Ichiro, Pitching!


Anyone who has ever witnessed Ichiro Suzuki launch Hellfire missiles from right field, vanquishing greedy opponents looking to take an extra base, has wondered how the longtime Orix Blue Wave and Seattle Mariners star would fare on the pitcher’s mound. On Sunday, during an otherwise sleepy game 162 between the Phillies and Marlins, we finally got our answer. And the man of many talents as a position player — 4,213 hits between Japan and the Majors, 498 MLB steals, ten Gold Gloves — showed a similarly deep pitch arsenal.

Ichiro did get touched up by the Phillies in his one inning of work, surrendering doubles to Odubel Herrera and Darnell Sweeney. But for a guy who last pitched professionally during the 1996 Japanese all-star game, he had a smorgasbord of stuff. Ichiro averaged 87 MPH with his fastball and topped out at 88 MPH, but that’s hardly all he showed Philly batters. In addition to chucking five fastballs 41 year-old righty threw six changeups (averaging 84 MPH), four curveballs (78 MPH), two sliders (79 MPH) and one cutter (87 MPH). He even managed to generate a whiff with his curve, courtesy of an awkward hack that Freddy Galvis‘ teammates will remind him of for the next decade or so.

No matter the pitch, Ichiro showed surprisingly sharp control. He threw 72% of his pitches within the strike zone, and generally managed to hit the corners:

Ichiro’s pitch location vs. the Phillies, 10/4/2015
ichiro pitching

While he still covers serious ground in the outfield (+9 defensive runs saved as a RF in 2015) and swipes the occasional base, Ichiro’s clearly in the twilight of his career (he posted a 56 OPS+ this year, and was -1.2 wins below replacement level). The Marlins reportedly have some interest in bringing him back in 2016, but Ichiro’s quest for 3,000 stateside hits won’t be easy. Displaying a five-pitch mix can only help his marketability, right?