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A tribute to Hideki Okajima, the 17th best reliever of all-time

Mar 5, 2012, 10:00 PM EDT

Hideki Okajima AP

Well, by one measure anyway.

After failing his physical with the Yankees, Hideki Okajima returned to Japan over the weekend, signing with the Softbank Hawks. He’ll bring with him the 17th best ERA+ among all major league relievers to throw at least 200 innings:

1. Mariano Rivera – 206
2. Takashi Saito – 199
3. Jonathan Papelbon – 197
4. Billy Wagner – 187
5. Mike Adams – 187
6. Joakim Soria – 181
7. Brad Ziegler – 173
8. Francisco Rodriguez – 172
9. Akinori Otsuka – 171
10. Bryan Harvey – 162
11. Peter Moylan – 161
12. Tom Henke – 157
13. Jeff Zimmerman – 152
14. Joe Nathan – 152
15. Alfredo Aceves – 151
16. Rafael Soriano – 149
17. Hideki Okajima – 149
18. Crad Cordero – 149
19. John Wetteland – 149
20. Joel Zumaya – 148

Obviously, that’s a silly list — many relievers not included have had better five-year runs than some of these short-career guys — but it does sort of demonstrate the quality of Okajima’s innings. My favorite Okajima factoid: he gave up a homer to the very first batter he faced (John Buck) in his major league debut and then went 21 2/3 innings without giving up another run

Okajima ended up 17-8 with a 3.11 ERA over 246 1/3 innings in five seasons with the Red Sox. He also had a 2.11 ERA in 21 1/3 innings postseason innings. And he did it all for about $7.5 million, which is less than Soriano will make with the Yankees this year alone.

Sayonara.

  1. 1943mrmojorisin1971 - Mar 5, 2012 at 10:04 PM

    There’s no shame in being seventeenth best.

  2. tbad1223 - Mar 5, 2012 at 10:09 PM

    Very very recent-pitcher heavy

  3. dondada10 - Mar 5, 2012 at 10:44 PM

    Of those 20, the 5 best relievers are:

    1. Rivera
    2. Wagner
    3. K-Rod
    4. Papelbon
    5. Chad (a.k.a. Crad) Cordero

    • dondada10 - Mar 5, 2012 at 10:47 PM

      Whoa, excuse me. Get Cordero the hell out of there and replace him with John Wetteland and his filthy hat.

      #editfeature

  4. crispybasil - Mar 5, 2012 at 10:48 PM

    We’ll always have 2007.

  5. cur68 - Mar 6, 2012 at 2:22 AM

    I’m gonna miss that guy. Okajima was a wonder to watch pitch. He was never looking at his target on release, but rather to the 3 base side of the field. How he didn’t kill someone is beyond me. Have a good rest of your career in Japan, Mr. Okajima, you were fun to watch.

    • The Baseball Idiot - Mar 6, 2012 at 2:49 AM

      I don’t remember particularly seeing him pitch, so I’m curious. How does a left-hander look at third while throwing?

      • offseasonblues - Mar 6, 2012 at 7:55 AM

        Lol – that’s the point. His arm motion was so over the top that he got his head out of the way by facing to his right as he released the ball. I remember that first spring training game, the look on his face after the homer, and the immediate adjustment. He was indeed fun to watch, and the ERA+ is no surprise.

      • mcsnide - Mar 6, 2012 at 12:05 PM

        Here’s a picture of him at the top of his throwing motion: http://goo.gl/RlwAW There’s also a point in his delivery where he’s looking directly at the ground.

      • cur68 - Mar 6, 2012 at 12:25 PM

        Hey, mcsnide, thanks for the pic. Y’know, looking at that, seeing the head turn is one thing, but notice what appears to be an over extended elbow joint? A bit hard to tell with the sleeve, but it sure looks like the elbow is straightened right through the natural stop for straightening the arm (the olecranon fossa). It’s now a wonder to me that he didn’t kill someone and blow his arm out.

      • The Baseball Idiot - Mar 6, 2012 at 1:55 PM

        Okay, that would freak me out.

  6. rambodiaz - Mar 6, 2012 at 7:21 AM

    Holy Crap! A Jeff Zimmerman sighting!

  7. fuggles7 - Mar 6, 2012 at 8:44 AM

    Who is that #18… Crad Cordero?? http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Crad Shame on you Matthew.

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