Can Igawa Adjust?By
It’s still early, and I know a lot of you are going to rip me for being too negative at this juncture, but I’m very concerned about Kei Igawa. Concerned to the point where I’m hoping that he’s the next Kaz Ishii. Okay, so maybe I exaggerate a little…but only a little. I can only think, he’ll be fine, he’s just making adjustments for so long while staring at his 9.00 BB/9.
Being a stat nut, I’m obviously enamored with his 15.43 K/9, but I realize that he’s not going to sustain that number. Once hitters figure him out, he’ll be lucky to post half that rate. Unfortunately, his walk rate isn’t guaranteed to drop along with it. That would place him right along with Ishii’s peripherals.
Then again, Ishii was a very high-strikeout, high-walk pitcher in Japan, while Igawa was a pretty high-strikeout, moderately low-walk version. What scares me is that Ishii’s strikeouts dropped and his walks rose in America, both significantly. Obviously, Igawa can’t afford to have that happen to his numbers (no pitcher can).
It is unfair to only compare/contrast Igawa to one other Japanese import, so I’ll cease at this point. I’m just trying to make some sense of him, and it’s not working. Emma Span of The Village Voice feels the same way. The only things we have to go on now are 1) his numbers and 2) the knowledge that hitters are going to figure him out and that he’ll need to make adjustments.
Well, we know his numbers aren’t so hot. A 12:7 strikeout to walk ratio seems generous when you see that he’s thrown 142 pitches this spring (over 20 per inning) and only 78 for strikes (55 percent). Soon enough, hitters are going to make their adjustments, and they’ll swing at fewer and fewer pitches out of the zone, meaning fewer strikes for Igawa. He has to adjust, and for my own sanity I’d like to see some degree of adjustment in his next start.
Here’s where the problem gets stickier: the Yanks don’t have many options if he fails to adjust quickly. They’ve invested $46 million into him, so he’s going to be with the big league squad. If he can’t hack it as a starter, the logical step would be to stick him in the bullpen, but the bullpen is a terrible place for a pitcher with control problems. Would they send him to Scranton? Could they, even if they wanted to?
Of course, he could make my ramblings moot if he settles down and quits walking guys. Based on his first three games, though, I’m not so optimistic about that. In fact, I’m trying real hard to resist the temptation to jump on the Jeff Karstens bandwagon. He’s also in the small sample size range, so I don’t want to get too excited. Another solid outing by him and another shaky one by Igawa, though, and I may just take that plunge.
Photo: Koichi Kamoshida/Getty Images