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March 15, 2007

Not So Fat Pussy Iguana?

I had a chance to catch some of Kei Igawa's pitching performance on YES tonight. Seeing him, real-time, this evening for the first time ever, I'm starting to think that he is going to be the next Kazuhisa Ishii. (Looks like Orestes Destrade was right.)

By this, I mean, he's going to have high-pitch counts, just as many walks as whiffs, allow a lot of homers, and rarely pitch into the 7th inning of a game.

Now, back in November of last year, I said that would be acceptable for the Yankees back-end of the rotation. My thinking, at that time, was that 30 starts and around 180 innings pitched - which I think Igawa can and should provide - would be a useful addition to the Yankees rotation, even if those innings were just around league-average, or slightly below, in terms of quality.

While I'm not as excited about those 180 innings now, since it looks like some of the Yankees pitching prospects may be able to do better, I suppose that I can still live with them - just as long as they are coming out of the last slot in the pitching rotation. Igawa is still a better option than Jaret Wright, Shawn Chacon, or Al Leiter, I suppose.

But, having now seen Igawa face major league hitters, albeit just Spring Training, I'm pretty convinced that he will not pitch in New York for the Yankees during all five years of his contract. In fact, I would not be shocked if he was out of the major leagues before the terms of his deal expire.

Those guys in Japan know what they are talking about.

Posted by Steve Lombardi at March 15, 2007 11:00 PM


My personal feeling is that he may be an asset, but we can, and will do better. Jeff Karsen already comes to mind, though I would rather wait then get jumpy. However, considering that he was supposed to be a control pitcher, then its disturbing.

Since they have guys who can do better (and will be paid much less which is a negative factor against them, teams must try and justify the pay out for a player), I'd say its a good shot that someone else will take his job (no, not Phil Hughs), but every chance at making an adjustment and learning will be made.

The guy to talk to here would be Matsui, and see what he thinks. I won't even bring up Pavono, I would like to see Igawa straighten himself out in this new enviornment first, and at least pitch the same style and with the same mentality he has before.

Posted by: Sonny M [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 16, 2007 01:11 AM

Which is why when Cashman spent the entire winter telling people that he projected Igawa as a back-end guy, he wasn't kidding around. There's value in a pitcher who can strike out that many guys with such erratic control. If nothing else, he's a guy with a very reasonable contract that can be punted to the $0.99 store teams like the Brewers for value.

Posted by: MJ [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 16, 2007 09:40 AM

Igawa and Ishii have one major difference that has to be noted. In Japan, Ishii had major walk problems. He walked well over 5.00 per 9. In fact, his walk rate barely changed with the jump to the majors.

Igawa's walk rate in Japan was half that. That's a significant difference that cannot be ignored.

Posted by: DownFromNJ at March 16, 2007 10:53 AM

yeah, he walked too many guys last night, but this is still early on and he doesn't have a record of walking a lot of guys. as his confidence and control improves, i think the walks will go down. his stuff looks better than i thought, though. he gets his fastball up there around 90-91 and has a nasty breaking ball.

maybe a poor man's zito?

Posted by: Eugene Kim at March 16, 2007 11:13 AM

I agree with Eugene. i believe this is more a characteristic of ST than the the normal tendency of Igawa. He's pitched just 7 innings this spring.

and his walk rate was tiny in Japan. last season, he walked 52 in 209 ip. by my calculations, that's 2.2 per 9 ip. that's extremely low. it's 2.9 for his career, so he has improved.
and wasn't there word of him not pitching at all this off-season, so rust should not be shocking. i expect by April he'll have much better control.

Matsuzaka, a guy with supposedly pinpoint control, walked 3.2 per 9 ip in his NPB career. last season it was 1.6 per 9, so he has better control now, but Igawa is certainly no rick ankiel.
jaret wright, for his career, walks 4.4 per 9 ip (albeit in ML).

Posted by: Travis G. at March 16, 2007 11:31 AM

Part of what soured the Yankees on Irabu was his work ethic (or lack thereof). I don't see that in the Iguana, so fat pussy is not valid. All I want from a number 5 starter is league average, .500 record. Top of the rotation is where you get the positive record.

Not to mention he'll help further cement the Yankees in the minds of the Japanese (and increase the base for t-shirt sales).

Posted by: rbj [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 16, 2007 11:38 AM

To follow up Travis's post, I'd like to point out the meaninglessness of spring training numbers. Igawa has 7 walks and 12 strikeouts in 7 innings. Santana has 7 walks and 9 strikeouts in 9 innings.

Posted by: DownFromNJ [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 16, 2007 12:16 PM