Thoughts on Chapman, the Web, and Japan

» 26 July 2009 » In mlb, npb »

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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  1. Patrick
    27/07/2009 at 11:19 am Permalink

    Vey nice post, Patrick. Thank you.

    Speaking of the first Cuba-Japan game, aside from great Matsuzaka outing and some sturdy Japanese batting, what I can recall is the ugly skyline in San Diego and absolutely horrific shadows around home plate from giant ad boards atop the stands.

    Whoever constructed the stadium must have not done a very good job.

    Also liked a sarcastic comment from Bjarkman: “But Aroldis Chapman has definitely already displayed one easily definable characteristic of a true major leaguer: by abandoning his teammates on the eve of an important international tournament.”

  2. Patrick
    27/07/2009 at 11:51 am Permalink

    Thanks Sergei. This is the type of post that I want people to read, so I’m glad you enjoyed it.

  3. Patrick
    28/07/2009 at 12:51 am Permalink

    Great post Patrick. Both Lazo and Gourriel would both be great additions to the NPB. You bring up many good points, nicely done!

  4. Patrick
    28/07/2009 at 9:18 am Permalink

    How about this …

    Let me theorize about what particular baseball related topics I’d like to read about in English.

    The topics that are rarely if ever touched upon. The topics I was always interested in.

    But first what I don’t find very enjoyable: anything about money, contracts, future mlb hopefuls, labor law, importance of new stadium for local economy, descriptions of individual games (someone getting three hits, striking out 10, etc.).

    In other words, seems like I’m only interested in the game itself, it’s inner workings.

    I’d like to pick up some Japanese baseball brains, what they think and talk about.

    Commentators, too. What are they talking about (I don’t understand anything beyond basic play-by-play), anything substantial?

    Or is it more like:

    A change-up!
    So des ne, change-up!
    After a couple replays:
    Oh, it was more like a forkball!
    Hai! A forkball, wow!

    And BTW, why Japanese announcers always tend to agree with each other, I mean the never-ending stream of exclamations like ‘Hai’, ‘So des ne’ or simply ‘Eeee’ which accompany nearly every word said by the other commentator?

    What, if anything, local media says about Takayuki Shimizu’s horrible (IMHO) swing plane.

    Or that H. Nakajima was suddenly trying to pull outside pitches with power today against Iwakuma.

    Who the best batting and pitching coaches are?

    BTW, I think Dave Okubo did a heck of a job with the Lions last year.

    Things like that.



  5. Patrick
    28/07/2009 at 12:47 pm Permalink

    You have some good discussion ideas there. The interesting thing is that you said you like this post, but it mentions money and a future MLB hopeful, albeit one from Cuba.

    I once heard a great exchange from a couple of Japanese broadcasters. This was years ago:

    Broadcaster 1: Suzuki got a hit off a pitch that bounced!
    Broadcaster 2: Ichiro did that too, a couple of years ago!
    1: And they’re both named Suzuki!
    2: That has nothing to do with it (kankei nai).

  6. Patrick
    29/07/2009 at 6:39 am Permalink

    > The interesting thing is that you said you like this post, but it mentions money and a future MLB hopeful, albeit one from Cuba.

    Is it even possible – an article on mlb without any mention of dough? 🙂

    Also, I just must’ve learned to turn a blind eye to certain portions of baseball-related writings.

    I did like your post as it was very informative and well balanced, and wasn’t like an average Kyodo News report.

    But, frankly, it does amuse me sometimes when you write something like “the Nippon Ham Fighters have added a new concession stand, which will raise their market value by 0.12 percent and HOPEFULLY improve both their bottom line and Hokkaido economy.”

    Just wondering, why’d you really care about that? :)))

    I can see one underlying reason: you probably want to run your blog in a PROFESSIONAL manner. And that’s fine, of course.

    So I should not be surprised that some of your posts resemble Kyodo News items too much.

    But, this particular piece was more like an editorial, and it was what I liked about it.

    – Sergei

  7. Patrick
    29/07/2009 at 12:58 pm Permalink

    I think you’ll find that I editorialize quite a bit on this site. It can be time consuming to put something together that doesn’t make me sound like a goof though.

    The sports business posts are mostly written by Ryo. Japanese baseball, as a business, has been thought of as threatened in recent years by various things, and it’s interesting to see what teams are doing to remain viable and relevant. Obviously these things need to be embraced by the community to work.

    And btw, if you ever get the itch to write about/analyze baseball again, I’ll happily provide you a place to publish your work.

  8. Patrick
    30/07/2009 at 4:22 am Permalink


    > It can be time consuming to put something [outstanding] together

    Yeah, it takes a big effort.

    Also, what I can recall is always striving to give my yakyu site overly professional feel.

    Somewhat unpersonal and even unhuman.

    Should I wonder that hardly anybody was able to see myself behind it?

    Tried to make make 100% about baseball, 0% about me.

    In retrospect, I was probably wrong.

    > … it’s interesting to see what teams are doing to remain viable and relevant

    I see. Well, I don’t mind reading about the business side of cricket after all (though there’s not too much stuff like that, of course).

    The problem is I just don’t care about pro baseball much anymore.

    In fact, I’d probably like mlb to cease to exist 🙂

    > And btw, if you ever get the itch to write about/analyze baseball again, I’ll happily provide you a place to publish your work.


    Though I’m not much of a writer, but more of a reader.

    And speaking of itches, I do have a couple now.

    Firstly, just wanna tell everyone how beautiful the game of cricket is!

    Oh, and make sure you don’t miss the ongoing Ashes series (just try

    Secondly, want to tell people what’s wrong with baseball.

    But do anyone need my 99 reasons why baseball is not so good?

    From Hideaki Wakui’s endless adjustments of his undershirt at the shoulders – come on, cut the damned sleeves already! – to opening up mlb evils like the late John Brattain did …

    I’ll tell the truth here: I consider baseball as 50% evil. Anybody want to speak to me anymore?

    Actually, I wrote something over at East Windup which was said to be just short retarded, quite naturally.

    But who knows, who knows …

  9. Patrick
    30/07/2009 at 4:30 am Permalink

    Oops, should read Wakui’s endless adjustments of his undershirt at the ELBOWS 🙂

  10. Patrick
    30/07/2009 at 8:14 am Permalink


    I remember you once told me that you weren’t on a mission to help save Japanese baseball. That made me think, is that the mission that I’m on? Or has broadcasting my passion about baseball simply been a means to be a little less introverted and meet (although virtually) many more people? I don’t know.

    While you tried to hide yourself from your previous site, I don’t think that it worked very well. Many people came to rely and appreciate what you had put together. You may not have been talking about what you ate last weekend, but your winters off and final disappearance left a lot of people wondering, “Where did Borisov-san go?” They weren’t asking why your site wasn’t being updated. It was you that they were concerned with.

    I’m glad that you have returned to the Pro Yakyu community, even with less than flattering things to say. Thoughtful criticism is needed. You’re sharp and observant, making your commentary highly sought after by those of us with web sites.

    I do see cricket articles much more often in the Taipei Times than CPBL articles, so Taiwan seems to be another cricket stronghold, like India, Pakistan, and other former Great Britain colonies. After you’d mentioned it to me a few months ago, I’ve been more curious about it – but still haven’t found the time to really digest it. But I will someday.

    Take care now.

  11. Patrick
    31/07/2009 at 8:51 am Permalink


    I work in the software industry in California and a large percentage of my coworkers are from India, and a number of them play cricket. I’ve been talking about learning to play cricket with one of my friends for a couple of years now, but we’ve never gotten it together and done it. I haven’t watched much cricket but it’s occasionally on my cable system. I enjoy watching it more than (American) football.

    I’ve also thought about putting more of my personal interests into this site, but have so far mostly resisted the temptation to do so. I just don’t think people want to read about interests outside of baseball. I have written a couple of non-baseball posts, but it’s maybe 1% of the content on this site.

  12. Patrick
    01/08/2009 at 2:45 am Permalink

    > I’ve also thought about putting more of my personal interests into this site

    What I can say? Just go ahead, Patrick.

    > I enjoy watching it [cricket] …

    AFAIK, me It was much, much more interesting to know than the state of the Fighetrs bottom line. That’s for sure :)))

    Michael, I tried to remember what my exact thinking, and I probably meant not being on a mission to help save NPB.

    I don’t think we own big corporations like mlb or npb nothing.

    Baseball? Probably. Pro baseball empires – not.

    And that’s why I’d personally like Patrick to write more personal things from time to time, his own reflections, etc.

    And that’s one of the reasons I don’t publich pro yakyu stuff anymore (also, see here )

    And Patrick was right, I’ve found an itch -albeit sudden – to write.

    You know, watching cricket kind of seriously impacted my view on baseball and also kind of freed me to talk about it. No dogmas anymore.

    You’re welcome to see an interesting discussion “What if… TWO strikes and yer out?” here:

    Actually, it’s only natural for cricket to promote that openess of mind, because there’s THREE different versions of the game, played basicly by the very same players.

    Finally, for everyone, if you’d like to take a look at cricket, but just don’t know where to begin, a couple links: – home of cricket

    and for higlights of various matches