Archive > July 2009

Foreign Player Additions: Randolph, Soriano

» 29 July 2009 » In npb » 6 Comments

Couple of player acquisitions to pass on here…

With the player acquisition deadline nearing (July 31 JST), we should see one or two other acquisitions.

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Darvish Ready to Go

» 28 July 2009 » In npb, pitching » Comments Off

Yu Darvish was examined after the all-star game and some worried of his status for the start of second half of the season, but he seems to be ready to go. He participated in the team practice at Marine Stadium and completed the full workout with the team. The team will keep evaluating his status, but he seems to be on schedule to start his second half versus the Softbank Hawks on July 31st.

Darvish talked with the head trainer before practice and the trainer stated, “He was able to play catch normally,”  so he gave him the okay to participate in full practice. The swelling is alleviating according to reports and he took the precaution of icing his shoulder after practice.

He will be evaluated again in his bullpen session two days prior to the start. His pitching coach, former major leaguer Masato Yoshii stated that he looks fine and there should be no problem.

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Tazawa Promoted

» 27 July 2009 » In mlb prospects » Comments Off

According to multiple sources out of Japan, Junichi Tazawa has been promoted to Triple-A Pawtucket and will make his first appearance with the team on July 29. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him get a September MLB call-up.

You can read up on Tazawa’s time in Double-A here.

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Thoughts on Chapman, the Web, and Japan

» 26 July 2009 » In mlb, npb » 12 Comments

So Aroldis Chapman has defected from Cuba. With all the hype around Chapman during the WBC, I thought a defection was inevitable, but I didn’t see it happening this year. It will take Chapman a little time to apply for asylum and set up a domicile somewhere, but we should see a bidding war emerge over the next couple months.

Prior to the WBC, I would have said that if Chapman were to defect this year, his contract offers would have exceeded the four-year, $32m deal that Jose Contreras got from the Yankees back in 2002. But now that we’ve seen him look mortal against Japan’s WBC lineup of contact hitters, learned that Cuban League numbers aren’t that great, and found out that he might be five years older than previously believed, I have my doubts. Chapman’s first MLB contract will make him a richer man than I’ll ever be, but I think his first MLB deal will make him only about $20m richer than me.

For another dose of reality on Chapman, I turn to Cuban baseball expert Peter Bjarkman, who wrote bearish article about Chapman after he defected:

Chapman definitely has his negatives, foremost among them a demonstrated lack of strike-zone control, a one-pitch arsenal, and an inconsistent Cuban League performance over four National Series campaigns. Hurling for a Holguín club that made this year’s post-season and has been largely a middle-of-the-pack outfit during Chapman’s tenure, the southpaw flame thrower has won only slightly more than half his decisions (24-21), though he did enjoy his best season (11-4 and a league-best 130 Ks in 118 innings) this past winter. He has twice topped the 100 K mark but never approached Maels’s record-setting standards. Chapman is definitely more a raw “thrower” than a savvy “pitcher” and numerous questions surround his abilities to master the finer details of his craft.

One of the things that makes this situation unique is that it’s happening post Information Revolution. Thanks to the Internet and WBC, we, as consumers, have learned more about Chapman than perhaps any other hyped Cuban defector. Will that help his market value? There’s no way we can really know for sure. I think we’ll see that the Internet hype will have the biggest impact on the fans’ expectations of him.

I’ve occasionally wondered why Japanese clubs don’t make more of a play for top Cuban talent. In theory, NPB teams should be able to go after Cuban players without them having to defect. Katsuya Nomura joked about this during the WBC: “we probably can’t get him (Chapman). Would it be okay to ask Castro?”.

Joking aside, Nomura actually has brought Cuban players to Japan: national team stars Antonio Pacheco and Orestes Kindelan played for him in the early 00’s on the Shidax Industrial League team. During the same period, Omar Linares played for Chunichi at the NPB level. The difference, of course, is that Chapman is young and entering his prime, which Pacheco, Kindelan and Linares were all winding down their careers. But still, none of the three had to denounce their Cuban citizenship and all were able to return to Cuba after playing in Japan.

So maybe this means we’ll get to see Pedro Lazo or Yulieski Gourriel in Japan at some point. I hope so, because it doesn’t seem like either one will ever defect, and I’d love to see what they can do at a higher level of competition.

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Bobby Officially Almost Done in Chiba

» 26 July 2009 » In npb » 1 Comment

In a blog post, Bobby Valentine has officially put the last nail in the coffin of any hopes that he’d return next year:

And most importantly, I came to feel that for me to leave the team at the end of the 2009 season is best for the Shigemitsu family and for the Chiba Lotte Marines, and so I wanted to make this announcement about the decision as soon as possible.

[…]

Please view this announcement as my determination to make Chiba Lotte Marines baseball fun once again, for our fans and for each member of the team. I have always felt victory was shallow–and true victory was impossible–if the attempt to gain it was not fun. This year has not been fun for anyone who truly loves the Chiba Lotte Marines, so I will make a renewed effort to make this 2009 season the most fun that it can possibly be, and one that we will all remember and cherish for our lifetimes.

(read the whole post here)

Why make this announcement now, given that the team has already announced that they aren’t bringing him back? I suppose this is a way for Bobby to make a statement on his own terms. It’s also a message that the fan-lead, grassroots efforts to convince Lotte management to bring him back probably aren’t going to work, and that he just wants to focus on baseball for the rest of the year.

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Next Stop for Irabu: Japan

» 26 July 2009 » In international baseball, npb » 1 Comment

Looks like Hideki Irabu is planning on hanging around beyond this season. According to Sponichi, the big righty is looking to continue his comeback in Japan and could join an independent league team as soon as September, after his Golden League season is over.

Irabu has put up a seemingly respectable 3.87 era in eight Golden League starts, and shown a fastball that has reportedly reached about 93mph with a hard forkball. Word is that his right knee, which caused him to retire in the first place, also isn’t bothering him.

Irabu’s agent, Don Nomura, has reached out to NPB teams including Irabu’s former teams Lotte and Hanshin, and Nomura’s stepfather’s Rakuten. An anonymous representive from an un-named team was quoted as saying “he wasn’t a match for the points we need to improve, but I felt his drive”. NPB has a player acquisition deadline of July 31, which essentially closes the door on him playing with an NPB club this season.

It’s interesting to see Nomura in the news again. Nomura has faded out of the spotlight in recent years, but he was once a Scott Boras-like figure who played a central role in bringing Irabu, Hideo Nomo, and Alfonso Soriano to MLB.

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Darvish Examined

» 25 July 2009 » In npb » 2 Comments

As Ryo mentioned in his report on Game 1 of the All Star series, Yu Darvish took a line drive off the bat of Alex Ramirez to the shoulder, and left the game after one inning of work. Sanspo has 1 2 3 pics of the aftermath.

While the rest of the All Stars headed down to Hiroshima for game 2, Darvish stayed in Sapporo to have his arm x-rayed and mri’ed, and was diagnosed with a bruised right (throwing) deltoid. According to Nippon Ham’s team trainer, there isn’t any internal bleeding and aren’t any broken bones, and he’ll resume playing catch as the pain subsides.

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Yu Darvish’s Pitching Bible

» 25 July 2009 » In mlb prospects, npb, pitching, sports business » 2 Comments

Yu Darvish’s Pitching Bible has been on sale in Japan since last week.

The 84-paged full-color book features a special interview, demonstration of his breaking ball and off-speed pitches, and interviews by his former pitching coach, trainer, and catchers. His history will be revealed in depth and the results of the survey conducted to 50 current NPB players regarding his number one pitch will be presented.

The content of the book can be seen here. As mentioned before Yu Darvish will appear on CNN and he is taking the next step in marketing himself; having become one of the best pitchers in recent years. I am not sure how many of his “secrets” will be revelead in this book, but this shows some confidience in letting the nation know that he is not scared to present what he is made of to the whole country or maybe in his case, to the world.

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Aoki MVP of Game 1; Ohtake and Wakui to Start Game 2

» 24 July 2009 » In international baseball, npb » 2 Comments

I was able to catch the last couple innings of Game 1 on justin.tv and the slugfest resulted with the Central League defeating the Pacific League, 10-8. The MVP was Norichika Aoki (Tokyo Yakult Swallows) blasting a go-ahead 2-run HR in the 9th inning. Aoki went 2-4 with a 2B, HR, 2RBI, 3RS and a BB.

Aoki has had some struggles in the first half of the season for the Swallows hitting .249 with 7HR and this performance at the break might be a postive for him heading into the second half of the season, with the Swallows hunting for a playoff spot.

Yu Darvish (Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters) went one inning and allowed two hits on 14 pitches. He did not throw the scheduled two innings as he left the game after taking a liner to the right shoulder. According to a statement issued by his team, it did not seem serious. Masahiro Tanaka (Rakuten Golden Eagles) picked up the extra work, going three innings and allowing 2H, ER with 2K facing 11 batters. Daisuke Miiura (Yokohama Baystars) earned the win throwing the last two innings without allowing a hit.

For game two, Hideaki Wakui (Saitama Seibu Lions) will start for the Pacific League and Kan Ohtake (Hiroshima Toyo Carp) will make the start at his home stadium for the Central League in Hiroshima.

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The Baseball Hall of Fame and Musuem

» 24 July 2009 » In international baseball, npb » 4 Comments

Induction Weekend for the Hall of Fame is coming up at Cooperstown to honor the newest members. Associating the Hall of Fame with Cooperstown comes natural for baseball fans here in the States, but do people in Japan know where the Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum is in their country? I had the opportunity to visit Cooperstown sometime ago, but never had the chance  to visit the Hall in Japan. If some of our readers had the opportunity feel free to chime in.

The Baseball Hall of Fame and Musuem exists inside the Tokyo Dome where the Yomiuri Giants play. The Hall of Fame opened in June  of 1959 and was moved to the current location inside the Tokyo Dome in 1988. We will be celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Baseball Hall of Fame Museum this season. Within the 50 year history, 168 baseball personnel have been inducted into the Hall of Fame, including the four new members elected this year.

The election process to the Baseball Hall of Fame is similar from the one at Cooperstown. I will go into details regarding the election regulation for the players (For others click here).

  • Players will be eligible five years after retirement and will be on the ballot for the following 15 years
  • About 300 writers with 15 or more years of experience will be eligible to vote
  • Players receiving 75 percent or more votes will be inducted into the Hall of Fame

In a recent news, the members of the American Collegiate National Team took their time to visit the Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum while participating in the USA vs. Japan Collegiate All-Star Series. The award ceremony for the inductees of the 2009 season will take place at Game One of the All-Star Game in Sapporo Dome.

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