As Ichiro Suzuki enters what may be his last season in Major League Baseball in 2015, the question is going to be asked: is Ichiro worthy of the Baseball Hall of Fame? The credentials appear to be there from a traditional statistics standpoint: 2844 hits and a career .317 batting average as of the end of the 2014 season. He has 487 steals over 14 seasons. If you include his stats from Japan, that's 1278 more hits over 7-plus seasons, a .353 batting average, and 199 more steals!
He certainly has the counting stats, that's for certain. Ichiro has never walked much in the MLB, but in Japan he actually posted very strong walk rates. He was also intentionally walked a lot at least 13 times in his final 6 seasons in Japan. He was far more of a power threat over there than he was in the MLB.
Despite the fact that his Nippon League stats may not technically count towards his Hall of Fame candidacy, they should at least be observed. This man has been playing professional baseball since he was 18 years old, albeit not becoming a starter until 20, and he's still playing at 41 in 2015! To be fair, though, Ichiro hasn't been a star-caliber player since 2010. His 2011 was awful, with a .645 OPS. His defense wasn't all that elite that year, either, although his defense has been an asset since joining the Yankees in 2012. He enjoyed 6 and 8 DRS marks in 2012 and 2013, and was still positive at 1 DRS in 2014. Clearly, he is still solid out in right field, if not anywhere near the Gold Glover he truly once was that could play center field just as well.
In his career, Ichiro has a 93 DRS in right field. That's pretty amazing. It's possible had he spent more of his career in center field (that the Mariners always had occupied by someone else), he would've saved even more runs and been even more valuable. That being said, he's been worth 58.9 WAR to Baseball-Reference and 55.3 WAR to FanGraphs. It seems that Baseball Reference is not as high on his defense only crediting 4 WAR to defense. Imagine if he'd played more games in center field how his high batting averages and spectacular defense would've affected those totals!
I do believe that Ichiro is a Hall-of-Fame caliber player. If he'd played for some better teams, or had played more center field, his overall value would've been higher. His years in Japan of being one of the greatest players in their league cannot be dismissed, either. He was still valuable in 2014 for the Yankees and he's looking to stick at least one more year with the Marlins. While he may not reach 3,000 MLB hits, he's probably worthy of a shot at the Hall.
Plus, he's a classy guy and it's near impossible not to like him.
Here's to a great finish to a great career, Ichiro!