Roki Sasaki (22‧ Chiba Lotte),메이저놀이터 who is selected as the next-generation ace of the Japanese national team, is a player who has a taste for growth. The title ‘monster of the Reiwa era’ is not a waste at all. It’s a pitch that makes you wonder how far he can stretch.
Sasaki said his rookie season in 2020 was more focused on building his body than pitching. It was because of Chiba Lotte’s judgment that his skinny body lacked the stamina to last in the first team. In 2021, there were 11 first-team appearances and 63⅓ innings. He thoroughly managed so that the innings did not suddenly increase.
His shackles are loosening little by little since last year. Last year, he went 20 games and threw 129⅓ innings, recording an average ERA of 2.02 with 9 wins and 4 losses. His historic perfect game also came out. Sasaki’s full-fledged first season is this year. Now, Chiba Lotte’s plan is to debut as a complete starter by digesting more than the regular innings.
The start of this year is perfect. He pitched 20 innings in three games and had an earned run average of zero. His batting average was 0.081, and he allowed only 5 hits in 20 innings. However, he is not a typical young pitcher with a problem with his pitching. His walks were only three. His on-base per inning (WHIP) is 0.40. Naturally, he swept 3 wins in 3 appearances.
It is evaluated that Sasaki’s pitch is at its peak. He struck out 30 in 20 innings. The number of strikeouts per 9 innings was 13.50, starting from a better figure than last year (12.04), and the strikeout/walk ratio reached 10.00. Thanks to this overwhelming ratio, Sasaki’s ERA (FIP) regardless of defense is also top-notch at 0.21.
The average speed of Sasaki’s four-seam fastball, compiled by local media in Japan, reached a whopping 99.2 miles (about 160 km). It is rare that there are only one or two people in the major leagues who, not even a bullpen pitcher, have a four-seam restraint like this. The miss rate is also a ridiculous figure of 47.9%. If the bat comes out, it means that half of the swing is wrong. Even in the long history of Japanese professional baseball, there has never been a player like this.
Sasaki has amassed a not small sample of 212⅔ innings since his debut, during which his earned run average is 1.90. It’s even more surprising that he’s a 22-year-old player. He gets stronger going forward, and as he gains more experience, he can expect to pitch better. It is not for nothing that the major leagues are waiting for this player to advance to the United States.