 2013 game coverage debut. Give Matt a follow on Twitter. Throughout the weekend, Wallace Matthews, Ian O'Connor and I will have columns, blogs, more predictions and Red Sox talk as we get you ready for Monday's Opening Day. As always, since we you know you can choose any airline, thanks for flying with ESPN New York.

QUESTION: Over-under -- Will Ichiro have a .350-or-better on-base percentage?
Andrew Marchand is a senior writer for ESPNNewYork. He also regularly contributes to SportsCenter, Baseball Tonight, ESPNews, ESPN New York 98.7 FM and ESPN Radio. He joined ESPN in 2007 after nine years at the New York Post. Follow Andrew on Twitter »

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TEAM LEADERS

BA LEADER
Jacoby Ellsbury
BA HR RBI R
.271 16 70 71
OTHER LEADERS
HRB. McCann 23
RBIB. McCann 75
RB. Gardner 87
OPSB. Gardner .749
WM. Tanaka 13
ERAH. Kuroda 3.71
SOH. Kuroda 146