Archive > July 2008

NPB Bullet Points (2008/07/30)

» 30 July 2008 » In npb » Comments Off

NPB’s All-Star break has finally arrived, but there’s still plenty to read about. Here are today’s selections.

English links:

Japanese Links:

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NPB Trade Deadline Action

» 28 July 2008 » In npb » 1 Comment

Well, not really, but a number of foreign player signings were announced today.

The Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles have announced two signings: former Nippon Ham slugger Fernando Seguignol and 3A pitcher Marcus Gwyn.

Seguinol joins his third team in Japan. He stunk in 2002 with Orix; spent 2003 in 3A, then joined Nippon Ham and proceeded to have a dynamite season in ’04. He regressed a little bit each until Nippon Ham finally cut him loose after last season. Marcus Gwyn appeared in three games last year for the Angels, but hasn’t had much success above 2A ball.

The Tokyo Yakult Swallows picked up former Hiroshima Carp pitcher Sean Douglass. Douglass spent 2006 with Hiroshima, and 2007 on the shelf with an injury. Yakult tried him out last fall, but decided to pass. “I have confidence,” Douglass commented, “I want to give the team a chance to win when I pitch.”

And finally, Hiroshima pulled Jim Brower out of the Astros’ system. Brower has spent parts of nine seasons with MLB teams. He was actually pretty good with the Giants in ’04.

Japan’s trading deadline & foreign player acquisition deadline is the 31st, so we’ll find out in the next day or two if any more transactions are coming up.

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What’s Next For Igawa?

» 28 July 2008 » In mlb » Comments Off

Kei Igawa has been in the news a bit this last week, first because of his rumored inclusion in a trade for Jarrod Washburn, later for his removal from the Yankee’s 40-man roster. Igawa responded by pitching a solid game for Scranton, winning his 10th game in 3A this year. Others reacted differently.

Hanshin Tigers team president Minami gave Igawa a little tough love in the Japanese press.

“At the stage, we have no plans of re-acquiring Igawa”

“This isn’t a half-hearted world. This is a world where you have to fight hard, and if the results aren’t there that’s too bad. He just has to do his best.”

Reactions in the Yankee’s blogosphere range from sympathetic to brutal, but everyone seems to agree that moving him would be better for everyone. I did a little research and found a clip of him getting 3A batters out and, more interestingly, this scouting report that breaks down why he might be struggling. The writer hypothesizes that Igawa’s mechanics make it hard for him to get the ball down in the zone.

I saw plenty of Igawa during the 2001-3 seasons when he was at his peak with Hanshin. His out pitch was his changeup, and when he had command of it he was really tough on NPB batters. When he didn’t he was more hittable. He didn’t perform as well from 2004-6, and I was surprised that he commanded a $26M posting fee, and in retrospect, I think the Yankees were expecting too much.

So, where might Igawa wind up? I don’t see him going to the Mariners, both because of his performance uncertainties and perceived chemistry problems with the Japanese players that are already there. I also happened across a pre-posting scouting report that indicates that the Mariners might not have been too keen on him in the first place either.

A better destination would be in the National League, where there’s no DH and the lineups might not be quite as deep as in the AL East. St. Louis has an excellent history with pitcher reclamation projects and could use some depth in the rotation. Another option is Atlanta; they have a good track record with reclamation types as well. San Diego has a pitcher-friendly home park, and is comfortably situated on the west coast. And I think Florida would take a flyer on him if the price were right.

Igawa has a ways to go to prove himself as a MLB-caliber starter. In the right environment I think he’s got a shot but that probably won’t happen in the NYC.

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NPB Bullet Points (2008/07/27)

» 27 July 2008 » In npb » Comments Off

Mixing up the English and Japanese again. Most of these links are English though.

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Igawa Removed from Yanks’ 40-man Roster

» 26 July 2008 » In mlb » 5 Comments

Looks like Kei Igawa was pushed off the Yankee’s 40-man roster after the team acquired Damaso Marte and Xavier Nady. He cleared waivers unclaimed.

Nikkan Sports has a quote from Igawa:

“I was told by my agent that this increases my chance of playing for a different team. I have absolutely no interest in going back to Japan. I want to deal with this in the minors and seize my opportunity to reach the Majors in America.”

I hope the Yankees do find a way to move Igawa to a different team. It seems clear that he’ll never thrive in NYC, but if he had a chance to move to an NL team in a good pitcher’s park, he might do alright.

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Yu Darvish Highlights

» 24 July 2008 » In npb » 1 Comment

You won’t catch me doing this very often, but I thought I’d post some YouTube highlights of Yu Darvish’s last two games. I get the feeling that there are a lot of people who have read about him, but only a smaller percentage of those have actually seen him pitch. Here’s an opportunity to see some recent action. I’ve also included links to English-language box scores from JapaneseBaseball.com.

July 24: Chiba Lotte Marines 5, Nippon Ham Fighters 2 (box score)

Darvish goes 8 innings, but gives up 5 runs on 11 hits and 5 walks while taking the loss. The big blow was a 4th inning grand slam off the bat of DH Tasuku Hashimoto. Give Hashimoto credit; Darvish made a good pitch and he turned on it.

Lotte rookie Yuta Ohmine picked up his first career win in the game, striking out 6 over 6 innings of work.

Here’s a link to the content on YouTube.

July 17: Nippon Ham Fighters 3, Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles 1 (box score)

Vintage Darvish; a 4-hit complete game on 89 pitches. 10 strikeouts, no walks. This video has some good highlights of Darvish’s variety of stuff.

Here’s a link to the content on YouTube.

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NPB Bullet Points (2008/07/24)

» 24 July 2008 » In npb » Comments Off

Headlines from the Japanese side of the web tonight:

  • I caught a blurb on Softbank negotiating with a foreign power hitter in Sports Hochi. Says team COO Takeuchi, “when we reach the final stages we’ll make an announcement. Currently we’re negotiating”. This report is a little old and doesn’t hint at who it might be. Maybe negotiations didn’t go anywhere.
  • Yu Darvish threw 165 pitches in Nippon Ham’s July 23 loss to Lotte. Darvish hung around until the 8th inning, allowing 5 earned runs on 11 hits and 5 walks while striking out 10. Sanspo quotes Nippon Ham manager Nashida: “I thought we’d go until 140. He himself said that’d go. His love for the team is intense. I thought he’s dependable”. Ham pitching coach Masato Yoshii commented that Darvish didn’t have his good stuff.
  • Chris Resop hit 98 MPH on the gun in a practice with Hanshin. The coaches seem impressed. Tomoyuki Kubota holds the Hanshin record for fastest pitch in a game at 157 KM/H (98.125 MPH).
  • Hiroshima made two minor trades recently that totally slipped by me. They picked up Rui Makino from Rakuten for Kenta Satake, and Akira Tanaka from Orix for Koji Yamazaki. There seem to be more trades happening in NPB recently.

As an addendum, I also posted some highlights from the Darvish game I mentioned.

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NPB Bullet Points (2008/07/23)

» 23 July 2008 » In npb » 1 Comment

Just a small collection of links today, all in English.

In other news, I changed the layout of the site this evening. Let me know if you have any feedback on it.

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Player Profile: Kenshin Kawakami

» 23 July 2008 » In mlb prospects » 6 Comments

MlbTradeRumors.com has been kind enough to link to me several times, most recently from post about impending NPB free agents. Too bad I didn’t finish this over the weekend; if I had Tim could have included this profile of Chunichi Dragons ace Kenshin Kawakami as well.

Kawakami has, in my opinion, the most MLB potential of any of the upcoming NPB free agents. I expect to see him in an MLB uniform next season, based on public statements he’s made:

“Saying I don’t want to go would be a lie. As long as I’m playing baseball, it’s fine to aim high. I think it’s also fine to consider the future.”

“Because I like the Chunichi Dragons, I want to challenge myself to go to the Majors. My plan is to go to the Majors, gain experience there, and come back to the Nagoya in the end.”

These comments were made in a live talkshow event after the 2006 season, but I have no reason to think he’s changed his mind since then. It’s worth noting that former teammates Akinori Ohtsuka and Kosuke Fukudome have both had success at the MLB level, which might be a bit of a confidence-booster.

Career Path & Personal Accolades
Kawakami is not quite as decorated as Koji Uehara, but he’s close. Kawakami’s pro career started in 1998, went he went 14-6 and took the Rookie of the Year award. He then took a step back and went through some wilderness years between ’99 and ’01, but bounced back in 2002 with a 12-6 record and 2.35 ERA. He also threw a no-hitter in ’02 against a Giants team that still featured Hideki Matsui.

The right hander has put in strong performances each year since then, including 2003 when he missed significant time with an injury. He won the Sawamura Award as Japan’s top pitcher as well as the Central MVP in 2004, when he went 17-7 with a 3.32 ERA in 192 IP. He was actually better in 2006, again going 17-7 but with 2.51 ERA in 215 IP. He lost out on the Sawamura that year to a dominant Kazumi Saitoh.

Other personal achievements include three Gold Gloves, two Best Nine Awards, two victory titles and one strikeout title. He also holds an NPB record with eight Monthly MVP awards, the most recent coming last month.

Kawakami is having another strong year (find his stats in English here) but will probably lose out on the Sawamura again, this time to Yu Darvish.

Winning
Kawakami’s Dragons won the Central League crowns in 1999, 2004, and 2006 and took the Japan Series in 2007. The 2007 Japan Championship was only second in team history, and the first since 1954. The ’07 Japan Series ended in dramatic fashion; maybe I’ll write about that another time. For now I’ll point you to this Baseball Prospectus article (free for the week) and Marinerds, etc.

Stuff
Kawakami isn’t overpowering; his fastball tops out in the low 90’s. His control is good, though not quite as awe-inspiring as Koji Uehara’s. And his windup isn’t deceptive, like many Japanese pitchers. Kawakami gets by purely on quality stuff.

Kawakami’s featured pitch is a cut fastball, which, according to Wikipedia, is known as Japan’s finest among visiting MLB All-Stars. He also has a slow curve, which he throws at 65-70 MPH. The rest of his arsenal is fairly typical: fastball, shuuto, fork. He changes speeds pretty well, particularly between his curve and harder stuff.

I’ve selected some YouTube footage from Kawakami’s most recent appearance, Chunichi’s 2-1 loss to Hanshin on July 18. Kawakami took a no-decision, striking out 10 and allowing one earned run over 8.0 innings. 2nd inning, 3rd/4th inning, 8th inning, and just for fun, Kyuji Fujikawa‘s appearance in the 9th (pt1/pt2).

Also of Note
For those of you that read Japanese, Kenshin maintains a blog here. He is close friends with Chunichi closer Hitoki Iwase, and will be joining him on Japan’s Olympic roster. Wikipedia mentions a friendly rivalry with Uehara — Uehara taught Kawakami his fork, while Kawakami returned the favor by teaching Uehara his cutter. Kawakami is also known as a gutsy player who is not afraid to show his emotions on the field.

Uehara’s stock has slipped some this season, so I think Kawakami has a chance to be the most highly sought after MLB import this off season. I would speculate that he can be a solid mid-rotation guy that you can win with at that MLB level.

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NPB Bullet Points (2008/07/21)

» 21 July 2008 » In npb » Comments Off

English Links:

Japanese Links:

  • New Hanshin reliever Chris Resop has arrived in Japan. “Great!” he said adding, “they really cheer feverishly. I’ve never been to this kind of ballpark before. I’ve never seen this in America.” (note: translation of a translation).
  • Uehara pitched two innings and struck out three in Yomiuri’s 4-1 loss to Yokohama.
  • Former Twin Lew Ford has been demoted to Hanshin’s farm team for the third time this year.

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