Wednesday, November 29, 2006


I've had a little time to digest the numbers I projected for Kei Igawa, and I've found something very interesting. My calculations for Matsuzaka were very close to the numbers that Clay Davenport of BR made for the future Red Sox ace, with the exception of the ERA, which came in far too low. The rest was in the ballpark.

I'll take that as a sign of confidence in the method as a rough way to gauge a Japanese pitcher's value. It's been in the ballpark in the past, and seems likely to be in the future as well. Knowing all that, I'd like to post the translated projection again, and expand upon my player comparison to show a possible predictor of Yankee value on Igawa.

You may be right, I may be crazy, but it may just be the starting guy we're looking for......

I projected the following, based on Igawa's 2006 season with Hanshin:

29 GS
209 IP
14-9 record (1 decision for every 9 IP)
4.20 ERA
194 hits
21 HR
53 BB
172 K
1.182 WHIP
3.25 K/BB
7.41 K/9

The ERA and W/L has been adjusted up from my calculations, but the WHIP has not. We'll see about all of that. I mentioned that a possible scenario for Igawa was the 2006 campaign of Andy Pettitte. The problem with that was the AL/NL differences, and the fact that a 1.44 WHIP and .284 BAA seemed to be more of a road to disaster than I was willing to admit. I went back and looked more closely at what Pettitte accomplished in his Yankee years to see if his numbers bore any consistency. They do.

In 1998, 1999, and 2000 Pettitte pitched ERAs of 4.21, 4.70, and 4.35 respectively. He put up 80-90 walks each of those years, against 120-140 strikeouts. I'll list his important ratios below so you can see what he did.

Note that Pettitte's WHIP is consistently over 1.400 and that his K-rate is between 5.50 and 6.00 during this stretch. His ratios aren't anything remarkable to look at, really, but considering the reverence with which Yankee fans hold Pettitte, and the thought that we might bring him back to the Yankees at the age of 33-34, it's important to note. Is it a stretch to consider these numbers a fair range for Igawa? He's a lefty with numbers that translate along these very lines, if not better, and he is pitching in the same age range from which Pettitte is shown above. People who have been watching Matsuzaka have been comparing him with the finest pitchers in the world. The names Roger Clemens,Roy Halladay, Brandon Webb, Chris Carpenter, Jason Schmidt, Josh Beckett, Pedro Martinez, Tim Hudson and Jake Peavy have been used. Igawa has not been of this caliber in Japan, despite being an ace, but then again neither was Pettitte.

The scouting report on Igawa is "good fastball made much more effective by a great change and plus slider." In 1998 SI asked MLB scouts to boil down the Yankees to a sentence or two that best describes their style of play. For Pettitte they said, "Lives on his changeup and cut fastball. Has a good curve and should use it more." Rob Neyer gave this description of Pettitte more recently: Scouting Report: "Andy Pettitte has morphed into a different guy. He's not able to overpower anybody, but he's deceptive--hitters can't see his ball. He's in and out, up and down with his fastball, and he sells his changeup well."

Finally, Stats, Inc. has a comment or two on Pettitte in his Fox Sports profile: "Pettitte throws a fastball and a cutter that is probably his best pitch. He throws the cutter to both sides of the plate and also has a good curve and a changeup, and he moves all of his pitches in and out at varying speeds. Pettitte can throw in the low 90s but rarely had his normal velocity most of last season. He depended much of the time on moving the ball in and out and trying to coax hitters into swinging at bad pitches. The Astros admired his toughness and willingness to fight through the pain."

Aside from the physical issues that Pettitte has been plagued with and which cost him his job with the Bombers, it seems that the two players are even similar types. Andy is clearly a bigger guy, but has never counted his size as one of his most important assets, considering his fastball is a cutter rather than a Clemens heater.

Pettitte's VORP during the 3 year stretch in question were:

1998 39.2 (40th)
1999 31.4 (67th)
2000 41.8 (36th)

That makes him a great sidekick and one of the strongest #2 starters in baseball. It's also MUCH better than the Lillys, Meches, and Suppans which are out there at the same money. Pettitte's player comparisons for the years between 1998 and 2000 are:

Roy Halladay
Jack McDowell
Mark Mulder

Halladay wasn't Halladay at that point in his career, as he took a little time to refine his stuff, but McDowell sports a 111 career ERA+, which was hurt by his gigantic collapse in his final four years in baseball. I defy anyone to tell me they wouldn't take McDowell's 1995 season in pinstripes from Igawa, minus the middle finger. Look at it again. Likewise, Mark Mulder has put up a fantastic career. Last year was awful, but he has experienced some injuries that have hurt him severely. His career ERA+ is 109, and I think we'd all be thrilled if Igawa put up anything resembling his final year in Oakland, which wasn't even remotely his best work. If Matsuzaka is Clemens, then Igawa may be Pettitte. I like that idea, and I'm going to stick with it until he proves me wrong.

In the end, I don't think the bar is set too high here. If Igawa does Pettitte-like work at $10-11 million a season, he'll be an absolute steal in this market. He'll also win a lot of games with the Yankees 6 runs behind him, and should he muster any of the Andy magic in the playoffs, he may become a darling son of New York. Time will tell, but I'm more and more optimistic by the day. Cashman is playing it low profile, calling Igawa "a back end starter", but I think he's well aware of the upside and is managin fan expectations and salary negotiations at the moment. Stay tuned!


Zack said...

Well Mike, you sold me! But then again, I was sold from the start anyways.

Keep up the good work; just because I don't comment here as much as the Banter doesn't mean I don't read your stuff all the time...

Vincent said...

Source: Sox to ink Okajima

According to a source, the Sox are expected to announce soon that they have signed the left-handed reliever, who will turn 31 on Christmas.

A Yomiuri Giant for 11 years until he moved to the Nippon Ham Fighters last season, Okajima is primarily a left-handed specialist, although he has been used as a set-up man and could grow into that role for the Sox. He is said to have a devastating curveball but is not a hard thrower.

Terms and length of the contract are not known, but it is believed the sides were discussing a two-year deal.

picture of Okajima-

Youtube- Here Okajima is dropping his curveball in the dirt,and let in the go-ahead run in the 11th:

Why did Cashman didn't pursue Okajima and I don't want villone back. I want this guy instead and he's lefty with good curveball?

Juanito said...

The Redsox fans are blaming The Yankees for creating some kind of inflation and setting the market up.

Don't Blame Yankees for The Inflation and setting the market up. Blame The Redsox for over bidding $50 million for Matsuzaka rights to talk to him and They are planning on J.D Drew to sign $14 million per year. That's why Igawa's bid are so high, because of Matsuzaka high price tag.

The Truth is Yankees cut Payroll by trading Sheff and Wright for Prospects. Mike Mussina's contract was reduced and resigned to $11 million per year.

mehmattski said...

"You may be wrong for all I know, but you may be (Jaret) Wright"

Billy Joel references are always appreciated. I like your theory that Cash is tempering expectations in the rabid world of NY fans/media. That way there will be no outrage if Igawa goes all Irabu on us, and only pleasant surprise if he goes all Glavine on us.

If only something can be done about the ridiculous and un-meetable expectations that Phil Hughes will face...

Angel said...

BOSTON -- The Red Sox agreed to a contract with a Japanese pitcher -- no, not that one.

Lefty has 34-32 career record, 3.36 ERA

In the midst of negotiations with potential ace Daisuke Matsuzaka, the Red Sox agreed Thursday to a two-year contract with left-handed reliever Hideki Okajima.

source -

Darn It, I wanted this guy too and Redsox got him. Cashman what are you doing?

The fact that Cano , Damon, and Giambi struggled against Lefties and good breaking balls such curve and sliders.

I don't want Villone back and I want this guy instead.

Angel said...

Did you watch some Yankees games this year? The lefty pitchers who defeated the Yankees in 2006 , How about Jarrod Washburn, Jeremy Sowers, and Adam Loewen - who the beat the Yankees three times in a row and Joe Saunders and Eric Bedard?

Anonymous said...

Mike, do you have any information on a 31 year old right handed first baseman that becomes a free agent in a few days? His name is Julio Zuleta.

Mike Plugh said...

Good for the Red Sox. They signed Okajima. They still have about 50 holes to fill on their roster, so I wish them the best. A relief pitcher is a crapshoot, so I expect that they hope he'll be as good as anyone else in the market, plus he can communicate with Matsuzaka to ease his transition. We have Matsui.

As for Zuleta, I do have info and I plan to write something about him later. Within 24 hours.


Vincent said...

I was just checking the Yankees schedule for 2007 .

Igawa vs Jaret wright pitching matchups/

The Yankees will play baltimore after Drays series.

There is chance that Igawa and Wright will pitch against each other.

Vincent said...

Sorry , It's Igawa's making first start on Major league and Wright will be piching against The Yankees. I'm so excited until baseball season to start

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