Yankees’ Ichiro Suzuki nearly to 4K milestone

aug 24 ichiroIchiro Suzuki collected two hits in the first game of Tuesday’s day-night doubleheader, giving him 3,999 career hits when you combine his Japanese and Major League totals. We all love round numbers, and so obviously his next hit will be a big one.

“I’m trying to get a hit every time and I’m excited to get up there to do that,” Ichiro said.

Ichiro isn’t in the Yankees’ lineup for Game 2 against lefty Mark Buehrle, which gives us a little more time to examine this. How exactly to interpret the accomplishment is up for debate, and even Ichiro himself isn’t quite sure how to view it.

(This is nothing new. Here’s a 2008 Seattle Times article that wondered how to handle Ichiro’s 3,000th hit.)

What is certain, though, is that 4,000 hits is a remarkable feat – as Derek Jeter said recently, “That’s a lot of hits, man. It’s pretty impressive. I don’t care if it’s 4,000 in Little League. It shows how consistent he’s been throughout his career.”

Now, no one is saying that Ichiro is challenging Pete Rose’s 4,256, but that hasn’t stopped some voices from discounting the achievement. One common refrain has been that if Ichiro’s 1,278 hits in Japan should be counted in his hits total, then we should also be counting the Minor League hit totals of players.

That was something I looked into last week for this article, which has some fun comments from around the league. You might be surprised by the results:

The argument has been made that if Ichiro’s NPB stats are considered, then perhaps Minor League statistics should also be credited in considering hit totals. But to do so just further highlights the select group Ichiro is about to join.

For the purposes of this exercise, only three additional players would then reach 4,000 professional hits: Hank Aaron (3,771 in Majors; 324 in Minors), Stan Musial (3,630 in Majors, 371 in Minors) and Jigger Statz, an outfielder who tallied 737 of his 4,093 pro hits with four big league teams from 1919-28.

Pete Rose, Ty Cobb, Hank Aaron, Stan Musial (and, for good measure, a guy named Jigger Statz!). That’s pretty select company, no matter where your career started. Oh, by the way, Ichiro’s 2,721 big league hits also tie him with Lou Gehrig on the all-time list, and there’s no debate about that one.

Here’s Ichiro’s complete career hits breakdown entering Tuesday’s second game:

2,721 in American League
1,278 in Japanese Pacific League
156 in Japanese Western League (minors)
3,999 in U.S./Japan major leagues
4,156 in professional baseball

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go read up on Arnold “Jigger” Statz.

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