Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Under the Radar

It's official. The Bombers and Kei Igawa are together at last. This was the least tenuous negotiation ever undertaken in the history of professional sports. The Yankees like to deal with Arn Tellem, and Tellem like to deal with the Yankees. If you add the lack of leverage that Japanese players have in the posting system, it was a slam dunk.

I named this post "Under the Radar" because I think no on expects much out of Igawa. The hype around Matsuzaka sapped a lot of the thunder out of the posting news this year. Iwamura signing with Tampa at bargain basement prices was a non-story, but could be a huge injection for that floundering franchise. Igawa isn't Matsuzaka, and therefore he's kind of a consolation prize by most accounts. The thing is, if you look at what he's accomplished in Japan he's a level above the guys you've probably seen before. The baseball world is in store for a treat when Matsuzaka takes the mound every five days for the Red Sox, but Yankee fans may be pleasantly surprised by Igawa. The press release issued by the Yankees says it all:

"Igawa, 27, posted a 14-9 record with a 2.97 ERA in 29 starts with the Hanshin Tigers of the Japanese Central League in 2006 (209.0IP, 180H, 77R, 69ER, 49BB, 194K). He was tied for the lead among all Central League pitchers with his 194 strikeouts, ranked second in the league in wins and complete games (eight), third in innings pitched and ranked seventh with his 2.97 ERA. On April 14, 2006, Igawa became the fifth-fastest pitcher in Japanese baseball history to record 1,000 career strikeouts (in 1,058 innings pitched). Including 2006, he has now led the Central League in strikeouts three times during his career, having also captured the league strikeout title in 2002 (206 strikeouts) and 2004 (228). A three-time Central-League All Star (2001, 2002 and 2003), Igawa has won at least 10 games in each of the last five seasons. In 2003, he was named the Central League MVP after going 20-5 with a league-leading 2.80 ERA in 29 games for the Tigers. He was also honored as the co-winner of the prestigious Sawamura Award in 2003, given to the top pitcher in Japanese baseball each year. Originally selected out of Mito Shogyo High School as Hanshin's second draft choice in 1997, Igawa owns a career record of 86-60 with a 3.15 ERA and 1,174 strikeouts in 190 appearances."

He may end up being booed out of Yankee Stadium like Hideki Irabu, but I rather doubt it. I think he'll be better than league average and help the Yankees with 200+ innings of very nice work. Time will tell, but the 2007 picture is shaping up a bit.


Anonymous said...

He had 194 strikeouts last year, which tied him for first in the Central League along with Kenshin Kawakami of the Chunichi Dragons. Regardless of anything else, that's pretty impressive.

I love the off-season in baseball. What a great sport.

Matchosan said...

The dude has an ugly ass mug, but he gets the job done.

He was really impressive that season the Tigers took the whole thing in Japan.

Was that His rookie season?

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