Kei Igawa (井川 慶 Igawa Kei?, born July 13, 1979 in Ōarai, Ibaraki) is a Japanese left-handed starting pitcher for the New York Yankees. He played for the Hanshin Tigers of the Japanese League from 1999 to 2006. He led the Central League in strikeouts in 2002, 2004, and 2006. He played in the 2006 Major League Baseball Japan All-Star Series.
He was the number two draft choice of the Hanshin Tigers in 1998. After a couple of years in the Hanshin minor league system, Igawa entered the starting rotation in 2001. In his first full season as a starter, Igawa went 9-13 for the last-placed Tigers, but finished with a Central League second-best 2.67 ERA, behind only Chunichi's Shigeki Noguchi.
In 2003, the Tigers won the Central League pennant. Igawa made a great contribution with his brilliant performance. He pitched very well and finished with a 20-5 record, a 2.80 ERA, and was third with 179 strikeouts. He was named to the Best Nine, won the MVP in the Central League and also won the Sawamura Award, the Japanese equivalent of the MLB Cy Young Award.
Igawa saw a decline in performance in 2004 and 2005. In 2004, despite leading the league at 228 strikeouts, he went 14-11 with a 3.73 ERA. In 2005, Igawa went 13-9 with a 3.86 ERA, fifth among his team's starters in ERA, and was briefly exiled to the minors. He was only tied for fifth in strikeouts (down significantly to 145) and 10th in ERA, but was still third in the circuit in victories. While still a productive hurler, Igawa became a target of enthusiastic fan criticism due to his inability to perform at his prior level.
New York Yankees CareerEdit
In 2006, Igawa announced his intention to play in North America. On November 16, 2006, Igawa was posted by the Hanshin Tigers. On November 29, 2006, it was announced that the New York Yankees were the highest bidders at $26,000,194, with the last three digits representing his strikeout total for the 2006 season. He signed a 5 year, 20 million dollar contract on December 27, 2006. On January 8, 2007, Igawa was officially announced at a Yankee Stadium press conference. On April 7, 2007 he made his major league debut, allowing 7 earned runs in five innings and receiving a no decision. The highlight of his first MLB stint was a stellar relief performance against the Boston Red Sox that earned him a win. However, the Yankees saw flaws in his mechanics and, on May 7, optioned him to the Florida State League's Tampa Yankees to work with Nardi Contreras and Billy Connors. Igawa apparently made progress in mechanics and location at Tampa, and was subsequently called up to pitch for the AAA Scranton/Wilkes Barre Yankees. Igawa made his return start at the San Francisco Giants on June 22, 2007, allowing two earned runs in 4.2 innings.
On July 27, 2007, Igawa was demoted to AAA Scranton. Triple A Scranton infielder Chris Basak took Igawa's spot on the Major League roster. Igawa returned to the Yankees in September 2007 when rosters expanded.
After failing to make the team out of spring training, Igawa started the year with the AAA Scranton/Wilkes Barre Yankees. He was called up to replace Ian Kennedy on May 9, 2008 where Igawa made his first MLB start of the 2008 season against the Detroit Tigers, in which he gave up eleven hits and six runs in 3 innings.
Igawa's fastball will usually stay in the 88-91 mph range, but he is able to reach back and throw harder when in need of a strikeout (He can hit speeds up to 93 mph). Igawa also throws a changeup, which hovers in the 78-81 mph range, and a slider, which he uses primarily against left-handed batters. His changeup has a tendency to be belt-high and in the middle of the plate. This pitch drew a lot of swings and misses in Japan, but it did not have the same success in America. Igawa is known to possess above-average control.
Igawa is also known for his unique follow-through, in which he throws his left leg into the air and return his pitching arm to a high position. Since he does not do this with his off-speed pitches as often as his fastballs, it might become easier for batters to indicate whether a pitch is off-speed or not.
His record during day games in Japan was 4-5, 7.09 ERA. Considering the fact that Igawa pitches exceptionally better in night games, he wears sunglasses during day games to make the game environment closer to that of a night game.
- In February 2007, Igawa announced on his Japanese blog that he had married recently.
- Igawa likes shogi (Japanese chess).
Professional Statistics in JapanEdit
*Bold = lead league
Professional Statistics in MLBEdit
Awards in JapanEdit
- 3-time All-Star (2001-2003)
- 2002 Strikeouts champion of the year
- 2003 Sawamura Award, Best Nine, Wins and ERA champion of the Central League, Central League MVP
- 2004 Strikeouts champion of the year
- 2006 Strikeouts champion of the Central League
- Career statistics and player information from MLB, or ESPN, or Baseball-Reference, or Fangraphs, or The Baseball Cube
- Official Website Template:Ja icon
- Sports Illustrated interview
- Japanese league stats and info of Kei Igawa
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