Thursday, November 14, 2013

Michihiro Ogasawara Scouting Report

In the most recent list of players who have exercised their free agent options in the NPB, an interesting name popped up: Michihiro Ogasawara. Ogasawara is a 40 year old left-handed infielder that has spent the last seven years with the Yomuiri Giants, but has played in just 56 Ichi-Gun games over the last two seasons, yet he has not exercised his domestic free agent option, but his international free agent option, meaning he must be looking to come to the United States or play in a different league.

Statistically, Ogasawara was a very interesting NPB player for quite some time, posting an OPS of at least .900 each season from 2000-2010, playing in at least 100 games each year (and at least 130 in all but one). He has hit 377 homers in the NPB, and had an OBP over .400 from 2000-2004 (.389 for his career). However, the drop off was sudden and dramatic. In 83 games in 2011, Ogasawara's walk rate dropped to 8.6 % (from his career rate of 11.1 %) and his strikeout rate jumped to 21 % (from 15.98 % for his career). His power was sapped as well, as his slugging rate dropped to .338, poor for even the run starved environment of the NPB's 2011-2012 seasons. In 99 plate appearances in 2012, he hit a hilarious .152/.194/.185 and was given just 40 plate appearances in 2013.

Ogasawara had 100 plate appearances in the Ni-Gun in 2013, and he was below average at getting hits, extra base hits, walks, and strikeout too much. Statistically, Ogasawara looks done. He has moved from mainly 3rd base to exclusively 1st base, and he has never really been a stolen base threat, which has only been exasperated over the past couple of years (no stolen bases over the last two years in the Ichi-gun, no stolen bases in the Ni-gun this year). So all the value comes out of his bat, something that has disappeared over the past three years.

Since he is a free agent, it doesn't make sense to look back at what he was, but instead, who he is now.  Here is Ogasawara's only NPB homer in the last two years

The pitch doesn't appear to be especially fast, but he does an okay job of getting around on a pitch up and in despite the crazy hand positioning and the weird way he holds his bat. The bat path is smooth, and apparently the speed works, but he doesn't look like a prototypical power hitter. It makes me wonder where he generated his power from when he was a big time NPB home run hitter.

Here is another 2013 swing, where he apparently thinks he hit a homer, but actually makes an out:

The pitch is more on the outside part of the plate, and about 89 MPH. He pulls it with some authority, but I do find the fact that he flips the bat like it is a homer, only to see that it is not. I don't want to read too much into it, but he has nearly 400 career homers, you would think he would know when he has homered. The power is clearly not what it used to be, and we can judge that by statistics.

I really can't see him making an impact or even an attractive option for teams outside the NPB. He doesn't appear to have a quirk, like Shunsuke Watanabe, that may make him attractive as a part time player. At one time, he would have made sense for MLB teams since he had real power, but those days are gone.

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