Now, he has at least two hits in each of his last five starts — the oldest player to do so since Carl Yastrzemski in 1983 — and is a very tough out this season. In fact, you could also argue Ichiro’s plate discipline is the best it has ever been. His walk rate (9.3 percent of plate appearances) is almost near his career high set in 2002 and he is seeing the highest percentage of 3-0 counts in a decade.
As a result, his strikeout rate (5.0 percent) is more than half of what it was in either of the past three seasons and, if maintained, would be the lowest of his career. Ichiro rarely gets caught looking (two strikeouts in 140 plate appearances) and has lowered his strikeout swinging rate from 7.9 to 3.5 percent in one season.
When he does get the bat on the ball, good things happen. Ichiro is producing a lofty .370 batting average on balls in play, his highest since the 2009 season (.389) and 720 basis points above the league average (.289). According to Jeff Sullivan of Fangraphs, his ball-in-play rate in early June (95.4 percent) was the second highest since 2000. Only Tony Gwynn was better (96.2 percent in 2000).
Ichiro now needs 21 hits to reach the coveted 3,000-hit milestone, joining Ty Cobb, Paul Molitor and Eddie Collins as the only players in baseball history to collect 3,000 hits and 500 stolen bases with a career .300 average. At his current pace, you can expect the celebration to occur sometime during the series against the St. Louis Cardinals in mid-July.