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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