The chance at a backdrop can revive a player’s career and turn a previous disappointment into a catalyst for a team making the playoffs. Jose Bautista, Jake Arrieta, Max Muncy and countless others didn’t take their extra chances for granted and have pushed the playoff teams for the past 10 years.
In a much smaller sample size, Yoshi Tsutsugo has been channeling his former Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) success since he signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates on August 15.
The 29-year-old spent most of his time with Yokohama, recording 205 home runs, 613 RBI and beating .285 with a .910 OPS in 10 seasons as one of Japan’s top power hitters.
Since signing a two-year $ 12 million contract with the Tampa Bay Rays on December 16, 2019, Tsutsugo has not generated similar electricity production in the US until arriving in Pittsburgh.
Yoshi was traded from the Rays to the Los Angeles Dodgers in May after being designated for the service but hitting only three hits and two RBI in 25 MLB at-bats, despite hitting .257 with 10 homers and over 43 in 32 Contests with AAA Oklahoma drove the city.
Tsutsugo is a career below the Mendoza line in the majors, having seen time first, third, left, right, and DH in 111 games and an overall averages of 0.199, 15 home runs, 46 RBI, and 0.697 OPS in 316 at records -Bats, but the past may be in the past.
In 22 games with the Pirates, Tsutsugo cuts .286 / .349 / .768 with a staggering 1,117 OPS, some of which were scored on four doubles, one triple, seven home runs and 16 RBI in just 56 at-bats. His seven cannonballs are fourth on the team, one away from being second in less than 25 games.
The lefty batter has shown an increase in force over the past month that easily propels the ball into gaps and over the fence. Despite an average exit speed in the league and a below average percentage of hard hits, Tsutsugo hit a lot of flyballs, creating a chain reaction of fewer groundballs and more line drives.
His batted ball placement is also average, with a low strikeout mark and an unsustainable number of home runs posing a daily threat to the line-up.
One blow to Tsutsugo was that he couldn’t catch up with the fastball and high-velocity bowlers. Of his seven Pirates longballs, four came against the Cardinals and two against the Cubs.
St. Louis Cardinals:
Daniel Ponce de Leon
Outside of Reyes, most of these pitchers are either young players trying to prove themselves or older veterans who rely on pit-breaking to get outs. Their speed is relatively slow compared to the new era of 95+ pitch speeds and increased spin rates.
Obviously, Tsutsugo has no control over who is playing for the opponent and what kind of repertoire they bring to the rubber, but there is still something to consider when immersing yourself in Yoshi’s first strong stretch of big league ball.
Persistent at-bats for the remainder of 2021 will further prove whether Tsutsugo made an adjustment in his sophomore year that resulted in a superior approach to the bowl, or whether the stretch rivals include pirate folk hero John Nogowski as an AAAA player instruct who is able to crush AAA pitching but doesn’t stay all the way into MLB.
He still needs time to prove himself, although given his impressive strength, he is a pleasant player who knocks the ball over the fence. A prolonged hot streak might be the case for Tsutsugo, but he’s earned a spot in the daily order at the end of the season.
Despite poor defensive skills, Tsutsugo could be a player to watch as we enter 2022, with one of the rawest power bats in the 40-man roster.
Only time will tell whether Yoshi can continue to make reliable record appearances in Pittsburgh.