Yoshinori Tateyama is a 34 (turning 35 this December) year old right-handed reliever who has spent his entire career with the Nippon Ham Fighters. His first two seasons, 1999 and 2000, Tateyama was used as both a starter and a reliever, appearing in 22 games in 1999, having started 15 of them, and 28 in 2000, having started 11 of them. After the 2000 season, however, he was converted into a full-time reliever. The Ham Fighters very rarely used him as their closer, however- over 10+ years of being in the bullpen, he only accrued 23 saves, despite appearing in 320 games. Instead, Tateyama has primarily served as a middle relief pitcher.
His best season was 2004, when he was a 28-year-old, where he posted a 2.33 ERA, having appeared in 41 games (46 innings pitched). He struck out 7.58 batters per nine innings, walked 1.36 batters per nine innings, and had a WHIP of 0.99. More recently, his 2008 season was equally impressive, where the 32-year-old posted a 3.07 ERA, having appeared in 58 games (67 innings pitched). He struck out 7.08 batters per nine innings, walked 1.60 batters per nine innings, and had a WHIP of 1.08. Most impressive of his 2008 season was his impressive 0.40 home runs per nine innings allowed, the lowest of his career- a number that normally hovered around 1.20 or so.
Here are his stats, thanks to NPBtracker.com:
Part I: Scouting Report
According to NPBtracker.com, Tateyama possesses:
Though Tateyama possesses a wide variety of pitches, he is primarily a fastball-slider pitcher. He throws his sinker and changeup often enough for batters to keep them in mind, but rarely throws his curve or shuuto. I cannot find out why this is, but is probably related to a lack of refinement and/or confidence in both pitches.
Unfortunately, I could not find any videos in the entirety of the Internet of Tateyama. From what I could gather, though, his pitching stance is nothing too spectacular or funky. He throws from a low three-quarters arm slot.
Part II: Costs
All in all, Yoshinori Tateyama does not boast a particularly impressive resume. As evidenced by his fairly long tenure with the Ham Fighters, and the solid stats he has put out year after year, he never was a flop in the NPB. He never particularly stood out, either. Nothing about him, be it his delivery, pitching repertoire, stats, whatever, particularly stood out. Seemingly, he is the definition of generic-but-dependable middle-relief guy.
There are many factors that are not in Tateyama's favor, when he is put on the market this winter. Most obviously, of course, is his age. When baseball season starts, he will be 35-years-old. His advanced age does not necessarily mean that he will not be effective- Hisanori Takahashi certainly was- but it's normally a downward slope, when a player reaches that age. The fact that Tateyama is, as mentioned above, a generic-but-dependable middle-relief guy hurts him as well. There are normally a decent number of players that fit that profile in the MLB free agent crop, plus the fact that many teams let rookie pitchers get their first taste of the major leagues in such a role. The transition to the MLB-regulation ball, from the four NPB-regulation balls also poses a possible challenge to Tateyama.
All things considered, I would be surprised if Tateyama received more than the MLB minimum ($400,000), and a one-year deal. If a team signs him, they might even sign him to a Minor League deal (with a invitation to Spring Training).
Part III: Conclusion
Personally, I'd pass on Tateyama. The Mets' bullpen is far from a dominant force, but I really don't see any particular use for him on the major league team- he doesn't possess any one particular dominating pitch, he isn't a lefty, and he's getting on in age. The only thing going for him, maybe, is that he isn't Sean Green. Even if Tateyama exceeded all expectations, and posted his best season ever, he'd still be, more or less, a generic-but-dependable middle-relief pitcher. But, since there are a lot more things going against him than are going for him, such an outcome is highly doubtful.
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