There’s good reason to consider Ichiro Suzuki the most evolved slap hitter of all time. Just look at that swing, the way he throws his hands at the ball, using only arms and wrists for power. Force? Fury?
Forget it — this is finesse honed to a beautiful science.

So why do some scouts believe Ichiro is one possible answer to the Yankees’ hunt for more home runs? The answer can be found during batting practice, when the Japanese star puts on a power display that rivals any of his teammates’ — and that includes Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson.

“[Ichiro] can hit the ball farther than any of them,” is what one bird dog said this week. Of course, there’s a huge gulf between those make-believe blasts at 5 p.m. and what the Yankees actually need from Ichiro once the game begins. But the point nevertheless has traction: What if Ichiro really did change his approach to take advantage of the Stadium’s short right-field porch over a full season?

Actually, there’s statistical proof that suggests Ichiro morphed last summer, nearly quadrupling his home run ratio after being traded to New York. Ichiro managed one HR every 100 at-bats with the Mariners, but, upon becoming a Yankee, hit one every 26 in the Stadium.

Those aren’t exactly Barry Bonds-like numbers, but they nevertheless suggest there’s more to Ichiro’s offense than meets the eye. His career high was 15 HRs back in 2005, so it’s not impossible to imagine 25 or so blasts if he so chooses.

Ichiro smiled modestly at the suggestion that the Bombers need him to recalibrate. “I’ve been going with one style for my career, and I think I’ll stick with it,” he said through an interpreter. Still, times are tough for the Bombers, who’ve lost 155 home runs from the core of last year’s roster and go into the 2013 season with arguably their worst lineup in 20 years.

According to research compiled by, the opening day lineup is projected to score just 4.29 runs per game in the Bronx — a steep drop-off from last season’s 4.96 and the lowest since 1991. To put that adjusted number into context, the league-average pitching staff allows 4.6 runs per game, which means the Yankees could expect to win no more than 75 games — or, at most, 83 if the pitchers exceed their 2012 efficiency.

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