Interesting New Import Pitchers – Pacific League

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a post on a few pitchers that are new to Japan’s Central League. Judging by the response the post got, the names were a lot more interesting to me than anyone else, but I promised a Pacific League edition, and here it is.

Bill Murphy (LHP, Chiba Lotte Marines) — Lefty Murphy has been a success story this season: he started the season in the bullpen, where he did well, and was moved into the rotation where he won his first six decisions. He’s K’ing nearly a batter an inning and has been a reliable 6-7 inning starter for the surprising post-Bobby Marines.

Juan Morillo (RHP, Rakuten Golden Eagles) — “Explosive fastball, no command” was the book on Morillo in the US. It was more of the same in Japan at first, as four walks in his first five NPB innings earned him a trip to Rakuten’s farm team. He made a promising return after a month, striking out four in 2.2 innings, but left his May 23rd complaining of elbow discomfort after facing two batters, and hasn’t been heard from since.

Bobby Keppel (RHP, Nippon Ham Fighters) — Keppel has had the most success of all the new import pitchers in Japan this year, posting a 10-1 record and a 2.72 ERA. This is for a team that hasn’t had much success in the win column — Keppel is credited with 10 of the team’s 36 wins. So are we looking at the next Colby Lewis? Probably not. Lewis’s command of the strike zone really set him apart in Japan. Keppel hasn’t been nearly as impressive, with a 48/28 K:BB ratio in 86 innings pitched. Keppel also padded his numbers a bit in interleague games, which are over for this year.

Buddy Carlyle (RHP, Nippon Ham Fighters) — Carlyle is an interesting case, as he spent his age-23 and age-24 seasons in Japan with Hanshin back in 2001-02. After bouncing around Triple-A, the majors, and Korea for the last eight years, he’s back in Japan with Nippon Ham. This return engagement hasn’t gone well — 31 hits and 10 walks in 22.2 innings over four starts earned him a quick demotion, and he’s fared even worse at the minor league level with a 7.14 ERA.

By my count, four pitchers currenly on MLB rosters were under contract with NPB teams last season: Lewis, Scott Atchison, Brian Sweeney, and Chris Resop. Each took a different path back to MLB, so despite the varying results of the pitchers highlighted in this post, we could see some of these guys re-emerge in MLB.

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Patrick Newman is a veteran enthusiast of Japanese baseball who happens to write about it at, and on Twitter @npbtracker.

10 Responses to “Interesting New Import Pitchers – Pacific League”

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  1. Kevin Coryell says:

    Keppel has an outstanding 95 mph sinker that guys pound into the ground all day. He was very successful through his first 6 or 7 major league appearances. The problem is, he has no other pitches. The sinker looks like it’s right down the middle, but always ends up low and out of the strike zone. When the major league hitters realized this, they just stopped swinging, and he started piling up the walks as a result. If he could add a changeup or slider to his repertoire, he could be a pretty good reliever.

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  2. Brett says:

    Do Japanese hitters walk less than their MLB counterparts?

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  3. Rut says:

    You said Keppel padded his stats in interleague play…by this do you mean because of pitchers batting and pinch hitters in the Central league? Or is the Central League generally weaker aside from Hanshin and Yomiuri?

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    • Back of the envelope calculations:

      Against the Central League: 1.62 era in 39 IP
      Against the Pacific League: 3.65 era in 47 IP

      Time will tell if it was Keppel or the league, but there are definitely more weak lineups in the Central League. That said, Keppel did well against all the Central League teams, including Hanshin and Yomiuri.

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  4. DonCoburleone says:

    Ahhh the good ol’ days of Buddy Carlyle pitching for the Atlanta Braves.. Not shockingly it was during 3 of their 4 worst seasons of the last 20 years (2007-2009)… What is surprising though is his 2008 season pitching out of the Atlanta bullpen: 63 IP; 8.47 K/9; 3.73 BB/9; 3.58 ERA; 3.91xFIP – Not exactly a late inning option for a bullpen but definately solid enough numbers to justify being in a Major League bullpen…

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  5. CircleChange11 says:

    48/28 K:BB ratio?

    Aren’t ratios supposed to be reduced? 1.7:1 K:BB

    I only aske because 48/28 looks weird and causes the reader to mentally do the math to find out how many ” K’s per walk” the number is.

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  6. CircleChange11 says:

    Fair enough.

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