One cause that was suggested for the apparent gap that has opened up between Japan’s Pacific League and Central League, was that CL teams look for players with more polished skills while PL clubs are more likely to go with players with higher physical potential.
On Twitter, Brian Cartwright suggested it was a correctable issue if CL teams did a better job of evaluating and developing their talent. If that is the case, a study of value from the draft would reveal a talent gap leaning toward the PL, and it does.
Pierce Johnson, whose power curve served him extremely well in his 2019 NPB debut season with the Hanshin Tigers of Japan’s Central League, has agreed to a two-year deal with the San Diego Padres, according to ESPN’s Jeff Passan.
A former No. 1 draft pick of the Chicago Cubs, Johnson’s curve was selected in a poll of CL players as the best in the league. According to Delta Graphs, Johnson threw his curve nearly half the time and was rated at over two wins per 100 pitches, and led all NPB pitchers in wins from his curve.
He joins the steady stream of players who come to Japan, learn some new adjustments or simply get a different perspective on things, and then find MLB teams eager to put those skills to the test.
When I saw this, I went back to Delta Graphs and saw that Johnson’s fastball was ranked 18th in effectiveness among the 120 or so pitchers with 50-plus innings in NPB last season. It was below average effectiveness in the States.
To say his curveball was effective because of the fastball is no surprise. This happened with Masahiro Tanaka in 2018. His slider and split became more effective because of his superior command of the four-seam fastball.
Again, as Bill points out, pitchers finding something in Japan is no longer news and one reason why a huge number of players are seeing Japan as a win-win situation.