White Sox

Remember That Guy: White Sox reliever Shingo Takatsu

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NBC Sports Chicago

Remember That Guy: White Sox reliever Shingo Takatsu

In 2004, a Japanese sensation arrived in Chicago, and then, almost as quickly he was gone. But it was fun while it lasted!

Shingo Takatsu. Remember that guy?

Takatsu was born Nov. 25, 1968, in Hiroshima, Japan and attended Hiroshima Technical High School and later Asia University. He was drafted by Tokyo’s Yakult Swallows, and built an impressive resume, helping the team win four Japanese League titles – 1993, 1995, 1997 and 2001 – and was on the mound for the final out in all four. He did not allow a run in any of the 10 championship series games he appeared in, earning the nickname “Mr. Zero.”

By the end of the 2003 season, Takatsu held the Japanese professional record with 260 career saves (since broken) and was ready to test the waters in the USA. He held a workout in January 2004 in San Diego and eventually signed a one-year deal (with a club option for 2005) with the White Sox on Jan. 22. He became the first Japanese-born player in White Sox history (since, only Tadahito Iguchi and Kosuke Fukudome have joined him among Japanese-born White Sox).

Mr. Zero made his MLB debut on April 9, 2004, at Yankee Stadium, and well, no zeros yet. He pitched one inning, allowing two hits (the first batter he faced was Hideki Matsui, who doubled), two runs and a walk, although he did notch his first strikeout – future Hall of Famer Derek Jeter, who struck out looking to seal the 9-3 White Sox victory. He next pitched a week later, going an 1 2/3 scoreless, and then allowed a run in a third of an inning at home against the Yankees.

But then Takatsu got rolling, and the zeros starting piling up. He amassed a 24-game scoreless streak, going 26 1/3 innings (at the time the 10th longest scoreless inning streak in White Sox history) with 10 hits, no runs, five walks (0.570 WHIP) and 16 strikeouts, wresting the closer’s role from Billy Koch along the way.

After another zero on June 29, Takatsu season ERA was down to 0.92, having given the league a steady diet of sidearm 87 mph fastballs, 75 mph sliders, 70 mph changeups and low 60’s (and even lower at times) “Frisbee” curveballs. Some of those frisbees made the crowd gasp and the radar gun didn’t even register some of them.

Takatsu finally allowed a run on June 30 – a ninth inning Joe Mauer home run at the Metrodome, but the White Sox held on to win 9-6. He posted an acceptable 3.55 ERA from that game through the rest of the season, but it’s hard to forget the phenomenon that was peak Shingo Takatsu in mid-2004.

Takatsu earned one first place vote in the 2004 AL Rookie of the year voting, finishing second to Oakland’s Bobby Crosby. His season line showed a 2.31 ERA in 59 games, 40 hits allowed and 21 walks in 62.1 innings (0.979 WHIP) with 50 strikeouts and 19 saves. Not bad for a one-year flyer, though the White Sox ended up exercising his option for 2005.

2005 started out business as usual for Takatsu with a 1-2-3 ninth to preserve a 1-0 win on Opening Day. It all started to unravel in his next outing three days later, when he coughed up three solo home runs to turn a 5-2 lead into a tie game. Pretty soon, Ozzie Guillen was mixing and matching before Dustin Hermanson took over the closer’s role in May. Takatsu allowed at least a run in 11 of his 31 appearances before the White Sox released the 36-year old hurler on Aug. 1. He quickly latched on with the Mets to finish the season and allowed just two runs in nine appearances.

Mr. Zero racked up quite a few miles over the next few years.

Shingo returned to Japan, reuniting with the Yakult Swallows for 2006, and he pitched well (2.74 ERA) but struggled mightily the next year (6.17). He returned to the United States and signed with the Cubs in January 2008, but was let go in March. He found work for the Woori (Seoul) Heroes in South Korea where he was excellent, posting an 0.86 ERA with 8 saves over 18 appearances (21 IP).

In June 2009, Takatsu signed with Giants and struggled to a 6.87 ERA in 14 games at Fresno (AAA) and never made it back to the majors. He pitched for the Sinon Bulls in Taiwan (Chinese Professional Baseball League) in 2010 and showed glimpses of his dominant years, posting 26 saves and a 1.88 ERA.

Takatsu returned to Japan and managed the Tokyo Yakult Swallows’ Eastern League farm team before agreeing to take over the Swallows in September 2019. He’s one of two 2005 White Sox players to currently hold managerial jobs in Japan, along with Chiba Lotte Marines skipper Tadahito Iguchi.

Remember Shingo Takatsu? Of course you do!

White Sox 2005 Rewind: Controversies or not, dominant pitching won the ALCS

White Sox 2005 Rewind: Controversies or not, dominant pitching won the ALCS

“Realistically, I don't know if they could be pitching much better than they have.”

By the end of Game 4 of the ALCS, Joe Buck had a different way to summarize things.

“The dominance continues.”

Realistic or not, the White Sox starting rotation was just plain unhittable in the penultimate series of the 2005 season.

First it was Jose Contreras, setting the tone in a losing effort in Game 1 and coming two outs away from a complete game. Mark Buehrle followed with what he called — to that point, before the no-hitter and the perfect game — one of the best games of his career. Game 3 saw Jon Garland take the baton and stifle the Los Angeles Angels. And then it was Freddy Garcia, dealing as the White Sox cruised to a Game 4 win.

And so while the Fox broadcast spent an awful lot of time on supposed controversies, missed calls by the umpires and breaks for the White Sox, let’s face it: Those Angels weren’t hitting that pitching staff.

After the way Game 2 wrapped up, with A.J. Pierzynski swinging, missing and running to first base in a baffling display that for some reason worked, controversy was a storyline. And boy, did it get milked in Game 4.

Now, this isn’t to say that there weren’t missed calls or that the White Sox didn’t experience a couple breaks in this contest. There were. And they did.

After the Angels chopped the White Sox lead to 3-1 on an RBI hit in the second inning, they still had two men on with only one out. But instead of a rally, Steve Finley hit into an inning-ending double play. His bat, replay clearly showed, hit Pierzynski’s glove on the swing, meaning by rule he should have gone to first on catcher’s interference and loaded the bases. Instead, he turned around to argue while running out the ground ball, hence the double play.

He should have learned from Pierzynski and just busted it down to first base, leaving the details to be sorted out later. No call came, and Finley was out, the Angels’ rally stopped.

The White Sox lead back to three runs in the fifth inning, Scott Podsednik — who had a remarkable game, on base four times with two stolen bases and two runs scored — was seemingly picked off at first base. But the call was safe, and he scored later in the inning to extend a tight three-run game to a four-run game.

But did it really matter? Would any of it made a difference?

Garcia was on point, just like his three rotation-mates before him. He allowed just two runs on only six hits, walking one. He did that 2005 White Sox thing where he pitched fast, pitched to his defense and pitched the Angels into a whole bunch of outs.

You can point to the breaks all you want, attempt to stir up controversy. But the White Sox pitchers were so good that nothing was stopping them as they marched to a pennant.

The only thing that could, as we saw in Game 1 of the series, was an equally strong pitching performance on the other side. That’s exactly what Paul Byrd turned in against Contreras in that first game, and a White Sox lineup that slugged against the Red Sox in the ALDS was stymied. A sick Jarrod Washburn did his best in Game 2, with some help from a terrific crop of relievers, only for Pierzynski to flip the series on its head. In Games 3 and 4 in Anaheim, the Angels couldn’t match Garland and Garcia. An awakened group of White Sox bats hung a crooked number on John Lackey in Game 3 and had the same rude greeting for Ervin Santana — a future member of the South Side rotation, however briefly — in Game 4.

The old sports cliche goes that defense wins championships. In baseball, pitching wins championships. It did in 2005. And no amount of supposed controversy was going to change that.

Keep reliving the White Sox march to the 2005 World Series with #SoxRewind, which features Game 5 of the ALCS, airing at 7 p.m. Saturday on NBC Sports Chicago.

 

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SportsTalk Live Podcast: MLB season teetering on the brink

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USA Today

SportsTalk Live Podcast: MLB season teetering on the brink

Chuck Garfien, Charlie Roumeliotis and Mark Carman join Kap on a Friday edition of SportsTalk Live. 

The stalemate continues between MLB owners and players. Will the two sides come to their sense? How close are we to the drop dead date to get a season started on time?

The NHL has a plan. The Blackhawks are a part of it. Do they have enough championship experience to go on a deep playoff run?

Later, Ken Rosenthal joins Kap to talk about the differences between baseball’s owners and players as they discuss how to start the season.

Meanwhile, the NBA is targeting a late July return. Would the Bulls be better off if they were not a part of the league’s restart plans? 

0:00 - The MLB season is teetering on the brink. When will it be too late to start a season? And are the owners and players risking the death of the league if they can’t come to an agreement?
6:30 - The NHL has a restart plan and the Blackhawks will be a part of it. So can they go on a run?
9:00 - Ken Rosenthal join Kap to talk about the stalemate between the MLB owners and players. 
19:00 - The NBA is looking to restart its season. Would the Bulls be better off not taking part?

Listen here or below.

Sports Talk Live Podcast

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