20-year-old right-hander Rogi Sasaki, who plays for Japan’s Siba Lotte Marines, kicked off one of the best games in professional baseball history on Sunday. He recorded his first major game in the Nippon Professional Baseball League in 28 years. He set new league records for strikeouts overall (19) and in a row (13). He showed arm strength at an average of 100 mph in his cracking range, and considered his start as part of the work of his catch, a young man named Ko Matsukawa.
A relative unknown to the American audience always attracts attention, as Sasaki did on Sunday, and it is intriguing. Who is this pitcher? What is he throwing? Will he ever come to the United States in recent years following the two-way events of Shoaib Ohtani and the new outfield sensation Xia Suzuki?
To check that interest and honor Sasaki’s performance, we at CBS Sports decided to answer nine questions about him, his game and his future – or, one question for every perfect frame he pitched during his talented performance.
1. Where is Sasaki’s sport historically located?
One measure of Sasaki’s dominance was Bill James’ invention known as the Game Score. The preface is simple. Pitchers start their start with points. Every time they do something good, as if recording a strike out, their point total increases; Every time they do something as bad as giving up a run, their total score goes down. At the end of their field trip, they have a single number to combine their work with.
Sasaki’s game score on Sunday was 106. Note that Kerry Wood’s 20-strikeout performance in May 1998 was the highest game score ever for a nine – innings start in Major League Baseball. Wood surrendered a victory and dropped a batter that day, but he did not allow the run as part of his signature performance.
Woods’ game score of 105 that day was one point lower than Sasaki’s.
2. Is Sasaki always good?
Sasaki may have only entered the world of American baseball fans on Sunday, but he has been playing professionally with the Marines since last season. In 19 career trips, he has amassed 1.78 ERA and a 6.14 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He has stabbed 31.4 percent of the batters he has faced in his life. Keep in mind that NPB’s hitters are not as likely to strike as their American counterparts. The NPB’s league-level K ratio is 21 percent this season, compared to the 23 percent released by MLB hitters in 2021.
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3. How is the dynamics of Sasaki?
Sasaki’s delivery frees the ball from the three-quarter slot. The most solid aspect of his performance is his high leg kick. He has a wrist bandage in the early stages of his hand activity, a common tremor among Japanese pitchers, which scouts see negatively because of its potential impact on command and health.
4. What pitches does Sasaki throw?
On Sunday, Sasaki leaned heavily on two pieces of his arsenal: his cracker and his splitter (some sources have named it Forkball, but the pitches are not the same). Both of those were 99 of his 105 pitches, good for a 94 percent utilization rate. He has other perks at his disposal, including two breaking balls.
5. Are there any MLB comparisons to Sasaki’s fastball?
In a word, no. According to data obtained by CBS Sports from the start of Sunday, Sasaki’s cracking average was 99.5 mph and had an induced vertical clearance of 19.8 inches and a horizontal clearance of 15.4 inches. It is an elite, incomparable combination.
For context, look at the New York Yankees ace Gerid goal.
Cole’s crack might be the best of the majors. Last year, it averaged 97.7 mph and had 17.9 inches of induced vertical clearance and 11.9 inches of horizontal clearance. Of the pitchers who threw at least 200 innings last season, Colin Heater is 99th in speed; 80th induced vertical interval; And 95th in horizontal spacing. It’s a fantastic pitch, and it doesn’t even match Sasaki’s numbers.
The numbers above come with some caveats. Sasaki’s measurements certainly benefit from the differences between the American and Japanese ball. The latter is flat, provides better grip and negates the need for adhesive materials such as pine tar or spider tag. In addition, the goal crack has a more optimal spindle axis.
Sasaki’s fastball is a monster that should give him more fame and fortune in the years to come.
6. What about Sasaki’s separator?
Finding comparisons to Sasaki’s splitter (or forkball, again, depending on the source) is difficult for other reasons because the pitch is not as widely used as crack. Brilliantly, only 29 major league pitchers threw at least 100 last season.
The Sasaki Splitter has a top speed of 91.2 mph with 2.30 inches of induced vertical clearance and 7.80 inches of horizontal clearance. That speed would be second only to the Boston Red Sox’s Hirokasu Savamura. Sasaki’s break numbers, meanwhile, compare favorably with Blake Parker’s (2.9, 7.40). Parker’s splitter generated a 36 percent wif rate last season and an average of .232 against it.
For those wondering, Shoaib Ohtani’s Splitter has the same amount of trigger vertical spacing as the Sasaki (2.40 inches), but comes with smoother (88 miles) and lower flow (4.90 inches).
7. When will Sasaki come to MLP?
The real question is whether Sasaki will do it or not To To come to the top. The MLB is considered the best league in the world, but the NPB is a strong number. 2 and not every player has the same priorities or desires. Some individuals prefer to stay in Japan for personal or professional reasons competing against MLB skills.
If Sasaki decides to pursue a career in North America, he must make another important decision: How much does he care about money? This is because the terrible contradiction in the MLB rules governing international free agents prevents the best players in the world from joining the league.
Under the current agreement, players under the age of 25 (or less than six years of professional experience) are subject to the international bonus pool system, which also applies to real international amateur free agents (e.g., each signing youth July 2). That policy greatly limits the signing bonus ability of these players, and explains why Shoaib Ohtani contracted with the Los Angeles Less than 30th choice.
Everything is subject to change if the MLB and the MLB Players’ Association agree to an international draft. For our sake, let’s assume they don’t. Sasaki needs to figure out if he wants to increase his revenue. One definite answer is to wait until he celebrates his 25th birthday and gains six years of pro experience, making his debut in the 2027 Majors. Alternatively, he can ask his team to “post”. Before him. There is no guarantee that the Marines will be on duty.
All of these are error bars, obviously, but the safest assumption is that Sasaki is many years away from being a realistic option for big league clubs.
8. How does the posting system work?
It goes like this. NPB teams can “submit” a player in the Big League consideration. MLB clubs have 30 days to sign that player. If no agreement is reached, the player will return to the NPB. If the player reaches the terms with the MLB team, the NPB Club receives a “release fee” based on the size of the contract. Importantly, the system is such that large league teams cannot raid their foreign counterparts without those teams receiving any compensation.
To use the latest example, Seiya Suzuki’s contract with Chicago Cup is worth five years and $ 85 million. Under the agreement between MLB and NPB, the puppies had to pay more than $ 14.6 million in release fees to Hiroshima Toyo Corp.
Most NPB players joining the Majors do so through the posting system. The exception – to be considered a true international free agent – is that an NPB player must have at least nine years of professional experience. Those cases are rare, and Sasaki is unlikely to be one of them if he wants to come to the United States.
9. What is the story of Sasaki’s catcher?
As we mentioned in the preface, Sasaki, after all, praised 18-year-old Ko Matsukova. “I think Matsukawa called for a great game behind the plate, so I listened to him and was able to make good pitches.” he said.
Sunday’s game was the seventh in Matsukova’s career. He will not be celebrating his 19th birthday until October, and he has scored just .167 / .167 / .250 in his first 26 blade appearances. Sunday is nothing like that; Sasaki’s guidance from squatting helped make them both immortal in baseball history.