Throughout the 2018/2019 offseason, Marlin Maniac will devote one article each for every player who appeared in the Miami Marlins system for the 2018 season. Every. Single. Player. This is Part 60 of 286. Stay tuned.
Junichi Tazawa is a 5’11”, 180 lb. right handed pitcher from Yokohama, Japan. He’s the only one to appear in the major leagues from that location. Born on June 6th, 1986, the Boston Red Sox signed him as an undrafted amateur free agent in 2008, for $1,800,000.
Tazawa went 9-7 in 20 starts in Boston’s minor league system in 2009, with a 2.55 ERA, 94 strikeouts in 109 innings, and a 1.04 WHIP between the double-A Portland Sea Dogs, in the Eastern League, and the Pawtucket Red Sox, in the triple-A International League (IL). On August 7th of that year, he joined Boston, and went 2-3 with a 7.46 ERA in six appearances, with a 2.05 WHIP through the remainder of the season.
After missing 2010 entirely, and spending most of 2011 between three Boston affiliates, then-number six Boston prospect Tazawa played most of 2012 back with the parent club. In seven seasons in total, he ended up with a 17-20 record in 302 appearances, with a 3.58 ERA, 308 K’s in 310 innings, and a mostly solid 1.26 WHIP. Granted free agency after the 2016 season, it was time for payday for Tazawa.
The Miami Marlins
Enter the Miami Marlins, who signed Tazawa through free agency for two years and $12,000,000. 2017 would see him go 3-5 with a 5.69 ERA in 55 appearances, with just 38 strikeouts in 55 innings. His 1.39 WHIP was less than ideal as well, and he also surrendered eight home runs. That’s 1.3 per nine innings.
The underwhelming performance had some worried, but the brand-new Miami Marlins management team decided to keep Tazawa through the second year of his contract. Tazawa proved them wrong in 2018 by earning a 9.00 ERA in 20 innings of work, allowing 13 walks and 28 hits for a WHIP of 2.05.
Tazawa also K’d 24 batters, but was getting hit harder and more often, according to Statcast. Hitters were achieving a 91.2 MPH average exit velocity against Tazawa in 2018, which was 3.8 MPH harder than in the prior campaign. They also “hard hit” the ball 48.9 percent of the time, a full 15% more often than in 2017. Tazawa’s xSLG of .529 and Launch Angle of 20.1 degrees were also markedly worse than in season’s past.
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The Marlins released Tazawa on May 21st after a terrible start to the season. A month later, the Detroit Tigers signed him, then watched him post a 9.39 ERA and a 2.09 WHIP in 7 2/3 innings of work with the triple-A Toledo Mud Hens, in the IL. They also released Tazawa, in mid-July.
The Los Angeles Angels signed Tazawa shortly afterward, and despite a spotty showing at the triple-A level with the Salt Lake Bees in the Pacific Coast League decided to give him another major league look. He wasn’t bad, allowing 1.25 WHIP and a 2.25 ERA in eight innings over nine games.
The Tazawa signing was the wrong move for the Miami Marlins when it happened, and the decision hasn’t aged wisely with time. The new ownership group, wisely, cut bait before the team took on too much damage in 2018. Tazawa’s performance for the Halos, while decent, will prove to be Fools Gold in the long term.
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