Jason Standridge may have just begun to be recognized by Japanese baseball for his work on the mound, but he’s been building toward his success this season for a while now.
Last season, the Hanshin Tigers hurler put together a solid campaign finishing 11-5 with a 3.49 ERA. This year, he’s put it all together and is having an even better season.
“Honestly, our (pitching) staff has been really good,” Standridge said. “We’ve really had a good staff. This year, for some reason, I’ve put some stuff together. God has really blessed me with some success this year.”
Standridge is 8-2 with a 1.85 ERA in 15 starts. His two shutouts tie him with Tokyo Yakult’s Shohei Tateyama for the most in the Central League and opponents are hitting just .208 against him. He’s been consistent home and away, going 4-2 with a 1.84 ERA at Koshien Stadium and 4-0 with a 1.86 ERA in other venues.
His total body of work to this point has been solid, but his performance over the last two months is almost off the charts. Since June 1, Standridge is 6-0 with a 0.93 ERA in nine starts.
The Alabama native was named the CL MVP for pitchers in June and July, making him the first foreign player to claim the award in consecutive months.
“He’s been outstanding,” Tigers first baseman Craig Brazell said. “You can’t ask for any more than what he’s done. To really come out and pitch the way he has, he’s proven to the team that we really need him.”
A lot of the credit, Standridge says, goes to Tigers pitching coach Yasuo Kubo.
“I think this year has been more of a carryover from last year,” Standridge said. “Kubo-san has done a great job with me. I feel like he’s helped me understand, and not think so much Americanized pitching, where I have to throw fastball, fastball, fastball.”
Kubo, 53, knows a thing or two about pitching. He appeared in 550 games over a 20-year career consisting of two stints with the Kintetsu Buffaloes sandwiched around nine years with the Tigers.
Standridge says he’s taken Kubo’s advice to heart, and it’s paying off.
“I feel like he’s done a real good job with me mentally,” Standridge said. “Also physically, he’s helped me out with my mechanics. I feel like he’s done a really good job getting me to focus on the things I need to do and how to get a hitter out, instead of just throwing one pitch.
“To use everything I have and not be afraid to throw a ball. I feel like he’s done a really good job with me, and under his tutelage, I feel like I’ve been successful at just what he’s preaching. I owe a ton of success, for what’s going on right now, to him. Big time.”
Run support has been an issue for many pitchers this season, as offensive numbers plummet across the board. If that’s put more pressure on Standridge, he’s not letting it show.
“I don’t think about it at all,” he said. “The only thing I can control is how many runs they score. Once the ball leaves my hand, I can’t control it after that. I’m just making sure I’m doing my job, going as deep as I can into games. The winning and losing is going to take care of itself.”
Like the rest of the CL, Standridge and the Tigers are chasing the first-place Tokyo Yakult Swallows in the standings. The Tigers pitcher says winning a Japan Series would be a great way to end the season and thinks his team has got what it takes.
“I think it’s quite possible with the team that we have,” Standridge said. “We’ve got a great staff and we’ve got a good offense. The offense is just down all over the league. We’ve been hit or miss every now and then. For the most part, I think we’ve done a really good job. If we can continue to play the way we’ve been playing, I think we’re going to be OK.”