Thursday, June 04, 2009


Tazawa Delivers

I got my first look at the Japanese sensation Junichi Tazawa Tuesday night, and I have to say that my overall impression based on just this one game is positive but somewhat mixed.

First of all, the line was solid: 7 IP, 5 hits. 2 runs. no walks, 3 punchouts.

He was far from overpowering, however, as there were a lot of hard hit balls and more great defensive plays than I'm used to seeing.

His stuff doesn't look overpowering, either. His fastball tops out at about 92, but seems to have some good sinking action on it. He recorded 10 ground ball outs vs. 8 fly outs. He also throws a slider and a curve ball. (Slider AND curve ball? Those crazy Japanese!) Slider in the low-mid 80's and curve in the 70's. He throws the off speed stuff a lot, which I wasn't expecting. According to, he also has a forkball with some potential. I know I saw this pitch once (and thought, "Wow! What was that?") - mid-80's with a wicked break. If he can throw that thing for strikes, it'll be a helluva changeup. I don't recall seeing it other times, but maybe it looked different because it went into the dirt.

He threw a lot of strikes, though maybe not the greatest command inside the zone (see prior comment about hard-hit balls). He didn't work too many deep counts in the game. I had him at 100 pitches exactly over seven innings, but I think it was 72 through six, so a crisp 12 pitches/inning.

He's definitely good, and at an appropriate level for his age (22). I'm not sure I see an obvious top-of-the-rotation arm, but I can see him as a mid-rotation guy. And if he can command all the offspeed stuff and throw it for strikes when he needs to, he can definitely keep hitters off balance and perhaps succeed at the top of the rotation, a la Greg Maddux. (Not that I'm comparing him to Maddux, or course. He won't be nearly as good as Maddux, but he's an example of a guy who had lots of success without the plus heat.)

Through 11 starts, Tazawa has thrown 61.1 innings with a 2.79 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 2.5 BB9 and greater than 3:1 K:BB ratio. He's definitely one of the better pitchers in the EL this year, and I can see him warranting a July promotion to Pawtucket. But I don't think Boston will see much of him before 2011.

Labels: , ,