But, I'm not holding my breath over him getting to 3,000 hits, even if commenters on sports blogs like Hardball Talk call me a Debbie Downer and downvote me for saying that.
First, unless he's pulling a Barry Bonds and seeing a Victor Conte for the clear and the cream, he doesn't have any magic fountain of youth in his back pocket.
To put it another way? Ichiro is almost 2 years older than Alex Rodriguez, whom many Yankee fans and GM Brian Cashman are willing to consider broken down.
Yeah, let that sink in. Ichiro — 2 years older than A-Rod.
He's been on a semi-steady decline over the past five years. He had an Indian summer of sorts in the last one third of 2012, after his trade from the Mariners to the Yankees. He had another last year, perhaps fueled in part by getting more rest in 2013.
He's gonna be 41 this year. And, he's probably at fifth outfielder, not fourth outfielder level, or maybe halfway between the two. In short, unless the Fish have at least as many outfield injuries this year as the Yankees did last year, he's not getting a lot of opportunities to swing the lumber.
My guesstimates? About 315 plate appearances, and about 300 at bats. If he's in the upper .240s on batting average, that gives him about 75 hits. That's a bit less than halfway from his current 2,844 to 3,000. This is reinforced by the fact that Miami's an NL team. Except for interleague play, there's no DH to give him additional at bats. (He's not done much DHing, because he's not a prototype DH, of course, but he has done a little.)
That said, Jerry Crasnick says my 300 ABs may be too high; he says more like 250.
Right now, the Fish are set for starters with the Iron Giant, Giancarlo Stanton, Marcell Ozuna and Christian Yelich. All three are young, and thus, barring unexpected injury, unlikely to give Ichiro much playing time, even if he is the team's first OF option off the bench. And, I'll assume Mark Canha makes the big club out of spring training; he might wind up being the first OF off the bench by the end of the year himself, or a combination of him and Enrique Hernandez, even more an IF than Canha at AAA, but who can play OF as well.
Assuming a bit more decline, and a bit less playing time, in 2016, if an MLB team gives him a contract next year, and it's one he'll accept, that leaves him about 30 hits short of 3K at the end of 2016.
So, that assumes that some MLB team wants to pay his contractual freight in 2017, too.
Since, unlike Pete Rose when chasing Ty Cobb, the Fish aren't tabbing him as a player-manager, and it's doubtful that will happen next year, either, color me skeptical of him breaking that magic hits milestone. He can't force himself in the lineup.
Plus, even more than Rose, his hits are dependent on his speed. My 75 hits for him this year may be on the high side.
He'll be HOFer anyway.
But, is he a slam dunk? For voters, he will be.
That said, in key sabermetric issues, for his MLB career, he's likely to be below 60 WAR and surely below 30 WAA.
What if he had played his whole career here?
Well, let's say he breaks into the US majors at age 23 instead of 27. I'll give him 900 more gross hits for those four extra early years, minus losing 100 from the extra wear of 4 US MLB years versus Japanese majors years. So, we're at about 3,600 hits. 500 stolen bases.
And, on sabermetrics, maybe 75 WAR and 38 WAA.
That's not quite a slam dunk, but, to stay with basketball terminology, it's an uncontested layup.
He'd probably be about No. 8 on the JAWS scale for RF, just ahead of its current occupant, Reggie Jackson.
That said, I don't think his career OPS+ would be above 115 (actual career 110), which is just not that good for a RF. In fact, assuming he gets in, he'll have the lowest OPS+ of any right fielder.
That said, the Mariners did play him a fair amount at CF in his earlier days. As for HOFers in that position? Richie Ashburn has a career OPS+ of 111, but he's only semi-deserving, if that. More legit, if not an uncontested layup, in center, Andre Dawson had a career OPS+ of 119.
So, Ichiro, if this year starts slow — and deteriorates from there — I hope you accept it and your future with grace. Find a way to end your career back in Seattle and bow out when you need to, when the time is right. Accept that BBWAA voters will know how to recognize you.
And, at the same time, blind Ichiro touters should look at that career OPS+. They should note the relative lack of doubles, even, even with his speed.