When Ichiro received his ninth consecutive Gold Glove, news of same didn’t rate more than a few paragraphs in the pages of the local newspapers. And in no instance (as far as we could tell) was the news deemed worthy of front-page play.
We know why. Gold Gloves and Silver Slugger awards are baseball afterthoughts. Ichiro wins them with yawning consistency. The awards have no sex appeal, particularly given that they are handed out at the height of the football season. And, there isn’t really an interesting way to look at them, beyond who’s won the most, or who’s won the most in a row.
But what if we told you this: Since Gold Gloves were first handed out by Rawlings way back in the heyday of Willie Mays, no Gold Glove winner has compiled a higher career fielding percentage than the Mariners right fielder.
After nine seasons, Ichiro’s career fielding mark stands at .993.
Let’s now look at multiple Gold Glove winners who made the Baseball Hall of Fame.
The aforementioned Mays, immortalized for robbing Vic Wertz with a grainy basket catch in the Polo Grounds in 1954, had a career fielding percentage of .981 — and made three times as many errors in his first nine seasons than Ichiro made in his.
Mickey Mantle had a career fielding mark of .982. Carl Yastrzemski checked in at .981. Paul Blair, who won eight outfield Gold Gloves while playing for the Orioles, posted a .988.
Andre Dawson, just elected to the Hall of Fame, came in at .983.
And so it goes: Hank Aaron, .980; Dave Winfield, .982; Frank Robinson, .984; Al Kaline, .986; and Tony Gwynn, .987.
And consider some of the most accomplished outfielders of the expansion era: Willie Davis, .978; Garry Maddox, .983; Kenny Lofton, .984; Devon White, .986; Jim Edmonds, .988.
At .993, Ichiro trumps all.
While fielding percentage isn’t the definitive statistic on outfield excellence (zone rating has eclipsed it), it is the only statistic we can apply to all outfielders since Gold Gloves were first issued in 1957.
Among all who have won one, Ichiro’s .993 career fielding percentage is No. 1 — matched only by (this is an easy bar bet) by Vernon Wells of the Toronto Blue Jays.
No. 3 is nine-time Gold Glove winner Torii Hunter at .992.
Four players posted .991s: Mickey Stanley )1964-78), Joe Rudi ((1967-82), Amos Otis (1967-84) and Andruw Jones (1996-09).
Only one other Gold Glove winner, Jimmy Piersall (1950-67), reached .990.
Since Ichiro entered the major leagues in 2001, he has won nine Gold Gloves and three Silver Slugger awards, for a total of 12.
Only Hunter has achieved double digits over the same span, winning nine Gold Gloves and one Silver Slugger, for a total of 10.
Jim Edmonds (six Gold Gloves, one Silver Slugger) and Andruw Jones (seven Gold Gloves) rank T-3 on the list.