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Ichiro: Aging could hardly be better than this

The superstar is on a track for "only" 183 hits this year. That would tie for the seventh best season for, well, any Mariner not wearing Number 51. And it would be one more hit than Edgar Martinez ever had in a single season.

Ichiro Suzuki

Ichiro Suzuki Seattle Mariners

Stats suggest an inevitable reality for Ichiro Suzuki. As the Seattle Mariners come home today (Aug. 26) for a six-game stand after a 16-hit Wednesday effort in Cleveland, fans of the suddenly slugging club seem resigned to the idea that Ich won’t get 200 hits for the first time in his 11-year U.S. career. Number 51 projects to “just” 183 hits if he continues on the pace set during the initial 129 games. “Only” 183 would leave him a “full” 23 short of his career low: 206.

As long as we’re having fun with numbers, here’s another way of looking at 183: Such a number would tie for the seventh-highest non-Ich seasonal hitting output in Mariners history. Alex Rodriguez had 215 in 1996 and 213 two years later. Bret Boone totaled 206 in 2001 (also had 183 two years later). Phil Bradley tallied 192 in 1985. Ken Griffey Jr. put up 185 during his most-valuable-player season, 1997. Harold Reynolds registered 184 in 1989.

Also worth noting: 183 would be one better than the best season for Edgar Martinez and a dozen more than Alvin Davis had during his most productive year.

Putting 183 into the above historical perspective would seem to offer plenty of reason for the team to welcome Ichiro back for his contract year in 2012. By then, if the current trend is any indication, he’d be playing amid a lineup in which as many as a half-dozen others might be hitting not just .300 or better but for the kind of power the offense hasn’t generated for a decade.

The emergence of a capable lineup has happened so fast that it seems sheer folly to even acknowledge it (but why let that stop us?). Two months ago, M’s partisans had no reason to expect much from the inevitable call-ups of Dustin Ackley and Mike Carp. Few had even heard of Kyle Seager, Casper Wells, or Trayvon Robinson. As this is written, not only has each recently had several excellent big-league efforts but all five could be opening-day starters next season.

Seager, who started his M’s tenure with a pitcher-like batting average, went 15 for 25 with two dingers and five doubles during the recent road trip to raise his average to .313. He was 4-for-4 Wednesday, suddenly putting up numbers predicted by the precocious start he had during a brief stint at triple-A play in Tacoma.

All of the above are young players. If they fulfill their promise during the final month of the current season and proceed to improved next year, Ichiro certainly wouldn’t need to feel that he’d be the only catalyst on offense, just as Felix Hernandez knows he no longer has to be considered the club’s only quality starter.

Indeed, it could actually be that someone really steps up next season. Let’s say that (just to pick a name) Kyle Seager gets (just to pick a number) 183 hits next season. Does anybody think anyone would characterize the accomplishment as “just” 183?

Since 1994 Senior Lecturer Mike Henderson, a veteran writer and editor for The Times, Post-Intelligencer, (Everett) Herald, Seattle Weekly and Crosscut, has been a member of the faculty of the University of Washington Department of Communication. He considers himself to be the only journalist ever to interview actor Gene Hackman inside San Quentin prison while wearing a pair of Hackman's pants. He can be reached at mikh48@hotmail.com.


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