“You’re doing an incredible job”

Currently, there is a player who is receiving the most spotlight in the Major League. Neither Shohei Ohtani of the Los Angeles Dodgers nor Yoshinobu Yamamoto who entered the Major League last winter after breaking the highest price ever for a pitcher through a 325 million-dollar contract. It is Shota Imana of the Chicago Cubs.

Imanaga began his professional career in 2015 after being drafted by Yokohama DeNA BayStars in the first round of the Japanese professional baseball rookie draft. Imanaga played in 22 games in his first season of debut, leaving him with an 8-9 record and an ERA of 2.93 and establishing himself as the ace of Yokohama DeNA, leaving him with an excellent 11-7 record and an ERA of 2.98 in 24 games the following year. He had his worst year in the 2018 season with a 4-11 record and a 6.80 ERA, but the slump did not last long.

Imanaga has established himself as Japan’s left-hander ace, with 13 wins and 7 losses and a 2.91 ERA in 25 games in the 2019 season. Imanaga, who won the gold medal in his first appearance for the Japanese national team at the 2017 Asian Professional Baseball Championship (APBC), also participated in the 2019 World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) Premier 12, showing an overwhelming record of one win and 1.00 ERA in two games. And he caught the eyes of big league scouts by playing one win and 3.00 ERA in three games, including a key role in starting the finals at the World Baseball Classic (WBC) in March last year.

In his eight seasons in Japan alone, Imanaga pitched in 165 games (13 complete throws and seven shutouts) and achieved one “no-hitter” record of 64 wins and 50 losses with a 3.18 ERA, challenging himself to the big leagues after the 2023 season ended. Imanaga has been very strategic. Yamamoto, who was considered the “biggest fish,” posted first and then let the teams that lost the recruitment battle get interested in him. This choice was spot on. After Yamamoto was confirmed to go to the Dodgers, the kneeling teams turned their eyes to Imanaga.

While Yamamoto was called Japan’s “Ace” during the Orix Buffaloes, the difference in contract size was huge even though he was entitled “left-handed ace.” Of course, this was Imana’s choice. Although Imana was offered a contract worth more than 100 million dollars, he did not choose to join the club, and rather joined hands with the Chicago Cubs for four years and 53 million dollars, which is only half of the guaranteed amount. If the Cubs wish after the 2025 or 2026 season, the contract would soar to 80 million dollars (about 108.6 billion won) for 4+1 years, but it was ultimately less than 100 million dollars.

Due to the limited size of his contract, Imanaga did not receive much attention during the spring camp. The U.S. and Japanese media seem to be focusing on Yamamoto rather than Imanaga. However, he has successfully attracted attention to Yamamoto. That is inevitable. Imanaga is currently tying for first in the Major League with multiple wins, no losses, and overwhelmingly top in ERA in six games.

Notably, he pitched seven scoreless innings despite his average pitching speed of one mile (about 1.61 kilometers) less than usual. It was the best performance since he entered the Major League. Imana has set numerous records based on his appearance on Wednesday. According to Sarah Reims of MLB.com , he has recorded below 0.80 in six starts since his debut in 1913, following Fernando Valenzuela (0.33), Dave Ferris (0.50) in 1945, and Bob Shoki (0.75) in 1913.

This is not the only one. In terms of the Cubs’ standard, he is the second-best player in six games with an ERA below 0.80 since Phil Douglas (0.75) in 1918. As the starting pitcher for Ham and Douglas was mixed with bullpen pitcher games, Imanaga became the first player in the team’s history to make a successful start. Imanaga has made his mark in history as the third player in Japanese Major League history to win five consecutive games since debuting after Kazuhisa Ishii (then LA Dodgers) in 2002 and Masahiro Tanaka (New York Yankees) in 2014. He was named the “Rookie of the Month” in the National League on Thursday.

Adam Wainwright, who ended his active career at the end of last year, praised Imana’s performance. Wainwright played 478 games in the Major League, including two National League wins (2009, 2013), two Gold Gloves (2009, 2013), and three All Stars (2010, 2013, 2014), and he struggled to achieve 200 wins and 128 losses with an ERA of 3.53 last year when he was over 40 years old, and finally announced his retirement after building a golden tower.

Wainwright, who appeared on “MLB Tonight” on “MLB Network,” gave Imana an “incredible performance.” Legend continued, “Imana is really good at throwing four-seam fastballs at a height that spans the strike zone. This is not a skill that all pitchers can do. What is needed to succeed in the Major League is to figure out what are their strengths,” and “Imana is well aware of who she is.” 안전놀이터

According to Baseball Servant, Imana’s fastball performance stands at 58.3 percent. Four-seam fastballs have a very high proportion. This can be interpreted as a sign that he is confident in his fastballs. Imana’s average RPM (RPM per minute) is very high at 2,424. Even though he is not a bullpen pitcher who throws short innings, his RPM of 2,400 or higher is very high.

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