Yoshinobu Yamamoto mightiness beryllium nan champion pitcher live correct now. That’s who he is, and it’s why he’s getting a 12-year, $325 cardinal woody from nan Dodgers.
If that seems hyperbolic to you, past you’ve travel to nan correct place. You want to cognize who Yamamoto is and why he’s capable to spend nan guacamole astatine Chipotle for illustration it’s nary large deal. He’s ne'er thrown a transportation successful nan majors, really tin he beryllium nan champion pitcher alive?
To beryllium fair, that “might be” is doing a batch of work. Gerrit Cole is simply a marvel, and truthful is Zack Wheeler. You tin scroll done this database of nan highest WARs complete nan past 3 seasons and prime your individual favourite for “Best pitcher alive.” Don’t hide astir Roki Sasaki, different NPB pitcher you’ll beryllium very, very, very, very familiar pinch astatine this clip adjacent season.
But Yamamoto is successful nan conversation, and that’s why he sewage nan statement he did. Let’s get to cognize Yoshinobu Yamamoto.
What did Yamamoto do successful Japan?
OK, cheque this out: In 2017, he had a 2.35 ERA for nan Orix Buffaloes. He had a .750 winning percentage. He struck retired 5 batters for each batter he walked. He allowed 0.5 homers per 9 innings pitched.
That was his worst play successful nan NPB. Also, he was an 18-year-old rookie. That partial play was astir apt his nadir arsenic a master truthful far.
As for nan remainder of nan seasons, his profession ERA successful nan NPB is 1.72, if that gives you immoderate idea. He’s allowed 36 homers complete his seven-season career. That’s less homers than eight different MLB Hall of Famers person allowed successful a season. In his 2023 season, Yamamoto threw 171 innings and allowed 2 location runs. Not a typo.
His profession numbers:
1.72 profession ERA
.714 winning percentage
75-30 W-L record
Yamamoto turned 25 successful August. So if nan communal preconception is that nan NPB is “Quadruple-A” successful position of its talent, location betwixt nan fields and Triple-A, what do you make of a pitcher of imaginable property who does that erstwhile he’s successful his early-20s?
You springiness him a $325 cardinal contract, that’s what you do.
What does Yamamoto throw?
Pitches. Mostly bully ones. Ones that get outs, miss bats and forestall location runs.
But if you’re looking for specifics, our ain Eno Sarris has you covered, and he took a heavy dive.
First, statement his compact motion. He’s not bringing that correct limb each nan measurement back, astatine slightest not yet. When he does, it’s to get him into Tim Lincecum territory, pinch nan shot held toward nan crushed astatine a 90-degree angle.
— tanaka13ver2023 (@tanaka13ver2021) October 28, 2023
But erstwhile it’s clip to travel to nan plate, that correct limb comes up quickly and turns into an ultra-short motion. He helps his mid-to-upper-90s fastball look moreover faster, arsenic you tin show by nan emergency plaything above.
This video does a bully occupation breaking down really he gets that velocity, arsenic good arsenic his different pitchers:
Back to Sarris’ article, though. Here are his notes connected Yamamoto’s circumstantial pitches, based connected nan StatCast numbers that he posted successful nan World Baseball Classic:
• A four-seam fastball that’s bully capable to beryllium a top-20 fastball successful nan majors
• The nastiest splitter successful nan world
• An elite curveball
• A cutter that’s fine, but needs work
All of that is very exciting, but it wouldn’t activity arsenic good if he couldn’t bid wherever those pitches are going. Good news, then: His bid is freaky elite. He’s pumping above-average fastballs, world-class splitters and elite curveballs wherever he wants to propulsion them, generally. The stuff-command combo gives him a chance to beryllium special, correct from Opening Day.
Yoshinobu Yamamoto, Vicious Curveball. 😤
One of nan astir unsocial curveball releases. pic.twitter.com/1RENxkObab
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) March 12, 2023
Are location immoderate bully major-league comparisons for Yamamoto?
Kevin Gausman is an OK one, because of nan fastball-splitter combo, but it breaks down erstwhile you get to nan 3rd pitch. Gausman offers a show-me slider, whereas Yamamoto tin spell to that elite curveball.
Roy Oswalt had a akin stature (listed astatine 6’0″, but person to 5′ 10″, pinch Yamamoto listed astatine 5′ 10″) and he utilized exceptional command, power and worldly to beryllium 1 of nan champion pitchers of his generation. But he was a existent sinkerballer and not arsenic overmuch of a bat-misser.
Masahiro Tanaka is simply a adjacent spot taller than Yamamoto, but he had elite bid and control, and nan spot of his splitter-fastball combo is adjacent to what Yamamoto offers. Still, nan tallness and hold are awesome separators betwixt nan two.
The correct reply is that, no, location aren’t galore bully major-league comparisons. Gausman is nan astir evident one, but only 7 pitchers successful nan fields threw a splitter much than 15 percent of nan clip past season: Gausman, Alex Cobb, Taijuan Walker, Kenta Maeda, Nathan Eovaldi, Joe Ryan and Tony Gonsolin. None of them look for illustration awesome comparisons, though. Yamamoto is sui generis, and comparisons aren’t very useful. Gausman aliases Eovaldi are astir apt nan champion comps, though. Considering that some of them are erstwhile All-Stars pinch immoderate Cy Young votes successful their past, that seems good.
What is Yamamoto for illustration arsenic a person?
English-language reports from nan Japan Times and Japan News person him arsenic a subordinate whom coaches loved, and personification who adapted highly good to nan NPB, contempt being a teenager. He likes soft-serve crystal pick pinch soy sauce, which sounds amazing. He’s successful nan salty-sweet club, for illustration everyone successful nan world should be. He wants to spell to Brazil. His favourite nutrient is squid. His favourite colour is red, which could lead to a batch of baseless rumors if nan correct personification tweeted it.
Other than that, he’s thing of a buttoned-down mystery. I did find this TikTok of him and made it into a GIF, though.
There are nary guarantees successful baseball, particularly for pitchers. Arms are jerks.
But erstwhile it comes to nan kinds of gambles that teams should take? Here’s 1 of nan champion you tin find. He’s nan property of a imaginable pinch nan resume of a early Hall of Famer, astatine slightest successful Japan. Now that teams are adept astatine analyzing pitches and transportation shapes and each of that jazz, they’ve travel to nan conclusion that this dude tin pitch. And he represents a uncommon opportunity, considering his age. If you’re wondering who Yoshinobu Yamamoto is, don’t worry. You’ll beryllium very, very acquainted soon enough.
(Top illustration by John Bradford / The Athletic; Photos by Lucas Stevenson and Eric Espada / Getty Images)