12.00 ERA Pitcher Reaches Fall Stage? Japanese Pitcher’s Surprising Turnaround, ‘Otani Rival’ Talent Explodes

  • September 10, 2023

Shintaro Fujinami (29, Baltimore), who made a name for himself as a rival of Shohei Ohtani (29, Los Angeles Angels) in high school, is still stuck in the past. He hadn’t made much of a mark in the pros. That’s why his arrival in the major leagues before this season was considered a surprise.

Oakland, who can’t spend a lot of money but wanted a fireballer, signed Fujinami for a one-year total of $3.25 million. They signed him at a low price and hoped to hit the lottery. But it didn’t take long to see that the lottery ticket had “bust” written all over it. He was literally fastball fast.

He worked his way into Oakland’s opening day rotation, but was often pulled early due to poor command. His fastball was sitting in the mid-to-high 90s, but he couldn’t get it into the strike zone. I was often frustrated by four pitches in a row. I didn’t think he could be used in the bullpen, let alone as a starter. His velocity of less than 2,000 revolutions per minute showed that he was having trouble adjusting to his fastball.

After removing Fujinami from the rotation, Oakland traded him to Baltimore and erased him from their projections. It was a bit of a surprise to see Baltimore acquire Fujinami, as they were the American League East leaders and seemed certain to make the postseason. Fujinami had a 12.00 ERA in his first two months. His ERA was 8.57 when he was acquired. It’s not surprising that there was a question mark over “where will he be used?”

But Baltimore took notice of Fujinami’s stuff and had the calculation that with a few tweaks, he’d be a pretty decent bullpen resource. And so he did, as he continued his steady pace and developed into a major force in the team’s bullpen. Just two months ago, he went from being dismissed as “going back to Japan at the end of the season” to a player who could play a major role in the postseason.

In 21 appearances since joining Baltimore, Fujinami has gone 1-0 with two saves and a 4.50 ERA. It’s not a stellar performance, but it’s not a terrible one either. After reaching 18.16 pitches per inning in Oakland, he dropped to 15.68 in Baltimore. His walk rate has also dropped from 5.47 to 3.68 per nine innings, and his WHIP has plummeted from 1.66 to 1.09. A 0.190 BABIP and a 1.09 WHIP after the move are pretty good numbers.

The local media has also praised Fujinami’s pitching. The Baltimore Sun, the largest local media outlet, said after Fujinami’s second save of the season against the Los Angeles Angels on June 6, “His lightning-like stuff makes him an attractive option for the big leagues. While he has yet to earn the trust (due to his lack of appearances in close games), Fujinami has the ability to be a top-notch bullpen arm in Baltimore.

Indeed, Fujinami’s fastball stuff is among the best in the majors. His average velocity is a whopping 98.4 mph (158.4 km/h). He throws out of the bullpen, so it’s not uncommon for him to hit 100 mph. His revs are also on the rise. My average is now over 2000, and my recent pitches are 200-300 better than they were at the beginning of the season. The original extension was good. It makes the ball feel more powerful to hitters.온라인바카

If he keeps this up, he could be a candidate for re-signing. Baltimore is happy with Fujinami’s stuff. He’s not that expensive, so they may be tempted to keep him in the bullpen. Given his performance in Baltimore, it’s not out of the question that other teams will be interested in him in free agency. His strikeout rate of 9.84 per nine innings is certainly attractive if he can cut down on the walks.

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