Ichiro Suzuki got his 4,000 career hit, counting games he has played in Major League Baseball and the Japan Pacific League, on a single off of Toronto Blue Jays starter R.A. Dickey in the first inning of Wednesday's game, but was it really his 4,000 hit?
Prominent sabermetric and baseball analyst Tom Tango is of the belief that Ichiro's 4,000 hit actually came on July 4th, 2013 when he hit a triple in the sixth inning against the Minnesota Twins. His reasoning is simple; the statistics that players accumulate through the postseason should count towards their career numbers because they are meaningful games.
So, if we were to take Tango's thoughts into consideration we can see that Ichiro actually has 4,034 career hits and counting. Should we take postseason statistics into consideration when looking at a player's career stats though?
One of the immediate, and most commonly mentioned, issues when including postseason stats with a player's regular season numbers is that players on bad teams are unfairly penalized and are unable to add to their career numbers that way.
That's a very fair point and one Tango responds to with this:
Someone always brings this up, and I always say the same thing: a leadoff hitter on a great scoring team gets FAR more opportunities to come to bat than the cleanup hitter on team that doesn't score. Why don't you say that the hitter on the bad team gets penalized?
Again, another fair point and it again begs the question - should we or shouldn't we include postseason statistics when looking at a player's career numbers?
Taking this a step further, let's take a look at career leaders in various statistics to see if any big changes would occur if we did include postseason statistics in their career statistics.
Barry Bonds is the single-season and all-time leader in home runs with 762. Are any of the players he passed going to make up enough ground to leap-frog over him in the record books? The answer is no.
Babe Ruth played in 41 postseason games and managed to hit 15 home runs, giving him 729 career home runs.
Hank Aaron played in just 17 postseason games and hit six home runs, bringing his career total to 761.
Bonds hit nine home runs in 48 postseason games, giving his 771 for his career. Even without adding those extra nine he remains the all-time home run king.
Instead of looking at the home run record let's shift our focus to the all-time hit king, Pete Rose. Would his record of 4,256 career hits still stand if we included the postseason stats of guys behind him such as Ty Cobb or even Ichiro?
The answer, again, is no. And that's without even adding Rose's own 86 hits in the postseason, pushing his total to 4,342.
Cobb managed 17 hits over 17 postseason games for the Detroit Tigers in his career and that brings his career total to 4,208.
Ichiro, when we combine his hit totals from his days in the NPBL and what he's accumulated throughout his career in Major League Baseball he has an even 4,000 hits during the regular season. Add in his 27 hits from MLB playoff games and 10 from NPB playoff games and he has 4,037 total career hits.
Even factoring in the postseason hits that Rose got during his career, Ichiro could still pose a threat to the all-time hit king if he were able to play for another season, possibly two, and remained productive. This is one of the few all-time records in baseball likely up for grabs any time soon, but of course we would have to officially consider his career achievements from NPB.
So should we include postseason stats into a player's career stats when discussing such things?
Is it really a big deal when no major records are being broken or lost that way?
What do you think?