Archive > December 2008

Interest for Iguchi

» 31 December 2008 » In mlb » Comments Off

Sponichi has an article saying that Tadahito Iguchi has multiple MLB offers to start at second base. Sponichi speculates that the Giants and Royals could be fits — the Giants in particular as manager Bruce Bochy is known to be an Iguchi fan. My speculation is that the White Sox could be interested as well.

On the NPB side of the Pacific, Bobby Valentine’s Chiba Lotte Marines have expressed interest, and are planning to negotiate with him on January 5th. Iguchi is currently training in Okinawa.

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Iyono Next to Pursue an MLB Career

» 30 December 2008 » In mlb prospects » Comments Off

Former Hanshin pitcher Takateru Iyono is the latest NPB veteran to announce his intent to try to land with an MLB organization this offseason. The 28 year-old righty was released by the Tigers after six ineffective seasons spent mostly on the farm team. He failed to catch on with another NPB team after two tryouts, and is ready for a change of scenery. “My results haven’t been good recently, and I had been thinking to myself that if this year was bad I’d want to challenge myself (in a different environment)”, said Iyono.

Iyono had trained earlier in December with former teammate Kyuji Fujikawa in LA. He’ll return to the States sometime in on January 9 to work out in front of MLB scouts. He’s probably an organizational arm at this point, but his sidearm delivery will give him a different look to most of the other minor league righties out there. Word has it that he’s recently added a changeup to his repertoire.

And here’s some video of him pitching.

I can’t remember ever seeing this many NPB minor leaguers take a shot at signing wtih MLB organizations in a single offseason. As recently as a couple years ago, few NPB veterans would have seen a move to America as a viable option.

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Yu Darvish Viewing Guide

» 29 December 2008 » In npb, pitching » 2 Comments

I was asked about Yu Darvish in an interview I did recently, and I thought I may have undersold him a bit, so I decided to take a closer look at him, albeit via grainy YouTube video. You won’t see me embed YouTube content on my site very often (don’t like black boxes when it disappears), but for Darvish I’ll make an exception. This is a highlight reel from a playoff game Darvish pitched against the Orix Buffaloes, in his penultimate appearance of the 2008 season.

Here’s a link to the original content on YouTube… and some selected highlights:

0:58 – 91 mph forkball
1:24 – curveball
2:18 – 93 mph two-seam fastball
2:40 – another forkball
3:02 – 96 mph heater
3:40 – 94 mph heater
4:17 – looks like a cut fastball, 91 mph
4:44 & 5:11 – 78 mph 12-6 curve
7:00 — 80 mph curve
7:32 — 91 mph cut fastball
8:00; 8:45;  9:00 — bat-busting 93 mph cutter; 92 mph high fastball; 80 mph hook
9:30 — curve, thrown harder and with a bigger dive than the others
9:54 — 94 mph fastball on the black
10:18 — huge break on this curveball
10:47 — 96 mph heater on the last pitch of the game (his 139th)

What we see in this video is that Darvish runs his straight fastball up to about 96 mph, has three pitches that clock at 90+ mph movement (two-seam, forkball, cut fastball), and a slower curveball. I’d say he commands everything but the fork pretty well. Good stuff, but take it with a grain of salt; Darvish did surrender nine hits and a run in this game.

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On The Comeback Trail

» 27 December 2008 » In mlb prospects, nichibei » 1 Comment

Akinori Otsuka is in the news again. He’s planning to work out in front of all 30 MLB teams in Arizona next month. Padres GM Kevin Towers was quoted in Sports Hochi last week as saying he’d like to sign Otsuka if his elbow is okay. Otsuka was one of the best relievers in NPB history and had four solid MLB seasons, so unless his arm is about to fall off I’m guessing he’ll got a shot somewhere. It’s actually a little surprising that no one signed him for last season; he could have been had for a cheap two-year deal where he could have spent the first year rehabbing under team supervision. I guess no one wanted to take that kind of chance on his health. Otsuka (I believe) still has a residence in San Diego, so the Padres would be a logical destination. I threw out the idea a couple of weeks ago that he could sign with Seattle, as he has a good relationship with Don Wakamatsu from their days in Texas.

In other comeback news, Yomiuri Giants castaways Ken Kadokura and Shigeki Noguchi both worked out for a Cubs representative on Dec 23. Sports Hochi thinks that Kadokura has a shot at signing with the Chicago. Last we heard, Kadokura had an offer from SK in the Korean League, but now he’s saying that he wants to play in America. Noguchi, who failed a tryout with Rakuten last month, will retire if he doesn’t get a chance to play with an American organization. So far neither player has heard back from the Cubs.

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A Quick Look at Ken Takahashi

» 24 December 2008 » In mlb prospects » 9 Comments

Of this season’s credible Japanese import candidates, I’ve written by far the least about Hiroshima Carp lefty Ken Takahashi. The main reason for that is I’ve seen a lot more of Koji Uehara and Kenshin Kawakami, but I can still share a few observations on Takahashi.

Career thus far
Takahashi made his debut for the Carp in 1995 after being drafted in the 4th round out of Toyota of the Industrial Leagues. He spent the first few seasons of his career primarily as a reliever before moving into more of a starting role in 2001. His career stats aren’t particularly impressive, but note that he’s been a little more effective in the years he’s been able to start consistently. Note also that Takahashi that while Takahashi put up a better era in 2008, he regressed slightly in walks, strikeouts, and ba against. The big thing I noticed about Takahashi last year was that he was among the Central League era leaders until about June, and then faded down the stretch. I don’t have any data on this, but I don’t think it was high pitch counts that wore him out. Marty Brown limits his pitchers pitch counts, and Takahashi only threw about 100 pitches in his single complete game last year.

Mechanics & Stuff
Takahashi has a fairly straightforward delivery with a high kick; here’s a slow-motion YouTube video of it from October 2008. That video might not be quite enough for Driveline Mechanics to really dig into, though. Here’s a longer highlight reel from a 173 pitch, 10-hit shutout he threw back in 2002. Note that back then he used a two stage windup, where he would bring his leading leg up, then down but not quite back to the ground, then back up, then finally down again to complete his delivery. You can see a really good example of this around 2:18, where Takahashi strikes out Hideki Matsui*. The two stage windup was banned a couple of years ago, so Takahashi no longer uses it.

Takahashi throws a fastball, slider, sinker and curve, but I have also have a photo that clearly shows him throwing a circle change. Based on his walk numbers over the years I’d say his control isn’t phenomenal, but he is capable of keeping the ball down.

* He also gets Matsui at 1:17 of the same video.

What’s Next
Takahashi is looking for an MLB job this offseason, and apparently drawing some interest. The Carp have never qualified for the playoffs in his 14-year Hiroshima career, and seeing former teammate Hiroki Kuroda spray the champagne in celebration of the Dodgers’ division title was a motivating factor for him. According to an interview with Shukan Baseball from earlier in the year, seeing pitchers like Tsuyoshi Shimoyanagi
and Masa Yamamoto continue to have success into their 40’s has given Takahashi the courage to attempt the leap to MLB.

Given that Takahashi will be 40 next April and will have adjust to a full-time relief role in the America, I think he’s in for a little bit of an uphill battle. Still, he had a nice string of successful starts at the beginning of last season, is left handed and seems to have a couple of decent breaking pitches, so if he’s in the right role and environment I could see him being a useful pitcher. 

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No Bids for Mitsui

» 23 December 2008 » In mlb prospects » 3 Comments

The posting term for Koji Mitsui has come and gone without a single bidder for his services. I’m not too surprised by this; Mitsui is 35, coming off a bad year, and wanted a major league contract. Might as well sign Mark Hendrickson, who wouldn’t cost a posting fee. 

If Seibu wants to accomodate Mitsui at this point, they might choose to release Mitsui to allow him to pursue and MLB deal. He might have a better shot after some of the more proven guys sign. Nippon Ham was in a similiar situation with Yusaku Iriki a few years ago. The Fighters released Iriki after he failed to draw any bids during the posting process. Iriki went on to sign with the Mets, get busted for PED usage in the minor leagues, and eventually make his way back to Japan for one season before retiring.

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Yakyu Documentary in the Works

» 22 December 2008 » In nichibei, npb » 3 Comments

The Land of Rising Fastball is a Japanese baseball documentary currently in production at studio Happy Trailers HD. In the words of the director, ‘the documentary tells History of Baseball in Japan as told by intrepid filmmaker Lance Miccio”. The film so far has secured interviews with NPB veterans Sachio Kinugasa, Junzo Sekine and Gabe Kapler, MLB pioneer Masashi Murakami, Yale Prof. William Kelly, and members of the Japanese baseball blogosphere Deanna and Westbaystars-san.

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Mitsui Looking for a Major League Deal

» 21 December 2008 » In mlb prospects » Comments Off

Something for teams interested Koji Mitsui to keep in mind — the lefty is saying that he’s willing to skip his foray to America if all he gets is a minor league deal.  Said Mitsui: “There’s some question as whether it’ll be a major league contract or not. Will I not sign (if it’s a minor league contract)? That is a possibility.”

The same article says that Mitsui dropped 7kg (15 lbs.) by fasting and going on a “banana diet”. Hmm…

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NPB Bullet Points (2008/12/21)

» 21 December 2008 » In npb » 1 Comment

Time to revive this series… Japanese articles only today

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Dan Johnson is the Latest MLB’er on his Way to Japan

» 19 December 2008 » In nichibei, npb » 5 Comments

Nikkan Sports is reporting that Yokohama has reached an agreement to bring Tampa Bay Ray Dan Johnson over to Japan. I saw Johnson quite a bit when he was with the A’s, and I like his approach at the plan; he always had a plan and was very patient. Where he plays in Yokohama will be a question, the BayStars have batting champion Seiichi Uchikawa at first, Johnson probably isn’t much of an outfielder and there’s no DH in the Central League. My gut feel is that he’ll wind up in left.

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