What would happen if dogs played baseball? If there were a real Draft Derby? Join the world of the whimsy and find out!
What if dogs played baseball?
Years ago, when I was writing for a long-forgotten blog, I asked myself this question and made the mistake of doing so out loud. My theory in life is that you ask anything in the hope of finding something, but this crossed a line. In our house, “What if dogs played baseball?” has become code for, “There are no stupid questions, but that is a stupid question.”
In his fifth Asian Equation column, Michael looks at the relievers who have enjoyed modest success--and failure--making the move from Japan to America.
The last group in my analysis of the player’s who have migrated to MLB from Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) are the relievers, the least appreciated members of a successful baseball team. Yet, of all NPB imports, they have been the most numerous (explaining the length of this article, for which I apologize in advance) and the cheapest. Diminished quality is the most obvious reason for these extremes, since starters who don’t meet MLB standards get shifted to the bullpen, and lesser talents also keep salaries down. Additionally, the typical NPB pitcher’s arsenal matches well with an MLB reliever’s skillset.
As I discussed in my last Asian Equation article, NPB is a breaking ball league, which translates better to relief than starting. A good breaking ball might fool major league hitters the first or second time they see it in a game, but it probably won’t the third or fourth time. As an illustration, here’s how batter OPS rises against two of the biggest NPB starting-pitcher busts as compared with three current MLB pitchers: the best, the most mediocre, and an old junkballer. While MLB batters’ performance improves against each pitcher the more times they see him in a game, the change is far more dramatic with Matsuzaka and Kawakami.
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Which Japanese players are able to slip across the Pacific without going through the posting system?
At the start of the 2007 season, I introduced a list of players possibly primed to make the jump from Japan to the majors. This list included both free agents and posting candidates that had been whispered about in the Japanese and American press. Free agency is a fairly straightforward process, where names are available for discussion well in advance of the seasons close. Posting, on the other hand, is highly subjective, and is essentially a guessing game. I will attempt to bring you some analysis in the piece centered on the free agent crop, and follow up at a future date with information regarding posting situations as they become more clear.
Looking at the free agents, I will organize the names according to tiers. Top-tier free agents are players who should command the attention of every MLB club, and who stand a good chance at contributing on an everyday basis with superior results. Think about Ichiro, Godzilla, Dice-K-first-name basis players. The second-tier free agents are players who will command limited but significant attention from major league clubs, and can play a valuable specialized role on a regular basis. Think Hideki Okajima, Kazuo Matsui, Akinori Iwamura, and Takashi Saito. Finally, tertiary-tiered free agents are players who might be on the radar of some clubs, but stand little chance to contribute on an everyday basis. Essentially, these players can play a role from the bench. Think So Taguchi.