On Wednesday, Fangraphs’ Jeff Zimmerman weighed in on Ichiro’s Hall of Fame candidacy. Ichiro didn’t join MLB until he was 27, so Zimmerman took the production of all hitters from 27 years of age and older and put them against Ichiro’s career numbers. His conclusion:

If a person looks at his production since he was signed by Seattle at age 27 — and compare it to others after that age — his Hall-of-Fame candidacy is pretty borderline. Still, he’s among the career leaders in some pretty special categories, and that certainly counts for something.

I read this and thought Zimmerman had completely missed the boat on Ichiro. I wasn’t alone. Here’s what UmpBump writer Nick had to say about Zimmerman’s post in an email he wrote me:

First of all, to say Ichiro is not a Hall of Famer means you are deciding that his entire Japanese career means absolutely nothing at all. Fine. I think you’re an idiot if you believe this, but at least it’s kind of debatable. Second of all, you have to hold fast to the position that, even though Ichiro is one of the single most famous baseball players in the history of mankind, and it’s called the Hall of FAME, fame actually has nothing to do with entry. Nothing. At. All. According to you. Nope, it’s only about pure stats, and by “pure stats” you really mean “WAR and WAR only.” Because when they made the Hall of Fame they were actually going to call it the “Hall of War,” but that sounded too militant and the sign-maker was out of W’s, and Ty Cobb stabbed the R to death, so all they could do was go with their backup choice of “Fame.” Then third of all, you have to ignore that Ichiro is an MVP, a Rookie-of-the-Year, and a 10-time All-Star and 10-time gold glover (i.e. he was an All-Star and won the Gold Glove the first 10 seasons played in the MLB). And then finally, fourth of all, you have to completely ignore the fact that ICHIRO HAS THE FREAKIN’ ALL-TIME RECORD FOR HITS IN A SINGLE SEASON. This is not just any old record. This is not “most sacrifice flies on Tuesday night games in May.” This is hits. HIIIIIITS. It’s a major, major record. And it’s not like he just randomly blew up for 262 hits one year. The guy has had over 200 hits every single year of his career. The guy is also a perfect gentleman, is a national hero in Japan, works insanely hard, never gets hurt, has a laserbeam for a right arm, runs faster than Satan, goes over the wall to rob 4 or 5 homers a year, and is all around incredibly fun to watch. We’ll still be talking about this guy 100 years from now, if WWIII hasn’t happened by then, and even if he retired today, he’d be a first balloter.

I don’t have much to add to that. It’s one of Nick’s best rants, and I agree with everything he said. In fairness to Zimmerman, he didn’t conclude that Ichiro shouldn’t make the Hall. Just that he maybe shouldn’t. But that’s still a pretty outrageous conclusion. WAR is a fabulous stat. But there’s so much more to Ichiro than WAR, as Nick points out. Plus, the guys who posted similar WAR after turning 27 — Duke Snider, Joe DiMaggio, Reggie Jackson,  Robin Yount, Sammy Sosa, Jim Edmonds, Barry Larkin, Jim Thome, Dave Winfield and Eddie Murray — are all Hall of Famers or future Hall of Famers, with the exception of Edmonds and Sosa. And Ichiro isn’t done adding to his WAR total. In fact, at least one ESPN writer thinks he’s got more left in the tank.

The blog USS Mariner always spells “Ichiro” with an exclamation point. It’s totally deserved. For 10 years, Ichiro has put the ! in Major League Baseball. Without him, it would still be the Hall of Fame. But it could never be the “Hall of Fame!”

One Response to “There is nothing “borderline” about Ichiro’s Hall of Fame candidacy”

  1. Great rant indeed. I agree with both of you. Ichiro is just insanely good. And he should be a first ballot HOFer.

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