HomeTeamsDodgersToo Early to Panic About Yamamoto?

Too Early to Panic About Yamamoto?

Amidst the explosive sports betting story surrounding Shohei Ohtani and his interpreter Ippei Mizuhara, there might have been one guy on the Los Angeles Dodgers who actually benefited from it: Yoshinobu Yamamoto, whose disastrous major league debut was slightly masked by this controversial story.

The Dodgers’ newest ace, who signed a massive 12-year, $325 million contract this winter making him the highest paid pitcher in MLB history despite only pitching in Japan, was shelled for five earned runs on four hits, one walk and striking out two against the San Diego Padres in the second game of the opening series in Seoul, South Korea.

Yamamoto’s first start of the season only lasted one inning as manager Dave Roberts immediately yanked the 25-year-old after the first inning and opted to go with a bullpen game from there.

The offense tried to fight back posting 11 runs, but the Padres continued to pound Dodger pitching racking up 15 runs (13 earned) on 17 hits and six walks. So, while Yamamoto wasn’t alone in getting smacked around, the tone was set early in this game, and he was responsible for it.

Some will use the typical clichés of ‘It’s early,’ ‘He’s not built up,’ ‘Not used to these hitters,’ or ‘the routine is different’ to offer reasoning for his struggles. They could be correct in leaning into any of those including dealing with nerves and increased pressure, but even during the spring starts, he has also struggled in two of his previous three starts that there are mechanical issues he needs to address.

In one of those starts against the Chicago White Sox, the thought was Yamamoto was tipping his pitches and hitters were anticipating it as it was coming out of his glove.

A more glaring problem is a seemingly lack of command of his pitches which has been an ongoing problem. He’s throwing too many pitches and is struggling to get quick out while enticing too much traffic on the base pads.

Apparently, pitching out of the stretch is also an issue for Yamamoto, which he admitted during his postgame press conference that he isn’t used to it.

The reason I was having the problem with command was, because I wasn’t ready to execute the pitch from the stretch,” Yamamoto said. “I know how to fix it and I’m going to talk to my pitching coaches to get myself ready for the next one.”

It’s clear that maybe the fans, media, coaches, front office, and even Yamamoto himself might’ve underestimated the transition between pitching in Japan and now in the US and hasn’t made all of the necessary adjustments.

Making mistakes against some of these hitters at the major league level like a Manny Machado, or a Fernando Tatis Jr., or apparently even a Jake Cronenworth who went 4/4 with four RBIs in the second game, isn’t the same as making mistakes against other contemporaries in Japan. The MLB is loaded with talented hitters who can rake and ambush mistakes.

It’s obviously too early to panic about Yamamoto considering how early it is in the season and the Dodgers had to play two games that counted while everyone else in the league is still in spring training mode.

While it would be unfair to call Yamamoto a bust based on one professional start in a 12 year deal, it does ask a question: are they better off in the long term with Yamamoto or should they have targeted Blake Snell and Jordan Montgomery?

Both are more proven pitchers in the MLB than Yamamoto and proven they can handle the big stage. Snell won his second Cy Young Award this past year and Montgomery anchored a Texas Rangers rotation that won a World Series championship in October.

Both can’t even get half that deal, or any deal for that matter. Snell barely signed this past week with NL West rival San Francisco Giants on a two-year contract worth $62 million and a player option for the 2025 season and Montgomery, a postseason hero, remains unsigned with the season starting next week.

It’s definitely a far cry from the most lucrative deal ever signed in MLB history that Yamamoto received from the Dodgers among several other suitors this winter, despite never pitching in the MLB.

With a debut like he just had, it raises some questions and perhaps some doubts, but it’s way too early to panic about Yamamoto. It just could take him longer to settle into the American game, get comfortable in his new surroundings, and deal with the pressures of the ‘championship or bust’ expectations in LA.

Chris Camello
Chris Camellohttps://mlbreport.com/
Chris Camello has been a sports writer, reporter, and podcaster for 11 years covering all of the major sports teams throughout Los Angeles as well as college and high school sports. He currently covers high school football, basketball, and baseball for the Long Beach Press-Telegram and co-hosts as sports podcast called “The Outlet Forum” available on all major streaming platforms.


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