Ryota Igarashi: Mechanical Evaluation
The Mets and Ryota Igarashi have reached an agreement on a two-year deal.
The 30-year-old Japanese hurler is expected to compete for the setup role in front of Francisco Rodriguez. I’ve never seen him pitch (other than the video below) and therefore cannot comment on his skillset or demeanor. However, Patrick Newman of the outstanding NPBTracker has a detailed profile on Igarashi.
According to Newman, Igarashi used to AVERAGE 96+ MPH, and topped out at 98. That was a few years ago, however, and his velocity has dropped a bit — but still nears the mid-90s. He complements the heater with a splitter, and he might also mix in a slider and curve. His one negative is control. That said, he might turn out to be somewhere between Fernando Rodney and Jorge Julio. I’m going to keep my expectations low, with the hopes of being pleasantly surprised. If he’s as good as the reports say, this is a good signing for the Mets, who need all the relief help they can find.
Here he is in action:
As far as his mechanics go, I like his over-the-top release point and subsequent loose, relaxed arm action. He also stays on a straight line and keeps the front side closed (doesn’t over-rotate for velocity), using his torso / hips and legs efficiently. He also usually gets his head forward, low, and ahead of the front knee at release — what’s called “nose to toes”, and is reminiscent of the “drop and drive” motion that Tom Seaver and Jerry Koosman used. What’s bothersome is that he sometimes pulls his throwing hand back and up — like a rubber band reaction — after release, rather than letting it complete the follow-through past his front knee. This is cutting off the deceleration of his arm, and puts significant strain on the shoulder. However he doesn’t do it all the time (it seems), so it may not be an issue. I also don’t love the way he kind of hooks or curls his arm, pointing the elbow up, as he brings the ball out of the glove and back (some people call this “short arming” — it’s similar to how Henry Owens and Keith Foulke used to bring the ball back). It’s an unnecessary strain on both the elbow and the shoulder and so it’s no surprise that he underwent Tommy John surgery two years ago. That said, he should have at least two years on the “new” elbow before it blows out again. Additionally, that shortarming / hooking seems to be something that is more pronounced when he’s throwing the curve / slider, which may “telegraph” the pitch to the batter.
One point to consider is whether his splitter will be affected by the change in baseballs. Though the official circumference of the ball is 9 inches, supposedly MLB balls tend to be manufactured slightly larger — up to 9.25 inches. Additionally, in Japan they still use horsehide to cover the balls while here it’s cowhide, which can feel “slippery” in comparison. It may not sound like a big deal but spreading the fingers slightly more for the split could pose problems — or, the slippery feel could create more action. We’ll find out soon enough.