Tag Archive > Hiroki Kuroda

Kawakami vs Kuroda

» 18 November 2008 » In mlb prospects » 8 Comments

When I see Kenshin Kawakami mentioned in an American blog or media report, it’s usually this context:

The Sox also have interest in Kenshin Kawakami, a 33-year-old righty for the Chunichi Dragons who went 9-5 with a 2.30 ERA last season. Kawakami is a Hiroki Kuroda-type pitcher with a cut fastball and good curveball who could man the No. 4 or 5 spot in the Sox rotation.

I normally interpret the comparison to Hiroki Kuroda as “not as good as Daisuke Matsuzaka, but better than Kei Igawa“. In addition to that, they’re both right-handed, about the same age, and have long track records of success in Japan’s Central League.

There are a couple of differences:

1. Kuroda is a fastball/slider/splitter pitcher, while Kawakami is mostly a fastball/cutter/curveball guy. Kuroda can reach the mid-90’s on his heater, while Kawakami sits in the low-90’s and relies a little more on movement and off-speed stuff.

2. Kawakami has spent his career with a usually competitive Chunichi Dragons team, while Kuroda spent his career with the perennial also-ran Hiroshima Carp. Kawakami has had a consistently outstanding infield defense behind him for his NPB career, while I don’t think the same can be said of the Carp defense. Kawakami has also pitched in more big games.

3. Kuroda pitched his home games in Japan at the tiny Hiroshima Municipal Stadium, while Kawakami enjoyed the much larger dimensions of the Nagoya Dome.

With the above three points noted, I’d say that Kawakami is a slightly worse MLB prospect than Kuroda was last year, but let’s test that assumption with some performance data. This will be a simplistic analysis, but hopefully it will provide a better insight into Kawakami as a prospect.

Using stats from the excellent Data League site (Japanese, works best in Internet Explorer), I put together some simple comparisons to try to isolate the differences between the two pitchers. I looked at the period between 1998-2007, tossing out Kuroda’s 1997 because Kawakami hadn’t started his career yet and 2008 because the two pitchers were in different leagues.

ERA Trends

Kuroda’s DIPSera was pretty consistent his last few years in Japan, but his actual ERA varied widely, which is probably the result of an inconsistent defense. Kawakami, on the other hand, has put up consistent DIPSera and ERA numbers.

K/BB Trending

This one surprised me. Kawakami matched Kuroda on strikeout rate consistently in Japan, and bested him in ’06 and ’07. Both pitchers have done a good job improving on their control as they gained experience.

If anything, this and the previous chart point out that Kuroda was coming off a relatively poor season by his standards in ’07. Kawakami, on the other hand will be coming off a much better 2008 season statistically, though he did miss time due to minor injuries and the Olympics.

It’s easy to favor Kuroda as a pitcher because of his stuff (I do), but Kawakami has been a consistent performer over the last eight years. Should Kawakami pursue a career in MLB (and I think he will), his performance will obviously depend on where he winds up. But if he can continue to keep the ball down in the zone and miss bats with his breaking stuff, I see no reason why he can’t be an effective mid-rotation starter.

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NPB Bullet Points (2008/11/09)

» 09 November 2008 » In mlb prospects, nichibei, npb » 4 Comments

The Japan Series has just ended, but the off-season is already in full swing. Here are some highlights for today.

Japanese Articles:

  • Kenshin Kawakami is having a hard time making up his mind whether he wants to move to MLB or another team in Japan. My money would be on MLB, but it’s worth noting that after becoming a free agent, Hiroki Kuroda signed a 4-year deal with an opt-out clause that allowed him to move to MLB, which he later exercised. 
  • Hiroshima Carp owner Hajime Matsuda has pitcher Ken Takahashi that there will be a place for him with the Carp after he retires. The 39 year-old Takahashi is eligible for free agency and eyeing a move to the majors. He’s coming off a solid year and could be a bullpen lefty for someone.
  • Yakult is looking to bring in Twins AAA reliever Ricky Barrett. Barrett has never made it to the show and is a minor league free agent.
  • More Yakult news: Brazilian instruction draft pick Rafael Fernandez commented on his selection: “I was encouraged to ‘stay in Japan and do my best’. I want to perform well for my friends”. 
  • Mark Kelly earned an invite to Orix’s autumn training camp.
  • Chiba Lotte worked out Marlins AAA infielder Chase Lambin for a spot on next year’s team, and is also bringing in Gary Burnham of Taiwan’s La New Bears for a try out.
  • No rest for the weary: Yu Darvish has already begun training for next year.

English Articles:

  • News from Taiwan: Yokohama is working out China Trust Whales lefty Yu-Chieh Shen. La New also played an exhibition series against the Yomiuri Giants farm team. Game 2 featured the Giants’ shockingly young Taiwanese farmhands.
  • Tommy Lasorda is being awarded the Order of the Rising Sun for his contributions to Japanese baseball.
Question for readers: a lot of my content is sourced from Sanspo, Sponichi, and Nikkan Sports, though I keep an eye on a number of other outlets. Are there any other resources, English or Japanese, that I should have my eye on?

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NPB Links in the MLB Playoffs

» 05 October 2008 » In mlb, nichibei » 1 Comment

Fun fact: a Japanese player has appeared in every World Series since 2002, beginning with Tsuyoshi Shinjo with the San Francisco Giants. This year, I’ve noticed a number of NPB connections on the eight MLB playoff teams.

Chicago Cubs

  • Scapegoat Kosuke Fukudome played 10 years for the Chunichi Dragons.
  • Derek Lee’s father, Leon Lee, and uncle, Leron Lee, both played 10+ years in Japan. Derek has said that he would like to finish his career in Japan.
  • Alfonso Soriano came up through the Hiroshima Carp Domican Academy and played briefly in Japan before joining the Yankees.

Los Angeles Dodgers

  • Pitchers Hiroki Kuroda and Takashi Saito are NPB veterans. 

Philedelphia Phillies

  • Manager Charlie Manual played for the Yakult Swallows and Kintetsu Buffaloes in the late 70’s and early 80’s. 
  • Reserve bat Matt Stairs played for the Chunichi Dragons before sticking with an MLB team.
  • Bench outfielder So Taguchi played for the Orix Blue Wave alongside Ichiro.

Milwaukee Brewers

  • Though neither one is on the playoff roster, Gabe Kapler and Joe Dillon both spent part of a season with the Yomiuri Giants.
  • Solomon Torres pitched in Korea before making his MLB comeback.

Tampa Bay Rays

  • Man of the hour Akinori Iwamura came over from the Yakult Swallows two years ago.

Chicago White Sox

  • Former Softbank Hawk DJ Carrasco is on the White Sox’ playoff roster.

Boston Red Sox

  • Daisuke Matsuzaka and Hideki Okajima.

LA Angels of Anaheim

  • Anyone know of any?

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