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Yoshinobu Yamamoto is going to be a problem for MLB hitters

The baseball world waited with bated breath and sweet anticipation as Japanese superstar Yoshinobu Yamamoto made his debut for the Los Angeles Dodgers against the World Series champion Texas Rangers. While you can always take Spring Training with a grain of salt, especially concerning the star players, Yamamoto took the opportunity to display a glimpse of why the Dodgers chose to commit $325 million over 12 years to the young right-hander.

In his first Cactus League start Wednesday against the Rangers, Yamamoto tossed two scoreless innings, striking out three and allowing just one hit in an eventual 6-4 Dodgers defeat. Yamamoto threw 19 pitches, 16 for strikes, displaying his wide arsenal of pitches

The Rangers sent out a lineup chock-full of regulars, giving some legitimacy to the game itself as Yamamoto faced the quality of hitters he’ll face in the regular season. His first opponent was All-Star second baseman Marcus Semien who was dispatched via a whiff on a fastball up in the zone. After a solid single by Evan Carter, Yamamoto induced a quick double play to end the inning. Nathaniel Lowe then struck out to begin the second on Yamamoto’s signature wicked splitter. Yamamoto then quickly induced a flyout from Jonah Heim and a three-pitch strikeout of Leodys Taveras to end his outing.

A quick video from MLB on X shows how nasty each strikeout was.

The sequence to Lowe shows just how difficult it’s going to be to hit against Yamamoto, thanks to his variety of pitches.

Watching on television, it’s easy to see that Yamamoto is filthy. It also makes it quite apparent that a deep arsenal that he can deploy at any time is going to keep hitters guessing. Of the 19 pitches he threw, 11 were four-seam fastballs and were clocked between 94-96 mph. He threw three curveballs, all of which went for strikes, and also threw the splitter and cutter.

“He got to use his entire pitch mix. He was pounding the strike zone. He got a lot of swing and miss. He was efficient.” said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts to reporters after the game.

“There’s a part of me that’s relieved,” Yamamoto said through an interpreter. “From here, there will be more innings and I’m wondering how that will go. But as far as today’s game was concerned, I thought it went well.”

The Dodgers have lofty aspirations in 2024 after dropping over $1 billion on Yamamoto and fellow Japanese superstar Shohei Ohtani who homered in his debut game with the Dodgers on Tuesday. Ohtani won’t pitch in 2024, leaving Yamamoto with the prerogative to lead the rotation and show why he won the NPB’s equivalent of the Cy Young award three consecutive times.

The quick delivery out the windup is going to keep hitters off-balance. It’s also the variance in pitch movement and speed that will contribute to keeping hitters guessing. With a fastball sitting in the mid to upper 90s, Yamamoto can then offset that with a big looping curveball that drops in at 77 mph. The splitter tops in at about 90 mph but features drop-off-the-table movement thanks to a nine-inch break, causing a lot of whiffs. Throw in a 93 mph cutter with tight movement and you’ve got a pitcher that will dominate hitters, perhaps better than any other Japanese-born pitcher before him.

Eventually, the league will likely adjust as more data and scouting reports become available, but Yamamoto will also continue to adjust and adapt to keep ahead of the curve. The key to pitching success is to not let batters get comfortable in the box. Thanks to a video from Pitching Ninja displaying a home plate view of Yamamoto’s outing, we can get the idea that he isn’t going to have a problem with that.

On a team full of stars, Yamamoto is going to have a chance to shine brighter than the lights of Hollywood. If he remains healthy and continues to develop and adjust to pitching in MLB, he is going to be a major problem for hitters for years to come.



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