Archive for Kei Igawa


Salvaging a bad investment

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In an effort to get any sort of value out of one of the Yanks’ worst investments of the last decade, the team is going to try out Kei Igawa as a left-handed reliever only, Joel Sherman reported today. The winningest pitcher in Scranton history has two more seasons left with the Yankee organization, and the team has so far received nothing out of him. He is 2-4 with a devilish 6.66 ERA in 72.1 forgettable Major League innings.

For Igawa, this isn’t the first time his name has come up as a relief candidate. Joe explored the idea in late January. In AAA last year, he both struck out 7.44 lefties per 9 IP while his mark against righties was just 6.44. His walk splits — 0.80 per 9 IP vs. lefties against 3.10 BB per 9 IP vs. righties — are more pronounced. While his career splits are not as drastic as his 2009 splits were, he has more success vs. lefties than righties throughout his years in Scranton. Either way, Igawa isn’t on the 40-man roster, and the Yanks are in no rush to put him there. I don’t expect much to come of this.

Categories : Asides, Pitching
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Since 2006, when George Steinbrenner granted him autonomy over baseball operations, Brian Cashman has signed four free agent pitchers: Andy Pettitte, Kei Igawa, CC Sabathia, and A.J. Burnett. Three out of four represents an excellent mark, especially considering the crop of free agent pitchers the team signed in the few years before ’06. Still, the one stings a bit. The Yankees bid $27 million when the Hanshin Tigers posted him, and it seemed like overpayment at the time. That fee, plus his five-year, $20 million contract, add up to quite the blunder. But can the Yankees salvage something in deal’s final two years?

If Igawa plays any role for the 2010 or 2011 Yankes, he’ll do it from the bullpen. The Yankees have built plenty of rotation depth, leaving Igawa somewhere around sixth or seventh in line for an open rotation spot. Even if the Yankees suffered six separate misfortunes, of which there’s an outside chance, they might not turn to Igawa. There’s little in his track record which suggests an ability to get through a major league order multiple times with limited damage. But perhaps he can prove of value pitching in short bursts out of the bullpen.

At The Hardball Times today, Jeff Sackmann examines minor league starters who might make quality major league bullpen candidates. After all, since many, if not most, relievers were starters who failed, a number of these middling starters will eventually make the move. Identifying them now can perhaps expedite the process. The Yankees, as we know, prefer to develop their young arms as starters, but we also know that they will move a starter to the bullpen if the need arises. With Igawa, it might be the only way to extract even a modicum of value.

Sackmann identified three qualities which might suggest an easy bullpen transition. First, that they pitch well the first time through the order. Or, as I’ll examine, that they pitch well in their first inning of work. Second, they have a large platoon differential. This goes hand in hand with the short bursts, and matters much more for a lefty like Igawa. If he’s only coming in for a few batters, chances are that more than half will be lefties. And third, he pitches well out of the stretch. So how does our K-man stack up?

The only area where Igawa doesn’t rate well is in his FIP the first time through the order. In lefty-lefty situations last year Igawa posted a 2.54 FIP, inducing 40 percent ground balls. He strikes out more lefties, but more importantly he walks far fewer — just four over 169 lefties faced last season, while he walked 38 out of 491 righties. Predictably, he allows far more home runs against righties as well. With men on base Igawa actually pitches a bit better than with none on, with a FIP of more than a run lower. This is mostly attributable to his home run rate with runners on, an important factor for a reliever. Of the 260 batters he faced with men on, he allowed just five home runs, while 17 of 400 batters with the bases empty took him out of the park.

Using Igawa’s minor league splits, there is evidence that he can pitch well in short bursts as well. While Sackmann rated him 3 on a 5-point scale in that category, he based it on the pitcher’s first time through the order. But most relievers won’t face nine hitters. In Igawa’s first inning of work he boasts a 4.08 FIP, his best mark of any inning in which he faced more than 100 batters in 2009. He induces more ground balls and fewer line drives, and allows fewer home runs. He also showed this tendency during his brief major league stint in 2007, performing far better in the first inning than in any other.

These numbers, of course, provide no guarantee that Igawa could succeed even in a limited role. They do, however, suggest that the Yankees could do worse than giving him a shot. As it stands Boone Logan is the second lefty out of the pen, but the Yanks could cut him loose if he pitches like he has over the last couple of years. At that point they might stick with Damaso Marte as the sole lefty bullpen arm, but they could certainly give Igawa a shot. There’s little harm in it. They have just 38 men on the 40-man roster, and could have up to three open spots if they end up returning Jamie Hoffman to the Dodgers. It doesn’t look like they’d have to make much of a sacrifice to get Igawa on the roster.

Most of us have a set opinion of Igawa, based on his 2007 performance. It’s pretty clear that he won’t work out as a major league starter. The Yankees, however, probably want to get any value out of him that they can at this point, and there are numbers that suggest he could capably fill a bullpen role. With open 40-man spots, why not give him the chance? Worst case he sucks and they send him back to AAA. If they need to remove him from the 40-man at that point, I don’t think they’ll mind letting him walk as a free agent. But before it comes to that, I’d like to see him get his shot.

Credit: AP Photo/Duane Burleson

Categories : Death by Bullpen
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By now, it was just a formality, but the Yankees have officially signed Nick Johnson for the 2010 season. The left-handed on-base machine will earn $5.5 million next year as the team’s DH, and the deal includes a mutual option for 2011 at the same base salary. Johnson said earlier that he was willing to give up his desire to play the field in order to join the defending World Series champions. That’s what I like to hear.

In other Yankee rumors, Mark Feinsand dropped an interesting Tweet this morning. Prior to landing Vazquez, the Yanks were talking about Carlos Zambrano, and the Cubs were willing to take on Kei Igawa’s contract. The Kei-meister has two years and $8 million left on his deal, and the Yanks have never seemed too concerned with trading Scranton’s all-time winningest pitcher. I can’t quite figure out why.

Categories : Asides, Hot Stove League
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In a rather dubious fashion, Kei Igawa tied a Scranton record yesterday, and in a few days, he’ll be the sole owner of the mark. PeteAbe with an assist from Chad Jennings, reports that Kei Igawa’s 26th win of his three-year stint at AAA Scranton ties the franchise record. He and Evan Thomas, a career minor leaguer with the Phillies organization, share this dubious distinction.

After the game, Igawa, stuck at AAA forever, kept his achievement in perspective. I can’t tell if he’s being somber or sarcastic. “As long as there is a record that I have chance of setting, it’s something the process to get through,” he said. “It’s a stepping stone, not a final goal of mine.”

Got that? Kei Igawa’s final goal is not to be the most winning Japanese pitcher in the history of the International League or Scranton’s most successful starter. I’m glad he cleared that up.

For his in-progress AAA career, Igawa is now 26-13 with a 3.56 ERA in 51 starts. He’s striking out over 7 per 9 innings and has a WHIP of 1.21. These decent minor league numbers though have not translated into Major League success. With the Yanks, he is 2-4 with a devilish 6.66 ERA in 16 games. Opponents have hit a stunning .302/.386/.549 off of the lefty. He was removed from the 40-man roster in 2008 and hasn’t seen Yankee pinstripes since a one-inning cameo last June. He is still under contract for the next two seasons.

At this point, there’s no real way to sugar coat the Yanks’ decision to sign Kei Igawa. They forked over $46 million for his services, and I doubt he’ll pitch another Big League inning before his contract ends following the 2011 season. While Peter Gammons once blamed Ron Guidry for tinkering with Igawa’s motion and alleged that the Red Sox would put in a waiver claim, that statement seemed more delusional than ever when Igawa passed through waivers last year.

Meanwhile, it is accepted knowledge that the Yanks decided to sign Igawa instead of taking a shot on Ted Lilly for four years and around $40 million. Lilly is third in the Majors in victories since then and 12th in strike outs. Ouch. This might just have been one of the worst Yankee decisions of the last five years.

But as we wait for the game to begin in a few hours, we will tip our caps to Kei Igawa. He now owns an American baseball record. It might be a dubious one, but it is a record indeed. The sad part is that he’ll probably have another two and a half seasons during which he can build on it.

Categories : Whimsy
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Last night in Scranton, Kei Igawa took the hill for the AAA Yankees. In typical Kei Igawa fashion, he threw 5.1 innings and gave up 7 hits and 5 earned runs. He allowed a home run — his ninth long ball of the season and managed just a 4/6 ground ball to fly ball ratio.

For Igawa, it was yet another in a line of mediocre-to-terrible AAA starts. On the season, the Kei Man is 2-0 but with a 6.75 ERA. In 21.1 innings, he has allowed 23 hits but has walked four while striking out 11. His 0.60 GB/FB ratio is destined to keep him at AAA for at least this year and next.

It’s clear today that Kei Igawa is one of the worst free agent signings of the last five years. He is no longer on the Yanks’ 40-man roster and is probably 9th or 10th on the team’s starting pitching depth charts. Last year, he threw just 4 innings in the bigs, and I expect that to be 4 more than he pitches this year for the Yanks.

So the Yankees, in Igawa, have a mistake. They paid $26 million to the Hanshin Tigers for what has amounted to a pitching lemon, and Igawa, earning $4 million a year, is probably the highest paid AAA pitcher in the history of the game. He is, by the way, under contract through the 2011 season.

Meanwhile, later tonight, another Yankee mistake is going to take the mound, albeit far, far away from the Bronx. In Detroit, the 0-3 Carl Pavano is going to take his 9.50 ERA to the hill as the Indians face off against the Tigers. We all know Pavano’s story. He had a career year in Florida right before free agency and landed with the Yankees after a four-team bidding war. He then went 9-8 in 26 starts spread out over four seasons and walked away with a 5.00 ERA, $39.95 million and a less-than-flattering nickname of “American Idle.”

The Indians gave Carl Pavano $1.5 million to pitch for them this year in the hopes that he could rediscover his groove. Outside of one start against the Yankees, ironically enough, Pavano hasn’t done much of anything, and he’s probably nearing the point of pitching for a job.

So as the rain begins to pick up in New York City, I am left not counting down the hours until a Yankeeography-filled rain delay, but rather I am left wondering which of these two pitchers was the worse move. It’s probably safe to say that signing one of them ranks among Brian Cashman‘s worse decisions as GM, but does one take the cake?

Which Yankee pitcher represents a bigger waste of money?
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Categories : Pitching, Polls
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Can the Yanks dish Kei Igawa?

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Over at the excellent NPB Tracker, Patrick asks a question we’ve been pondering since 2007: is Kei Igawa movable? We know that the answer is “probably not,” but Patrick gets into a bit more detail. Specifically, he notes the Yanks’ failed efforts to move him back to Japan, including Igawa’s visit to his old club over the off-season. Then there was the Brewers scenario, which didn’t work out. Patrick even notes a humorous tale (told by Igawa himself) of a team that was once interested in Kei: “it seemed like there was a team that saw my (AAA) numbers and tried to acquire me. Then I was told ‘we found out the name, and it was you!’” So yeah, looks like nothing doing on the Igawa front. He’ll head to AAA this off-season, with his only real hope of cracking the majors again relying on injuries and/or ineffectiveness in the bullpen. It’s safe to say that none of us want to imagine such a scenario.

Categories : Asides
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In 2006, Japan stunned the international baseball community when they claimed the WBC title. They’re back with a vengeance to defend their crown, and while many players — the pitchers especially — view this tournament as a potential audition for the U.S. Major Leagues, the Land of the Rising Sun is mostly concerned with capture another title. While the rehabbing Hideki Matsui won’t play in the tournament, he is wanted for it. His fellow Japanese Yankee isn’t so lucky. When asked about Kei Igawa’s omission from the team, one of the Japanese reporters assigned to the team said “They think he is not so good.” I don’t think Brian Cashman is going to voice much objection to those sentiments. (Hat tip to PeteAbe for this amusing anecdote.)

Categories : Asides, Whimsy
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As I study for my contracts final and Joe and Mike get ready to come back to rainy New York, the winter meetings are officially winding down. While it’s unlikely that any major deals will get done before the GMs make it back home tonight, we’ve got rumors galore to share.

  • Forget Nick Punto. MLB Trade Rumors notes that the Twins have resigned Punto to a two-year, $8.5-million deal with an option for 2011. Punto has a career OPS+ of 74 and is going to make $4 million a year. I’m in the wrong line of work.
  • Tyler Kepner sums up the Cameron stituation. The Yanks and Brewers are haggling over money and extra players. Kepner notes that perhaps Kei Igawa could be shipped off to Milwaukee. He’d be the perfect replacement for CC Sabathia. Not.
  • Dan Graziano says the Cameron deal might not happen because the Yankees hurt the Brewers’ feelings. By asking for money a day after giving CC Sabathia the largest pitching contract ever, the Yanks have supposedly insulted the Brewers. Somewhere, the world’s smallest violin player is playing for Doug Melvin.
Categories : Hot Stove League
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He’s o-Kei in AAA

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In what is perhaps, outside of Edinson Volquez’s Rookie of the Year votes, the most unintentionally hilarious story of the off-season so far, Topps has named Kei Igawa to the card company’s AAA All Star team.

Chad Jennings has the press release from the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre home office, and it too is rather funny simply because it’s so endearingly unironic:

2008 may end up being a break through year for left handed pitcher Kei Igawa. The second year pro from Japan set a Scranton/Wilkes-Barre franchise record for wins in a season by a left handed pitcher with 14 and was named the team’s 2008 Pitcher of the Year.

Igawa set the tone for the season with six perfect innings on opening night for the Yankees and closed out the season winning 11 of his final 13 decisions, earning the southpaw a spot on the 2008 Topps’/Minor League Baseball Triple-A All-Star Team…

Igawa led the Yankees in starts (24), wins (14), innings pitched (156.1) and strike outs (117). His 14 wins tied Joe Roa’s franchise record set in 2002. The outstanding work on the hill for the left hander did not end with the regular season as Igawa posted a 1-0 mark with a 1.35 ERA and nine K’s in 13.1 post season innings, helping lead Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to the Governors’ Cup for the first time in franchise history.

I don’t really know what else I can add to this news. I, for one, am glad the Yanks’ $46-million investment is paying dividends for some team. That 6.66 ERA and 1.76 WHIP in 71.2 big league innings makes me wonder just how bad AAA hitters are anyway.

Now, can we trade him?

Categories : Minors
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Just a quick update before we get to the game. According to Ed Price, the Yankees have removed Kei Igawa from the 40-man roster. He passed through waivers unclaimed. To make room on the 25-man roster for Damaso Marte and Xavier Nady, the Yankees have optioned Brett Gardner to AAA, and have DFA LaTroy Hawkins, according to WFAN. Oh, happy day!

According to Buster Olney, the Yanks are still working on a deal for Jarrod Washburn, which would be a salary dump move.

We don’t have the full lineups yet, but Nady is in the lineup, playing left field and batting 7th. You have to assume it’s the lineup as usual through five, Cano hitting sixth, and then Cabrera 8th and Molina 9th.

Categories : Asides
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