Saturday, January 1, 2011


Count me among those pleased to see Okajima back in the fold.  Please note -- this is not because I have unrealistic expectations about how he will do next year -- quite the opposite.  Rather, the reasons are twofold.

First of all, if you ever chanced to ask Red Sox management about their plans for left-handed relief pitching in 2011, they would have simply said: "We're really looking forward to seeing what Felix Doubront can do."  Now, while his 2010 debut wasn't terrible (5 earned runs, 11 base runners and 13 strikeouts in 9.2 innings of relief) it wasn't exactly Joba-like (1, 18, 34 in 24).  While I hope to see Doubront continue to blossom, he's hardly the sure thing they need in the bullpen.

Second, just as you shouldn't get too bent out of shape about non-credible awesomeness, you shouldn't get bent out of shape about non-credible stinkage.  It's true that it's hard to find any stretch last year during which Okie looked good -- except maybe September (2, 13, 8, in 13) -- one whole season just isn't credible.  Just as you can't count on a reliever looking good next year when he looked good last year, the opposite is also true.

That said, I do have a major concern.  Okajima doesn't throw very hard -- his fastball rarely hits 90mph.  He does have decent control and movement, but I always kind of believed that his success hinged largely on his crazy delivery, which has to be seen to be believed.  [The video commentary points out that his head is in a funny position.  I always thought the bigger oddity is that looks like his had is curved around the ball to hide it...]

But  my point is this -- if his 2007 success was really just a parlor trick, then you'd expect the league to catch on.  Did they?  Let's look at WHIP, one of my favorite stats for a reliever:

2007: 0.971
2008: 1.161
2009: 1.262
2010: 1.717

Ruh ro.  How about K/9 innings?

2007: 8.2
2008: 8.7
2009: 7.8
2010: 6.5

They might be on to us.

Regardless, I'm glad to see that not-proven-useless lefty is back on the payroll.  I'm not asking Okajima for any guarantees, but I think that he deserves the chance.


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