Tag Archive > Ryota Igarashi

Igarashi Qualifies for Free Agency

» 15 June 2009 » In mlb prospects, npb » Comments Off on Igarashi Qualifies for Free Agency

Sanspo reports that Yakult fireballer Ryota Igarashi has now officially met the service time requirements for international free agency. Cue standard remarks from Igarashi: “Right now I’m only thinking about staying in shape and winning. I want to think it (free agency) over carefully in the offseason”… and from Yakult’s front office: “it’s his decision so we don’t know what will happen, but he is one person that is needed on our team”.

In any event, expect Igarashi to get a raise from the 8.4m yen ($840k) he’s making this year.

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Player Profile: Ryota Igarashi

» 29 May 2009 » In mlb prospects, npb » 7 Comments

Note: corrected walks total.

Last winter, Yakult Swallows fireballer Ryota Igarashi declined to file for domestic free agency, instead re-signing for 2009 with the subsequent goal of moving to the majors. Igarashi is a righthanded reliever who has spent his entire career with the Yakult Swallows, and just turned 30 on May 28. If I had to pick the top free agent coming out of Japan after this season today, Igarashi would be my choice.

Stuff, Results & Mechanics
Igarashi is known one of the hardest throwers in Japan, and jointly holds the record for fastest pitch* by a Japanese pitcher in an NPB game with a 158 kmph (98.75mph) fastball. Igarashi hit 158 kmph in 2004, when the average speed of his pitches over the course of the season was 154.5 kmph (96.6mph), which is an NPB record he has to himself.

Although he doesn’t throw quite as hard as he used to, but still runs his heater into the upper 90’s, and augments it with a hard splitter that he throws at around 90mph. He’s also got a slider and a curve that he’ll mix in occasionally, but is primarily a fastball/splitter pitcher.

Igarashi’s weakness has been his control. Over the course of his career through 2008, he’s allowed 221 walks and thrown 42 wild pitches over 517.1 innings. I suspect the number of walks would be higher if hitters could lay off the high fastball a little more. On the plus side, he’s balanced things out strking out 586 guys. Igarashi showed a significant improvement in his walk rate after returning from injury (see below) last season, allowing just six walks in 42.1 innings.  This year he’s come back to earth and allowed seven walks in 19.1 innings so far, which is more in line with his career norms.

When pitching out of the windup, Igarashi has a hitch at the beginning of his delivery, a la Daisuke Matsuzaka, but otherwise has a pretty orthodox approach. This YouTube clip from late April 2009 gives a good look at his mechanics. Here’s another clip of him striking out a Yokohama BayStars side in 2008.

*trivia question: who is he tied with?

Injury History
Igarashi had the worst year of his career in 2006, and bounced between the top club and the farm team during the second half of the season. After the season, it was discovered that he had a ruptured UCL in his throwing arm, and he went in for Tommy John surgery. He spent all of 2007 rehabbing, and didn’t return to game action for good until around July 2008. He has regained his velocity post-injury and has had a normal work load since last summer.

Igarashi has been mostly a middle reliever in his career thus far, setting up for Shingo Takatsu
 early in his career and more recently for Chang-Yong Lim. He did spend 2004 as Yakult’s closer after Takatsu left, and recorded 37 saves. He’s a set-up man again this year.

Igarashi spoke last season of making a “Shinjyo-class” move to MLB, which I took to mean he’d be willing to take less money to try his hand at MLB. Recall that Tsuyoshi Shinjyo
, as he spelled it back then, turned down about $12m from Hanshin to take a minimum-pay deal with the Mets. I don’t think Igarashi will have to take that kind of a cut, because he’s making about $840k this year and I think he’d be able to get at least that much from an MLB team. His best offers may still come from Japan though, as he could probably command an NPB closer’s salary.

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NPB Bullet Points (2009/01/04)

» 04 January 2009 » In mlb, nichibei, npb » Comments Off on NPB Bullet Points (2009/01/04)

First bullet points of the new year… let’s get started.

Japanese Articles

  • The Tadahito Iguchi rumor mill is heating up a little. According to Nikkan Sports by way of Sports Nifty, the Chiba Lotte Marines are prepared to start the negotiations at 2 years, 400m yen ($4.4m at the current exchange rate).  The article speculates that they could go a little higher as they have the diasppointing Julio Zuleta’s 260m yen ($2.86m) annual salary coming off the books.
  • Nikkan Sports reports that Daisuke Matsuzaka will be training with his former team, the Seibu Lions in preparation for the World Baseball Classic. Matsuzaka will train with Seibut at his own request.
  • Nippon Ham manager Masataka Nashida has announced that Yu Darvish will be his opening day starter. Not really news, but it’ll be a tight schedule with the WBC wrapping up shortly beforehand. In the same breathe, Nashida said that he wants to face Hanshin in the Japan Series this year.
  • Yomiuri Giants reliever and 2008 R0Y Tetsuya Yamaguchi will be doing his pre-camp training in Arizona at the Fischer Sports Gym, where Randy Johnson works out in the offseason. In other training news, Yakult reliever Ryota Igarashi is also heading to Arizona to train at the same gym Nomar Garciaparra uses.
  • The Hiroshima Carp have been flooded with a deluge of orders for their new uniform.

English Articles

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The Effects of NPB Players Leaving for MLB, part 2

» 03 December 2008 » In nichibei » 3 Comments

Part two of the series… take a look at part one here.

Part three will look at players that came over from 2001-03, and part four will draw some conclusions from the culmination of the last eight years of player movement.


Takashi Saito (RP, BayStars -> Dodgers): Saito explored a move to the majors after the 2002 season, but didn’t get a satisfactory offer and returned to Yokohama. After three more mediocre seasons by the bay, he decided to give the majors another shot and signed a minor league deal with the Dodgers. He didn’t make the team out of spring training, but got promoted when Eric Gagne was injured and has never looked back. 

Yokohama, meanwhile, has bounced back and forth between near-.500 respectability (2005, 2007) and Central League doormat (2006, 2008). I’m sure Westbaystars-san can better explain why Yokohama has been so manic recently. 

Impact: Low. I don’t think anyone saw Saito’s success in LA coming, as he had never put up such dominant numbers in Japan (MLB K rate: 11.63; NPB K rate 7.63). The impact would have been much greater if Yokohama had been able to get the best out of Saito.

Kenji Johjima (C, Hawks -> Mariners): While SoftBank survived the loss of Tadahito Iguchi, Johjima’s last year in Fukuoka would be the last of the Hawks dynasty that saw five Pacific League 1st place finishes, three Japan Series appearances and two Japan Series Championships between 1999-2005. The team effectively re-tooled around an talented, though inconsistent, rotation featuring Kazumi Saito, Toshiya Sugiuchi, Tsuyoshi Wada, and Nagisa Arakaki, but couldn’t replicate the success of the earlier offense-led dynasty. The Hawks have finished 3rd, 3rd, and 6th in the three years since Johjima’s departure.

Other factors have played roles in SoftBank’s regression — injuries to the pitching staff, sub-par production from guys like Nobuhiko Matsunaka and Hiroshi Tamura, manager Sadaharu Oh’s bout with cancer — but I would suggest that the absence of Johjima’s stabilizing presence behind the plate and in the order had the largest impact.

Impact: High. SoftBank lost an excellent defensive catcher and a mid-lineup slugger that they still haven’t replaced. The Hawks seemed unprepared for Johjima’s departure, as they never seemed to have a reliable backup for him while he was there. SoftBank drafted independent league catcher Hayato Doue in the instructional round of the 2008 draft, so maybe he’ll develop into a decent offensive or defensive catcher.


Tadahito Iguchi (2B, Hawks -> White Sox): The old Daiei management made two moves in the 2004 offseason that significantly weakened their team without getting anything in return. First, they released Iguchi from his contract so that he could pursue an MLB career. Daiei also “traded” star 3B Hiroki Kokubo to Yomiuri for nothing. Yes, nothing. Daiei then got out of the baseball business with the sale of the Hawks to SoftBank.

The departure of Iguchi didn’t have an immediate effect on the Hawks, as they took their third straight 1st place Pacific League finish with an outstanding 89-45-2 record. For the second straight year, however, they lost in the playoffs and failed to reach the Japan Series. Jolbert Cabrera was signed to fill in for Iguchi until reinforcements arrived, and while he spent two years in Fukuoka he was never really as good as Iguchi.

Impact: Medium. Shortstop Munenori Kawasaki effectively took over the infield leadership from Iguchi,but 2005 was the last year of the Hawks’ dynasty. Eventually young infielders Yuichi Honda and Nobuhiro Matsuda emerged, but they still need some time to mature and will probably never be as good as Iguchi was. A double play combination of Kawasaki and Iguchi would have been great to watch as well. Iguchi wasn’t posted, which means that Daiei got nothing in return for him. 

Keiichi Yabu (SP, Tigers -> A’s): Yabu was one of Hanshin’s better starting pitchers during the team’s lean mid-90’s years, but by the time he left for Oakland he was a more of a back of the rotation kind of guy. He seemed have a way to put a string of good starts together, but was injury-prone and a bit inconsistent. 

Impact: Minor. Pitching depth is good in any league but the Tigers still won the Central in 2005. They got destroyed in the Japan Series, but it’s not like Yabu could have prevented that.

Norihiro Nakamura (3B, Buffaloes -> Dodgers): Nori was clearly in decline when he asked the Buffaloes to post him. They happily complied, freeing themselves of his $4.5m salary. He only got a limited look at the MLB level, and failed to impress in the renowned hitter’s paradise in Las Vegas. In 2006 he was back with Orix, where his performance hit bottom. After the ’06 season he negotiated his release after falling out with Orix’s management, then caught on with Chunichi where he rediscovered the plot and managed to win the 2007 Japan Series MVP.

Impact: Very low. I was on the fence about including him in this. Nori’s ups and downs are a good story, but I consider his MLB experiment more of a blip.


Kazuo Matsui (SS, Lions -> Mets): Hiroyuki Nakajima picked up right where ‘LIttle’ Matsui left off, and Seibu went from finishing 5.5 games out in 2003 to winning the Japan Series in 2004. Nakajima also contributed to the Lions’ Series win this past season. 

Impact: Low. Seibu obviously had a capable replacement waiting in the wings in Nakajima. Nakajima hasn’t been quite the perennial MVP candidate that Matsui was, but he’s still been the top shortstop in the Pacific League most seasons since taking over as Seibu’s starter. 

Akinori Otsuka (RP, Dragons -> Padres): The old Kintetsu Buffaloes posted Otsuka after the 2002 season, but there were no takers, so they wound up trading him to Chunichi for cash. After a solid 2003 season, Chunichi posted Otsuka again, and this time San Diego won his rights with a $300k bid. 

Chunichi improved from 2nd in 2003 and 1st in 2004, going on to appear in Japan Series’ in 2004 and 2006, and finally winning in 2007.  One of the team’s strength’s was a deep bullpen, even without Otsuka.

Kintetsu didn’t fare as well. The franchise collapsed under heavy financial losses in 2004, just three years after reaching the Japan Series, and merged with the former Orix Blue Wave franchise. It looked like NPB was at risk for contraction, but the players went on a fan-supported strike and persuaded NPB to admit the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles as an “expansion” team.

Impact: Low. Chunichi got a minimal return for Otsuka, but he was expendable given the team’s bullpen depth. Kintetsu, unfortunately, had problems that couldn’t be solved by the presence of Otsuka. 

Shingo Takatsu (RP, Swallows -> White Sox): When Shingo announced that he was working out for MLB teams, there was a feeling that he was trying to drive up his price in Japan. Wrong. Shingo had a geniune desire to play major league ball, and put up great numbers in his first year with the White Sox. Yakult got by with out him, going 72-62-2 in 2004 vs 71-66-3 in 2003.

Shingo fell apart in 2005 and was back with the Swallows in 2006, where he pitched two more seasons before getting released. He was in camp this spring with the Cubs, but failed to catch on and played for Woori in Korea in 2008. Shingo seemed to really enjoy his time in Chicago, which endeared him to me as a native Chicagoan.

Impact: Low. What gets overlooked here is that Shingo was pretty inconsistent for his last two years in Japan, and Ryota Igarashi seemed ready to take over as the closer. Where Shingo and Otsuka had a large impact, however, was in establishing the reputation of Japanese relievers as effective in MLB. 

Any comments on this group of players?

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Free Agency Updates

» 01 November 2008 » In mlb prospects, npb » 1 Comment

I’ve added some updates to my free agent list. Here is a summary.

International Free Agents

NPB-only Free Agents

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Igarashi to Majors (someday)

» 28 October 2008 » In mlb prospects » 2 Comments

Add Tokyo Yakult Swallows reliever Ryota Igarashi to the list of guys that is looking for a future move to MLB. Igarashi is a domestic free agent this year, but will decline to file so that he can pursue an MLB contract later on. Igarashi is said to be looking to make a “Shinjo class” move, which is to say he wants to come to America for the experience rather than the money. And if he truly follows the Shinjo model, he’ll return to Japan to finish his career.

Igarashi has already begun negotiating his next contract with Yakult, and it appears that he stay in Yoyogi at least for next year. Igarashi spent nearly two years on the shelf due to Tommy John surgery, but came back in July and posted solid numbers for the Swallows. Most notably his 42/6 K/BB ratio indicates that his control, which was never a strong point pre-surgery,  has improved dramatically.

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Impending NPB Free Agents

» 12 August 2008 » In mlb prospects, npb » 4 Comments

I’ve written a lot about the top three free agents coming out of NPB after this season, but there are several other lesser names that have been in the news as well. A thread on JapaneseBaseball.com listing a few has made the rounds to EastWindupChronicle and MLB Trade Rumors, and I’ve done some research and found a couple of other guys that have qualified since that list was published. Some of these players qualify under new rules that shorten the amount of service time required to attain free agency.

Fortunately the Japanese media doesn’t shy away from jumping the gun and speculating so let the hot-stove fun begin.

Tomohiro Nioka (INF, Yomiuri Giants): I’m not sure if Nioka will rack up the service time he needs to move internationally by the end of the season. He’s gotten some negative publicity over his extra-marital flirtation with a TV newscaster this season, so the Giants may be ready to move on from him.

Masahiro Araki (2B, Chunichi Dragons): Araki has hinted at trying the free agent market, but I would be surprised if he signed elsewhere.

Hirokazu Ibata (SS, Chunichi Dragons): Nikkei Sports reports that Ibata will remain with Chunichi and “has no interest in filing for free agency.”

Ryoji Aikawa (C, Yokohama BayStars): I don’t see him leaving Yokohama. Haven’t had much luck in finding media reports on his free agency.

Tatsuhiko Kinjoh (CF, Yokohama BayStars): According to Sponichi, Kinjoh is not planning on declaring free agency and will stay with the BayStars, at least for another year.

Naoyuki Ohmura (CF, Softbank Hawks): Ohmura has stated publicly that he wants to try his hand at MLB. “I want to go,” says Ohmura, “life is short and you only get one chance at it.” Ohmura is a contact hitter with zero power. He can probably start for an NPB team that gets power from other positions, or be possibly be a 4th outfielder type in MLB. Think So Taguchi.

Ryota Igarashi (RP, Yakult Swallows): The hard-throwing reliever will carefully think over his options in the off-season. He’s eligible for domestic free agency, and he’s in his first year back from Tommy John surgery.

Akihiro Higashide (2B, Hiroshima Carp): Higashide made some comments that you don’t typically hear from Japanese players: “I’ve worked hard to reach free agency. This is the result of year after year of fighting to be my best. I have to put good results in this kind of year.” True to his words, Higashide is in the midst of a break-out season, third in the Central League with a .334 BA (career BA: .255). It looks like he’s qualified for domestic free agency; there is speculation that he could draw interest from Hanshin, Yomiuri, and Chunichi. I would hate to see Hiroshima lose yet another star.

Norihiro Nakamura (3B, Chunichi Dragons): “Not interested in other teams were his exact words. Has had two MLB flirtations and drama at Kintetsu/Orix before finally settling into a groove with Chunichi. I can’t see him anywhere else.

Masafumi Hirai (RP, Chunichi Dragons): Qualified for free agency last year, but elected to sign a one year contract with Chunichi. Having a bad season. Kind of an MLB sleeper type.

Atsunori Inaba (OF, Nippon Ham Fighters): Inaba’s contract is up, but he’s unlikely to move.

Daisuke Miura (SP, Yokohama BayStars): Miura is finishing up a six-year contract with Yokohama. Hanshin is already gearing up to make a play for him.

Kim Dong-Ju (3B, Doosan (Korea)): Orix is looking at Kim as their third baseman for next year. EastWindup Chronicle has his numbers and some analysis.

Most of these guys will probably stay put — such is free agency in NPB. But with a the new free agency rules and an uptick in trades, there is certainly more potential for movement than there has been in the past.

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