Hideki Irabu

Hideki Irabu: a strikeout king in Japan, underrated in US

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Hideki Irabu, who passed away this week at age 42, was best known for his failures in the United States.  He forced his way to the Yankees after the Padres originally purchased his rights, only to be dubbed a “fat toad” by George Steinbrenner after a series of disappointing performances.

Irabu, though, was hardly a horrible pitcher for the Yankees.  His career got off to a disastrous start in 1997, as he amassed a 7.09 ERA in nine starts and four relief appearances, and his reputation never really recovered.

However, Irabu was a perfectly adequate starter in his two subsequent years in New York, going 24-16 with a 4.44 ERA.  Now, a 4.44 ERA doesn’t sound like much right now, but back then, it was an above average mark.  He had a 103 ERA+ between 1998-99.  (For comparison’s sake, Michael Pineda, Edwin Jackson and Madison Bumgarner are all sporting ERA+s right around 103 this season).

Unfortunately, that was the end of Irabu’s U.S. contribution.  After being traded to the Expos in Dec. 1999, he went 5-15 with a 6.31 ERA in 118 1/3 innings over three injury-plagued seasons, though he actually did manage to record 16 saves for the Rangers in 2002.

Irabu returned to Japan after that and had a nice 2003 campaign, going 13-8 with a 3.85 ERA before knee pain shut him down early in the 2004 season, causing him to retire.  He attempted comebacks afterwards, and as a 40-year-old in 2009, he went 5-3 with a 3.58 ERA for Long Beach of the Golden Baseball League before again calling it a career.

Irabu ended up 72-69 with a 3.55 ERA in Japan.  He led his league in wins in 1994, in ERA in 1995 and ’96 and in strikeouts in 1994 and ’95.

In MLB, he went 34-35 with a 5.15 ERA.  His strong strikeout rate couldn’t overcome his penchant for giving up homers, as he surrendered 91 longballs in just 514 major league innings.

Irabu did collect two World Series rings with the Yankees.  Still, one can’t help but wonder how much better things would have went for him if he OK’d pitching in San Diego.  Pitching in the NL and Jack Murphy/Qualcomm Stadium would helped him out a bunch, given his flyball tendencies, and Irabu never seemed equipped to deal with the pressures of New York.  He probably wouldn’t have duplicated his Japan League success in San Diego, but he likely would have had some 15-win seasons before injuries struck.

The Phillies pulled Jeremy Hellickson back from trade waivers

SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA - AUGUST 5:  Jeremy Hellickson #58 of the Philadelphia Phillies pitches during the first inning of a baseball game against the San Diego Padres at PETCO Park on August 5, 2016 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images)
Denis Poroy/Getty Images
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CSN Philly’s Jim Salisbury reports that a team claimed Phillies starter Jeremy Hellickson on trade waivers, but the two clubs were unable to work out a deal. As a result, the Phillies pulled Hellickson back from trade waivers, which means he’s ineligible to be traded for the rest of the season.

Hellickson, 29, has had a nice bounce-back season after three poor years from 2013-15. He’s 10-8 with a 3.80 ERA and a 131/36 K/BB ratio in 154 innings.

The Phillies could attempt to re-sign Hellickson in the offseason. It’s also possible the club makes a qualifying offer — estimated to be worth $16.7 million — so that the Phillies will at least get back a compensatory draft pick if Hellickson opts to sign elsewhere.

Ever wonder what umpires and players say to each other during arguments?

LAKELAND, FL - FEBRUARY 27:  J.D. Martinez #28 of the Detroit Tigers poses during photo day at Joker Marchant Stadium on February 27, 2016 in Lakeland, Florida.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Rob Carr/Getty Images
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Tigers outfielder J.D. Martinez was ejected by home plate umpire Mike Everitt after he struck out looking in the bottom of the sixth inning of Saturday’s game against the Angels. He had a brief conversation with Everitt, which resulted in Martinez getting ejected.

MLive.com’s Evan Boodbery spoke to Martinez about what happened and got a word-for-word recollection of what happened. If you’ve ever wondered what umpires and players say to each other during their arguments, here’s a look:

No one has ever accused umpires of having thick skin.

Martinez finished the game 1-for-3. After an 0-for-4 performance on Sunday, he’s hitting .315/.377/.561 with 18 home runs and 52 RBI in 385 plate appearances.