Tag Archive > Colby Lewis

Maeda, Through the Lens of His Predecessors

» 24 February 2014 » In mlb prospects, nichibei, npb » 8 Comments

In recent weeks, I’ve written about some of the better MLB prospects who are currently active in Japan, and looked back at some of skills that have translated well from NPB to MLB. Now we’ll see how Japan’s Next Top Pitcher, Kenta Maeda, stacks up against his most recent predecessors.

Maeda let the cat out of the bag during his 2014 contract negotiations that he wants to play in MLB in the future, leading to widespread speculation that he’ll be posted following this season. Let’s assume, for the sake of this article, that he enjoys another Maeda-esque season in 2014 and is indeed posted after the season. What will he bring to the MLB negotiating table? Here’s my breakdown of his strengths and weaknesses:

Maeda’s strengths:

  • A fastball that won’t be a liability at the MLB level.
  • An ability to locate at least two breaking pitches, a slider and a changeup.
  • He gets his curve into the strike zone as well.
  • An ability to suppress hits. Maeda has allowed just 7.51 per 9IP over his 1116.1 inning career. In 2013, he allowed just 6.61 hits per 9IP.
  • Health and durability. Maeda has never had a serious injury, and has topped 175 IP in each of the last five seasons.
  • Consistency. Maeda’s WHIPs over the last four years: 0.98, 1.02, 0.99, 0.99.

Maeda’s weaknesses:

  • Overall his stuff is just not as whiff-inducing as Yu Darvish’s or Masahiro Tanaka’s.
  • He has lacked the eye-popping K:BB ratios of guys like Tanaka, Koji Uehara or Colby Lewis, though he is no slouch at about 5:1.
  • I’ve noticed he can nibble a bit.
  • On my list, Maeda’s build and stuff resemble’s Kenshin Kawakami’s more than anyone else.

I started off being pretty lukewarm on Maeda, but I’ve warmed up quite a bit. He doesn’t measure up to Darvish or Tanaka, but that’s setting the bar pretty impossibly high. Kawakami might be the best comparable among NPB starters who have made it to MLB in the last five years, but Maeda is younger, healthier and more consistent than Kawakami was. And let’s also remember that Kawakami was something like an average National League starter in his first MLB season. My guess is that Maeda can hack it in MLB, though he’s probably a mid-rotation guy.

Of course, the 2014 season hasn’t yet begun, and anything can happen. But I don’t really expect Maeda to deviate much from the consistent performance he’s shown over the last five years.

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Starting Pitcher Skills

» 01 February 2014 » In mlb, nichibei, npb » 4 Comments

I’ve been thinking a lot about Masahiro Tanaka and how he might perform in year one of his newly-minted mega deal.

My theory is that observable skills are a better predictor of MLB success than statistics. As an example, a pitcher with good control of an obvious out pitch is a better bet than a pitcher who is good all around, but lacks a dominant skill. This might sound obvious, but the media and casual baseball conversation centers around Tanaka’s 24-0 record and 1.27 ERA, rather than his ability to suppress walks and home runs.

So, I took a look back on the group of starters that have moved from NPB to MLB on Major League contracts since I began writing in mid-2008.

1st MLB Season Pitcher Strengths Weaknesses MLB fWAR
2014 Masahiro Tanaka suppressed walks, great splitter, good slider, healthy not quite Darvish ?
2012 Yu Darvish dominant in every way year after year The legacy of Daisuke Matsuzaka 9.8
2012 Hisashi Iwakuma great splitter, groundball machine, limited home runs injured in 2011, didn’t look like himself 4.8
2012 Wei-Yin Chen lefty who at one time showed electric stuff, dominant in 2009 had regressed quite a bit by 2011 4.3
2012 Tsuyoshi Wada decent control, decent changeup undersized; poor fastball velocity; looked spent at the end of 2011 0
2010 Colby Lewis phenomenal K:BB ratio, good arm was improvement in control due to him or the league? 9.6 (post return)
2009 Kenshin Kawakami great cutter, innings eater not much upside beyond #3 starter 2.4
2009 Koji Uehara phenomenal K:BB ratio, great splitter injury history, could he handle starting? 8.8 (mostly in relief)

My first reaction is that this is pretty good group. Wada was a bit of a bust, but he was injured. Kawakami comes the closest to being evidence of my theory, as he didn’t really dominate any statistical category, but I think he could have shown more if the Braves hadn’t buried him. The rest of these pitchers have either met or exceeded expectations since moving to MLB.

This seems to bode pretty well for Tanaka, as he shows two above average pitches and dominated a number of statistical categories in NPB. We’ll see how it bodes for the pitchers who are currently active in Japan in a follow up article in the next couple of days, assuming the writing gods smile upon me.

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Grains of Salt

» 03 December 2011 » In mlb prospects, nichibei » 11 Comments

So unsurprisingly, I’m getting questions this offseason about how guys like Tsuyoshi Wada, Hiroyuki Nakajima and Wei Yin Chen project as MLB prospects. Truth be told, trying project established guys from NPB to MLB always makes me a little nervous. I don’t feel like I’m that great at it, so I decided to go back and look at my public track record, to give you the chance to decide if I’m worth listening to.

Here’s what I found:

  • Koji Uehara — I was bullish on him when he moved across the Pacific; injury history had me questioning whether he could start; he was one of my favorite guys to watch in Japan and I’m glad he’s done well.
  • Kenshin Kawakami – My synopsis was “mid-rotation guy you can win with“. In retrospect that was a little aggressive; he was more like a competent #4 guy before the Braves decided to bury him.
  • Hitoki Iwase – I thought his stuff would translate to MLB, particularly after watching Scott Downs pitch; he obviously never moved to MLB.
  • Junichi Tazawa — I really liked his stuff, but also expected him to hit a wall somewhere. He reached the majors before hitting a wall, which really impressed me.
  • Ken Takahashi – I predicted “a little bit of an uphill battle” for Tak1, but also thought he could be a useful pitcher. He basically was for his year in the Mets organization, though his career ended immediately after returning to Hiroshima.
  • Ken Kadokura – Remember when he signed with the Cubs? I felt like he had something left in the tank, but he wound up getting dropped by the Cubs at the end of spring training and went on to have a few good years in Korea.
  • Hisanori Takahashi – I liked Tak2 a lot better as a reliever than a starter; that one turned out to be true.
  • Ryota Igarashi — I don’t think I made an explicit prediction for Igarashi, but I thought he would do okay. He didn’t seem to trust his stuff in his first year, and though he did better in year two, he went from “effectively wild” in NPB to just “wild” with the Mets.
  • Chang-Yong Lim – Like Igarashi I don’t know that I really made an explicit prediction for him, though I really liked his stuff. I still do. Lim is still with Yakult and not a free agent, and I doubt we’ll ever see him in MLB.
  • Colby Lewis – I found reasons to be optimistic about Lewis in his return to the Rangers, but he certainly has exceeded my expectations.
  • Tsuyoshi Nishioka – Over at Fangraphs, I called Nishioka a “Chone Figgins/Ryan Theriot type”. What I meant by that was that he could be an infielder who would get on base but have minimal power, and play decent defense. I didn’t see him flaming out in year one the way he did.
  • Hisashi Iwakuma — Also at Fangraphs, I put Iwakuma’s upside at mid-rotation, noting he has to keep his forkball and he will probably regress some in innings pitched. I still mostly think this is the case, assuming he’s healthy. We’ll find out next year.
  • Yoshinori Tateyama – I never published much of anything about Tateyama, though I have an unfinished draft still sitting on Fangraphs, where I intended to make the case that he could be an MLB ROOGY/righty specialist. There was little original thought there, as he was dominant against righties in 2010 for Nippon Ham. In 2011 he exhibited a similar split for the Rangers, with a 2.04 against righties, versus 7.71 against lefties.

I kind of set out to prove that I’m not that great at these predictions, so I was surprised that the results here actually weren’t too bad. I seemed to do all right with Uehara, Tak1 and Tak2, while I probably underestimated Lewis and over-predicted Nishioka. The Nishioka flop makes me worry that I don’t know how to project position players. I think overall though, it’s pretty clear that I tend to see the glass as half-full with these guys as prospects. I also noticed here was that I seem to look at specific skills and how they might translate, rather than trying to project specific stats. Maybe I’m more of a scout than a numbers guy at heart.

That said, there are plenty of things I’ve been wrong about, I just haven’t always had a platform like this to assert my wrongness. If NPB Tracker had been around, however, I would have told you that…

  • …of the two Matsuis, Kazuo was the far better MLB prospect. I was a huge fan of Kazuo’s; I saw him as a five-tool player.
  • Kei Igawa’s changeup was going to be a good MLB pitch.
  • Nagisa Arakaki was Japan’s next great pitcher.
  • So Taguchi wouldn’t have anything to offer to and MLB club.

…and so on.

So you might see me make a few statements on how I think the 2012 NPB imports may perform after they cross the Pacific. I’ll let you decide the appropriate measure of salt to take them with.

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NPB Bullet Points: Player Personnel

» 31 August 2010 » In nichibei, npb » 7 Comments

A roundup of player acquisition notes from around the ‘net.

  • Yomiuri is extending the tryout of their mystery player by another week or two.
  • Sponichi reports that SoftBank is going to drop injured ace Kazumi Saito to ikusei status after this season. Saito hasn’t pitched in an ichi-gun game since 2007.
  • It’s no surprise that Koji Uehara wants to continue playing in MLB, but that hasn’t stopped him from appearing in NPB rumors. Hanshin and Yokohama are reportedly interested.
  • Hideki Matsui has ruled out a return to Japan. A quote from Sponichi: “[it’s not an option]. Please think it through. How would I play on artificial turf with my knees? Even if I want to go back I wouldn’t be able to play. Under the circumstances, it’s impossible.”
  • It looks like Orix manager Akinobu Okada is trying to recruit retired Hanshin speedster Norihiro Akahoshi out of retirement. Post-retirement comebacks are rare in Japan, Hanshin would have to release their rights to him, and he’d have to prove that he’s medically fit to play, so there are significant hurdles here.
  • Former Carp ace Colby Lewis did an interview with Chunichi Sports. The whole thing is worth translating, but for now I’ll just do his answer to the inevitable question about Yu Darvish and Hisashi Iwakuma: “I think Darvish is a player who should come to the majors as soon as he can. No one knows what he’ll be like or in what role he’ll be used in if he waits until he’s 26 or 27. I think Japan should change the service time requirements of it’s free agency system. I think Iwakuma would also succeed in the majors. If pitchers can show velocity it’s easy to if how they make it in the majors.” (note: this is a translation of a translation)
  • And finally, one in English: Christopher Jackson of the Albuquerque Examiner has a report on some of the 3A Isotopes players’ brushes with Japan, including former NPB’ers Scott Dohmann and Michael Restovich, and NPB hopefully John Lindsey.

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Colby Lewis Japan Stats

» 19 April 2010 » In npb » 2 Comments

Every day someone winds up on this site from a search string like “Colby Lewis Japan Stats”. So here they are, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Note: the formatting of the NPB Tracker blog is not conducive to publishing stats tables, and I don’t feel like messing with it, hence the link to the static html page.

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NPB Bullet Points: The Season Thus Far

» 11 April 2010 » In mlb, nichibei, npb » 10 Comments

News and notes on the season so far

…In Japanese:

  • Juan Morillo has been demoted to ni-gun. Unfortunately, his lack of command has translated to NPB. His velocity has been as advertised though.
  • On the flipside, Matt Murton is off to a hot start in Japan, having reached base safely in all 13 games so far this season. His slash line is a robust .407/.484/.556.
  • Takayuki Kishi took a no-hitter into the 7th against Orix on the 6th, and finished with a one-hit shutout. Bonus points to those of you who can recall Japan’s last no-hitter.
  • Tsuyoshi Wada set a new career best with 15 strikeouts against Lotte on April 8.
  • The Hanshin Tigers picked up lefty Yusuke Kawasaki for cash from the Chiba Lotte Marines. The last trade that Hanshin made with Lotte worked out pretty well for the Tigers, netting them Yasuyuki Kubo.
  • The Japanese baseball media has an uncanny ability find and point out obscure streaks. Examples? Last week, Nippon Ham’s Kensuke Tanaka’s streak at-bats without hitting into a double play ended at 862. On the 11th, Hiroshima’s Tomonori Maeda went yard for the first time in 686 days.
  • In a rather forward-thinking move, Nippon Ham is limiting Yu Darvish’s pitch counts to 120 per start. Darvish surpassed 140 pitches in two of his first three starts, and Ham is concerned about keeping him healthy for the whole season.
  • Belated congratulations to Shingo Takatsu, who has now saved games in Japan, the US, Korea and Taiwan. I hope he plays Winter League ball somewhere this year.

…and in English:

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While I Was Away

» 16 January 2010 » In mlb, nichibei, npb » 18 Comments

Okay, time to come out of hiatus with my first NPB Tracker post of the year.

Player Personnel

Did I miss anyone?

Other News

  • MLB and NPB are discussing holding a global world series between the champions from the two leagues. It doesn’t seem as close as initially reported, but I would love to see this happen. More later…
  • Having failed to get any NPB offers, former Orix Buffaloe Katsuaki Furuki is moving into the ring and becoming a figher
  • Yusei Kikuchi has begun working out for his first pro spring training. And believer or not, he’s walking on air
  • More jibba-jabba about Yu Darvish going to MLB
  • Matt Murton will play center field for Hanshin

Any other big stories over the last few weeks that I didn’t include?

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Colby Lewis to Make MLB Return

» 14 December 2009 » In mlb prospects, nichibei » 9 Comments

Nikkan Sports and others are reporting that Hiroshima Carp ace Colby Lewis has turned down the team’s offer and will return to MLB for 2010. Lewis cited family health problems as his decision to leave the Carp.

Lewis leaves big shoes for Hiroshima to fill. He stepped in to the ace role that Hiroki Kuroda vacated, and in some ways outperformed the current Dodger. In 54 NPB games, Lewis went 26-17 with a 2.83 era, and led the Central League in strikeouts in each of the last two seasons. More impressive was his command of the strike zone, which was not his strength at the MLB level. In Japan, Lewis only walked 46 over 354.1 innings pitched. Somewhat weirdly however, he did hit 14 batters in 2009.

Lewis looks like an interesting back-rotation MLB starter to me, and could be very effective if his command makes the trip back. Please see our data site to get a feel for his arsenal.

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Hiroshima Looking at Alvarado

» 28 November 2009 » In nichibei, npb » 1 Comment

Hiroshima’s final offseason acquisition target is Giancarlo Alvarado, who pitched with the Los Angeles Dodgers AAA team last season with a 13-10 record with a 3.49 ERA. Alvardo was also a member of the Puerto Rico WBC team in the previous tournament. Hiroshima likes Alvardo’s flexibility to both start and relieve.

With Mike Schultz returning and the team working on bringing Colby Lewis back, Alvarado projects as depth/insurance.

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Hiroshima Cuts Ties with Four

» 15 November 2009 » In Uncategorized » 1 Comment

The Hiroshima Carp are turning over most of their import roster this offseason. On their way out are:

  • Scott Seabol
  • Scott McClain
  • Ben Kozlowski
  • Andy Phillips

Phillips had the best shot at returning, but Hiroshima’s impending acquisition of Justin Huber has ruled it out.

The Carp are working on new contracts for pitchers Colby Lewis and Mike Schultz.

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