Archive > September 2009

Kikuchi to Visit the States

» 08 September 2009 » In amateur baseball, mlb prospects, nichibei, npb draft » 14 Comments

When we last left our heroes,Yusei Kikuchi had strongly suggested that he was going to start his professional baseball career in Japan, saying, “It’ll be after I consult with my parents and manager, but I’m thinking domestic. In the future I think I’ll go to the Majors if I can, but after building my strength domestically.”

Note, however, that he stops short of saying he’s filed for draft eligibility, which he still has yet to do.

Now, news has emerged that Kikuchi is planning on visiting the States in October, and wants to see the Majors once before he decides to proceed. The best quote I’ve seen so far was in Sponichi: “I like to do things that people say are impossible. To be showered in criticism makes me want to do it. I don’t have any unease with life in America. I want to speak English, and there is leading-edge training which is different from Japan, so that’s exciting.” Mainichi News puts his decision between NPB and MLB at 50/50.

We’re seemingly a month away from really knowing that Kikuchi wants to do, so we’ll see how things play out until then.

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Draft to be Open to Public

» 07 September 2009 » In amateur baseball, npb, npb draft, sports business » Comments Off on Draft to be Open to Public

Nippon Professional Baseball is taking another step to further engage its fans. NPB is opening an online drawing from which 1000 fans will be chosen to enjoy the atmosphere of the draft. The draft will take place on October 29th in Tokyo and the lucky 1000 fans will be the first to enjoy the prospects being named to their new professional teams.

The draft will attempt to add an entertainment side to the event making the drawing box clear so that the fans will be able to see the last moment of the manager picking the names out. On a business note, Toshiba has agreed in terms to be the special sponsor of the event, so it’s definitely something NPB can expand on.

A franchise’s future could depend on the winning the rights to Yusei Kikuchi (assuming he decides to enter the NPB Draft) and other prospects, so NPB made the decision to allow some fans to enjoy the special moment in history live. We ran down some of the other top draft prospects as well last week.

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Twitter Weekly Updates for 2009-09-06

» 06 September 2009 » In Uncategorized » Comments Off on Twitter Weekly Updates for 2009-09-06

  • Twitter Weekly Updates for 2009-08-30:
    Hanamaki tearfully exits Koshien; Kikuchi surrenders big hit in relief.
    .. #
  • World Cup Roster: The Japanese roster for the 38th IBAF World Cup has been announced. The schedule overlaps with.. #
  • Following Twitter: Some of you might be following the NPB Tracker Twitter feed. I hope you’re enjoying it… #
  • New Lotte Marines manager decided: Current coach Norifumi Nishimura who has been with the Marines for 28 years. #
  • Makoto Imaoka decides to retire after this season: #
  • Makoto Imaoka quotes the statement of retirement is not true. #
  • Iwakuma wins the pitching dual between Wakui and the Seibu Lions… Allowed 7H, 2ER with 11K for a total of 132 pitches. #
  • Iwakuma struck out every Lions starter and he was the fourth Pacific League pitcher to accomplish that in history. #
  • Tsuyoshi Wada will throw in a ni-gun game with the limit set around 100 pitches. If it all goes well he will be back with Softbank Hawks. #
  • Pro vs. College All-Stars: Celebrating the 60th anniversary of the Central and Pacific Leagues, the NPB young st.. #
  • NPB Bullet Points: Imaoka Released, Williams Too?: In Japanese:

    Amid rumors of his retirement, Hanshin has rele.. #

  • Inside the Industrial Leagues: With current Boston Red Sox prospect Junichi Tazawa making the jump from the Japa.. #
  • Nikkan Sports: Tazawa to face White Sox again on Sept 6 #
  • Masahiro Tanaka defeated by the Lions allowing 8H, 4ER, 2BB with 9K for a total of 114 pitches. #
  • Darvish to join the Fighters on 11th: #
  • Japanese Baseball Primers: Over the last several months, we’ve posted several introductory pieces to Japan.. #
  • Lim joins Igarashi on the injured list… Swallows bullpen going down at once with a 4 game lead for the last playoff spot. #
  • Yokohama Considering Japanese Major Leaguers: The Yokohama BayStars have routinely had the worst pitching staff .. #
  • Sanspo: Kuroda to return Sept 6 against San Diego.
    (Japanese) #
  • Yomiuri vs Yakult, live on #
  • Matsuzaka Speaks:

    Daisuke Matsuzaka spoke to the press after his latest rehab appearance. These comments are a.. #

  • Mets to Sign Teenager: This one is about is about as under-the-radar as it gets — according to ChuSpo, the.. #
  • Looking Ahead to the Draft: One of my favorite sites, Draft Reports, has published a rundown of what’s kno.. #
  • Sho Nakata will be suspended 10 games for being late to practice: #
  • Darvish's return considered beyond the 15th: #
  • Colonel Sanders is Back: The Colonel Sanders will finally make an appearance back at the Koshien Stadium in fron.. #
  • Live coverage between the Lotte Marines vs. Orix Buffaloes : #
  • Hisanori Takahashi earns 6th win throwing 5.2 innings and allowing 5H, 2ER, BB with 3K. #
  • Toshiya Sugiuchi striking out double-digit for three stright games to earn his 14th win (8IP, 3H, ER, 2BB, 11K) #

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Colonel Sanders is Back

» 05 September 2009 » In Koshien, npb, sports business » 4 Comments

The Colonel Sanders will finally make an appearance back at the Koshien Stadium in front of the Hanshin fans. We mentioned earlier in the year that the famous Colonel Sanders statue has reemerged from the riverbed of the Dotonbori.

Kentucky Fried Chicken Japan Ltd. announced that the statue will make an appearance to the public on September 9th near Gate 5 starting from 3pm until 6:30pm. Fans will be able to see the statue without a game ticket.

The Hanshin Tigers are 20 games back from first place Yomiuri Giants and are 3.5 back from the last playoff spot. If they are able to slide in to take the last spot from the Yakult Swallows and eventually reach the Japan Series, Colonel Sanders should get some serious consideration for MVP votes.

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Looking Ahead to the Draft

» 05 September 2009 » In npb draft » 7 Comments

One of my favorite sites, Draft Reports, has published a rundown of what’s known about each NPB team’s draft plans for this year.

Obviously Yusei Kikuchi is the consensus favorite this year, but there are a couple other names to watch as well. The popularity of Kikuchi as a pick could lead to some interesting strategies for other teams — will teams use the popularity of Kikuchi as a pick to swoop in a grab other top candidates uncontested? To get a sense of how the the NPB draft works, please see our overview of the topic.

On to the projections.


1st pick candidates: Yusei Kikuchi (Hanamaki Higashi HS), Kazuhito Futagami (Hosei University), Masato Nakazawa (Toyota), Masanori Fujiwara (Ritsumeikan University), Yoshitomo Tsutsugo (Yokohama HS), Shota Dobayashi (Chukyo HS)

Other high-round candidates: Takashi Ogino (Toyota), Masato Kiyashiki (Kinki-Dai HS)

Orix appears to be undecided among the 1st-round candidates listed above.


1st pick candidates: Tsutsugo,  Kikuchi, Nakazawa, Fujiwara

Other high-round candidates: Dobayashi, Kiyashiki

The latest reports suggest that Yokohama has narrowed its first pick choices down to Kikuchi and Tsutsugo. I would expect them to default towards local boy Tsutsugo, but he’s a slugging first baseman, and the organizational need is pitching.

Chiba Lotte

1st pick candidates: Kikuchi, Futagami, Toshiya Okada (Chiben Wakayama HS), Ikuhiro Kiyota (NTT East), Takayuki Makka (Tokai Boyo HS)

Other high-round candidates: Ogino, Kenta Imamiya (Meiho HS), Masato Mashiro (Nissan), Shota Ohmine (Yae Sho HS)

Latest word is that Lotte is set on Kikuchi with Okada and Imamiya to fall back on.


1st pick candidates: Kikuchi, Nakazawa, Futagami, Fujiwara, Ogino, Makka, Okada, Nobuaki Nakabayashi (Keio University), Hisayoshi Chono (Honda), Hisashi Takeuchi (Hosei University),Tetsu Anan (Nittsu), Hiroyuki Kawahara (Fukuoka University Ohori HS),

Other high-round candidates: Dobayashi, Kiyota, Kiyashiki, Takahiro Araki (Kinki University), Yutaka Ohtsuka (Soka University), Yusuke Matsui (Tokyo University of Agriculture), Masato Matsui (Jobu University)

Now it gets interesting. Hanshin has Kikuchi in their sights as well, but is actively planning a contingency in case they don’t get him. Hanshin has been floating the idea of Chono with their first pick if they miss out on Kikuchi. My guess is that this is a bluff to get the Giants to spend they’re first pick on a guy who isn’t really first round talent.


1st pick candidates: Kikuchi, Tsutsugo

Other high-round candidates: Ogino, Dobayashi, Imamiya

Things have been quiet on the Rakuten draft front. On the surface Tsutsugo would appear to better address the organization’s main need, which is offense.


1st pick candidates: Kikuchi, Dobayashi, Imamiya, Futagami

Other high-round candidates: Takeuchi, Kenta Matsushita (Waseda University), Nobuyoshi Yamada (Tsuruga Kehi HS), Yutaro Sakurada (Hachinohe University)

Pretty familiar looking names on Hiroshima’s first pick list; but some new ones on their secondary list.


1st pick candidates: Kikuchi, Tsutsugo, Futagami

Other high-round candidates: Ryoji Nakata (Asia University)

First mention of Nakata, the short, round college first baseman. On paper, I have my doubts about that guy’s ability to succeed at the pro level, but to see him bookended in the infield with the pudgy Okawari-kun would be interesting to say the least. Reportedly looking at Futagami as their top pick, and they could probably get him easily in the first round.


1st pick candidates: Kikuchi, Tsutsugo, Nakazawa

Other high-round candidates: Imamiya, Makka, Katsu Nakamura (Kasukabe Kyoei HS)

Pretty vanilla list, with the exception of Nakamura, who draws comparisons to Yu Darvish. His delivery is clearly Darvish-inspired. Yakult is currently between Tsutsugo and Kikuchi for their top pick.


1st pick candidates: Kikuchi, Kawahara, Takeru Imamura (Seiho HS)

Other high-round candidates: Imamiya

Another unexciting pool, SoftBank is looking at Kikuchi or Imamura with their top pick according to the latest issue of Shukan Baseball.


1st pick candidates: Kikuchi, Imamiya, Fujiwara, Makka

Other high-round candidates: Futagami,Takahiro Suwabe (Honda), Yohei Oshima (Nihon Seimei)

Same players, different team for Chunichi. Chunichi has quietly drafted consistently well over the last few years, so we’ll see how they do with this group.

Nippon Ham

1st pick candidates: Kikuchi, Makka, Tsutsugo, Imamura, Futagami, Okada, Fujiwara

Other high-round candidates: Imamiya, Masayoshi Kato (Kyushu International University)

Kikuchi would give Ham a golden boy to go with Darvish; while Tsutsugo would be a contemporary for Sho Nakata.


1st pick candidates: Chono

Other high-round candidates: unknown

The Kyojin-gun hasn’t deviated publicly from their intent to select Chono, but there has been some speculation that they’re interested in Kikuchi like everyone else. Not too long ago, however, I read an article that quoted a member of the Giants’ front office as saying to the other Central League teams “go ahead and pick Kikuchi”.

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Mets to Sign Teenager

» 04 September 2009 » In mlb prospects » 13 Comments

This one is about is about as under-the-radar as it gets — according to ChuSpo, the Mets have agreed to sign Japanese teenager Taiki Kawasaki to a minor league contract. Kawasaki is a 17 year-old left handed pitcher who had been training at Julio Franco’s baseball academy in Florida. The Osaka native left Japan after finishing junior high school in April 2008 with the hopes of catching on with an MLB organization. In his time in Franco’s academy, Kawasaki has grown from 177cm, 66kg (5’10, 145) to 185cm 77kg (6’1, 170), and added velocity to his fastball, which now averages around 140kmph (about 87mph). An older report mentions that Kawasaki has a slider and curve as well.

I couldn’t find any English info on this signing, but this ESPN Deportes article from last year mentions Kawasaki’s presence at Franco’s academy. Franco will reportedly travel to Japan in mid-October to officially announce the signing.

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Matsuzaka Speaks

» 04 September 2009 » In mlb » 1 Comment

Daisuke Matsuzaka spoke to the press after his latest rehab appearance. These comments are a few days old, but still worth sharing. Matsuzaka got knocked around a bit in this outing. This translation is “unofficial”, courtesy of me.

-on finishing his appearance

I need to fine-tune my form, but I didn’t feel like I was way off. I didn’t expect to get hit that hard (in the first inning).

-Five runs

I didn’t give any thought at all to whether I was shutting down the other team or not. I was thinking it would be good if I could confirm that I was stepping up, one step at a time, during the game.

-Pitches thrown

Straight fastball, slider, changeup. I used the a major league ball.

-The next rehab outing is expected to be the last

If I could throw hard in the second inning, I can throw hard from the start in my next appearance.

-On signing for the fans for 15 minutes prior to the game

I don’t normally do that before games, but this isn’t a place I have the opportunity to come to, and a lot of fans came out, so I signed.

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Yokohama Considering Japanese Major Leaguers

» 03 September 2009 » In npb » 15 Comments

The Yokohama BayStars have routinely had the worst pitching staff in Japan the last few years, and word from Sponichi has it that they’ll be looking to re-import some help from the States this off-season. Said an unnamed member of the ‘Hama front office: “we’re two or three starters short, and getting a pitcher who can close is a point to improve on. We’re seeing if we can use any of the Japanese pitchers who are playing in America.” Ironically, this is the team that wouldn’t take Satoru Komiyama back after he returned from the Mets.

Sponichi mentions Tomo Ohka, Yasuhiko Yabuta, and Masahide Kobayashi as guys the BayStars could look at. Ohka spent time with Yokohama early in his career, but requested and was granted his release to pursue a shot at the Majors. Two other names I’ll throw out are Kei Igawa, who would have to take a pay cut to return to Japan (among other things, see comments), and Takashi Saito, who is much more of a wildcard — he’d need to be non-tendered, and he’s also performed much better in the States than he did in Japan.

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Japanese Baseball Primers

» 03 September 2009 » In Uncategorized » Comments Off on Japanese Baseball Primers

Over the last several months, we’ve posted several introductory pieces to Japanese baseball. I’ve aggregated them under one tag, Japanese Baseball Primer.

Here’s what we have so far:

These posts cover topics beyond the professional league and beyond the game on the field and are great for anyone who wants to learn more about the culture of baseball in Japan.

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Inside the Industrial Leagues

» 02 September 2009 » In amateur baseball, sports business » 3 Comments

With current Boston Red Sox prospect Junichi Tazawa making the jump from the Japanese Industrial Leagues to the Major Leagues, the attention toward Industrial Leagues is increasing as we speak. Also the 2009 Baseball World Cup is set to begin from September 9th and you may have noticed the Japan national team roster is composed of only Industrial League players.

The Industrial League, operated by the JABA (Japanese Amatuer Baseball Association), is explained as a minor league unaffiliated with the Nippon Professional Baseball in the NY Times article, Japanese Are Irked by U.S. Interest in Pitcher. Teams are fielded by company’s operating in Japan, and the Industrial Leagues are treated as amateur baseball with players not receiving salary as a baseball player, but as an employee with the company.

There are two types of team registered for the Industrial League: Corporate teams and Club teams. Every teams registered is listed on Wikipedia. Teams across the nation participate in tournaments and leagues year around. The one currently in the final stage is the 80th annual Intercity Baseball Tournament (Toshi Taikou Yakyu Taikai) and the finals will be played September 1st from 6pm at the Tokyo Dome (Japan time) between Toyota and Honda. Also the first round of the 36th Industrial League National Tournament  (Shakai-jin Yakyu Nihon Senshuken) has started its regionals. Other notable tournaments include the 34th All-Japan Club Tournament (Zen-nihon Club Yakyu Senshuken). The history among these tournaments are established and there are plenty of games for teams and players to participate in.

Many current stars in the NPB and some MLB players have taken the Industrial League route to professional baseball. Current Chicago Cub Kosuke Fukudome played as a member of the Nihon Semei (Osaka) and won the Rookie of the year title in the 67th Toshi Taikou Yakyuu Taikai tournament. Japanese MLB pioneer, Hideo Nomo, is a former industrial leagues player as well. NPB stars such as Michihiro Ogasawara (Yomiuri Giants), Yasuyuki Kataoka (Seibu Lions), and Hitoki Iwase (Chunichi Dragons) are couple other players with Industrial League experience.

Even though the Industrial Leagues play a role in developing future NPB and possible MLB players, the existence of many teams have become an issue due to current business environment in Japan. If the parent company is struggling to make a profit, the existence of a baseball team for the company would always be a candidate for a budget cut. Industrial League powerhouse teams like Nissan had no choice, but to fold due after this season due to the parent company having financial problems.

In order for Industrial Leagues to survive and to reduce the financial responsibilities for some companies, talks are on-going to merge some of the tournaments and to reform the structure of the league. Sanspo recently published a lengthy article on the topic in Japanese. The recent change in Japanese political leadership could have an effect on the Industrial Leagues and its participating companies and this will be an issue we should all keep an eye on.

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