Sunday, January 25, 2004
Ichiro has kept a leadoff hitter's approach in most situations, even with runners in scoring position. Many times have we seen him, say, bunt for a base hit with a man on second. While he might not drive the runner home with his bunt, he does succeed in extending the rally and putting additional pressure on the pitcher and the infielders. Batting second or third, we may see Ichiro alter his game a little. I think he's going to try to drive the ball a lot more, which would have two effects: a few more strikeouts and quite a bit higher slugging percentage.
Ichiro should also benefit from having Edgar Martinez following him in the lineup, instead of a two-hitter. Nobody's going to want to pitch around Ichiro and put a speedy runner on for Edgar. Especially if Winn does a good job getting on base at the top of the order, Ichiro should get a lot of pitches to hit.
Here's my hopelessly optimistic prediction of Ichiro's 2004 numbers:
.340 BA, .395 OBP, .485 SLG, 18 HR, 100 RBI, AL MVP