Everybody knows I'm not an Ichiro guy. I haven't wanted him around since the minute the Yankees re-signed him. But even I have to admit that he's been an unexpectedly positive surprise early on this year. After this weekend's split in Tampa, Ichiro is hitting .355/.355/.387 in 31 PA with 5 R scored and 1 stolen base. He's played in 15 games, split almost evenly between starting outfielder and late-game defensive replacement or pinch runner. Considering the inconsistency of his hitting opportunities, that .355 batting average is impressive, as are the 4 multi-hit games.
This performance does warrant a hefty SSS disclaimer. Ichiro has yet to draw a walk this year and has a healthy 22.6% K rate. His BABIP is also an incredibly high .458, and with his early spike in groundball contact (career high 73.9% GB rate), you can be sure that average is living higher thanks to some seeing eye balls through infield holes. But you'll take that when you can get it from your 5th outfielder. In Ichiro's case, you'll definitely take it when it comes with above-average baserunning and outfield defense that is still world class. It may not be what he wants, but Ichiro is fitting into his new role nicely.