I found a few somewhat older yet interesting comments on Kei Igawa today on Detect-O-Vision. I have no idea if they are correct. Nonetheless, in case they may be true, it’s still good to know. The items that stood out the most to me:
Igawa doesn’t have plus command, he is just aggresive in the zone, especially when behind in the count. He lost his consistently low 90s fastball a few years ago and was used to having success pitching like a power pitcher. It took a couple years of his 88-90mph straight fastball getting pasted before he figured he needed to change his approach. Now, in 2006, hes finally figured out that the fastball is a gopher pitch when centered and overexposed so he’ll go to it less often (will throw it down the middle when hes confident the hitter is unbalanced) and try to spot on the corners or miss out of the zone with it when he isn’t sure if the hitter is sitting on it. This adjusment is HUGE, as he has finally learned to pitch backwards and mix his pitches better (which he MUST do in America) in 2006 and its making him a far better bet to succeed in the transition to MLB. If Igawa were to pitch the way he pitched pre-2006 in the big leagues (aggresively with his straight 89mph fastball), he wouldn’t have been very succesful despite the great K/BB ratios.
Igawa’s BB rate is going to go up in America. He doesn’t have good command (will make his share of mistake pitches in comparison to guys like Kuroda and Uehara), won’t be able to be as aggresive behind the count (unless he wants a skyrocket HR rate), and his breaking pitches are going break a little more in America (especially the changeup). That fine though, his BB rate should still be around average. As long as he keeps the hitters off balance(using his fastball primarilly to change up the hitters’ eye), his K rate will be high and hitters will have trouble making quality contact. Along with his curveball, his changeup is excellent and is a pitch you don’t see in the MLB (moves like a changeup, drops like a forkball). In the NPB, hitters have adjusted to Igawa’s changeup somewhat and know that he will usually throw it low and (mostly) when ahead in the count, so they let it go even if they don’t recognize it early. MLB hitters, on the other hand, will not know whats coming to them. Expect the changeup to be his #1 pitch in 2007; hitters will be geared up for the fastball and the way Kuroda throws the change its going to really break more with the MLB ball. Igawa will most likely be at his best in year #1 to MLB hitters because of the changeup and his deception.
He has a fiery mound presence and is known to give animated reaction to the umpire if he doesn’t like the call. He absolutely can’t do that in the bigs or they’ll give him the rookie treatment.
Reading this, maybe I should have said “Frank Tanana” instead of “Bob Ojeda” as a comp for Igawa?