Saturday, November 10, 2012

Scouting Report on Hirokazu Sawamura

24 year old Hirokazu Sawamura has dominated the NPB over the last two years, with a 20.772 K %, 6.5 BB %, and .6 HR/9IP over the last two years. This is versus the league averages of 17.461 K %, and 7.578 BB %, and 5 HR/9IP. As we have previously seen, the NPB is a league that suppresses offense with the new ball (as evidenced by both the drop in homers and in runs in general), but the K/BB isn't anything dramatic and hasn't really even changed.

Here is Sawamura's NPB Tracker Data:

I watched him in the Asia Series pitch against the Lotte Giants of the KBO. This is inferior competition to what he is used to in the NPB. But on to the videos:



Sawamura threw it as hard 92.38 to 95.48 MPH with sink, but also showed the ability to throw it high. So basically he can work both eye levels. He got some whiffs with it but gave up several baserunners. He seemed to be really fastball heavy early on and it wasn't until late in the game that he got late into the game.
The fastball moves, that is, it isn't straight. It is a MLB fastball. His average fastball may be a little under average, but he can run it up there with some authority when needed.


 The control of this pitch was not very good, and it was his main breaking pitch:


Sawamura didn't throw this pitch a lot, and sometimes it was a little difficult to distinguish from the slider.


The curveball seemed the be the least used pitch (as evidenced by it being what is probably the worst video).

For a guy who has dominated the NPB, the outing against Lotte was not very good, as he struggled with command and control through out. However, even though it wasn't his best day, he still showed good velocity, missed some bats, and looked like a pitcher who might be able to succeed in the Majors with, possessing two decent breaking pitches.

Here is the heat map for the game he threw the most pitches in 2012 (unfortunately, NPB tracker does not have heat maps for seasons, just individual games):

As you can see, Sawamura likes to live in the high part or even in the middle of the zone. This isn't a big deal if this is with his good fastballs.

Depending on his control, I could see him being an average to slightly below average starter in the big leagues. He has the fastball to be a big league starter and has shown durability and has had success at a relatively young age. As almost always, the key to success will rely on the development of his breaking pitches (which look okay) and control.

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