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Brushing Up On Junichi Tazawa

Tazawa might have a classic RHP starter's arsenal: fastball, curve and a change.  The fastball sits 90-92 and it doesn't look like he's capable of adding a bit when he needs it.  The change might actually be a splitter, as the usual change has more horizontal movement and less vertical movement than the fastball.  I suspect a splitter gets the lesser horizontal movement shown on his chart.  And he's Japanese, so he's supposed to throw weird pitches.  See chart:


Hooray chart!

It isn't obvious on the chart, but the pitches from about 5 inches vertical movement to 0 are the change/split.  The curve is off on its lonesome.  Alas.  Tazawa's fastball is just alright, certainly not plus, while the whiffs he's gotten so far don't speak very highly of the curve and change.  His minor league track record is pretty good, but not any better than Dan Hudson's.  Hudson's also 9 months younger and not expected to be ready until mid-late '10.  So it's not really clear that Tazawa's ready.  Through his first three starts, he's FIPing over 6 and has struck out just 1 fewer than he's walked...

...And now that I've watched his start against the Yankees, I'm more convinced that he isn't ready.  Or isn't especially good, in any case.  His fastball, despite Tim McCarver's insistence, was well above 88 mph.  As brooks pfx said, it's 90-92.  He consistently came in to LHB and got a couple outs jamming Yankee hitters who were looking away.  He had a very hard time throwing the curve for a strike early on  and pretty much refused to throw his splitter (it's a splitter according to McCarver, who can't read a radar gun, so take that fwiw) despite the Yankees lefty-heavy lineup.  The one time I saw him throw the splitter, he got a whiff from Posada.  The curve came in at a couple different speeds and he did really fool A-Rod once he started to find the plate with it.  McCarver speculated that some of its effectiveness was due to deception and indeed he does have that Japanese weirdness, but nothing that looked like it could throw off major league batters.  The pitch probably does have plus movement, but his inability to get it over reduced him to a one pitch pitcher for the first few innings.

Yankee hitters consistently hit long fly balls and line drives off the Monster.  Tazawa was very lucky to shut them out; If the Yankees had won the coin flips, they would have put up at least 3 or 4 in Tazawa's 6 IP.    He didn't show a true three pitch arsenal and if that continues, lefties should have an easy time.  Righties may have more to deal with, but if his command isn't there, he's going to either miss over the plate or cede the base on balls.  Which means there's a pretty good chance we avoid the sweep if Good Danks shows up.  According to BP, we've still got 10-20% chance at making the postseason.  In other words, we're not quite dead yet: