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SoftBank 2010 Pitching Grades

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SoftBank 2010 Pitching Grades
Another year of improvement from the Hawks, but not quite good enough to get over the hump and back to the Promised Land. Everybody in the Pacific League had ups and downs, and there was a startling amount of parity in the league this year, as evidenced by the trials and triumphs of the Orix Buffaloes, who were the interleague champions. However, we're not here to talk about them, we're here to talk about the Hawks. Great things await this team. They're oh-so-close, and next year could be it if they can stop choking in the playoffs.

Toshiya Sugiuchi (27 games, 16-7, 3.55): C+
I gave him an A last year because he was so good and so reliable. This year he...wasn't. Sugiuchi had so many truly awful starts, I think it matched the total of bad starts from 2008 and 2009 combined. What also brings his grade down was how he faltered down the stretch. He looked like the bad-every-other-year Sugiuchi from 2002-2006.

Tsuyoshi Wada (26 starts 17-8, 3.14): B+
Finally, a healthy season for the 2003 Rookie of the Year. He set career highs in starts, wins, and also dropped his home run total again. Integral cog in the rotation, and was even the team's de facto ace for most of the season, considering Sugiuchi's struggles. Tied for league lead in wins with Chihiro Kaneko (ORX).

DJ Houlton (15 games, 8-6, 5.70): D
He was hurt twice this season with a bothersome adductor muscle he pulled in an interleague game against Hanshin. Other than that, he looked extremely hittable. He seemed to add a needless hitch in his delivery, and may have been tipping pitches because of it. Other than that, the control just wasn't there.

Shinsuke Ogura (24G [28 starts], 4-8, 5.29): C-
A career year for him, although that's not saying much. Started off excellent, but then started to look very hittable, as evidenced by his astronomical WHIP (1.62). Got lots of strikeouts (113 in 102 innings), but also walked a lot of people (67). Was the team's #5 starter despite lots of shaky outings late in the year.

Kenji Ohtonari (20 games [19 starts], 4-9, 4.31): C-
High loss total isn't necessarily his fault. Probably the worst-supported pitcher in the PL, as in many of his starts he got two runs or less of support (including one playoff start). Walks still need to come down, but looked like the 2008 Ohtonari at times this year with his command and strikeout ability. His team needs to give him some offense to be truly successful, not to mention a tad more mental toughness.

Hiroki Yamada (13G [12 starts], 4-4, 4.60, 58.2IP): C
How does Yamada get a higher grade than Ohtonari? He was an ikusei player at the beginning of the season, and not much was expected of him. Did better than touted prospect Shingo Tatsumi. Had good starts and bad starts, but another quality lefty starter joins the rotation. Higher expectations will be placed on him next season. Needs to bring walks down.

Brian Falkenborg (60 games, 3-2, SV, 39HLD, 1.02): A
Another great season from the towering reliever also netted him a two-year contract extension. Despite a rough stretch in August, he was great otherwise, setting up Mahara beautifully. Tops in PL with 39 holds.

Tadashi Settsu (71 games, 4-3, SV, 38HLD, 2.30): B
Trying to improve on last year's campaign is an utter impossibility, considering how unhittable he was at times. This year, he looked hittable, but proved to be durable, becoming the third pitcher in NPB history to make 60 or more appearances in his first two years as a professional (Kazuhisa Inao, Hiroshi Gondoh).

Keisuke Kattoh (65G, 2-0, 15HLD, 2.96): A
Another bullpen man with a career year. Righty was valuable in 6th and 7th inning, third on the team in holds. Good shuuto and has a bulldog mentality.

Masahiko Morifuku (36G, 3-1, 5HLD, 2.59): B
Finally showed some of the promise first seen in 2007. Really came on at the end of the season. Did more than just get lefties out, but will be counted on to do that

Takahiro Mahara (53G, 5-2, 1.63ERA, 32SV, 60.2IP): A
Best season since 2007. Was dependable as usual out of the bullpen, and looked to be fully healthy after shoulder injury in 2008. Did not blow a save. Closers of this caliber are certainly a luxury. 32 saves fourth in league, second in PL behind Sikorski (33).

Takehito Kanazawa (38G, 1-1, 2.89ERA, 46.2IP): B-
Dependable innings-eater when things went bottoms-up in games. Not one to trust with a slim lead, but definitely a pitcher who needed a change of scenery when traded from Hanshin. Contributed more than expected, easily an unsung hero out of the bullpen in long relief.

Yoshiaki Fujioka (32G [3 starts], 1-2, 4.50, 54IP): D+
Was counted on to be the #6 starter this year like last year, but couldn't put anything together. Was at ni-gun most of the season, mainly used as mop-up. Still has strikeout ability, but is prone to losses of control and also plunking batters. Needs to define his own role.

Incomplete (all pitchers with less than 15 appearances or 10 starts): Yuki Kume, Shota Ohba, Shingo Tatsumi, Sho Iwasaki, JD Durbin, Hideaki Takahashi, Toru Takahashi, Teruaki Yoshikawa, Yao-hsun Yang, Yasushi Kamiuchi, Akio Mizuta.

Missing in action: Kazumi Saitoh
Could be ready for 2011 season, but with his recent surgeries, don't hold your breath. Even if he does come back, he won't be the same pitcher with three rotator cuff surgeries in two years. Signed to team as rehab coach recently.

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