Chang-Yong Lim is a Korean-born 34-year old (he’s going to be 35 next season) reliever for the Tokyo Yakult Swallows, in the Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) league. He’s been their closer since 2008. Before the NPB, he played on the Haitai Tigers and the Samsung Lions of the Korean Baseball Organization.
Mr. Lim- as I will call him, in honor of his fellow countryman, Mr. Koo- possesses a wide variety of pitches. His pitching repertoire includes:
- A four-seam fastball that has in the past been clocked as high as 100 MPH, but sits more comfortably in the 90 to 95 MPH range.
- A two-seam fastball that has a lot of tailing movement, such that it has been nicknamed "the serpent", because of its bite.
- A slider with a great deal of horizontal movement, that is thrown anywhere between 75 and 85 MPH.
- A forkball that sits in the 85 to 90 MPH range.
This graph, care of the data provided by NPBtracker.com, shows his average velocity per pitch for his 2009 and 2010 NPB seasons:
Oh, and he throws like this (the first AB starts around the 2:00 mark).
In 2008, his first season in the NPB, he finished with a 1-5 record, with 33 saves, and a 3.00 ERA in 51 innings pitched. He struck out 50, and, remarkably walked only 9 batters all season. His 2009 season was even better. For the first few months of the season, Mr. Lim possessed an ERA of 0.00, which is how he earned the nickname "Mr. Zero". He was selected as an All-Star, as the closer of the Central League. His second half was not as impressive, as his ERA "shot up", as he allowed earned runs. For the year, he finished with a 5-4 record, with 28 saves, and a 2.05 ERA in 57 innings pitched. He struck out 52, and walked 19. This year, "Mr. Zero" put up another very good season. For the year, he finished with a 1-2 record, with 34 saves, and a 1.48 ERA in 54.2 innings pitched. He struck out 52, while walking 16.
Mr. Lim is going to be posted during this upcoming off-season, and I lobby that the Mets do their best to sign him. There are a few reasons why, as I will now explain:
1) As we all know, Francisco Rodriguez has an albatross of a contract, in that if he appears in more than 55 games, his $17.5 million dollar option will activate itself. It’s not that I don’t dislike K-Rod (I don’t; I like him, actually), but I don’t want the Mets to be burdened by such a massive contract, with that money going to a relief pitcher. Mr. Lim, for three years, was a top closer in the NPB. He already possesses that mythical "closer mentality" that successful closers are supposed to have. I don’t want to see K-Rod completely replaced as closer, as that would not be beneficial for the team, but having Mr. Lim on the roster allows for a "set-up" man, in a vein similar to what JJ Putz was supposed to be (only cheaper and healthier), and gives the team some flexibility in ensuring that K-Rod’s contract does not vest. In other words, Mr. Lim provides the Mets a mechanism to prevent K-Rod from appearing in more than 55 games without actively hampering the chances of the team winning.
2) Assuming Hisanori Takahashi is re-signed in some capacity, Mr. Lim will be the third Asian pitcher on the team, along with Ryota Igarashi, and the fourth in three years (the recently retired Ken Takahashi being that other guy). I have long been a proponent of the Mets doing more to scout in Japan and Korea, the only two Asian countries that are known to have baseball leagues worth their salt, as evidenced by their performances in the 2006 and 2009 World Baseball Classics. Mets scouts being more active in the Far East is something that I like a lot. The Mets have had more busts in signing Japanese and/or Korean pitchers than they have had gains, but a little adversity should not stop the team from scouring that part of the market. Mr. Lim is no Dice-K, meaning he would not attract the attention of the Korean/Japanese media like Dice-K did when he landed with the Red Sox a few years ago, but I would like the Mets to be a team that Japanese/Korean players think about when they say to themselves, "One day, I'd like to play in the American MLB."
3) Yu Darvish. I’m jumping the gun, and assuming that he’ll be posted this winter (he might!), but if he is, what a better way to make sure that the Mets’ newly won prized prospect (He has relatively few innings pitched, as opposed to say, Daisuke Matsuzaka) is comfortable in a new country, and on a new team, by having an assortment of other former NPB players around him? Culture shock can sometimes be a tough thing. Mr. Lim is Korean, where as Darvish is Japanese, but both can share the experience of coming to the Mets, why not?
When everything is said and done, I can't really foresee Mr. Lim being posted for an exorbitant price, or the Mets signing him to an excessively large contract. Reports have mentioned that he's garnered some limited interest from MLB scouts, but nothing more. He isn't a Kei Igawa in a Dice-K market, meaning that his price is not going to be driven up because other teams are going to be competing bidding for the services of a similar, better pitcher. While I don't know how much his posting fee might go for, in the NPB, he made around the same amount of money that Toyota Irrigation made. As such, Mr. Lim probably could be inked to a similar deal- I wouldn't be opposed to a two-year, $6 million dollar contract. Is there a chance, like plenty of other Japanese pitchers, that he'll turn out to be a bust, or a mere shadow of his former self in the Major Leagues? Absolutely. But, a great deal of NPB pitchers figured out how to adjust to the MLB and were effective enough- potential teammate Tak2 being among them. I'd rather take the gamble, and fail, than not take it at all, or, even worse, see some other team take it, and it work out for them.