The Texas Rangers were very busy during the Trade Deadline. Specifically, they worked hard to revamp their struggling bullpen, and acquired relief studs like Mike Adams and Koji Uehara to bridge the gap. In a bullpen that’s now so deep, it’s easy to forget about arguably their most surprising, yet most dominant reliever–Yoshinori Tateyama.
Tateyama, a 35 year-old right-handed pitcher, has posted a 2.62 ERA, 0.93 WHIP, and 6.33 K/BB in 34.3 frames for the Rangers. The pitcher was a veteran Japanese hurler, who decided only recently to make the jump to the states. As a reliever for the Nippon Ham Fighters, Tateyama relied heavily on his immaculate control, owning a 2.00 BB/9 over his last four seasons. Not much has changed with Tateyama’s 2011 season in the Major Leagues.
In 21 Triple-A innings, the Japanese import walked batters at just a 1.7/9 rate. But unlike in Japan, Tateyama has been striking out a ton of batters (11.1 K/9). After getting recalled to the show, Tateyama continued his free pass stinginess and fab punch-out rate, posting incredible 1.57 BB/9 and 9.96 K/9 rates.
Despite the high strikeout totals, Tateyama doesn’t exactly have a head-turning heater. In fact, the reliever’s fastball only averages 86.9 MPH. It’s obvious the veteran mixes in his three pitches–his fastball (1.0 runs above average), slider (4.8 runs above average), and change-up (0.6 runs above average)–quite well.
Some people might point to Tateyama’s relatively low .247 BABIP as a means for regression, but his sensational 2.54 xFIP supports his unhittable nature. His 4.4 BB% and 2.54 xFIP both rank fifth among American League relievers, and his 28.2 K% is about even with Jonathan Papelbon and bests most closers. Tateyama’s success is so similar to recent teammate Koji Uehara that it’s not out of the question Tateyama could enjoy the same type of success Uehara has. And if that’s the case, the Rangers will have themselves quite a bullpen this season and beyond.