Norichika Aoki went 3-for-4 with a solo homer, two RBI and two runs scored as Milwaukee kept its playoff hopes alive with an 8-1 win over Cincinnati.
Now, this is coming from a guy who has made a lot of crazy calls and claims in his time writing on this site. But there is no doubt in my mind that based on his performance this season, the Brewers would be wise to lock him up for at least another 3 years. Norichika Aoki has been the most valuable player on this team during their second half run. Is that a crazy statement? Maybe. Does he deserve to get paid based off of this small sample size? Absolutely.
During his time in Japan, Aoki only failed to reach a .300 batting average twice. His rookie season (.200 in 15 AB’s) and his final season in Japan (.292). The dude recorded over 1,000 hits by the start of his 6th season as a starter for the Yakult Swallows. Aoki hit 84 HR’s and drove in 385 runs in 6 full seasons. Those are not the stats of a guy who is just a “fluke”.
Right this second, we have Nori locked up through next season, and the team has an option on him for 2014. So, that is not too bad. But by the time that option rolls around, he will only be 32 years old. Which, by American baseball standards is almost at the end of your glory days. By Japanese standards, he will still have 3 to 4 solid years left in the tank. For the sake of comparison, Ichiro Suzuki had 200 hits in each season from the age of 32 until he turned 36. Now Nori is not Ichiro, I know that and you know that, but they both came over to the states late in their career and were both the top players in Japan prior to leaving. Take that for what it is worth.
As the lead-off hitter in 2012, Aoki has a .352 on-base percentage. The Brewers have not had a consistent hitter in the #1 spot in…well, I can’t actually remember. Maybe Scott Podsednik? Over the past few seasons, we have gone from Rickie Weeks to Carlos Gomez to Corey Hart and back again, none of whom really excelled as a #1.
The fact is, playoff teams have to have to have a solid lead-off hitter. In my humble, and slightly neurotic