How worried should Dodgers be about Yoshinobu Yamamoto’s spring training struggles?

Manager Dave Roberts says Yamamoto is in a 'good spot' heading into the 2024 MLB regular season.

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The Los Angeles Dodgers' superstar signing from the Japanese league, Yoshinobu Yamamoto, wrapped up his final spring appearance yesterday as the Dodgers lost 8-1 to the Mariners. The next step for this star-studded Dodgers team is the Gocheok Sky Dome in South Korea, where they will play the San Diego Padres in MLB’s opening regular season series, beginning on March 20. Yamamoto is scheduled to start the second and final game of that series, and his major league debut is as excitedly anticipated as any in recent memory. 

On February 28, Yamamoto started off his spring as flawlessly as the Dodgers organization could have asked for, pitching two scoreless innings and striking out three against the Texas Rangers. Since then, though, he has struggled dearly, pitching to a 10.57 ERA and 2.35 WHIP in 7.2 innings. Those back-to-back poor outings have raised concern amongst certain members of the baseball community, which has now has us all asking the important question: How worried should the Dodgers be about Yamamoto’s struggles this spring?

To answer this question, let's take a closer look at what exactly went right and wrong for Yamamoto this spring:

Is it time to worry about Yoshinobu Yamamoto over spring training struggles?

What went right: Yamamoto, as promised, was a strikeout machine this spring. In 9.2 Innings, he struck out 14 batters, and his strike percentage was .800. Another thing that went right for Yamamoto this spring was his ability to deceive hitters the first time through the order. In his most recent outing against the Mariners (where he ended up getting hit pretty hard), he started off the game exceptionally well, striking out five batters through three shutout innings, including striking out the side in the first. After that, though, things went downhill quickly.

What went wrong: As his second and third starts went on, Yamamoto's command got increasingly worse, and the amount of hard contact he gave up went up exponentially. In his two outings after his impressive debut against Texas, hitters hit .389 against him. This seems like a common issue amongst pitchers coming from a different professional league over to the MLB, as there aren't hitters of this quality anywhere else in the world. 

Despite his unimpressive stat lines that concluded his spring, Yamamotos teammates and coaches have not lost any faith in him.

He had a chance to learn some things about Major League hitters. Even today, the first two innings I thought were flawless. Then the third, fourth and fifth inning, I thought he just couldn’t land his breaking ball consistently. To be ready for his first start of the season, I think we’re in a good spot.” Said Dodgers skipper Dave Roberts to reporters after yesterday's game, h/t MLB.com

Yamamoto's struggles seem to be minor command or pitch-tipping issues, and there is plenty of time to improve and make the necessary adjustments. After all, that's what spring training is for. 

Conclusion: The Dodgers should not be worried about Yamamoto's spring training struggles. Yamamoto’s stuff is elite, and he will bounce back accordingly come the regular season. 

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