Today, in the first game of a doubleheader, Ichiro Suzuki picked up two hits to rack up his total number of professional hits to 3,999. That’s combining his 1,278 hits over his nine years in Japan, plus his 2,271 hits over 13 years in MLB.
Only two players in MLB history have had 4,000-plus hits: Ty Cobb with 4,189 and Pete Rose with 4,256. So obviously, 4,000 is a prestigious number that is rarely seen in baseball; but the question is, where does Suzuki’s 4,000 combined hits compare to hitting in the majors for a whole career?
First of all, it’s widely known that American baseball is light-years ahead of Japanese baseball in skill level. However, that doesn’t take anything away from Japanese baseball. It might be bigger culturally in Japan than it is in America, but big leaguers go to Japan when they are in the twilight of their careers, or they simply aren’t good enough to play in the show.
In addition, only a few Japanese players actually migrate to America to play ball, and they are at the apex of their careers and are dominant in their respective Japanese leagues.
To take an asterisk off Ichiro’s 4,000, he played the majority of his years in the majors during the steroid era. Not only were hitters taking PEDs to hit the long ball, but pitchers were taking them as well to add velocity to their pitches and help their arms stay durable.
All in all, there is an argument to both sides, but what can’t be debated is that 4,000 hits is an amazing accomplishment no matter what league or where the base knocks take place. When Ichiro does get his 4,000th hit, which will probably be tomorrow when the New York Yankees take on the Toronto Blue Jays, there is no way that the Bronx faithful won’t give him a standing ovation and relish in the sheer enormity of his accomplishment.