Archive > September 2009

Giant Development, Yankee Influence

» 19 September 2009 » In international baseball, nichibei, npb » 2 Comments

The web edition of the sports magazine Number featured a great article on the Giants’ ni-gun manager, Kaoru Okazaki, who is installing an American-style player development system.

Okazaki, who is currently the manager of the ni-gun team, developed his philosophy of coaching through his experience in the New York Yankees minor league system. The Yomiuri Giants have a strong relationship with the New York Yankees, through former Giant Hideki Matsui, and have utilized this relationship to allow their coaches to hone their craft in the Yankees minor league system.

Okazaki’s experience in the study abroad program for coaches has resulted in developing his philosophy, which has matched the needs of the Giants’ player development system really well. The most important difference he learned from the experience is the usage of ni-gun players.

In Japan, the farm system believes in winning as much as their NPB teams and using a pinch hitter in game deciding situation remains to be a norm. NPB baseball operations personnel has a mindset that if the farm system isn’t winning, the players aren’t developing. In that case the ni-gun manager will not be evaluated efficiently, which results in aggressive decisions.

However Okazaki learned a different style in the minor leagues where players rarely get taken out of games. The evaluation comes into place playing a whole game and not only from a portion of the game. Learning the importance of allowing the players  to play the whole game allowed Okazaki to have a better assessment on each player and decreases the possibility of missing out on players’ less obvious skills.

Even though there are players that need to be developed for certain situations (such as lefty-lefty match ups), Okazaki strongly believes in developing the overall skills in position players. The development of OF Tetsuya Matsumoto and INF Hayato Sakamoto has been hard to miss and if the Giants continue to have success in developing the young talents within their system, we could see a strong Giants team for a long time.

The relationship with NPB and MLB has been stronger as the years pass and many teams are maintaining working relationships across the Pacific. Opportunities for not only players, but managers, coaches and front office personnel to learn the different culture should be a huge benefit for both sides.

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NPB Bullet Points: Saito Backs Kikuchi, Sponichi Now for Kids Too

» 19 September 2009 » In amateur baseball, mlb, mlb prospects, npb » 9 Comments

It’s been one of those weeks, but the world of baseball carries on.

Japanese Articles:

  • Waseda University pitcher Yuuki Saito is showing a little support for Yusei Kikuchi: “Kikuchi? The Majors, right. I think it’s a good idea. He throws fast and has good movement and control of is breaking pitches. He’s younger but I’m pulling for him. He really has his own way.” Saito was widely thought to be the first Japanese player to test jumping directly from amateur ball to the Majors, but Junichi Tazawa beat him to the punch.
  • You might have picked this up on our Twitter feed already, but Keiichi Yabu isn’t quite ready to throw in the towel yet. The 40 year-old hung out Stateside for a while after the Giants cut him from Fresno, but he’s back in Japan now, with plans to return in October to work out for MLB clubs. Yabu has come off the scrap heap once already, so maybe he’ll get another shot.
  • Stephen Randolph picked up his fourth win for the Yokohama BayStars. He’s done pretty well so far and at this pace I think he’ll get an invitation to return next year.
  • Sponichi is becoming the first sports publication in Japan to publish an edition specifically intended for kids. Why am I mentioning this here? Because children’s books are a great way to learn Japanese, even as adults. I wish this would have been around when I was really learning Japanese.
  • Jon Heyman’s mention of Hideki Matsui made it back to the Japanese media.
  • With the independent Kansai League struggling to survive, female knuckleballer Eri Yoshida is going to get a start in an effort to draw out a few fans. Her manager wants to get at least three innings out of her.
  • According to baseball sources, MLB’ers Brett Tomko and David Dellucci could look to Japan after this season.

Lastly, this isn’t NPB related, but my favorite player as kid growing up in Chicago was Harold Baines. In a backwards kind of way, this hilarious Onion article points out how underrated he was.

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NPB Bullet Points: Nichibei Special

» 15 September 2009 » In nichibei, npb » 12 Comments

Another Japanese only edition, this time focusing on US-Japan player movment:

  • It doesn’t look like Wei-Yin Chen is going anywhere any time soon, according to Chunichi Dragons president Junnosuke Nishikawa. “He can’t move unless he’s willing to break our agreement. We don’t have those conditions (to allow him out after the season) in our contract,” said Nishikawa. Commenting on a possible move to the majors, Nishikawa said, “even if that’s out there, that’s only if the team grants him to be posted.” Of course, there’s no indication that Chen even wants to leave, only that MLB scouts are watching him.
  • Hanshin is sending ni-gun reliever Ken Nishimura to the Arizona Fall League this year. He’ll join five or six other NPB prospects, including Norihito Kaneto of the Giants.
  • Yokohama has made Tom Mastny its first foreign dismissal of the season. Mastny went 1-5 with a 5.69 era in 15 games for Yokohama this year. “We gave him a chance and he didn’t produce results,” said the Yokohama front office. The BayStars are doing some general housecleaning and interim manager Tamio Tashiro, 28-year veteran Kimiyasu
  • Kudoh, and comparatively young infielder Toshihisa Nishi have all been shown the door.
  • Speaking of Nishi, he’s reportedly open to a move to the US minor leagues if the right offer in Japan doesn’t materialize. Nishi explored a move to the Majors after filing for free agency back in 2004, but obviously that didn’t work out. As I recall the Pirates were rumored to be interested back then.Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

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Japan-Korea Club Championship

» 15 September 2009 » In international baseball, kbo, npb » Comments Off on Japan-Korea Club Championship

Starting from 2005, the Asia Series was once thought to be the next big tournament in Asian baseball. However after four years, the tournament was unable to catch sponsor’s interest and with financial difficulties it was decided to rethink the tournament this year.

Now as a replacement plan, the NPB and KBO have agreed to hold a Japan-Korea Club Championship on November 14th at Nagasaki at the Big N Stadium. The champions from the NPB and KBO will play to decide the champion of the two leagues.

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Kikuchi Rocks the Draft

» 14 September 2009 » In amateur baseball, nichibei, npb draft » 1 Comment

Yusei Kikuchi’s impending decision is something that the baseball world in not only Japan, but also in the United States is keeping an eye on. Kikuchi is scheduled to meet with his high school coach on the 15th (JST) regarding his decision, and has hinted in the media that his final decision will come once the Niigata Kokutai wraps up at the end of the month.

Kikuchi has been going back and forth with his choice,  and we’re reading in interviews that his decision between NPB and MLB still remains to be 50/50. However it’s not a secret that he eventually would like to challenge the MLB and the question is a matter of now or later. He stated in a television interview that his dream is to become a Major Leaguer, which is a big statement to make on public.

His recent comments directed to a baseball magazine were quoted in gossip rag Yukan Fuji, “there has not been a high school player who directly went to the MLB without going through the NPB, so there is a part of me that wants to be the pioneer.” He also states that if he waits to be a free agent when he is 27 years old after joining a NPB team, that might be a little too late.

Until he comes to a decision, Kikuchi will be the center of attention and many scouts and media should be at the Niigata Kokutai, where he is scheduled to pitch for the first time since sustaining back pain at the Koshien Tournament. Not only will be the baseball world keeping an eye on the decision, but the outcome will be crucial for media giant TBS (Tokyo Broadcasting System) as well.

The 2009 draft will be open to public and televised live for the first time and teams participating in a lottery draw to obtain the future ace is supposed to be the biggest catch of the event. Losing the big fish of this years draft will not only hurt now, but TBS could take a hit for the future as the live draft broadcast is a three-year project. NPB losing an amateur prospect for two years in a row to the MLB might consider restructuring the draft and the return of kibouwaku (players agreeing to terms with teams before the draft) will be a possibility if that’s the case.

All we can do is wait and see what Kikuchi decides. We’ll keep you posted on NPB Tracker.

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NPB Bullet Points: Sugiuchi v Darvish, Irabu Done in Kochi

» 14 September 2009 » In npb » Comments Off on NPB Bullet Points: Sugiuchi v Darvish, Irabu Done in Kochi

As the end of the season approaches, we learn who will be released and who is in contention for postseason awards. Japanese links only today.

Japanese Articles:

  • Jose Fernandez left Orix’s 10-8 loss to Seibu in the 7th inning after taking a batted ball to the face. He’s out for the remainder of the season, and may be done with Orix. Literally adding insult to injury, the Orix front office commented that “his results don’t match his salary.” Fernandez hit .261 with 15 HR and 61 RBI, and is getting paid 100m yen ($1m) this year.
  • Toshiya Sugiuchi is making a play for some Sawamura Award consideration. He K’ed 11 Rakuten Eagles on the 13th, his fourth straight game with double-digit punchouts, becoming the first lefty to ever accomplish the feat in the Pacific League. He now is tied for the lead league with 15 wins and has the lead in strikeouts all to himself.
  • But then Yu Darvish said “not so fast” as he returned from injured reserve and shut down the Marines, allowing one run on six hits over eight innings. According to Nikkan Sports, however, the hardest he threw was 148 km/h (91 mph). Not his hardest fastball, but then again he never really needed to extend himself.
  • SoftBank has passed the 2,000,000 mark for attendance again this season, reaching the milestone in their 65 home game.
  • Hideki Irabu has been granted his release from the independent Kochi Fighting Dogs. He has tendinitis in his right thumb, and won’t be able to return in time to play again this season, so he bit the bullet and is heading home to America to recover. He intends to continue his comeback.
  • In place of the loss-making Asia Series, this autumn the Japan and Korea league champions will face off in the Nikan Club Championship. The game will be held on November 14 in Nagasaki.
  • Veteran infielder Toshihisa Nishi is done with Yokohama at the end of the year, but wants to continue playing and will search for a new team this offseason.
  • Hiroshima is looking to import pitching next year, notably of the lefthanded variety, and has mobilized US scout Eric Schullstrom to find some.
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Twitter Weekly Updates for 2009-09-13

» 13 September 2009 » In Uncategorized » Comments Off on Twitter Weekly Updates for 2009-09-13

  • Twitter Weekly Updates for 2009-09-06:
    Twitter Weekly Updates for 2009-08-30:
    Hanamaki tearfully exits Koshien;.. #
  • Uehara throws bullpen session, still hurting: #
  • Draft to be Open to Public: Nippon Professional Baseball is taking another step to further engage its fans. NPB .. #
  • Tsuyoshi Wada set to return: #
  • Wei-Yin Chen threw a CG shutout at Koshien Stadium. (9.0IP, 2H, BB, 10K) #
  • Kikuchi to Visit the States: When we last left our heroes,Yusei Kikuchi had strongly suggested that he was going.. #
  • Iwakuma earns his 12th win throwing 8.0 innings and allowing 9H, 3ER, 2BB with 7K for a total of 135 pitches. #
  • USA-Japan High School Baseball Games: The USA-Japan High School Baseball Games recently took place at the Urban .. #
  • MLB Scouts Watch Chen: Sports Hochi is reporting that a number of MLB scouts were on hand to take in Chunichi Dr.. #
  • Darvish throws 60 pitches in bullpen, closer to return: #
  • Wada returns, bitter results: #
  • Matsuzaka will throw in Winston-Salem with a 90-100 pitch count limit: #
  • Ryota Igarashi activated: #
  • Yu Darvish will return to the mound and start on the 13th: #
  • Masahiro Tanaka earns his 13th victory: 8.0IP, 10H, 3ER, 4K with no walks for a total of 123 pitches… Season ERA now at 1.97. #
  • Daisuke Matsuzaka set to start on Tuesday against the Angels: #
  • Koji Uehara done for the season: #
  • Japan Advances to Second Round at World Cup: The 2009 Baseball World Cup completed its first round and Japan has.. #
  • Yu Darvish returns strong for his 15th win… 8.0IP, 6H, ER, 5K with no walks for a total of 104 pitches versus the Lotte Marines. #
  • Hisanori Takahashi earns a win yielding 5.0 innings and allowing 6H, 2R, 2BB with 5K. Season ERA at 3.23 for a total of 120 innings pitched. #

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Japan Advances to Second Round at World Cup

» 12 September 2009 » In amateur baseball, international baseball » 3 Comments

The 2009 Baseball World Cup completed its first round and Japan has advanced to the second round with a 2-1 record:

Game 1: Japan vs. Great Britain, 9-7 win

Game 2: Japan vs. Croatia, 13-3 (7 innings) win

Game 3: Japan vs. Nicaragua, 8-4 loss

The offensive leaders of the first round for Japan were OF Keiji Ikebe (Shinnihon Sekiyu ENEOS) hitting .500 (6-12) with 2 doubles, 4RBI, 5R and two walks and OF Hisayoshi Chono (Honda) who had two hits in all three games batting .429 (6-14) with  2B, 3B, 2RBI and 4R.

With a 70-pitch limit in the first round, the depth of a team’s pitching staff can make or break games. The team ERA for Japan ranked 12th out of 20 teams in the first round with a 6.48ERA (25.0IP, 25H, 18ER, 8BB, 42K). However, Japan leads the tournament with 42 total strikeouts and the offense is tied for first with the least strikeouts with 11.

Japan is placed in Group G for the second round where four teams out of eight will be advancing to the next round. The group includes Mexico, Chinese Taipei, United States of America, Canada, Italy, Australia, and the Netherlands Antilles. Japan will be facing those opponents in order starting from Sunday, September 13th.

The 2009 Baseball World Cup can be viewed online on a pay-per-view basis for the tournament or pay-per-event.

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MLB Scouts Watch Chen

» 09 September 2009 » In mlb prospects, npb » 10 Comments

Sports Hochi is reporting that a number of MLB scouts were on hand to take in Chunichi Dragons ace Wei-Yin Chen’s latest win, a two-hit shutout over Hanshin at Koshien. Among them was Steve Wilson, the Cubs’ Director of Asia Pacific scouting, who commented “of course we know Chen, but I can’t talk about specific players.” A scout from an unnamed AL East team said that if he were available, “about 15 teams would move on him.” Chen is in the midst of a dominating season (8-3, 1.45 era, 142.1 ip). I have every intention of doing a full profile of him, I can say that he features a fastball that reaches the mid-90’s and a sharp slider.

The new bit of information in this article is that Chen is on a single year contract, and thus eligible to change teams after the season. Chen, 24, signed out of Taiwan in 2004 after small bidding war between Chunichi, Daiei (now SoftBank) and MLB clubs. Since he’s a member of the NPB players’ union (most foreign players are not), I always thought he was under a standard NPB entry contract. If that’s not the case that he’ll certainly attract attention this season.

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USA-Japan High School Baseball Games

» 08 September 2009 » In amateur baseball, international baseball, Koshien, nichibei » Comments Off on USA-Japan High School Baseball Games

The USA-Japan High School Baseball Games recently took place at the Urban Youth Academy Baseball Field in Compton, California. The exchange  started in 2006 and current Rakuten Golden Eagles ace Masahiro Tanaka was included on the Japan roster of the first series.

The three-game series between the two teams ended up without a real winner as it concluded with one win, one loss and one tie for both teams. The overall run total ended up with the Urban Youth Academy scoring 15 runs versus Japan’s 16 runs, so if you really want to determine a winner, Japan is your answer.

Game 1: Japan 8 – Urban Academy 5

Game 2: Japan 2- Urban Academy 2

Game 3: Japan 6- Urban Academy 8

The Japan team roster (link in Japanese) included a couple of top candidates for this year’s draft.

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