POTD Kawasaki Munenori - friendly scouts this time, eh


Q.  Okay, here's a non-star from Japan.  Can those guys play in the bigs?

A.  Well, Kawasaki does make the All-Star game and the WBC there.  But you know what we mean.  It's like you sent LeBron and Kobe and Dwayne Wade to play in a higher league, and they did kinda good, and now you want to send Kris Humphries and see what happens.

My instinct was, "you gotta be kidding me.  They'll knock the bat out of his hands.  Go fight in your weight class, kid."

I mean, Nishioka came over and posted an ISO of .029 -- that is, in about half of a season, he had 50 hits, of which 45 were singles and the other 5 doubles.  As Emperor Palpatine said, I don' want that in my sight. again.


But then we siiigggghhhhhed and trudged over to the b-ref.com NPB player page, to look at all the little infielders.  Just to check whether their ISO's have been miserable.  As you know, your intuition on a position might be better than a computer's, but only after you've carefully uploaded the patterns.  How has it worked out before?

Dr. D found, to his great surprise, that the ISO's of Japanese players aren't bad.  Not at all.  Not even for the littler guys.


Q.  ISO's aren't bad for NPB players?  Like what?

A.  We found 10 Japanese hitters (with half a season's games).   This group had an ISO of .125, in 25,000 plate appearances.

.140 to .150 is ML average, and as a rule the 10 players were smaller guys.  We're just saying:  you can't knock the bat out of their hands.

In fact, of the ten players we looked at (Godzilla, Ichiro, Johjima, Iguchi, Fukudome, Taguchi, K-Mat, Iwamura, Shinjo and Nishioka) ... Ichiro had the lowest career ISO.  Except for Nishioka's 68 games.  Think about that for a minute.  That's a little like saying that ten MLB players went to Japan, and Dustin Ackley had the least power.

So Dr. D was placing wayyyyyy too much weight on Nishioka's little 68-game travail.


Q.  Supposing that Kawasaki could defend himself at the plate?  Would a 75-OPS+ shortstop be of any use?

A.  Well, Capt. Jack is on his third iteration of that algorithm ... what was it that he paid Jack Wilson to provide that?

Old-school baseball men are partial to great defensive shortstops who are "pesky" with the bat.  In my day the World Series teams lived on that fare ... Dave Concepcion, Bert Campaneris and all the rest of them.

Did you notice how tolerant and friendly the scouts sounded this time?  :- )


Awfully tough to replace Brendan Ryan with Kawasaki, considering the hair-fine territorial instincts of American players.  Brendan Ryan has a great baseball face, you know?


ghost's picture

...that in any leage to league conversion, the right answer is not to apply a series of linear correlations...but to do curve fitting based on skills.  When I say curve fitting, I literally mean fit the entire curve.  You need to know what the 95th percentile AAA player does when going to the big leagues.  Not what the (140 OPS+) player does.  And you want to know the same thing in re: Japan.  Munenori is a (insert)th percentile player in the NPB (fill me in, NPB experts)...and that group lands on the (insert) percentile in the big leagues?
I have a feeling he's lower on that scale than we want.  I have a feeling it's the smarter course to pass on him.  And I have an ugly feeling we won't do that.


No telling how weakly Kawasaki could hit, from the standpoint of that curve-vs-curve paradigm you're talking about.
From the standpoint of watching him in the batter's box, I do wonder whether he can pull a Taguchi and play "up" in the States.  Kawasaki takes the anti-Figgins swing in the box, and he's got a good eye, and he bats left.
If Kawasaki is willing to accept a low bar on playing time, and genuinely prove it, I'd be enthused to have him.


Or so the Japanese papers are speculating, as Kawasaki gets on a plane headed East.
Zduriencik again affirmed his desire for a backup shortstop, earlier emphasizing the glove side of that.  
Could see Kawasaki being a factor in a rebound season for Ichiro, and I'd enjoy watching him play.

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