Hideki Okajima needs some time, somewhere to get his stuff together. Deception alone will not create good results, as he is learning now. The league is adjusting to him. I am not saying that he must be demoted to the minors, although it may not hurt him to have a few weeks to work on his location, in a stress-free environment. But he needs to have some time in less meaningful situations, 7-2 ballgames, etc, in order to get himself back to normal. I would say that he will progress to the larger sampling that we have of him, but that larger sampling is ONE year in a NEW country. He wasn’t much, according to various reports, over in Japan. I know that he developed a new pitch to use in America, and I still have confidence that he can bounce back. But a pitcher with an 88 MPH fastball has to be able to locate not only that, but his breaking ball and change. Lately his breaking ball seems to be all over the place. And nothing else seems to be arriving where the catcher seems to be set up either. It seems pretty simple to me: Locate pitches and become a pretty good reliever, not great, but above average. Easier said than done, but I don’t think it is so much an issue of not having the ability to get big-league hitters out. But if they could talk to Okajima, and tell him that sending him down would be a good idea, just for a few weeks. None of those minor leaguers have seen him, so he should dominate down there, so if in fact it has to do with confidence, then that should be positive for his mentality. I can see where the Red Sox might want to wait until they get closer to full strength before they make this move though. Or they could rest him if they think it has anything to do with fatigue, which has happenend to him a few times already in his young MLB career. Or of course, demote him to less strenuous situations, so the pressure gauge dips a little. I made the mistake early in the year of looking simply at his ERA to evaluate him, rather than seeing that he hadn’t done very well at all when facing situations where he inherited runners. Something needs to take place for him to be able to work on his pitching, and if that means the minors for a short stint, so be it.
(I would like to see what the scouts say about him right now, because I am far from a scout)
You have to give it up to Hideki Okajima, as he just continues to get the job done. I thought that he would come back to earth this season, and he very well might. His ERA will not be 0.71 at the end of the season, I know that for sure. But he may be one of the top relievers in the game once again, something I wasn’t so sure could happen, AGAIN. I felt that he would be effective, definitely in the top half as far as relievers go. But I didn’t know that he would be THIS good once again, and he hasn’t shown that he will be reverting back to his “Japan form” anytime soon. One thing on that though: if I have my facts straight, Okajima began using his forkball/changeup/whatever you want to call it once he arrived in the US, so naturally adding such a great pitch to one’s repertoire would result in much greater results.
So far in this young season, Okajima has actually posted a slightly better K/9 then he did last season. Now while Okajima was at his best, before the fatigue set in, he was better than he was now, in my opinion. The league was adjusting to him, rather than him adjusting to the league (See Dice-K for the opposite). My only worry is that I have seen a few instances of concern, some being in the second half of last season, and one being against the Angels this season, where they just seem to hit the ball really hard off of him. I don’t know if they were just guessing right, or if his location was off. But that does lead me to believe that he won’t end up being quite as good as he was during his very good 2007, even though his numbers are looking quite nice right now.