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Tuesday, April 6, 2010
Steady play needed from mercurial Sato
A pretty good pitcher will toss a great game on occasion. The elite hurlers are the ones who make a habit out of it.
Tokyo Yakult Swallows pitcher Yoshinori Sato has the talent to be mentioned among the elite, but until he can tap into it on a more consistent basis, he'll have to settle for just being really good.
Problem is, in an improved Central League, the Swallows could use more than just another good pitcher.
Despite how successful he can be at times, it's hard to know what to expect from the righty on any given day.
Will he be the stud who held the mighty Yomiuri Giants to a single run over eight innings in his first start this season?
Or will he be the struggling hurler who floundered against the lowly Yokohama BayStars, allowing eight runs in two-plus innings on April 3?
There are few such worries at the top of the food chain.
The NPB's best pitchers are able mix their talent with execution and produce quality starts on a consistent basis.
For example, the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters generally know what to expect out of Yu Darvish every time out.
The same can be said for other teams such as the Seibu Lions with Hideaki Wakui and the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles with Masahiro Tanaka.
Those pitchers aren't lights out in every game, but they're consistently good. Sato (1-1, 8.10 this season), so far, has only been sporadically good.
Last season, he began his year with a quality win over the Hanshin Tigers (allowing one run on three hits over six innings), then followed it up with a dud against the BayStars (seven runs on nine hits in 4 1/3 innings).
Sato tossed five shutout innings in a win over the Hiroshima Carp in his next start then followed that by lasting one inning in a loss to the BayStars.
He pitched seven good innings in his fifth start that season, then gave up four runs over 5 1/3 innings the next time out.
From there his season was a roller-coaster of highs and lows en route to a 5-10 record and 3.50 ERA.
With the 2010 campaign opening along the same lines, Sato needs to find a way to make the proper adjustments between each outing.
The Swallows aren't a team that's going to score 13 runs every night, so pitching will be a key component for them in the pennant race.
It would help the psyche of the team to know they have a pitcher who's going to help them win games.
No hurler is going to be perfect — or even good — every single time out, but a modicum of steady play is something that can go a long way.