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The Oddity of “200” Monday, September 14, 2009

Posted by mrgenre in Mariners.
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Last night, Ichiro made history yet again.  Not 258 (eventually 262) or 2,000, but 200 this time was his magic number as he became the first baseball player to have 9 consecutive seasons with 200 hits or more.  As our obsessions with numbers that end in 0 or 5 prevail especially in baseball, I wanted to take a closer look at the significance of this achievement.

Ichiro’s “worst” season came in 2005 where he hit safely 206 times.  It seems likely he will actually finish the season with the record of 9 consecutive seasons of 206 or more hits.  An achievement 6 infield singles rarer than what we celebrated last night.  How do others stack up?

“Wee” Willie Keeler was the former record holder, although Ichiro had already beaten him.  Keeler had 8 consecutive seasons of only 202 hits or more, although he beat Ichiro with 7 consecutive seasons of 210 until he “struggled” and managed only 202 in 1901.

The infamous Ty Cobb, although he likely spiked his way on base on more than one occasion, has 9 seasons of 201 hits or more.

And what of Pete Rose, the man who still lords two substantial records over the current hit king?  Rose managed only 2 stretches of 3 seasons in the consecutive 200+ category, but still has 10 overall with so many hits.  Actually, he has 10 seasons of 204 hits or more, and only 7 seasons of Ichiro’s 206+ achievement.  So… didn’t Ichiro already beat him?

And this is all above that 200 hit threshhold: I didn’t even dip into 190+.  So why 200?  Why do we obsess over arbitrary amounts such as this?  As any stats hound will tell you truthfully: because we can.  I don’t say this to take anything away from Ichiro’s outstanding achievement, but I can’t even casually think about Ichiro without running over to baseball-reference.com.  That alone should tell you how incredible his achievements have been.  And as to his future achievements, I have just one more comparison to make.

Ichiro also had his 2005th career hit yesterday.  That puts him at 256th overall among career hits leaders (just past Todd Zeile and hall of famer Dave Bancroft).  Toss in his Japanese hits and he improves to 3283 professional hits and moves up to 11th on the list.  Yes, 11th.  Tied with Willie Mays.  Yes, Willie Mays.  He needs only 974 more hits to eclipse Pete Rose’s amazing achievement.

And do I care if you don’t think Ichiro’s Japanese hits should count?  No.  They play less games, they play in smaller stadiums (not spacious Safeco) and they play quality baseball.  As far as I’m concerned, if Ichiro should have 5 more seasons of 206 hits or more, he’s better than Pete Rose and should be crowned the new hits king.  Let’s just hope that’s on his to-do list.  Is it 2014 yet?

Congratulations, Ichiro.  Even if the M’s never have another playoff appearance, we can always count on you to save the day.

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