Let’s pump the brakes on Shohei Otani

Hideki Matsui, former Yankees star and current special advisor for New York, is expected to play a major role in the pursuit for Shohei Otani. Otani, the Japanese two-way star, is hoping to bring his talents to the MLB, but the Players Association is standing in the way.

Typically, when a player like Otani becomes available to sign, there is a massive bidding war. Because of his age, only 23, the signing will mirror more of a college recruitment process, rather than a typical negotiation for an MLB free agent. The club that ends up signing Otani will be forced to pay a posting fee to his Japan Pacific League team, the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters.

CBA

Under the most recent posting system, according to Baseball America, the “fee was capped at $20 million, but there is no current posting agreement between Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball and Major League Baseball.” An agreement needs to be announced before Otani can come to the US. The goal is to lower the costs of the bids, especially after we saw Nippon Ham Fighters receive a $51 million posting fee from the Rangers for Yu Darvish.

According to the old Collective Bargaining Agreement, “Otani would have been eligible to be a true free agent if posted this offseason, not subject to any bonus restrictions” (Baseball America). Unfortunately, under the current CBA, the age cutoff to become exempt from the bonus pools was altered to 25, after it was previously 23.

Because of this, Otani would have to sign a minor league deal. Otani could earn some extra cash in his signing bonus, but this only allots to a few million because teams do not have a lot lying around in their 2017-18 international bonus allotments.

If Otani decided to come after the 2019 season, he would have a chance to sign as a true free agent, and receive a contract that is north of $150 million. There is even a chance that his signing bonus will be less than the money he would earn if he stayed in Japan for the upcoming season. All in all, teams will have to sell Otani on why he should come play in their city, rather than flaunting money in his face.

Just how good is he?

In 2017, as a member of the Fighters, Otani in 231 plate appearances, hit .332 with eight home runs and 31 RBIs. As a pitcher, he posted a 3-2 record with a 3.20 ERA. In 2016, while starting 20 games, Otani went 10-4 with a 1.86 ERA, and struck out 174 batters in just 140 innings of work. As a hitter, he hit .322 with 22 home runs in 323 at-bats.

Shohei Otani

In 2016, Otani hit .322 with 22 home runs (NBC Sports)

Otani hopes to hit and pitch in the MLB, but will be able to pull it off?

“It’s difficult,” Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said in an interview. “It depends on the quality of both skill sets. The usage and the expectations of it will really come into play. It’s going to take a special player to do both. It’s hard enough to do one or the other.”

That is a polite way of saying Otani will not be able to do both. There is no shot someone would be able to put up numbers as both a hitter and a pitcher. The whole “Japan’s Babe Ruth” talks need to stop.

First off, there are only six teams in the league that Otani plays in. Six, which means that there are far less players to game plan for. Also, if we are looking at Otani as a pitcher, the guy has never thrown over 200 innings. If you think he is just going to come over here and dominate, then you are mistaken my friend. At least Yu Darvish had four seasons of 200+ innings before making the move to the MLB.

The most innings Otani has ever thrown was 160, back in 2015. He has totaled 543 innings in his five seasons. Before jumping to the MLB, Daisuke Matsuzaka had thrown over 1,400 innings. Hiroki Kuroda had over 2,000 under his belt before signing with the Dodgers. Both were unable to make an All-Star team and did not sustain consistent success in the states.

In 2008, Hisashi Iwakuma, a member of the Golden Eagles, went 21-4 with a 1.87 ERA in 201.2 innings. Iwakuma has had a solid couple of years in the states, but nothing special. This is a guy who logged over 1500 innings in Japan, yet is an average pitcher at best.

Offense

Shohei Otani

Yakult Swallows legend, Akinori Imamura (The Trading Card Database)

Sure, his 2016 offensive stats were really good, but he had less than 330 at-bats. Does anyone remember Kosuke Fukudome? Before signing with the Cubs, Fukudome had some monster seasons in the same league that Otani plays in. In 2003, Fukudome hit .313 with 34 home runs and 96 RBIs. The year before, he hit .343 in over 600 plate appearances. In five MLB seasons, Fukudome was a career .258 hitter and hit a total of 42 home runs. Translation, even a full-time hitter, who mashed in Japan, struggled to hit over .250 in the MLB.

What about Akinori Iwamura? As a member of the Yakult Swallows in 2004, Iwamura hit 44 home runs with 103 RBIs. The following season, he hit 30 more home runs and drove in 102. In 2006, Iwamura hit .311 with 32 home runs. In his four MLB seasons, Iwamura hit .267 with 16 total home runs. I think it’s fair to say that the competition is a tad different.

Conclusion

If Otani comes to the MLB for the 2018 season, he will be one of the most over-hyped busts of all-time. He does not have the experience as a pitcher to perform over the course of an MLB season and his offensive stats do not even resemble guys like Iwamura and Fukudome, two boarder line scrubs in the MLB.

If Otani was smart, he would stay in Japan and focus on his game. He should pitch two more seasons in Japan, throw at least 200 innings in both of them, and then receive a monster $100-million-dollar contract from an MLB team if he performs. Instead, he is going to come over to the MLB, prove he is not elite at pitching or hitting, and miss out on hundreds of millions of dollars.

 

Featured image by SI.com

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Best World Series performances since 2000

As we inch closer and closer to the Fall Classic, it only makes sense to go back in time and review the top World Series performances since 2000.

Barry Bonds, San Francisco Giants (2002) 

.471/.700/1.294, 4 HR, 6 RBI, 8 R, 13 BB, (seven games, lost)

best World Series performances

Bonds was intentionally walked seven times in the series (New York Daily News)

Although the Giants would go on to lose to the Angels in seven games, Bonds would be the last guy to blame. He was walked 13 times in 30 plate appearances, which is still the record for walks in a World Series.

Bonds was intentionally walked seven times, including three in Game 3. He was literally on base 70 percent of the time. Bonds’ four World Series home runs ranks second all time.

In Game 7, Bonds was never able to come to the plate with runners on, and went 1-3 with a walk.

Game 1 and 7 were the only games in the series in which Bonds was unable to reach base at least three times.

Hideki Matsui, New York Yankees (2009)

.615/.643/1.385, 3 HR, 8 RBI, (6 games, won)

The 2009 World Series MVP, Matsui currently holds the record for slugging percentage as well as on base plus slugging in a World Series. Matsui hit an insane .615, with three long balls and 8 RBIs. In Game 3, he knocked in six, which tied Bobby Richardson’s 1960 World Series record for most RBIs in a World Series game.

The craziest part about Matsui’s historic October performance was the fact that he was strictly used as the designated hitter. Due to half the series being in Philadelphia, he only started three games. Not only was he the first DH to win the award, but Matsui became the first Japanese-born player to earn MVP honors. Trivia: Who are the only players to hit three home runs and bat over .500 in the World Series? Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, and Hideki Matsui.

Side note: Although the Phillies lost the series to New York, Chase Utley hit five home runs, which is tied with Reggie Jackson for most in a World Series. Had to mention it.

David Freese, St. Louis Cardinals (2011)

.348/.464/.696, 3 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 7 RBI, 5 BB, (7 games, won)

It would be a sin not to mention David Freese in top World Series performances. He had possibly the most clutch performance in major league history during the late innings of Game 6. With the Rangers up 7-5, and three games to two in the series, Freese stepped up to the plate with two outs in the ninth. Down in the count, 1-2, Freese hit a two-run triple off Neftali Feliz to tie the game. In the 11th inning, Freese came up clutch again and forced Game 7 with a walk-off home run to dead center.

Following his epic performance in Game 6, Freese kept it going in Game 7, with a two-run double in the first inning. The 2011 World Series MVP, Freese became the sixth player to win the LCS and World Series MVPs in the same year. In the 2011 postseason, he tallied up 21 RBIs, which is a postseason record. Freese also holds the postseason record for total bases, and is tied for first with his former teammate, Albert Pujols, with eight doubles in a postseason.

Another side note: Lance Berkman had quite the World Series as well. In that same Game 6, Berkman went 3-for-5 with a home run, a walk, four runs and three RBIs. Berkman walked in the ninth and later scored on Freese’s triple.

In the 10th, with St. Louis down to their final out, Berkman singled in the game-tying run. He would go on score two more runs in Game 7. Berkman hit .423 in the series, and his nine total runs rank second all time.

Pablo Sandoval, San Francisco Giants (2012, 2014)

2012: .500/.529/1.125, 3 HR, 4 RBI, (4 games, won)

2014: .429/.467/.536 12 H, 3 2B, 4 RBI, 6 R (7 games, won)

As much of a disaster Sandoval turned out to be for Boston, Giants fans will never forget the impact he had on their 2012 and 2014 championship runs. In Game 1 of the 2012 World Series, Sandoval joined Babe Ruth, Reggie Jackson and Albert Pujols as the only players to hit three home runs in World Series game.

If the series went more than four games, Sandoval could have put up historic numbers. He would go on to be named World Series MVP, as well as receiving the Babe Ruth Award, which is given out to the best postseason performer.

In 2014, Sandoval racked up 12 hits, leaving him one shy of the World Series record. His 26 hits in the 2014 postseason is an all-time record.

David Ortiz, Boston Red Sox (2013)

.688/.760/1.188, 2 2B, 2 HR, 6 RBI, 7 R, 8 BB, (6 games, won)

best World Series performances

David Ortiz, the King of October (The Sports Fan Journal)

Most people remember Ortiz’ game-tying grand slam off Joaquin Benoit in the 2013 ALCS, but the 2013 World Series MVP had quite the Fall Classic. Everyone on the Red Sox not named David Ortiz hit a combined .169 in the 2013 World Series.

Big Papi put the team on his back. His .688 batting average, and .760 on base percentage, both rank second all time in their respected categories. He reached base three or more times in five of the six games.

Ortiz hit a home run in both Game 1 and 2, and his 1.188 slugging percentage is eighth all-time. He is widely considered one of the best postseason players this game has ever seen. For his playoff career, Ortiz ranks top 10 in at bats, runs scored, hits, total bases, doubles, runs batted in, home runs and walks.

MLB POSTSEASON RECORDS

Will any of these record be broken in 2017?

18 plate appearances or 7 BB + H required

CATEGORY STAT PLAYER(S)
BATTING AVERAGE .750 Billy Hatcher (1990)
ON-BASE % .800 Billy Hatcher (1990)
SLUGGING % 1.727 Lou Gehrig (1928)
RUNS 10 Paul Molitor (1993)

Reggie Jackson (1977)

HITS 13 Marty Barrett (1986)

Bobby Richardson (1964)

Lou Brock (1968)

TOTAL BASES 25 Willie Stargell (1979)

Reggie Jackson (1977)

HOME RUNS 5 Chase Utley (2009)

Reggie Jackson (1977)

RUNS BATTED IN 12 Bobby Richardson (1960)
BASE ON BALLS 13 Barry Bonds (2002)
STEALS 7 Lou Brock (1967, 1968)

 

Featured image by Zimbio.com

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