Even though I know literally nothing about him, I really like this guy. I saw this article first thing in the morning due to my daily Seattle Times emails, and with a headline with words in it like “only wants to play for Mariners“, there was no way I was not going to click that link. Someone actually wants to come to Seattle? Like of their own free will? For real? Normally, it feels like we have to drag players here kicking and screaming – or at least screaming (see; Milton Bradley, and eventually Chone Figgins) – but this Munenori Kawasaki actually wants to come here and play? Well, that is certainly worth a look-see on my lunch break today then. If a guy wants to come and play here, I’m going to give him the benefit of at least checking him out.
So here’s a bit on BaseballReference.com about him. Here are some more numbers. Here are some more. I’m really good at looking up numbers, but unfortunately not great at translating Japanese league stats to MLB. In the interest of full disclosure, I will fully admit that I round down to Triple A. Whether this is even close to an accurate way to measure, I have no idea; my understanding is that it’s not just the quality of play that is different in Japan, but the style as well. I am not fully comfortable looking at Munenori Kawasaki’s numbers and making any sort of declaration as to whether or not I’d really like him on our team. For some reason, I don’t have that same issue with Yu Darvish. It could by the hype, it could be that I’m fixated on the 48 complete games that Darvish has to his record. I don’t know. What I do know is that Kawasaki’s numbers in the second link, if translated directly to MiLB, make him look kind of average. OBP, SLG, and OPS all look very Bloomquistian. Yes, that’s a word.
As for his defense, Geoff Baker puts it thusly: “…an above average defender at shortstop with very good range.” I don’t have time to do much more poking around today because my lunch is nearly over (it took me far longer to write all of this than it will you to read it), but will try to get some more perspective on the situation later this evening. It sounds like he and Ichiro already have a small rapport, so perhaps as Baker says, Ichiro can indeed provide some perspective as to Kawasaki’s abilities. The fact that Kawasaki is willing to take a minor league contract merely so he can be in the organization is stunning to me, but I find it completely endearing. Someone just won a fan.