Jojima projections

DMZ · November 21, 2005 at 10:41 am · Filed Under Mariners 

A caution: part of the problem with trying to do this kind of comparison is that there are so few sample points every year. There are a ton of pitchers and hitters who move up and down between AAA and the majors, but in any given year there might be five players who go from NPB to MLB. One of the things that may be throwing off projection attempts so far is that the players moving over may not be a good, even representation of Japanese baseball talent in the same way that AAA has.

Also, this is me applying rough statistical tools that involve league difficulty, translations, and other related stuff. Jojima’s ability to adjust, his approach, and all kinds of non-stat things are going to affect his performance. This is intended for entertainment purposes only, so please… no wagering.

Updated note: in going through this exercise, my starting point was older estimations of the relative difficulty levels of Japanese baseball to the major leagues. While this is a good starting point, there are new ways to do this: see the comments for details.

So take Kazuo Matsui (please!).
2002: .332/.391/.617 (Seibu)
2003: .305/.364/.549 (Seibu)
2004: .272/.331/.396 (Mets)
2005: .255/.300/.352 (Mets)

That’s way under what he was projected to hit by most analysts who took a crack at it. (Dave, btw, said “The M’s should jump for joy that they didn’t get Kazuo Matsui. He’s got serious issues with his swing, and unless he makes some adjustments, is going to be a groundball machine. There’s just no way he hits for any real power with his current hitting mechanics.” This is because Dave is awesome.) So in this exercise, I tried to error consistently on the low side, to try and avoid that kind of over-estimation.

Here’s Jojima’s last couple of years for the Fukuoka Daiei Hawks:
2003: .330/.399/.593
2004: .338/.432/.655
2005: .309/.381/.557

He was born in 1976, so aging’s not going to be a huge issue over the next couple of years. Jeff at Lookout Landing took a super-quick look at a couple of other players who’ve come over and said

Thus, Johjima’s .309/.381/.557 2005 batting line translates into a .270/.319/.413 performance in 2006.

Clay Davenport wrote a much longer, detailed look at a set of Japanese players in 2002 (here) that has some lessons as we attempt this.

Say, for a second, that there’s no adjustment in coming over. Averaging a player’s three-year performance is actually a great way to do projections (it gets us almost all the way there: PECOTA, the STATS, Inc. lines, and all the other systems are fighting over that last gap).

Raw 3-year-based projection if he stays in Japan: .326/.404/.602

That’d be nice if we could get it. That’s almost Pujols territory.

I’ll take some rough cuts at this. A straight Japanese baseball-to-MLB difficulty adjustment, based on Clay Davenport’s work on league difficulty, I come out with an estimate of .300/.380/.575 (pre-park-adjustments). That’s Mark Teixeira territory from a catcher. That’d be pretty awesome.

However, let’s also go for a much more pessimistic view and knock him down further. This is entirely reasonable, given a glance at recent Japanese players who’ve made that transition. I don’t want to be too doom-and-gloom, but skepticism is warranted.

I took the league difficulty numbers and then applied a blow-to-the-sternum adjustment, assuming that Jojima’s performance would take a significant hit. At that point, it became difficult to come up with a realistic-looking projection. Assuming that he retained the same offensive shape, it came out at .275/.355/.555.

That doesn’t look right, even for a low projection. If his average gets knocked down, we can assume that he’s not going to continue to get walks at the same rate, either. So toss that aside for a second, and let’s look for a more reasonable projection for an awful year. Kazuo Matsui only worse: his average gets chopped along with his walk rate, and almost none of his power comes over as well: .270/.310/.425.

Mariners catchers in 2005 hit .216/.253/.313. That’s not a joke. Upgrading from the Mariners to a horrible, worst-case Jojima is like the difference between 2005 Beltre and 2005 Sexson.

Before park adjustments, then —
High-end: .300/.380/.575
Total collapse: .270/.310/.425

Crunching some more numbers and assuming that Safeco blunts his power a little, I came up with a lower line of .300/.340/.500. I still wonder if I should go back and see if that power line is too high. A .500 SLG in Safeco? Really? For $5m? Heck yeah.

Now, whether any of those are high or low remain to be seen, but I hope the exercise has been interesting. It’s interesting that applying a NPB league adjustment that’s harsher than what’s been used in the past still gives us a line so gaudy it’s immediately discarded. While it’s obviously eye-poppingly gaudy, it’s not a best-case scenario in representing a career year in the same way that the worst-case line there is built to show a collapse.

I’ll be revisiting this later, looking at possible comperable players and how they did.


83 Responses to “Jojima projections”

  1. Gag Harbor on November 21st, 2005 5:05 pm

    What if we threw out the notion that the team measures their budget the same way most people think they do? What if the Mariners ownership group thought of their roster as a “portfolio” that some years they are aggresive and some years they are conservative? Suppose the Mariners have no set budget ($85M or $150M or whatever). The signing of Johjima may be an investment that they expect to lead to more wins but the cost ($16.5 or whatever for 3 years) could be made up by more sales of Johjima jersey’s sold in Japan to hardcore Johjima fans. To sit here and ponder whether or not the Mariners spent money (from a set budget) on a player that won’t throw 95 mph pitches for us or patrol a corner outfield position seems shortsighted.

    Obviously this is a big business and the lure of winning in pro sports pays off in big dollars but I’m sure there is more to this signing when it regards payroll. If the right players are available, I am confident the Mariners will do what they think is a prudent way to invest “their” money that will pay dividends.

    Luckily, I think this signing will translate into a better team and that’s what guys like Ichiro and Bavasi are focused on (thankfully).

  2. Taylor Davis on November 21st, 2005 6:10 pm

    #33 So if the trend holds true, and we see somewhere between an 18% and 30% decrease in slugging percentage, we can expect an OPS somehwere below .500….seems like DMZ’s projection is a bit optimistic.

  3. Taylor Davis on November 21st, 2005 6:13 pm

    My prediction would be something like .285/.340/.450, which would be wonderful. This signing gives us plenty to be excited about. I also see Joe improving in year’s 2 and 3 as he gets comfortable with everything.

  4. Dirk on November 21st, 2005 6:47 pm

    I think I want to know some of the intangibles that are pretty tough to come by. For instance, how good of a game will Johjima call? I know that baseball is baseball and has been played in this country for well over 100 years professionally, but will his experience pitching in Japan bring a different flavor to pitch selection than what is common in the US? Some may laugh, but this may have an impact (albeit small) on the style of ball the Mariners play next year. Its not like the right fielder controls the motion of the game like a catcher does.

    Also, will the language barrier be amplified since he is dealing with pitchers? It seems as if some catchers have the hardest time building up a beneficial working relationship – even speaking the same language (literally, of course).

    Maybe its something to think about…

  5. DMZ on November 21st, 2005 7:20 pm

    To be totally, totally clear:

    That the “reasonable” line there needs a better label. What this is intended to so is offer some ideas of what a Jojima performance might look like, based on what other people have done with rating the difficulty level of the Japanese leagues, and also trying to get an idea of what a serious Kaz Matsui-style collapse would look like.

    I hope none of those are taken as predictions of his performance. They’re the result of an exercise.

  6. Ron on November 21st, 2005 7:25 pm

    do you really think hes worth the 16 mil with those projections. i say they spend more money on pitching where they need it!

  7. Tim on November 21st, 2005 7:37 pm

    I agree with Deanna in #12.

    I think Iguchi-like offense would be acceptable if he’s reasonable good behind the plate. His numbers have been more consistent than Iguchi’s, and he’s struck out quite a bit less than Iguchi did, with slightly better power.

    What about his arm and catcher skills I wonder.

    This is a good signing, IMO.

  8. Nadingo on November 21st, 2005 8:09 pm

    Hmm, not sure how applicable Clay Davenport’s assessment of the difficulty of Japanese leagues is when it comes to predicting performance of Japanese stars who come to MLB. No, I can’t begin to question the validity of his analysis, but something doesn’t sit right when one of his conclusions is that Ichiro’s 2001 was a “bad year” for him — since Ichiro has only exceeded that year’s performance in one of the four following years, I’d have to say that that conclusion was pretty far off.

    Also, since this analysis was done in 2002, we’ve seen the Matsuis and Iguchi cross over and experience the ~20% decline in slugging that Bob Montgomery showed above. Not sure how that translates into EQA, but that seems to disagree with Davenport’s assessment that the “quality multiplier” from Japanese leagues to MLB for EQA is .92. Sure, the Ichiro, Matsuis, & Iguchi examples represent a miniscule sample size, but they’re the best examples we have of Japanese stars coming to MLB, and they all suggest that Davenport’s quality multiplier is off. Maybe it’s time to update this study with the past four years worth of Japan-MLB comparative data?

  9. DMZ on November 21st, 2005 9:19 pm

    Hmm, not sure how applicable Clay Davenport’s assessment of the difficulty of Japanese leagues is when it comes to predicting performance of Japanese stars who come to MLB.

    Um, very?

    I used a harsher difficulty adjustment than Clay suggested.

  10. Nadingo on November 21st, 2005 9:35 pm

    I’m just saying that if Clay’s conclusion about Ichiro was off, and it looks like his quality multiplier doesn’t match up with the performances of Kaz, Hideki, and Iguchi, then how is it a reliable predictor of transitions from Japan to MLB? Am I wrong about the evidence, or are you just saying that there are a host of other factors (adjustment periods, homesickness, etc.) that cause the observed quality multiplier for Ichiro, Kaz, Hideki, and Iguchi to be below 0.92? I understand using 0.92 as an upper limit, but wouldn’t it be better to have a multiplier that actually approached the mean of how players have done?

  11. DMZ on November 21st, 2005 10:04 pm


  12. Chuck on November 21st, 2005 10:14 pm

    What’s with the negative response? It seems Nadingo asked a legit question.

  13. Taylor Davis on November 21st, 2005 10:20 pm

    BB says that Johjima is a gap hitter perfectly suited for Safeco….we’ve heard this before (Ibanez) and it turned out Bavasi was correct. Here’s to hoping that Johjima’s style suits are park well.

  14. eponymous coward on November 21st, 2005 10:25 pm

    Well, I’d put it this way- someone else, using somewhat different methodology (Jim Albright) ran some numbers for Ichiro and the Matsuis…

    Ichiro come out to pretty damn close to dead-on accurate. Hideki Matsui comes out a little high, Kaz Matsui comes out very high, and So Taguchi comes out somewhat low.

    He does Tadahito Iguchi here:

    He comes out high here, but not “OMG what a bust” so, and Iguchi’s career is fairly spiky, it seems- and it’s the average that’s low, his power and peripherals are right on.

    And then we come to Johjima…

    Albright does express some conern, but the guy’s translations over a 3 year period aren’t far off Derek’s lower line of .300/.340/.500- in fact, they are better.

    Based on that, I have to say there’s a decent chance this guy is going to post numbers in 2006 that are better than Varitek’s career line- more in line with a good year for Varitek (Varitek’s SLG is close to .500 the last 3 years) or better.

  15. eponymous coward on November 21st, 2005 10:29 pm

    Then again, Varitek doesn’t play half his games at Safeco, so the numbers might get depressed some- but if we had the chance to sign Jason Varitek as a 30 year old FA for 3 years, 16.5 million instead of 5 years and 40 million…um, duh?

  16. John in L.A. on November 21st, 2005 10:48 pm

    I don’t want to speak for DMZ, but my guess as to his reaction is this:

    His entire original entry is not only the answer to the question, but is also, really, the question itself.

    He basically says in the article that he is not using Clay’s numbers because recent history has shown them to be too generous.

    “We should be sceptical because players coming over lately show Clay’s numbers to be suspect.”

    “Say, DMZ, players coming over lately make Clay’s numbers kind of suspect. Shouldn’t we be sceptical?”

    No big deal, obviously, but that was my reaction.

  17. Ace of Spades on November 21st, 2005 10:58 pm

    Aaron Gleeman at The Hardball Times writes about the Jojima signing:

    Gleeman predicts a .275/.333/.425/.758 line for Jojima and believes that it will be one of this offseason’s biggest bargains. Could the news get any better?

  18. eponymous coward on November 21st, 2005 11:45 pm

    Yeah, it could- 2005 wasn’t one of Johjima’s better seasons. Projecting off of a 3 year line pushes him up quite a bit.

  19. joealb on November 22nd, 2005 2:30 am

    #49, That would be a great idea if NPB umpires gave “Gaijin” the same strike zone as Japanese players.

  20. Nadingo on November 22nd, 2005 6:29 am

    #66: Sure, I can see that, John, but I still read DMZ’s post as taking Clay’s numbers as a reliable starting point and then making guesses about what Johjima’s numbers will actually be. To be fair, DMZ’s adjustments below Clay’s projection were likely much more data-driven than guesses, but there’s no way to know that from the post.

    I was just saying that I didn’t understand why one would use Clay’s numbers as a starting point if they fail to accurately predict the performance of other players making similar transitions to Johjima’s. As Eponymous and Ace of Spades showed, there are other people making NPB to MLB projections who have, in fact, been much more accurate with projecting the performance of players I mentioned. Clay’s work on the comparative difficulty of NPB is very interesting and extremely thorough … I just think that if your goal is projecting Johjima’s performance then there are better places to start from.

  21. Scraps on November 22nd, 2005 6:58 am

    i say they spend more money on pitching where they need it!

    This sentiment is becoming one of the most tiresome refrains of the offseason, IMO. The Mariners sucked at pitching and hitting. We need to improve both. They just spent money on catching, one of many places “where they need it.” What’s to complain about? It’s not like this contract prevents the team from pursuing pitching, either.

  22. roger tang on November 22nd, 2005 8:04 am

    Spending money where they need it?

    Did some folks SEE what a black hole (and we’re talking galactic core, cosmological scale type of black hole) the catching position was? Where getting league average production is going to give you three more wins, just by itself?

    This is using money where they need it, and it’s an intelligent risk to get above average production. We all want above average production from our players, right?

  23. Russ on November 22nd, 2005 8:27 am

    i say they spend more money on pitching where they need it!

    Picking up Jojima is a brillent move. I don’t think we could have acquired a better value in a needed position. He is the right position, the right age and he is signed for 3 years.

    He was respected with a guranteed third year. That show of faith will not be taken lightly by Jojima. I won’t be surprised if he arrives at spring training with sufficent language skills to work with the pichers.

  24. eponymous coward on November 22nd, 2005 10:26 am

    As Eponymous and Ace of Spades showed, there are other people making NPB to MLB projections who have, in fact, been much more accurate with projecting the performance of players I mentioned.

    You might want to re-read me at 47 and 64. It seems Jim Albright, using different methodology, came up with numbers similar to Derek’s as a possible translation of Johjima’s stats (with a caveat- Safeco was not accounted for).

    That being said, a year like .270/.310/.425 (Johjima’s “total colllapse”) wouldn’t be totally outrageous for even someone like Varitek to have (see Varitek’s 2000 and 2002 seasons). So seeing this makes me feel more confident that Johjima’s likely to be one of the top C’s in the AL…provided that the mileage on his C odometer hasn’t gone too high.

  25. Nadingo on November 22nd, 2005 11:06 am

    Yeah, I understood your posts, Epo – I wasn’t at all arguing with Derek’s overall conclusion. I was just questioning the validity of using Clay’s numbers as a starting point, rather than, for example, just using Jim Albright’s numbers.

    I understand that this is just an exercise, and just for entertainment purposes (obviously), but it just seemed like a strange way to conduct the exercise, using a baseline projection system that has a poorer track record in what interests us than other projection systems out there.

  26. Senor Mateo on November 22nd, 2005 11:52 am

    Rob Neyer projects worse than “total collapse” with an OBP of .300 and a SLG of .400.

  27. Bob Montgomery on November 22nd, 2005 1:14 pm

    Just to chime in, I am glad the Ms signed Johjima.

    But I just don’t see any way on earth that he slugs .500. I think the “total collapse” line is probably a reasonable expectation…maybe on the low side. Which is ok with me. You don’t have to slug .500 to be a good catcher and a fantastic acquisition.

  28. eponymous coward on November 22nd, 2005 3:44 pm

    Rob Neyer projects worse than “total collapse” with an OBP of .300 and a SLG of .400.

    Based on what, exactly? Hideki Matsui didn’t come over and collapse like that, and while Matsui’s stats are better than Johjima’s, they aren’t “OMG, not even in the same universe” better.

  29. Rusty on November 22nd, 2005 8:48 pm

    Rob Neyer projects a .700 OPS? Well, then I see Neyer’s .700 and raise .200. There! My projection is .900. I’m all in. No more chips to bet.

  30. Dave on November 22nd, 2005 9:42 pm

    Rob Neyer is still alive?

  31. Rusty on November 22nd, 2005 11:41 pm

    Neyer comes out into the daylight when he needs a break from writing his books, as he did in today’s ESPN chat.

    BTW, Rany Jazayerli and Rob Neyer had some good things to say about Estaban Loaiza on the latest installment of their Royal catharsis on

    I really don’t understand the negativism toward Loaiza from some quarters on this board. Even if we don’t bag Burnett, I love the idea of signing Loaiza and Brown just from the standpoint that their ceilings are well known and quite high. And I’m guessing most teams are undervaluing their upside at this point. If these 2 guys were to catch some luck for the Mariners and combine with a good season from Felix, the Mariners might do quite well in 2006.

  32. Watanabe on November 23rd, 2005 7:50 am

    The exercise may be interesting, but it is also silly. Kazuo Matsui’s performance has been surely very disappointing, but then you should never forget what Hideki Matsui and Ichiro Suzuki have achieved. Johjima is the best catcher in the Japanese professional league, and can easily hit 300 and 30 homeruns if the atmospher or environments suit him well. Kazuo Matsui reportedly had an intrinsic problme with his swing, but it cannot be true. Too much pressure on Kazuo kept him from performing what he could; he is a very talented player: so far,no Japanese player has been successful in Mets: Shinjo, Nomo, Yoshii as they were all destroyed there. Mets is a great team, but the atmosphere is nor right for the Japanese. I am quite sure even Ichiro would have suffered disaster if he had played for Mets. However, I am pretty sure that in Seattle Johnjima will be admired as one of the best catchers that Mariners ever had under one condition: the atmosphere should be right for him. If not, the next year would be a real disaster for Johjima and Mariners. Statistics mean nothing, but mentality means.

  33. DMZ on November 23rd, 2005 9:00 am

    Kaz Matsui does “reportedly” have a problem with his swing. That’s because his swing’s a problem. It’s horrible. He’s like Ichiro without the balance and bat control, it’s painful to watch. I’m no scout and even I can see what’s wrong with him.