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Shinji Mori and his move from Japan to the Devil Rays
Posted by Gus Papadopoulos at 2/27/2006 9:02:00 AM
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A couple of our writers asked about Mori on our administrative message board this weekend, and I thought I'd post my feedback here for our readers as well.

Mori has pitched in Japan for the last nine seasons, all with the Seibu Lions in the Pacific League (you can find his stats at japanesebaseball.com). He broke in as a reliever, then was moved into the rotation in 1999 before becoming the team's closer in 2000. He didn't do poorly there, but was moved into a set-up role the next season when the Lions installed Kiyoshi Toyoda as their closer, and Mori has been there ever since. His best pitch is his forkball, and generally speaking, he's more apt to fool you with his junk than blow it past you. He's made the All-Star team a few times in Japan, but his numbers have declined a bit in the past two seasons:

           G     IP    ERA   WHIP   HR/9    K/9   W/9
2002-03  132  148.1   2.18   1.13    0.6   11.8   3.1
2004-05   82   98.0   4.41   1.54    1.0   10.0   5.2

That strikeout rate is still pretty good, but it appears at least a few Japanese batters have learned to lay off Mori's forkball. With an unusual delivery that's unfamiliar to almost all MLB batters, it would not be a surprise if Mori put up good numbers in the first half of this season. And, if the opportunity presents itself, he could settle into the closer role with the Rays for a while this season as a result. However, as happened with Shingo Takatsu and as may be happening with Akinori Otsuka, the league likely will catch up with Mori at some point. He's not a bad option in your draft or auction this spring if you can get him cheap, but think of Mori as a sell-high possibility at midseason.

If any of our readers have seen Mori pitch in Japan, feel free to reply with your observations.

FYI, it also seems that Mori is adapting to American culture just fine, albeit with a potentially unhealthy fascination with Britney Spears.



Comments....

Good stuff, Gus. Is it too much to think Mori could be another Kaz Sasaki? They seem pretty similar on the surface. Similar age (Sasaki debuted at 32); forkball is both's best pitch; both are "free spirits" (for what that's worth). Sasaki's K and BB rates were a little better in his final couple years in Japan than Mori's, though. Any word on Mori's fastball? (His forkball seemingly needs his fastball to be effective.)
Posted by Jason Thornbury at 2/27/2006 1:15:00 PM
 
Could Mori be another Kaz Sasaki? Always a possibility, but Sasaki had a better pedigree coming here than Mori does. I don't have a speed gun number on Mori's fastball, but with those strikeout rates, it's probably respectable. I'm hoping to see him at workouts sometime in the next week or so.
Posted by sixsigmagus at 2/27/2006 2:54:00 PM
 
Who ***i***doesn't***/i*** have an unhealthy fascination with Britney Spears...
Posted by bscwik at 3/2/2006 9:37:00 AM
 

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