A pair of Asian-born NPB pitchers are getting some attention from MLB teams. Today I'll take a look at South Korean relief ace Chang Yong Lim.
Lim is best known among international fans for giving up the eventual game-winning hit to Ichiro in this year's WBC Final. By day, however, Lim is the closer for the Yakult Swallows, and he's been lights-out this year. Through 29.2 innings, he has yet to allow an earned run for the surprising Swallows, who at 36-22 are 2nd in the Central League.
Lim is a fastball/sinker/slider pitcher who relies on a rather unsual combination of velocity and a side-arm delivery. He pitches off his fastball, which usually sits in the 90-93mph range, but will reach 96/97mph. There were reports earlier in the year that he hit the magical 160kmph (100mph) mark on the gun, but I don't buy it. Other reports put that pitch at 155kmph (97mph), which is more believable and still very good. You can get a sense of his mechanics from these clips of his 17th and 18th saves from this season, or this clip of him striking out a couple of Chunichi Dragons last year.
What prompted me to write about Lim now was the recent revelation that he's looking for a US-based agent, first published in Japanese tabloid Nikkan Gendai and repeated in the Japanese edition of the JoongAng Ilbo, where I found it. However, the soonest we're likely to see him Stateside is 2011, as Yakult holds an option on his services for next year, which they've reportedly already decided to excercise. While it's unclear how much the option year is worth, he's been an absolute bargain for the Swallows so far. He earned just $300k last year, and is making $500k this season. By comparison, bullpenmate Ryota Igarashi is making about $840k this season.
Lim's interest in playing internationally dates back to 2002. According ot his Japanese Wikipedia entry, his KBO club Samsung posted in him to MLB in 2002, but ultimately didn't get a bid they were happy with. Lim again attempted a move abroad in 2004, negotiating with Rakuten in Japan and, reportedly, several MLB clubs before resigning with Samsung.
Next time I'll take a look at Chunichi lefty Wei Yin Chen.