Archive > October 2008

Yokohama Looks to Korea

» 25 October 2008 » In kbo, npb » 1 Comment

Sanspo reports that Yokohama is looking to acquire two Korean players, SK Wyverns outfielder Lee Jin-Young and Doosan Bears pitcher Lee Hye-Chun. According to the articles, Lee Hye-Chun is a fastball/slider lefty with a three-quarters motion, while Lee Jin-Young is a steady defender with gap power.

This marks a different approach for the BayStars, who got very little production from their six foreign players in 2008, and won’t bring any of them back for next year. This off-season they’re looking for quality rather than quantity from their foreign roster. Attracting Korean players seems to be business driven as well: “Now Korea is a big market. This time we definitely want to acquire a player from Korea,” said the team official scouting Lee Hye-Chun.

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Yomiuri Advances to Nippon Series

» 25 October 2008 » In npb » Comments Off

The Giants have defeated Chunichi to advance to their first Nippon Series since 2002. Yomiuri will face traditional Pacific League rival Seibu for the title. 

Members of the Giants management smiled for a few seconds before going back to serious thoughts, and the players were permitted to take part in a modest on-field celebration. Meanwhile, Giants legend Shigeo Nagashima publicly reminded the troops that the real challenge is ahead of them: “‘You’ll want to be told ‘congratulations’ after the Series… the challenge is the battle against Seibu starting on November 1″.

Yomiuri-Seibu is a classic Japan Series matchup; I equate to something like a Yankees-Dodgers or Tigers-Cardinals World Series. The two teams also met in 2002, 1994, 1990, 1987, and 1983, with the Lions holding a 3-2 edge. The teams also met in the 50’s with Seibu predecessor Nishitetsu beating out the Giants three years in a row from 1956-58.

The first Japan Series I ever saw was the 1994 Series, which was televised in the Chicago area (where I grew up) during the MLB labor dispute that canceled the World Series. I watched every game and it’s really what got me started on Japanese baseball.

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NPB Bullet Points (2008/10/25)

» 25 October 2008 » In nichibei, npb » 1 Comment

I’ve been piling up random bullet points for over a month now, so rather than sift threw ‘em I thought I’d throw them all out there and let you decide what’s interesting. 

Japanese Articles

English Articles

Wow — lots of the links I had saved up here are no longer valid, making this a pretty underwhelming collection. Not much to show for the reading I did over the last month.
*dou-age: ceremonially tossing someone up and down, traditionally done at the end of the season to retiring players, and the pitcher who gets the last out in a championship-clinching game.

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A Few More Names To Watch

» 23 October 2008 » In mlb prospects, npb » 1 Comment

Misc updates on other NPB free agents. Some of these guys are already on my list, others will be added in the next day or two.

On with the updates…

Tyrone Woods (1B, Chunichi Dragons): Yahoo (via Daily Sports) reported that Tyrone Woods is going to leave Chunichi after the season ends. Woods put up another strong season in the Central League despite turning 39 in August, and should attract plenty of interest around NPB if he chooses to stay. I could see him moving to MLB too — if Darryl Ward can stick for the whole year on the 97-game winning Cubs, I have to think there’s a place for Woods somewhere.

Hiram Bocachica (OF, Saitama Seibu Lions): Like most foreign players in Japan, Bocachica is playing for Seibu on a one-year contract. Though he played only 78 games, Bocachica hit a surprising 20 home runs this season. This blogger wants his Marines to go after him this offseason, but Hiram told Deanna that he wasn’t sure about staying in NPB.

Ken Takahashi (SP, Hiroshima Carp): Takahashi is coming off a resurgent season with Carp, and there’s a chance he’ll opt for free agency. It looks like teammate Hiroki Kuroda inspired this “I’m interested in seeing what American baseball is like. The image of Kuroda has had a big impact. I’m struggling (with the decision)”. Takahashi is a lifelong Carp and 40 at the beginning of next season. I think it’s either Hiroshima or America for him.

Colby Lewis (SP, Hiroshima Carp): Lewis put up a great year for the Carp, and has already re-signed and should be Hiroshima’s opening day starter next year.

Akihiro Higashide (2B, Hiroshima Carp): Higashide is still undecided about opting for free agency. Yokohama is showing interest.

Hiroshi Shibahara (CF, Softbank Hawks): Sponichi reported last week that Rakuten is targetting Shibahara as the first free agent acquisition in the team’s four year history. Shibahara is still a useful player and would fill a veteran role for the team.

Ryoji Aikawa (C, Yokohama BayStars): Aikawa has already announced his intent to declare free agency, with a move to MLB a possibility. He’s taken in some MLB playoff action and intends to participate in tryouts as a winter league invitee, but I don’t see him getting more than a minor league contract. Back in NPB, Yakult is interested in acquiring Aikawa to fill starting catcher role that no one has claimed since the retirement of the great Atsuya Furuta.

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Hanshin Going After Nelson Cruz

» 22 October 2008 » In npb » 6 Comments

Sanspo is reporting that the Hanshin Tigers are planning to aggressively pursue Texas Rangers outfielder Nelson Cruz this offseason, to replace the disappointing Lew Ford. NPB interest in Cruz has been rumored before, and I actually thought this might have been the guy that SoftBank was really after when I was writing about Barry Bonds last summer.

This seems like a great move if Hanshin can pull it off. Cruz has always been solid at AAA but failed to impress in his one extended shot at the big leagues. He raked last year, to the tune of .342/.429/.695 in AAA and .330/.421/.609 with the Rangers. I thought there might be a place for him in the Texas outfield next season, so we’ll have to see what develops.

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Pro Yakyu This Week – October 21, 2008

» 22 October 2008 » In npb » 3 Comments

Michael Westbay of JapaneseBaseball.com has published this week’s podcast. This week’s edition covers Hanshin’s epic collapse and Marty Brown’s contract negotiations with Hiroshima. Download the audio here.

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The Tazawa Penalty

» 22 October 2008 » In mlb prospects, nichibei » 4 Comments

By now this is old news, but this is one of those posts that I started drafting, got interrupted, and haven’t had the time to get back to until now. Better late than never.

So, to get caught up, “the Tazawa penalty” is a new rule banning Japanese players who have opted out of the NPB draft to sign internationally from joining an NPB team for up to three years after leaving their international organization. The idea is make top Japanese amateurs think twice about bypassing NPB for MLB by eliminating the assumption that they have an easy path back.

Though I haven’t found anything concrete on this, I’m guessing the rule will be in effect from Tazawa forward, so Robert Boothe shouldn’t have anything to worry about if he wants to pitch in Japan in the future.

Tazawa has commented on the situation: “Personally I only thought about going to America. I wasn’t thinking about the next person, so this is something I have to apologize for”.

It feels like this is kind of a sour grapes move by the NPB establishment and they’ll eventually get over it. There is some historic precedence to suggest that they will: the cases of Hideki Irabu, Kazuhito Tadano, Hideo Nomo and Mac Suzuki.

Irabu is perhaps the most informative example. Prior to being a bust with the Yankees, Irabu was under contract with the San Diego Padres, whom he refused to play for. At the time, the NPB establishment felt that they had been embarrassed by Irabu’s antics and said that he wouldn’t be allowed back in, but Hanshin signed him for the 2003 season. He won the fans over with a strong start.

Kazuhito Tadano was a top college pitcher who went undrafted because of his appearance in an adult film. The story was that NPB teams were worried about their images, but a couple of years and MLB appearances later, the Nippon Ham Fighters had gotten over it and selected Tadano in the second round of the NPB draft.

There was severe backlash against Hideo Nomo after he pulled his retirement stunt to make it to MLB, but it didn’t take too long for him to turn that around and he’s now widely recognized as one of most significant figures in Japanese baseball over the last 20 or so years, along wth Ichiro. I’m not aware of similar backlash against Mac Suzuki, but when he decided he was ready to move to NPB at least two teams (Yakult and Orix) were interested in drafting him, and Orix did draft and sign him.

So my gut feeling, and my hope, is that this new rule basically amounts to an idle threat. Instead of threatening Japanese nationals like this, I’m hoping to see a little more effort to make signing and playing in NPB more appealing, and at the same time, investing a more in developing young talent, particularly young international talent.

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Chiba Lotte’s Free Agents

» 21 October 2008 » In mlb prospects, npb » Comments Off

Alright, looks like I’ll have time to squeeze in a blog entry this morning. This is about the third time that I’ve thought my hiatus would come to an end, only to have something pull my attention away. This time I’m determined to make it stick.

Over the next couple of weeks, I’ll be looking at offseason plans for players and teams, as well as working on some essay-type stuff. There’s also the playoffs and Japan Series, so there’s plenty to write about.

Let’s start with The Chiba Lotte Marines, who today announed that Bobby Valentine’s contract has been renewed, and have a number of guys who qualify for free agency.

Naoyuki Shimizu, SP: Shimizu was set to be a hot commodity among NPB teams this winter, drawing rumored interested from Hanshin, Rakuten, Yakult, Yokohama and the Giants, but has recently revealed that he intends to pass on free agency this year with an eye toward the majors later on.

Shingo Ono, SP: After a little indecision, Ono appears to be leaning towards free agency. “I feel like would like to remain with Lotte, but they’re developing good young pitchers and I have to think about moving. I have confidence that I can play for another team.” Yokohama is rumored to be interested in his services.

Tasuku Hashimoto, C: Hashimoto feels like he can start, but is stuck behind all-star Tomoya Satozaki, so I think he’ll be likely to try his fortunes somewhere else. A number of teams are rumored to be interested after his strong 2008 season (.311, 11hr off the bench), but Hanshin is expected to make the biggest play to sign him. Current Tigers catcher Akihiro Yano won’t last forever, and there’s no internal heir apparent.

Saburo, OF: Saburo’s two-year contract is coming to an end, and he’s considering his options, which include moving to MLB. Saburo is quoted as saying, “I’ve compared myself to the major league rightfielders that I see on TV, and if I’m going to go now is my only chance.” Saburo is coming off a solid offensive season (.289/.359/.416) and has won Gold Gloves in 2005 and 2007, but he still profiles as a 4th outfielder on most teams.

Julio Zuleta, DH/1B: Zuleta has been plagued by injuries and ineffectiveness in his two years with the Marines. Expect him to be replaced this off-season.

I’ll add these guys to my free agent list tonight. 

Coming up next: a look at some other free agents and the playoffs thus far.

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Site Update

» 16 October 2008 » In NPB Tracker » Comments Off

My move is complete and my wife and I are getting unpacked. Hopefully over the upcoming weekend some of the half-written drafts I have piling up will start to make it to a readable state. Look out for new content soon.

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Pro Yakyu This Week: Oct 6

» 07 October 2008 » In npb » Comments Off

Westbaystars-san of JapaneseBaseball.com has released his weekly podcast for October 6. Topics for this week include the penant races, Kazuhiro Kiyohara’s retirement, Marty Brown’s tenure with the Carp, and this year’s race for the Sawamura Award. Michael was kind enough to include some of my content in the section on the Sawamura Award, which he augmented with some context on Hisashi Iwakuma’s historically great season.

You can download the mp3 of the podcast here and check out the archives here.

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