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November 29, 2006

Projecting Kei Igawa
by SG

With the Yankees winning the posting for Kei Igawa with what seems like an excessively high bid of $26 million, I guess that we should try to figure out what a reasonable expectation for him might be. Cliff Corcoran took an interesting look at Igawa on Bronx Banter already, and I'm going to take a shot as well.

Instead of using the method I used for Daisuke Matsuzaka, I'm going to try a different method which I found by Jim Albright.

Here are Igawa's career stats for Hanshin.

I took a weighted average of Igawa's last four seasons and then used Albright's factors to figure out the MLB translation. One thing to keep in mind is that Igawa played in a non-DH league, so I've added another adjustment, to account for the fact that he'll now be playing in a DH league.

That line looks a lot better than I expected. I'd take that in a heartbeat.

Of course, how a player puts up his numbers is often as important as the numbers themselves, particularly when they are coming from a new league with whole bunch of differences. So I dug around and found a scouting report on Igawa here.

“He uses a four-seamer in the 88-91 mph range, with that 92+ capability on occasion, and an above-average change that I had in the 78-81 mph area. His breaking ball is a solid slider he’ll throw mostly to lefthanders, though he did use it to backdoor some right-handed bats.

“It looked like he was playing with a different heater in some starts, perhaps a two-seamer or a sinker of some sorts, but his command of that pitch was very ordinary. His overall control is above average and he’ll probably need to be aware of the base on balls in America.

“He gets most of his strikeouts on the change and the fastball up in the zone, and I suspect he’s going to continue that trend wherever he ends up. His ground ball tendencies aren’t heavy enough to think he can be considered even a mild version of a ground ball pitcher, and the best hitters in the world will get more lift on his pitches.”

There's a lot more in the entry above, so you should check out the link. An NL Central scout says:
“He does make me think of (Jarrod) Washburn,” says one NL Central scout who was assigned to Matsuzaka, and later Igawa by his employers, who were expected to be serious contenders for both pitchers this offseason. “He’s got a little swagger in him, more than Matsuzaka, at least demonstrably. He’ll sit right in the 90mph range until he needs a big strikeout and than he reaches back for added gas. But, like Washburn, he throws quite a few fastballs up in the zone and if he misses with it, it gets hit, and that will be big for him in the U.S,”

Great. A high fastball pitcher who tops out in the low 90s.

After reading more about Igawa and running the numbers, I'm not as down on this signing as I was yesterday. While I think the Yankees overpaid for the rights to just talk to someone who looks like he'll be putting up a 4.00 ERA, there are benefits to spending the money on the posting fee. It doesn't count against the luxury tax as many readers here have mentioned, it won't cost the team a draft pick if he's signed, and it potentially opens up even more Yankee visiblity in Japan. If the projection above is right, he'll be about as good as the Ted Lilly/Gil Meche types, with a lot less salary cap impact, even if the total outlay is the same.