Many expected the 2007 version of Hideki Okajima to disappear as we headed into last season.
But he didn't.
Okajima stuck around another year, and was roughly the same pitcher that he was in 2007, overall.
His K/9 actually improved the second time around the league: 8.22 to 8.71.
He walked more batters per nine: 2.22 to 3.34.
And his ERA rose a little: 2.22-2.61. But nothing too drastic.
Now, Okajima was incredible during the first half of 2007. So if one goes by just those numbers, then yes, he experienced serious decline.
But much of Okajima's initial success, at least that level of success, was because of a "league-adjustment" period that left hitters baffled much of the time. Major League hitters were not accustomed to a delivery as odd looking as Okajima, and they obviously could not pick up the ball very well. Not to mention, Okajima had a few pretty good pitches to go along with that peculiar way of delivering the ball.
And because Okajima is a reliever, hitters didn't see him that much, making it all the more difficult to get used to him.
But we are not going to get the first-half-of-2007 version of Okajima again. No way. A 0.83 ERA is not going to be put up by Okajima, or any other reliever next season. And that incredible .207 BABIP isn't going to be duplicated either.
Of course, the "fatigued" Okajima we saw in the second half of that year is probably not going to pop-up again either. Well, the fatigue may be a possibility, but those numbers were very poor for a reliever. And of those numbers arise once again, then Okajima is going to have to find another job.
"H to the O" actually improved as 2008 progressed. His first half was solid, but the walks were way up early in the season. However, down the stretch Okajima regained his control, and was better in the relief role as the season went on.
The one place where skepticism arises in regards to the Oki Doke, is that hitters have definitely adjusted according to Oki's "Line Drive %." His "LD%" climbed up to 20% last season, where as, it was only 14% in 2007.
Hitters began to adjust, naturally.
But Okajima was still good. Still a quality arm out of the pen, for a good team--a contending team.
The increase in line drives and the lack of innings leave room for Okajima to decline even more during this upcoming season. But it is also very possible that last years Okajima is what we will get from here on out, too.
What to expect out of Okajima? I would expect something similar to 2008, but I will let Tim discuss Hideki Okajima's projections in his series entitled "For Better or Worse 2009."