Everyday until spring training begins the "Respect Jeter's Gangster" blog will review one player from the Yankees roster. We will review a total of 27 players, the 25 we believe will be on the active roster after spring training, and 2 we believe should be on the active roster but won't be for one reason or another. Our reviews are all edited by Carl Pavano himself to insure they're up to the stringent "Pavano Tough" standards.
Although he has not been mentioned as a potential starter for next season, the fact still remains that Kei Igawa is signed to the Yankees, and they would like to get a return on their investment. With 4 years, $16 million remaining on his contract, not to mention the $26 million the Yankees posted to negotiate with him, they would be wise to give him a chance to succeed. Better known as the other Japanese pitcher who came over through the posting system last season, Kei Igawa has been a dissapointment. Although Cashman stated that Igawa was not a top of the rotation guy and was more of a work in progress when they signed him, I think for the money they gave him most fans expected him to solidify the 4th or 5th spot in the rotation. Instead, he traveled between the Yankees and Single A Tampa where they tweaked his pitching style, let him pitch in the majors again, watched him fail, and sent him back to the minors. The interesting thing with Kei Igawa is that despite the lack of velocity on his pitches, he gets a lot of strikeouts. He also gives up a lot of homeruns. Its been the common consensus that he leaves too many pitches up in the zone, and MLB hitters crush those.
His 2007 campaign was not a complete disaster, as he stepped in to releive Jeff Karstens in the first inning of a Red Sox game, and pitched 6 masterful innings of two hit shutout ball to get the win. It would be his second and final win in the majors. His final start was a 5 inning shutout of the Rays, but if you watched the game you'd know how much some amazing defensive plays saved the day.
Igawa needs to show he can perform out of the bullpen. When he kept the ball down he could be effective, but when he got in trouble, he tended to elevate his pitches and get crushed. If he can show that he can get outs in the majors, I think the Yankees would be wise to trade him to a National League team where he could probably be more effective. The Yankees should not make the same mistake as Pavano, and not trade him when he has some value. As a releiver, I just don't think having 4 years and $16 million is good value. He might be able to start for some National League teams.
My Fearless Prediction:
Last season I bought tickets to 3 games. It fell upon my lucky stars that all three of those games were pitched by Kei Igawa. Every time I went, I hoped to see a no hitter, but instead saw hitters hit the crap out of his pitches. I just don't see Igawa contributing much at the big league level, though I do believe he will be given every chance to. My hope is that he can become a consistant releiver with a high 3 ERA. If Yankee coaches can figure out how to harness his high strikeout rates, while eliminating his high homerun rates he could become very effective. Left handers hit better off him than right handers did, (.320 for lefties, and .264 for righties), so I do not see him becoming a lefty specialist. I do not believe this will happen however, and I think Igawa will soon be in the minors again. I hope he proves me wrong.
Little Known Igawa Fact: Contrary to what Yankee scouts, talent evaluators, player developers, and pitching coordinators may have thought, Kei Igawa sucks.