Thursday, December 28, 2006

Igawa Quietly Inks Deal

That's a long way of saying Kei Igawa signs 5 year $20 million deal. It's amazing after all of the commotion, publicity, conspiracy-theories involved in the Matsuzaka signing period that Art Tellem's deal with the Yankees received such little attention. This is one of the most undercelebrated free-agent signings of the offseason (and in Yankee recent history) and it is probably due to the unpredictability of Igawa's makeup.

When the Matsuzaka high-bid was announced and he appeared to be Boston-bound, I began reexamining as much Igawa information (and video) as possible because I assumed the Yankees would make a big push for him. This is due to the Bronx-Boston equilibrium being swayed: if Boston gets a Japanese starter then New York is almost required by law to pick one up off the free agent market as well.

I do know that Igawa throws between 88-91mph on his fastball but can push it up 93-94 when he really needs something extra. ((It's interesting to note that the Japanese baseball is different than the one in MLB in that the stitching provides more movement here than it does in Japan; which should help Igawa's breaking pitches)) He throws a slider-curve combination pitch or slurve that's not ultra impressive and is average in its velocity/movement. He does throw a true plus changeup though, which is his out-pitch. Tom Glavine has lived off the fastball-changeup diet for nearly 20 professional seasons but his control throughout has been precise. Does Igawa have this type of control? I don't know for sure but I'd doubt it.

I'm not intimating that Igawa will be or could be Glavine, but a well-spotted fastball and dominant changeup along with a well-controlled slurve could certainly generate a successful fifth-starter - since that's all the Yankees are truly asking Igawa to be. One thing is for sure, after watching dozens of videos on Igawa, he must fall out of love with throwing his fastball up in the zone. That kind of pitching may fly in the Japan but it certainly will not survive in the Majors. Sure, Barry Zito is notorious for throwing 87mph fastballs up in the zone but he also has a dominant 12-6 curveball that allows such strikezone flexibility.

All in all, getting a 4 or 5 starter for the amount of money the Yankees spent is (and pains me to say it) economical. Who would have thought spending over $40 million on a back of the rotation pitcher is a wise move? Regardless, to Mr. Igawa I say welcome to New York, now don't ever make us bring up Hideki Irabu ever, ever again.

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