When people talk about MVP Baseball 2005, two words always come out of their mouths.
Yes, the EA Sports counter to Barry Bonds turned into a cult icon for many years after the series ended. The character became something people can talk about at networking events and water coolers to prove that they, in fact, also had a childhood. The reason why the 40-year-old wasn’t in the game was due to the fact that Bonds decided to individually license his likeness, rather than work with the MLBPA. So instead of getting dude with an iconic cross earring and a batting stance that oozes swagger, we got a guy that you can’t pick out of an Imagine Dragons lineup with the most generic batting stance.
Seriously, it literally says generic.
I used to do this anyway.
If you ask me, the best player in the game was not Jon Dowd, but Ichiro Suzuki.
While there aren’t official overall rating numbers in this game, Ichiro is listed as the 13th best player in the game behind Jon Dowd, Vladimir Guerrero, Albert Pujols, Todd Helton, Manny Ramirez, Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez, Scott Rolen, Pedro Martinez, Johan Santana, Adrian Beltre, Randy Johnson and David Ortiz.
It makes sense when you look at this on screen, but when you actually play the video game it’s clear that Ichiro is even better than his already high overall ranking.
To showcase Ichiro’s talents and abilities, I’ve decided to make a team comprised of Ichiro clones to see if they can win the World Series.
But before I do that, let’s take a closer look at the elements that make Ichiro an absolute nightmare for the other team.
First, I want to address the hitting mechanics in MVP Baseball 2005. As is the case with many of today’s video games, hitting is separated into contact and power. A hitter with good contact and bad power can theoretically launch the ball into orbit if the pitch is juicy enough. A big power hitter with bad contact can launch many balls into space, but have a higher risk of pop ups and long fly ball outs.
This isn’t the case with Ichiro.
Ichiro is so good at contact hitting that he could also in turn hit for power. Against left-handed pitching, he was given a power rating of 69 and a contact rating of 99. Against right-handed pitching, he was given a power rating of 58 and a contact rating of 97.
The power rating doesn’t seem that impressive until you look at some of the other players in the game. Miguel Cabrera, a player with 33 home runs in 2004, was given a 74 power rating against lefties.
Adrian Beltre — who hit 48 home runs in 2004, but only six against left-handed pitching — was given a 71 overall power rating against lefties. This decent power rating paired with godlike contact skill allowed Ichiro to have a different play style in the video game. According to Baseball-Reference.com, Ichiro had a home run to fly ball ratio of 3.8%. Let’s compare that to Barry Bo … I mean Jon Dowd, whose ratio was 24.5% in that same season.
Ratings aside, you could hit many home runs with Ichiro if you wanted. Of all the hot and cold zone displays in the game, Ichiro is one of the few players with more than 9 total hot zones out of the 18 possible.
Of those few, most are all-stars or legends who have to be unlocked in the game, so that puts Ichiro in elite company. If you gave Ichiro a high 2-seam or 4-seam fastball, there was a good chance he would tag it out of the park.
Ichiro’s power potential isn’t far-fetched either. His longest homer in the Statcast era is 432 feet. There’s even a dope video from the YouTube channel Foolish Baseball that investigates Ichiro’s power-hitting potential.
However, doing so would be disrespectful to real life Ichiro, a player who once said, “chicks who dig home runs aren’t the ones who appeal to me. I think there’s sexiness in infield hits because they require technique.”
With this newfound power, Ichiro could also hit the ball over the outfielders, who would play shallow against him on certain occasions. This allowed for normal fly balls to drop in for a hit, and gave Ichiro another chance to showcase his speed. In his case, if a ball hit the wall, it was almost always a guaranteed triple. Depending on the dimensions of the ballpark, it could be an instant home run.
My favorite part of the game was choosing a retro ballpark with absolutely wonky dimensions and watching Ichiro just go to town with his speed. It was amazing to watch. Let’s look at the Polo Grounds as an example. You see how the center field fence is 483 feet away from home plate? Trust me, this will come up later.
To test Ichiro’s power potential, I put him against Albert Pujols in the home run showdown. Even thought he lost most of the showdowns, Ichiro would often hit the same number of home runs as Albert Pujols. Here is one of the attempts. Yes, Albert won, but it shouldn’t be this close. At all.
This result had me convinced that Ichiro could actually win.
19 POINTS?! OH COME ON!
It took over 20+ tries, but Ichiro finally beat Albert in a Home Run Showdown.
Even if you didn’t want to go for the long ball, you could still wreck all kinds of havoc on the diamond. Because at the end of the day ...
Ichiro is still fast as hell.
Ichiro’s speed rating is a 97, which is a freaking nightmare for catchers, pitchers and the entire defense at the same time. The only players faster than Ichiro in this game are:
Lou Brock, and that’s it. Power didn’t dominate MVP Baseball 2005. Speed did.
If you started a fantasy dynasty of fast players, such as Scott Podsednik, Rafael Furcal, Chone Figgins, Carl Crawford and Juan Pierre, you could construct the most irritating lineup of all time.
With players like these, you were damn near guaranteed to make it to second after bunting, making it to first and then stealing. If the catcher wasn’t a top-tier thrower, they were screwed. If the pitcher took a long time delivering the ball out of the stretch, they were out of luck.
To put his speed to the test, we had Ichiro attempt to steal 100 bases against the best-throwing catcher in the game, Ivan Rodriguez (Henry Blanco was also an option). Here’s what we found whenever Ichiro tried to steal second base against the best.
If you didn’t throw your hardest fastball or pitch out, you weren’t likely to catch Ichiro. Now, a 57% steal success rate seems pretty pedestrian. Ichiro’s career steal success rate was 81%, including a whopping 85% of his attempts of third base. However, keep in mind that all of this data involves the fastest, most accurate catchers arm in the game.
Imagine if I’d used Mike Piazza.
Let’s not forget about bunting, either
The MVP Baseball drag bunt animation was quick and came out of nowhere, so there really wasn’t any tip-off to what the speedster was up to. When you give that quick of an animation to a player with a bunting rating of 99 and a speed rating of 97, you’re going to see some serious shit. Just look at this.
When you pair Ichiro’s speed with his insane hitting power, he could make some incredible plays. He could bunt for a hit and get down the line so fast that the defender wouldn’t even bother making the throw. They just gave up.
Let’s talk defense.
When you have all that speed, that’s one thing. When you have speed and an arm chiseled personally by God, there’s nothing that can stop you. On April 11th, 2001, Ichiro threw a perfect strike from right field to put the entire league on notice.
Anyone who has seen this clip should know better than to challenge Ichiro, but for some reason people kept testing this man.
Here are Ichiro’s fielding stats.
Remember when I said the Polo Grounds center field fence was 483 feet away from home plate? Here’s Ichiro throwing to home from that exact spot like it’s no big deal.
I think this speaks for itself.
Now, I had the idea to make a team full of Ichiros and see how far I could take them. (The first initials are there because the game forced me to enter a first name, and I wanted to tell them apart for statistical purposes.)
This leaves one unanswered question.
What about pitching?
Can Ichiro pitch? He was a pitcher in high school, but what about the professional level? The answer is yes! Luckily I had two frames of reference.
There is the time he pitched in 2015.
And the time he pitched in the 1996 Japanese All-Star Game.
Ichiro mainly sticks with the simple fastball-changeup combination, but the occasional breaking ball shows up.
So we have a three-pitch arsenal that we’re going to have to stick with for 162+ games. While it’s serviceable, I’m not expecting any Barry Zito-level performances.
Are we ready? I’m ready. Let’s do this.
These are our team goals. I think we’re going to win more than 2 Silver Slugger awards and score the most runs in baseball.
April 2005: 16-8 (first in A.L. West)
After one month of play, the Seattle Ichiros are 16-8. In 24 games, three Ichiro clones are hitting .400 or higher, and seven are batting over .300.
SEVEN OF THE TOP 11 players in the stolen base category are Ichiros. Another Ichiro is leading the team with six wins and two saves already. He’s also 7th in the league in strikeouts. WHAT.
The team has combined for 72 stolen bases and has been caught stealing only 6 times. GOOD LORD. As expected, the pitching staff is marginally mediocre.
For this team however, that’s more than good enough.
May: 19-8 (35-16 for the season, first in the A.L. West)
For some reason, the Seattle Ichiros have regressed into the 29th-best pitching team in the league, but thanks to incredible hitting and fielding, we are tied for the best record in baseball. Nine Ichiros are in the top 10 for stolen bases. Everything is going well, except for R. Ichiro. We also had a trade offer for Ray Durham. Do we make a deal?
Hell no. We’re the Seattle Ichiros. All or nothing.
June: 17-9 (52-25 for the season, first in the A.L. West)
The Seattle Ichiros have the best record in baseball at 52-25. Seven Ichiros are hitting over .300, and eight have over 20 stolen bases. The only other players in the league with more than 20 are Carl Crawford and Bobby Abreu.
The pitching has not produced a single shutout win the entire season so far, but it looks like what’s working is working. Score a lot of runs, tank pitching, win, repeat. My manager grade is also an A- which is weird because I’m not even watching the games. Maybe I should watch a game.
*The Ichiros won 11-5*
This is a baseball game unlike any I’ve seen before. I’ve never seen such aggressive baserunning spread all throughout the roster. The Ichiros stole 6 bases and never got caught. It’s like watching all the racers in Mario Kart with endless speed mushrooms. I wish real baseball was like this. Watching this team field is similar to watching superheroes do pedestrian tasks with their powers like it’s no big deal.
This is definitely a championship team. Can the Ichiros really bring Seattle their first World Series title ever?
July: 15-11 (67-36 for the season, second in the A.L. West and 1st in the Wild Card race)
So. Apparently the Angels are really freakin’ good. See what happens when you have good pitching? Wow.
Even still, the Ichiro collective is doing their best to rectify this with some solid hitting. By the way, nine Ichiros made the All-Star Team, which if I had to guess would be the first time that’s ever happened? Nine All-Stars and they’re not even leading the division. Incredible.
Meanwhile, don’t look now but Jon Dowd is going for a Triple Crown.
August: 17-11 (85-47 for the season, first in the A.L. West)
Jesus Christ, what happened to the Angels?
Even though the Ichiros didn’t have a weird surge, the Angels seem to be going through it. Seattle has opened up a seven-game lead on the Angels. Luckily, the Angels have a chance to make up ground in September, as they have six games against the Ichiros.
The Ichiros have scored 931 runs this season; the next closest team has 767. That’s wild. They also have six players with at least 15 home runs or more, which is of note because Ichiro’s season high in the real world is 15 home runs.
We have 30 games left.
(I’m very impressed with the fact that none of the Ichiros have sustained an injury yet. I’m lying I turned injuries off.)
September-October: 16-12 (102-60 for the season, first in the A.L. West)
Thanks to four head-to-head wins over the Angels, the Ichiros were able to clinch the division and finish with 102 wins and 1,135 runs scored — 4th-most in baseball history, and most since 1894. Did they win the most games this season? Nope, the Boston Red Sox netted 106 Ws thanks to a solid lineup and *cough* good pitching *cough*
Despite being walked 139 times. Jon Dowd hit for the Triple Crown. Thanks for putting a potential hole in my argument, EA.
One of the Ichiro clones finished with a whopping 70 stolen bases. The team as a whole combined for 452 stolen bases while being caught 101 times. That’s a whopping 82% success rate as a TEAM. These were the next teams that came close.
Two Ichiros had more 200 hits while everyone in the starting lineup hit more than 170. We also achieved two of the five team goals. The two realistic goals!
ONE OF THEM ALSO WON AMERICAN LEAGUE MVP!
PLAYOFFS, BABY! My only rule going into this is that all the elimination games will be a live gameplay sim.
ALDS: Ichiros vs. Yankees
Off-screen computer simulations:
Game 1: Yankees 13, Ichiros 11
Game 2: Yankees 14, Ichiros 11
Game 3: Ichiros 14, Yankees 5
Game 4: Ichiros 12, Yankees 3
Game 5: Ichiros 11, Yankees 3
So, something of importance that I should note: there are two types of simulations in this game. There is the quick sim that doesn’t show any gameplay, and then there is the longer simulation that showcases gameplay. Now, the quick sim was for most of the regular season and held true to the ratings and what each player would theoretically do. However, the gameplay sims showcase a different element of all of these things. You get to see just how much chaos this team can cause. I also think this sim does a better job of highlighting just how many runs a team full of Ichiros can score on offense and prevent on defense. This is the main difference between the two types of simulations.
ALDS: Ichiros vs. Red Sox
This is going to be the toughest challenge yet for the Ichiros. Not only will they have to face the best-pitching team in the league, they also have to go up against some fearsome left-handed hitters. Since all the Ichiros throw right-handed, there is no way to neutralize David Ortiz, Johnny Damon or Trot Nixon.
Game 1: Ichiros 12, Red Sox 6
The Ichiros went to town on Curt Schilling in spurts and it got so bad that Bronson Arroyo had to relieve him in the 3rd inning. You hate to see it.
Game 2: Ichiros 18, Red Sox 2
Going up against David Wells was easy pickings for the Ichiros, who absolutely destroy left-handed pitching. The dimensions of Fenway are also advantageous to the Ichiros. Normal flyouts in other parks turn into off the wall doubles/triples.
David Wells only lasted 5 outs. These Ichiros do a great job getting out on these hot starts and then jumping all over the relief pitching. It’s a magical strategy.
Game 3: Ichiros 6, Red Sox 5
After the Sox take a 5-0 lead by the 3rd inning, the Ichiros face their first test of adversity in the series, but answer back with three runs in the 3rd and three more in the 6th. The Ichiros leaned on their mediocre pitching and great defense to move one win away from the World Series.
Game 4: Ichiros 13, Red Sox 8
After scoring EIGHT runs in the third inning, the Red Sox give up 13 unanswered runs thanks to Ichiro, Ichiro and Ichiro. The Ichiros hit three home runs and six triples to keep putting pressure on the Red Sox pitching staff. Honestly, if Boston hadn’t won the World Series in 2004, I would think this was some part of a curse or something.
This was an unreal fight from the Ichiros. It’s a shame we never got to see them face off against knuckleball god Tim Wakefield. But now the Ichiros are heading to the World Series to face off against. Jon Dowd and the Giants. THIS IS OCTOBER!
World Series: Ichiros vs. Giants
Here we go. A team full of Ichiros vs. Jon Dowd and friends. Statistically speaking, the Yankees and Red Sox were both better opponents, but the Giants are still ranked higher than the Mariners because of our team’s lack of pitching. However, the Giants are one of the slowest teams in the league. It’ll be interesting to see how this dynamic plays out.
Game 1: Ichiros 6, Giants 2
Jon Dowd went 0-4. YOU LOVE TO SEE IT.
Game 2: Ichiros 17, Giants 6
A Jon Dowd grand slam couldn’t stop the Ichiro task force, which hit 5 home runs.
Game 3: Ichiros 12, Giants 1
A Jon Dowd solo home run was nowhere close to enough to stop the flurry. I never thought I would say this, but get Jon Dowd some help!
Game 4: Ichiros 9, Giants 3
GO CRAZY SEATTLE! THE ICHIRO CLONES HAVE TAKEN HOME THE WORLD SERIES TITLE!
ABSOLUTE PLAYOFF DOMINATION!
Because we won the World Series, I have been rewarded with a team budget increase of 3.6 million dollars. However, since I put every create-a-player on a one-year contract, nearly the entire team is asking for a new deal.
I really didn’t think this through. Let’s see if I can re-sign them all.
DYNASTY TIME BABY! We made it to spring training with all of the Ichiros intact. On that note, we will end our simulation. We’ve had a hell of a run, but now it’s time to conclude and debrief.
When we used the non-gameplay simulation, the game stayed true to the stats that Ichiro was capable of producing. Those stats added up and allowed us to win dependently. Now, the hitting side sounds believable to a sense. When you duplicate someone that possessed a league-leading .372 batting average, you’re in for a lot of baserunners and scoring opportunities.
The shakiest part of the non-gameplay simulation has to be the pitching. A team of Ichiros giving up only five runs a game doesn’t sound that believable to me, especially when other teams full of actual pitchers in the game gave up more runs. It’s hard to tell whether the defensive prowess of the Ichiros was accounted for in these simulations.
The gameplay simulations were a different story, however, as you can see just how dominant the Ichiro squad was on offense and defense. On offense, the Ichiros barely struck out and every single ball put in play looked like it could be a hit. The Ichiros preyed on slow outfielders like Jon Dowd and middle-tier arms like Johnny Damon. Using these two advantages, the Ichiro squad could turn doubles into triples whenever they wanted. Every time an Ichiro walked, a steal seemed imminent and there was little you could do to stop it.
Now, watching Ichiro pitch in real-time made me nervous, but he does just enough to mitigate the damage. When the pitchers were in a jam, they would often get bailed out by the amazing speed and glove of an Ichiro. It’s nice to have someone with 10 career gold gloves at every position on the field.
The gameplay sims took everything that Ichiro was good at on paper and amplified them to a point where they looked absolutely unbeatable. When they faced elimination against the Yankees, I switched gameplay simulations to “document the end” but I realized that these sims make the Ichiros seem like gods. I do wish that I had done gameplay simulations of the entire playoffs so that those two Yankees losses wouldn’t be there, but at least I switched over before it was too late.
If I had done real gameplay simulations for all 162 games in the regular season, I think that the Ichiros could have won 140+ games easily. There was no way I was going to do that because that would be way too much time put into this project. I barely watch real baseball right now, you think I was going to watch weeks of virtual baseball? Hell no.
The regular season simulation allowed us to make the playoffs and that’s all that mattered to me at the end of the day. The chance to have a chance.
Ichiro is one of the greatest players in baseball history, but he’s overshadowed by most video games he’s featured in. In MVP Baseball there’s Jon Dowd, in Backyard Baseball there’s Pablo Sanchez and Pete Wheeler. In The Bigs, it was basically every power hitter in the game.
He never was a cover athlete for MVP Baseball, Triple Play Baseball, MLB 2K, The Bigs, or MLB: The Show. He never got the recognition he deserved for being OP in multiple video games. So the next time you hear MVP Baseball 2005 and someone mentioning Jon Dowd, bring up Ichiro. Bring up this article that I spent way too much on to show a video game legend the respect he deserves.
Finally, as a reward for making it through this article, here is a wholesome picture of Ichiro smiling.