Red Sox sign RHP Hirokazu Sawamura, 2 yr/$2.4M

shaggydog2000

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Somewhere Koji Uehara is high-fiving a whole bunch of people.

Not because of this move, just because he loves doing that.
 

mauf

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Sawamura hasn’t set the world on fire in Japan the past couple years, but neither did Okajima his last couple years in Japan before signing here. Sawamura might amount to nothing, but there’s upside you wouldn’t get with a domestic journeyman reliever who could be had on similar terms. I like the signing.
 

Tokyo Sox

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Somewhere Koji Uehara is high-fiving a whole bunch of people.

Not because of this move, just because he loves doing that.
Yep and

Sawamura hasn’t set the world on fire in Japan the past couple years, but neither did Okajima his last couple years in Japan before signing here. Sawamura might amount to nothing, but there’s upside you wouldn’t get with a domestic journeyman reliever who could be had on similar terms. I like the signing.
Yep. This is the correct takeaway I think -- who knows what we're getting but for that money it's almost entirely upside. The change of scenery mid-season from Yomiuri to Lotte seemed to do him good; hopefully he also adjusts well to this much bigger change of scenery. His career once he moved to the pen has been mostly pretty successful. The walks are the only real area of concern imho.
 

TonyPenaNeverJuiced

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I've been trying to find a behind-the-plate view on his pitching because I suspect he's pretty tough to pick up. From the break, he takes the ball real low behind him towards 2nd, then swings it out towards first, then back up to a short-armed release... meaning there's a lot going on before he hides the ball behind his head right before release. Sometimes he seems to lag too long bringing the ball to the release zone, leaving some of his pitches high in the zone - this might also explain why his release arm angle seems to be anywhere from about 1-2:30 o'clock. He opens his chest early and finishes closer to 1B, bringing the arm angle down. But even with this variation, he throws some filthy stuff. I highly suggest slowing down this clip @ 1:03 (should be queued), when he throws a ~93mph split that you'd be better off swinging a mop at cause you might as well clean up the mess it makes. I suspect he'll have at least a small honeymoon period while opponents try to build a book on him.

 

TonyPenaNeverJuiced

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There's this.
Well, I didn't claim that my Japanese wasn't rusty . . . but thank you for sharing this one! Would love for a true behind-the plate, but darn this is great.

It certainly seems like he 1. used to not have as exaggerated movement of the ball-hand towards 1B when he starts snapping it forward 2. can be very effective with his open-chested releases (Okijima is just about the best example of this working), though it (anecdotally from only a few videos) seems that he's been driving more towards the plate, and less towards 1B, at least in the 2020 videos I'm seeing. It's subtle, but the plane of his shoulders as he reaches the release point looks more horizontal now. Whatever, I can't wait to watch him pitch and see how hitters take it.
 

DeadlySplitter

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I assume the 2.4 --> 3 M increase is a 600k buyout.

if he turns into an elite setup man (I am guessing that's his ceiling?), 3/7.65 is still a bargain.
 
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The comparable here is, hopefully, Hideki Okajima. He came here at about the same age (31) and gave us three seasons of good middle inning relief. He averaged 64 innings with WHIPs of .971, 1.161 and 1.262.
 

Rich Garces Belly

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The comparable here is, hopefully, Hideki Okajima. He came here at about the same age (31) and gave us three seasons of good middle inning relief. He averaged 64 innings with WHIPs of .971, 1.161 and 1.262.
this is an awful comparison based solely on race. Different kind of pitchers completely and even throw with different arms. Be better than basing projections solely on ones race.
 

tims4wins

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this is an awful comparison based solely on race. Different kind of pitchers completely and even throw with different arms. Be better than basing projections solely on ones race.
I think the comparison is more based on coming over from the same league at the same age to pitch in the majors for the first time. I don't see the post as comparing anything about their pitching style. Just hoping for similar results based on the circumstances. I know we are hyper sensitive to race, misogyny, etc. around here but I think this reaction is unfair.
 

Jimbodandy

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I think the comparison is more based on coming over from the same league at the same age to pitch in the majors for the first time. I don't see the post as comparing anything about their pitching style. Just hoping for similar results based on the circumstances. I know we are hyper sensitive to race, misogyny, etc. around here but I think this reaction is unfair.
Speier's scouting report profiles him as a setup guy, similar age, played in Japan like Okajima with a similar lack of dominance there. The comparison is entirely apt.

If he was a 27yo outfielder from an indy league, people would compare him to Daniel Nava.
 

tims4wins

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Speier's scouting report profiles him as a setup guy, similar age, played in Japan like Okajima with a similar lack of dominance there. The comparison is entirely apt.

If he was a 27yo outfielder from an indy league, people would compare him to Daniel Nava.
Exactly. Or if they drafted a 5'7 middle IF from Arizona State.
 

Tokyo Sox

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Speier's scouting report profiles him as a setup guy, similar age, played in Japan like Okajima with a similar lack of dominance there. The comparison is entirely apt.

If he was a 27yo outfielder from an indy league, people would compare him to Daniel Nava.
Agree with this except for the bolded. Sawamura has been significantly better for most of his NPB career than Okajima was for his. Oki was signed in part to keep Matsuzaka company, and happened to develop his best pitch by accident in Spring Training after we'd already signed him. That said yes the comparison is still apt because Oki became a much better pitcher than anyone could have expected and hopefully we get a few good similar years from Sawamura, for whom initial expectations should be higher.
 

shaggydog2000

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He's also got a little funk in his delivery. I don't know if all the pitchers in Japan have more unique windups, if it's just the pitchers the Sox get (Nomo, Okajima, Koji), or just the ones I remember because they stood out. But if Okajima was the Bootsy Collins of funky deliveries, this guy is like one of the Ohio Players. Hopefully it helps his stuff play up.
 

Tokyo Sox

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He's also got a little funk in his delivery. I don't know if all the pitchers in Japan have more unique windups, if it's just the pitchers the Sox get (Nomo, Okajima, Koji), or just the ones I remember because they stood out. But if Okajima was the Bootsy Collins of funky deliveries, this guy is like one of the Ohio Players. Hopefully it helps his stuff play up.
You know I've always found this so strange, and I don't know where it comes from. In a country where fundamentals are drilled into you all day everyday from the time you pick up a baseball, I don't know how so many hitches and twists make their way through the gauntlet to the bigs.
 

mauf

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this is an awful comparison based solely on race. Different kind of pitchers completely and even throw with different arms. Be better than basing projections solely on ones race.
They both pitched very well in the Japanese leagues. Both were elite in their 20s but had slipped from that level and hadn’t been elite for a couple years before signing with the Red Sox for short money. There’s certainly no assurance that Sawamura will replicate Okajima’s success — it’s more of a best-case scenario than a true comp — but the precedent shows it’s at least possible that a good but not great reliever from the Japanese leagues can come over here and enjoy some success.

You’re the only one making it about race.

Edit: Certainly will defer to @Tokyo Sox in his description of their respective Japanese careers. I’m just looking at Baseball Reference.
 

Tokyo Sox

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They both pitched very well in the Japanese leagues. Both were elite in their 20s but had slipped from that level and hadn’t been elite for a couple years before signing with the Red Sox for short money. There’s certainly no assurance that Sawamura will replicate Okajima’s success — it’s more of a best-case scenario than a true comp — but the precedent shows it’s at least possible that a good but not great reliever from the Japanese leagues can come over here and enjoy some success.

You’re the only one making it about race.

Edit: Certainly will defer to @Tokyo Sox in his description of their respective Japanese careers. I’m just looking at Baseball Reference.
No need - I agree with the general thrust of your post, we're just parsing terms like 'elite' at this stage. I don't have much special insight beyond what you can find on BR. Sawamura was considered an elite closer at one point while Okajima never really was, and Oki always walked more guys. I think the expectations coming out of NPB should be higher for Sawamura, but as we know Oki developed his best pitch once he got Stateside.
 

Jimbodandy

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No need - I agree with the general thrust of your post, we're just parsing terms like 'elite' at this stage. I don't have much special insight beyond what you can find on BR. Sawamura was considered an elite closer at one point while Okajima never really was, and Oki always walked more guys. I think the expectations coming out of NPB should be higher for Sawamura, but as we know Oki developed his best pitch once he got Stateside.
Thanks for the reminder about that split/change thing of his. It really is remarkable that he developed that pitch here and how important it was to his success (and that year frankly). So much time has passed that the knowledge had simply vanished from the file cabinet.