Changeup Will Define Kei Igawa’s Success

As is the case for any pitcher on foreign soil, there’s no consensus on what kind of player he will be in the United States. Physical talents are one thing to gauge, but how the transition is made and his physical gifts translate to Major League Baseball are unknown quantities. In the case of LHP Kei Igawa, whom the Yankees just paid a reported $25 million for negotiating rights, all signs are pointing to a No. 3 Major League starter as the best case scenario.

Igawa is not a flamethrower, but you wouldn’t be able to tell if you simply looked at his arsenal and mentality. His fastball sits in the 89-91 mph range and has nice downward action that should translate well if or when he begins pitching in New York. He adds a slider that is an out pitch in Japan, but likely doesn’t have the juice to make big league hitters, especially right-handers, consistently swing and miss. Overaggression is an issue with both of these pitches, as his fastball misses up in the zone when he reaches back too far and his slider flattens out and spins when he overthrows it.

His solid, though unspectaculr, fastball-slider combination leads me to what I think will define his career in the U.S. – his ability to throw his change-up for a strike. As I noted on Weighed Bloggs, he has the right arm action for a quality change, but must throw it more often and develop a better feel to find success. Comparisons have been made between Igawa and Kaz Ishii, but Igawa projects more favorably because he has a.) better three-pitch potential and b.) better command than Ishii.

Making Up For Lost Time: My First Post On MLBlogs

It’s great to be here on MLBlogs.com, I’m new to the blog game but am looking forward to posting in this community. I currently work on a site called Weighed Bloggs that talks about all sports and wanted to start a blog just to talk about baseball. The name "Hrbek Heaven" was a pretty random choice, so I’m not from Minneapolis or a long, lost cousin of Kent, Dan Gladden or Frank Viola; I just thought the name was funny.

Baseball has special meaning to me. I think a lot of people feel that kind of special draw to the game, which is something non-fans can’t really understand. I go back 20 years having some association with the game, first as a bat boy for my older brothers’ tee-ball teams in 1985 and currently in my third year as a sports information director for an NCAA Division I baseball team. What drew me to the game before I ever played is the same thing that has drawn me since I’ve stopped playing it. And though I could talk all day about it, I can’t really describe what exactly IT is.

A coach once said, and actually still does say, to me, "It’s always baseball season," and that’s the way I’m feeling about writing a blog about it. Mathematically, baseball season is nearly at its furthest point from us, but most of us are as excited as if it were tomorrow. The Cubs making a splash and signing Alfonso Soriano today probably magnified that feeling for many of us, mainly because we’re already visualizing what the Cubs new lineup will look like.

I personally think it’s going to be huge for Chicago because the signing gives them a game-changer at the top of their lineup. It doesn’t hurt that he’s been in the spotlight before and is beginning to embrace it and play better under pressure. It will take pressure off of first baseman Derrek Lee and give him plenty of opportunities to fuel big innings. That’s both after Soriano has done damage and driven in runs AND when Soriano and others are in scoring position.

Having signed Neal Cotts, the Cubs will also either have a pitcher to shore up their rotation or a third quality left-handed reliever that has pitched World Series eighth innings. Mark DeRosa, not the sexiest signing we’ll see over the winter months, has proven he can be an everyday player and could be a real bargain. The search for a center fielder continues, but general manager Jim Hendry and new skipper Lou Pinella have considerably more to work with now than they did in September.

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