Newly signed import Ryota Igarashi is the owner of the fastest ball thrown in Japan, a 98-MPH heater. However, his goal is to hit triple digits, and he believes the harder clay mounds in the USA will give him that opportunity (do they play on sand in Japan?).
Ryota Igarashi is apparently interested in trying to hit 100mph on the radar gun. And part of what might allow that ambition to come to fruition might have to do with the harder mounds.
“I love it. There’s nothing wrong with hard mounds, and I think it’ll help my delivery. All the necessary elements for throwing hard are present,” said Igarashi.
The harder mounds will apparently provide Igarashi with more stability on his landing foot, allowing him to generate more arm velocity.
Igarashi also said that he’d like to try and pick up a two-seamer to complement his pitches.
That Igarashi is talking about a harder surface to throw from tells me he understands the importance of the lower half. To me this is interesting because here in the USA most youngsters, coaches, and even some pros tend to over-emphasize “arm strength” — when in reality, velocity comes more from the use of momentum and the proper timing and action of the torso. Yes the arm speed and action also plays a part, but in the Western World I believe it’s given too much attention.
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.
In other news, the Mets may or may not have upped their offer to Jason Bay. I’ve chosen to avoid any Bay buzz until things sound more serious and/or “real” — there’s a lot of hot air. The Cardinals seem intent on signing Matt Holliday, having offered him either a 5- or 8-year deal, depending on the source.
Additionally, the Mets have reportedly made a two-year offer to Ryota Igarashi, a relief pitcher from Japan. However, Patrick Newman of NPBTracker hears there are at least three offers from other teams on the table. I know nothing about Igarashi other than what Newman has on his blog (which is excellent, by the way).
So hard to comment on the Mets when it comes to Japan. On the one hand, you want them to be “in” on anything that could be fruitful, but on the other hand, their history with Japanese imports has been less than fulfilling. Remember it was the Mets who chose not to listen to Bobby Valentine when he recommended Ichiro Suzuki, but later brought in Kaz Matsui to move Jose Reyes out of shortstop. But then again, Ken Takahashi worked out nicely. /sarcasm