BY Steve Rudman 02:17PM 09/05/2011

40 hits to 200: Not even Ichiro can do it

With poor hitting months in May (.210) and July (.241), Ichiro botched his chance for an 11th consecutive 200-hit season, which would have extended his major league record.

Ichiro botched his chance at an 11th consecutive 200-hit season. / Getty Images

Ichiro reached Labor Day with 160 hits (went 2-for-5 in an 8-5 loss to Oakland on Sunday), obviously meaning that he needs 40 more in Seattle’s final 23 games to reach 200. An 11th consecutive 200-hit season would not only extend Ichiro’s own major league record, but break a tie with Pete Rose for most 200-hit seasons in a career.

Those who have followed Ichiro since his Mariners debut in 2001 certainly understand that almost no hitting feat, regardless how rare,  seemed beyond his reach. Until now.

To collect 40 hits in 23 games, Ichiro almost requires a 23-game hitting streak. In what is the worst statistical season of his time in America (he reached Labor Day with a .275 batting average, 56 points below his career mark), Ichiro’s longest hitting streak is just 13 games.

Ichiro would also practically have to go 2-for-4 in every remaining game, or would need a handful for 3-for-4s or 4-for-4s to offset inevitable 0-for-4s and 1-for-4s. Ichiro hasn’t produced a three-hit game since Aug. 22 at Cleveland, and has just five such contests all season (plus a pair of four-hit games).

Even for a player who once collected an astonishing 25 hits in nine games (August of 2004), the hit mountain now confronting Ichiro is unscalable.

If Ichiro had been 40 hits shy of 200 at the start of September, he would have had a reasonable chance at No. 11, considering that he twice has produced 40-hit Septembers, in 2004 (44 hits in 28 games) and 2010 (41 in 27 games).

But Ichiro entered September needing 46 hits to reach 200. While Ichiro has produced 46 hits in a month eight times, he hasn’t reached or exceeded that number since May of 2009, when he had 49. Before that, Ichiro’s last month with 46 or more hits occurred in June 2007 (47).

A vintage Ichiro might have been up for another 46-hit month, despite averaging just 33.9 hits in September/October for his career. But a nearly 38-year-old Ichiro hasn’t had more than 39 hits in any month this season (39 in April) and has averaged just 30.8 hits through the season’s first five.

If, as expected, Ichiro falls shy of 200, it won’t be because he failed in September. Ichiro effectively lost his chance at 200 when he had a 22-hit May (.210 batting average) and followed with a 26-hit July. Anyone chasing 200 hits needs to average about 35 hits per month.

Another issue is whether Ichiro should even be in position to reach 200, regardless of how remote that position is. Sportspress Northwest colleague Art Thiel has argued persuasively that the at-bats currently going to Ichiro in yet another last-place season should instead be spread among the crop of younger Mariners to help determine their major league worthiness.

The Mariners have so far refused to accept that argument. Or perhaps they can’t accept it because Ichiro insists on playing, and Ichiro always gets what Ichiro wants. Ichiro has never made it a secret that 200 hits is a personal priority, and this might be his last, best chance at achieving the feat.

Ichiro turns 38 in October. Only three players that age, or older, managed 200 hits in a season. Sam Rice had 207 as a 40-year-old for the 1930 Washington Senators and 202 for the 1928 Senators at age 38.

Paul Molitor produced 225 hits as a 39-year-old for the 1996 Minnesota Twins, and a 38-year-old Rose had 208 for the 1979 Philadelphia Phillies. In addition, only three players reached 200 hits as a 37-year-old, none since Tony Gwynn in 1997. In fact, just nine individuals have ever managed a 200-hit season after turning 36, one of them Ichiro in 2010.

Most hitters of Ichiro’s historical ilk exhausted their supply of 200-hit seasons long before ages 37-38. Willie Keeler (1892-1910), who held the record with eight straight 200-hit seasons before Ichiro broke it, never had another after turning 30 years old.

Wade Boggs (seven 200-hit seasons), Al Simmons (six) and Rod Carew (four) never had 200-hit seasons after turning 32, and Rogers Hornsby, with seven such years, had his last in 1929 at age 33. And Ty Cobb (eight), never had more than 175 hits in a season after turning 38.

So we may have seen the last of Ichiro’s annual 200-hit extravaganzas. If so, and regardless the Mariners’ internal politics, what a remarkable show it was, one we won’t forget, or see again.

200 HITS IN A SEASON AFTER TURNING 36

Year Player Team Pos. B/T Hits Age
1930 Sam Rice Senators OF L/R 207 40
1996 Paul Molitor Twins DH, INF R/R 225 39
1928 Sam Rice Senators OF L/R 202 38
1979 Pete Rose Phillies OF, 1B S/R 208 38
1924 Ty Cobb Tigers OF L/R 211 37
1925 Zach Wheat Dodgers OF L/R 221 37
1997 Tony Gwynn Padres OF L/L 220 37
1924 Zach Wheat Dodgers OF L/R 212 36
1926 Sam Rice Senators OF L/R 216 36
1929 George Sisler Braves 1B L/L 205 36
1935 Bill Terry Giants 1B L/L 203 36
1977 Pete Rose Reds OF, 1B S/R 204 36
1993 Paul Molitor Blue Jays DH, INF R/R 211 36
2010 Ichiro Suzuki Mariners OF L/R 225 36

YourThoughts

  • Bigk9

    Pee Wee Heaps was over-rated when he decided to call a stupid ‘press conference’ to announce he wanted to go to BYU, and is over-rated as a 3rd string QB now.
    The LAST thing the Huskies need is a pompous wash-out like Heaps. Kasem Williams made him look great at Skyline, and Heaps has been a disaster at BYU.
    BYU would not even compete in the PAC12. Just look at what Utah, their most hated rival, did to them this year, before getting beat-up in the PAC12.
    The kid is a double or triple-A QB at best. We don’t need him, and shows NEVER waste a scholarship on him.
    Just the fact he wants to transfer because he’s not staring says it all. The kid (and his parents) think he is far better than he is, and mde a huge mistake when they snubbed Sarkisian. In hindsight, thank God we got a great backup in Montana, who fights every practice to play more, than this dweeb who expects to be a star and isn’t even close.
    We have two 5-star ‘Elite 24′ QBs who are recruits that want to pay for Sark. We already have 3

  • Anonymous

    One thing in the article is false.  Doman (BYU OC) reworked the entire offense in the off season to play to the strengths of Heaps.  It included more straight up passing in the pocket.  Heaps was taking far more snaps under center than most BYU QB’s have done in the past.  Jake’s performance –or lack of– had nothing to do with him not fitting into BYU’s system.  He was a local celebrity deemed football’s version of Jimmer. The problem was simply that he didn’t perform on the field.  In the first 4 games of this season, he had just one touchdown in each game.  His throws missed open receivers, if a defender got within 5 yrds he folded like an old lawn chair, and never won the leadership role.  His teammates struggled to see him as their leader especially after referring to them as “those guys” in post game interviews (as if he wasn’t part of them or nothing he did contributed to problems).  Whether he was arrogant in person or not, he sure came across that way in public.  It was suggested he redshirt next year to mature and grow then still have 2 good years after Nelson graduates.  Several other BYU QB’s have done that following their soph. year– ever hear of Jim McMahon? 

    In my opinion, Jake had been promoted as the QB savior since he was 10 yrs old and never had to compete for the starting position.  He was honestly flabbergasted when he was pulled from the Utah St. game which saw Nelson rally for the come from behind win.  He didn’t know what to do with the situation and showed no willingness to dig deep and fight to be the starter.  Coaches gave him every opportunity in the world to be successful but at some point you have to go with who’s performing on the field and winning the games.   Were there mistakes by the young coaching staff?  Certainly (like rotating QB’s at first of ’10 season).  But when all is said and done– Jake just didn’t bring it to the field.  Everyone I’ve heard at BYU wishes him all the best.  Maybe the fresh start will be just what he needs to excel and he’ll still land in the NFL– I certainly hope so.  Maybe other coaches will get it out of him and he’ll learn to have heart.  The talent is certainly there in abundance.  Any team picking him up should know there’s work to be done both on and off the field.    

  • Kreid99

    BigK9 hit the nail on the head–The kid seems to have a sense of entitlement and not the toughness to fight for what he believes..We (The Dawgs) do not need him and should laugh in his face over what has transpired..