Archive for the ‘Akinori Iwamura’ Category

Japanese Projections – Part 3: Hitters

November 9, 2006

This post has been made largely irrelevant by the excellent work of Jeff Sackmann over at the Hardball Times (Jeff is also perhaps the primary reason for the author’s GMAT score – thanks again for the great blog, Jeff!). Even so, this subject deserves attention.

Akinori Iwamura has been posted by his team and is pretty much guaranteed to be on an MLB team next year. Earlier, we used the factors Aaron Gleeman developed for his Kenji Johjima projection in an off-the-cuff Iwamura projection. Today we’ll be more rigorous.

Most translation systems include data from players who go both from NPB to MLB and from MLB to NPB. Instead, we will only use data from NPB players born in Japan who later played in MLB. The sample, unfortunately, is quite small: it includes Ichiro Suzuki, Hideki Matsui, Tsuyoshi Shinjo, Kazuo Matsui, Tadahito Iguchi, So Taguchi, and Kenji Johjima. We used data from their final three seasons in Japan and compared that with their first two seasons (assuming they had that many) in America. This was done using matched PAs; thus, in all cases, Japanese numbers were interpolated to match the number of plate appearances each player had in America. Summary data for each statistic gave us the following translations:


Stat    NPB	MLB	Factor
PA	6939	6939	N/A
AB	6046	6251	1.0339
H	1912	1820	0.9519
2B	348	324	0.931
3B	30	41	1.3667
HR	300	157	0.5233
TB	3220	2697	0.8376
SO	948	927	0.9778
BB	718	516	0.7187
HBP	85	65	0.7647

To use these factors, simply apply them to an NPB line while holding PA constant (for instance, if player X hits 20 HR in 500 PA in NPB, he’d hit about 10 HR in 500 PA in America). The largest factor, by far, is for HR. Going to America is devastating to NPB home run hitters – they hit homers at roughly half the rate per plate appearance in America than they did in Japan. Interestingly enough, this group struck out less in America than in Japan, which indicates they probably changed their hitting approach significantly.

Akinori Iwamura

Here are his numbers for 2004-2006 in Japan.

Akinori Iwamura Stats

Here are those numbers translated to MLB using the above method.

Akinori Iwamura Translated Stats

He loses about 20 points of AVG, 40 points of OBP, and 100 points of SLG on average. Yikes. Here’s a 3-year weighted projection, pro-rated to 160 games played (as he was very durable in Japan).

Akinori Iwamura 2007 Projection

That’s a little better than my back-of-the-envelope projection from last week, but still not all that great for a third baseman. Basically, it’s a slightly better version of David Bell. Here’s hoping he can play second. He did win another gold glove this year, so that’s something.

Tadahito Iguchi

Let’s try out this method on some other players, even though it’s cheating (you shouldn’t apply a model to the data used in making it). Below are Iguchi’s projected 2005 line (year in italics) and his actual line (below).

Tadahito Iguchi Projection vs Actual 2005

Not bad – I’ll take a projection that is within 21 points of OPS anytime. Of course, we expected this to happen, since his numbers were used to make the model.

What about some other Japanese stars? Let’s take a look.

Kosuke Fukudome

This star OF for the Chunichi Dragons probably isn’t making the jump any time soon, but let’s take a look at what he might do in the bigs.

Kosuke Fukudome 2007 Projection

As you can see, his skills transfer very well. Along with his good hitting numbers, Fukudome is an outstanding center fielder; he’d find quite a few suitors in MLB if he wanted to try his luck here. Sadly, he turns 30 next April, so we’ll have missed the prime of his career if and when he ever decides to come over.

Shinnosuke Abe

Abe is the Yomiuri Giants’ starting catcher. He’ll never be posted, so we’ll have to wait for him to come over via free agency if he wants to play in MLB (he won’t be eligible for three more seasons). Here’s his projection.

Shinnosuke Abe 2007 Projection

Abe slugged .630 in 2004, but hasn’t come near that since, and it shows in his projection. His HR have gone 33-26-10 in the past three years. Pass.

Next week, we’ll take another look at pitcher projections using homegrown translations that will hopefully be a little more accurate and/or believable.


Japanese Future MLBers: #3 – Akinori Iwamura

October 30, 2006

Today’s featured player is Akinori Iwamura, a left-handed hitting third baseman for the Yakult Swallows. Although Iwamura is not yet a free agent, he reportedly will be posted this offseason after several years of his requests to that effect were turned down. He was primarily a third-baseman in Japan; however, reports that he’d be willing to play 2B, SS, or even CF in the majors.

Akinori Iwamura, Yakult Swallows 3B

Drafted by the Swallows in the second round of the 1997 draft out of high school, Iwamura will be just 28 years old next season. He took over the Swallows’ third base job for good in 2000 after spending a few years in the Japanese minor league and on the Yakult bench, and has been a fixture ever since.

Despite standing just 5’9″ tall and weighing only 175 pounds, Iwamura features a high level of play in many facets of his game. First of all, he’s a big-time power threat: the past three years, he’s averaged 26 doubles and 35 homers a year in a shortened season (142 games per year over that span). In addition to his power, he has shown decent plate discipline, walking 12.5 times per 100 AB over the past three years. He’s not just an offensive threat, either; he won Gold Gloves for his play at third in 2004 and 2005 (2006 Gold Gloves have not been awarded as of this article’s writing). In his finest season to date, 2004, he cranked 44 home runs in just 611 plate appearances in a mild pitcher’s park.

If Iwamura has one weakness, it is his proclivity to swing and miss. He has improved in this respect each of the past few seasons, but still whiffed 128 times in just 546 at bats this season. In 2004, the year he hit 44 homers, he struck out an astounding 173 times in 533 at bats; that’s once every 3.08 ABs.

My expectations for Iwamura in MLB are somewhat modest for three reasons: his size, his contact problems, and his good but not great Japanese numbers. A longer article on NPB/MLB translations is forthcoming; what work I’ve done so far indicates that Iwamura’s power should be expected to decline significantly in the presence of bigger parks and tougher competition. His profile is not altogether dissimilar from that of Tadahito Iguchi. Iguchi hit approximately .337/.418/.565 his last two years in Japan, and .280/.347/.430 in his first two seasons as a White Sox. Iguchi, it should also be noted, is both taller and heavier than Iwamura (although he hit for less power in Japan, making the comparison somewhat moot). Iwamura over the past three seasons has a .310/.386/.561 AVG/OBP/SLG line, displaying more isolated power than Iguchi, but also a lower batting average and similar plate discipline.

If Iwamura decides to shorten his swing in America like Matsui did, he probably can cut down his strikeouts, but will definitely lose power as well. If he doesn’t change it, he might struggle to maintain a high enough average to remain an every-day regular. A back-of-the envelope projection for him playing in MLB next year might be .275/.336/.425 in a neutral park (computed by applying Aaron Gleeman’s multiples for AVG/ISOD/ISOP from his Kenji Johjima projection). That line might be acceptable at second base, but will likely prove disappointing to teams that expect more out of their corner infield slots. Despite this, I expect Iwamura to garner a posting fee in the $5-$10m range and an annual salary of $6-$8m per year. If your team signs him, I hope for your sake that he outperforms my projection.

TOPGUN#1 – Akinori Iwamura Official Site
Akinori Iwamura Statistics
Akinori Iwamura Biographical Data