Friday, August 30, 2013

Chihiro Kaneko Scouting Report

Chihiro Kaneko has made him self a force to be reckoned with, along with thrusting himself into the discussion as one of the better pitchers in the NPB. The 29 year old right-handed pitcher for the Orix Buffaloes has come off an elbow injury, which limited him to 63.2 innings in 2012, beautifully. He is having the best season of his career, with a stunning 48 ERA - and 79 kwERA - on the season. So despite his listed size of 5-11 170, he is statistically interesting enough that I think he needs to be talked about both in terms of how he is successful in the NPB, and whether or not this success could possibly carry over to the MLB if the opportunity presented itself.

In his most recent start, Kaneko threw a complete game, his 4th complete game in the last five outings, giving up just two runs in 116 pitches, with seven strikeouts and one walk. I took the data from that game and separated the pitch types by the Yahoo! classifications. Below is each of his pitches, along with the average velocity, usage percentage, and notable results of the pitches in the outing. I also GIFed what looked like each pitch to give a visual view (they are not from the outing in question, and they are somewhat random in that some of them are whiffs, some are just balls, and some are actually hits. Don't let the result of the one GIF color the judgment of the pitch's effectiveness, instead use it to look at the pitch's movement and Kaneko's delivery on a whole).

Fastball: 89.13 MPH, 29.3 % usage, 7 whiffs, 6 fly-balls (1 HR), 1 grounder

2-seam: 87.22 MPH, 7.8 %, 2 whiffs, 1 fly-ball

Changeup: 78.46 MPH, 20.7 %, 5 whiffs, 3 fly-balls, 2 grounders

Curve: 67.58 MPH, 6 %, 1 whiff, 1 fly-ball

Cuttter: 85.78 MPH, 12.1 %, 4 grounders

 Fork: 84.23 MPH, 6 %, 3 whiffs, 2 grounders

 Slider: 78.36 MPH, 15.5 %, 2 whiffs, 2 fly-balls, 3 grounders

Kaneko is roughly as good against lefties as righties, yielding a lower batting average against righties with more strikeouts, but walking less lefties (the amount of batters faced for both sides is about equal) and only 2 of his 7 homers allowed are against lefties.

I like the fork/splitter pitch, and that is how he limits his platoon splits, but the stuff across the board is not really notable, with a fastball that sits below 90 MPH, a slider that sits below 80 MPH, a mediocre looking change he throws more than the forkball, and a curve that sits under 70 MPH.

You can't really argue with his NPB success this season, and I think as long as he stays healthy, he will be a good NPB pitcher for the foreseeable future because he has decent velocity and a good mix of pitches that he can and will attack the strike zone with. At the same time, I don't think he is quite the MLB prospect that his numbers suggest he might be. He doesn't quite look like the guy that MLB teams would be interested in and it is really tough to know how his breaking pitches would play in the Majors.

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