Sunday, September 6, 2020

Card Of The Week September 6

Shohei Ohtani and Shintaro Fujinami were both high school pitchers taken in the first round of the 2012 draft.  Both players experienced similar levels of success over their first couple seasons, enough that BBM did a box set called "Go Higher" celebrating the two players in 2016.  That was the season, however, where their career path began to diverge.

I had really realized until I started writing this how well Fujinami had done in his first couple seasons.  He went 10-6 with a 2.75 ERA as a 19 year old in 2013 and followed that up with an 11-8, 3.53 ERA season in 2014.  He had an outstanding season in 2015, going 14-7 with a 2.40 ERA.  He led the Central League in strikeouts with 221 and threw seven complete games including four shutouts - both of which also led the league.  He slumped a bit to 7-11 in 2016 which probably has more to do with the Tigers than his pitching as his ERA was still a decent 3.25.  He made one appearance for Japan in the 2017 World Baseball Classic but started having injury issues that season that has limited his time with the top team over the past four seasons (including this year).  In fact last year he only made one appearance with the ichi-gun squad.  He looked promising during spring training in February and March of this year but not only was training camp shutdown due to the pandemic, he actually contracted COVID-19 himself.  He recovered from the virus by the time camps reopened in June and pitched well on the farm team.  He was promoted to the top team a few weeks ago and had been pitching decently until yesterday's game against the Yomiuri Giants.  The only positive thing about the outing is that he struck out six Giants in 4 2/3 innings.  The rest of his line was 9 hits, 6 walks and 11 runs (7 earned).  Those 11 runs were the most ever given up in one game by a Hashin pitcher.  (I want to mention Jim Allen's analysis that Fujinami's career "basically slid into the tank" when Tomoaki Kanemoto became the Tigers manager in 2016.  Kanemoto once left Fujinami in to throw over 160 pitches in a game.  I think it was ridiculous that Fujinami was left in to take the beating as long as he was yesterday but at least it was only 125 pitches.)

In contrast, Shohei Ohtani was the Pacific League MVP in 2016, helping his Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters win the Nippon Series.  After his own injury plagued 2017 season, he moved to MLB and has put up a couple solid seasons with the bat as well as pitching well in 10 starts in 2018 before running into arm issues.  His 2020 season has been less than spectacular (2 very poor starts before being shut down and he's currently hitting under .200) but he did have his first sayonara hit in Friday night's game against Houston.

That BBM box set from 2016 had 18 cards in its base set - seven cards for each player and four cards showing both players.  Here's all four of the cards with both players.  The first one shows them at their team's respective "rookie class introductory" press conferences, the second one shows their matchup on May 26th, 2013 (Ohtani was not pitching that game - I think he doubled twice off Fujinami but Fujinami got the win in the game), the third one celebrates their first playoff appearances in 2014 and the last one shows the two of them together at some event for Gaora Sports during the 2015-16 offseason:

2016 BBM Go Higher #1

2016 BBM Go Higher #5

2016 BBM Go Higher #11

2016 BBM Go Higher #16


Sean said...

In some ways their careers are actually kind of similar - they both made a big splash as extremely promising young players, then injuries started taking their toll and have thus far prevented both from.

Ohtani has obviously had more success and lost less time to injuries, but despite all the hype around him being able to hit and pitch he hasn't really lived up to the unreasonably high expectations so far.

Maybe they'll both turn it around next year!

SumoMenkoMan said...

Man, I hope Ohtani turns things around. Was really hoping to see him pitch and bat....and something unique and different in the league that we need. Oh well.