Archive > November 2009

Johjima at it Again

» 28 November 2009 » In nichibei, npb » 1 Comment

Holiday and business activity kept me away from blogging this week, but after a relaxing Black Friday spent mostly away from the computer and the shops, I’m ready to get going again.

Kenji Johjima is reportedly making more scouting recommendations to his new employer. This time, though, the Hanshin Tigers have their sights set a little more realistically. Randy Messenger was the main guy mentioned in Sanspo’s latest report. Messenger nearly joined the Carp in mid-season 2009 but Hiroshima and Seattle couldn’t come to an agreement on a transfer fee.

Eric Hull and Jason Bulger were the other two guys mentioned on Hanshin’s list; Hull makes sense, while they’re probably a year too late on Bulger.

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Daisempai

» 23 November 2009 » In nichibei, npb » 4 Comments

Long before Yusei Kikuchi entertained eight MLB suitors, before Junichi Tazawa rattled the cage by skipping NPB to sign with the Red Sox, before MLB teams first took note of Yu Darvish, before Daisuke Matsuzaka attracted $51m in posting money, before Hideo Nomo ‘retired’, before Masanori Murakami became the first Japanese player to reach the majors, before Walter O’Malley tried to acquire Shigeo Nagashima, there was Eiji Sawamura.

November 20 marked the 75th anniversary of Sawamura’s famous one-hit loss to the touring team of American all-stars. Sawamura, then 17, struck out Hall of Famers Lou Gerhig, Babe Ruth and  Jimmie Foxx, but surrendered a solo home run in the 7th to Gerhig, which was all the Americans needed to win 1-0.

The Americans responded to the loss by trying to sign Sawamura. There are various retellings, but the story goes that a Pirates scout asked Sawamura to “autograph” a contract. Connie Mack also tried to acquire him for the A’s, perhaps in a more above the board way. Sawamura refused and eventually went pro in Japan, but died in World War II. the Sawamura Award was established by NPB in 1947 (pre-dating the Cy Young Award).

The word “sempai” (先輩) roughly translates to “one who came before” or “senior”, like an older kid at school, or Nomo to Matsuzaka. Prepend it with a “dai” (大), meaning “big”, and you get “daisempai” (大先輩), as in someone who went to the school school, but graduated long before you even started. In a sense, Sawamura was the earliest predecessor to all the players I mentioned in the first paragraph.

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Hisanori Takahashi From 30,000 Feet

» 22 November 2009 » In mlb prospects » 1 Comment

Despite the fact that we’ve known for some time that Hisanori Takahashi would a candidate to jump to MLB this offseason, the Yomiuri lefty hasn’t gotten much virtual ink on this site. I’ve actually had a draft profile on him sitting un-started since June, but time has been an issue this year and I’ve prioritized other content.

Instead of an in-depth profile, I’ll give a quick bird’s eye view of Takahashi and his MLB credentials:

  • Turns 35 on April 2, 2010
  • Is coming off a solid 2009 campaign: 10-6, 2.94 ERA, 121/36 K/BB in 144 IP
  • Made 135m yen ($1.3m) in 2009
  • Started pro career in 2000 at age 26, after playing both college and industrial league ball
  • Isn’t going to overwhelm anyone with an 85-90 mph fastball
  • Has an excellent screwball, which he induces grounders and misses bats with; should be a plus pitch at the MLB level as well
  • Also has a two-seam fastball, slider and curve; the two-seamer is a pretty good pitch
  • No shortage of velocity info on him at our data site (note: screwball shows up as a “sinker” on in our data; two-seam as  “shuuto”)
  • Has never been a huge innings eater in Japan: career high is 186.2 IP (2007), has twice thrown 163 (2002, 2005), next highest total is 144 (2009)
  • Was not a lefty killer in 2009: lefties hit .300 against him (48/160), while holding righties to .250 (99/396)
  • Did keep lefties in the park in 2009: only three of his 16 home runs allowed came against lefties
  • Is represented by Peter Greenberg, who got another Takahashi (Ken) a deal with the Blue Jays and later the Mets last year, and recently lost Hideki Okajima. Had he kept Okajima, Greenberg could have really cornered the market on Japanese lefties

Takahashi has said he wants to continue in a starting role after he crosses the Pacific, but putting everything together he seems better suited for the bullpen. That said, assuming his screwball doesn’t get lost in translation, I don’t see why he can’t be an effective reliever in the Okajima mold.

So far the Giants and Rangers have been noted in the Japanese media as interested, though I suspect the Rangers will come up for everyone because of Jim Colborn’s presence. Takahashi himself has said that he would like to wind up on the same team as former Yomiuri teammate Hideki Matsui, but the NL West would likely be the most amenable destination for him.

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Twitter Weekly Updates for 2009-11-22

» 22 November 2009 » In Uncategorized » Comments Off

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Contreras, Son Reportedly Looking for Move to Japan

» 21 November 2009 » In Koshien, npb, npb draft » 9 Comments

Here’s one I didn’t think of: Jose Conteras is reportedly looking for a job in Japan.

Sanspo reported a few days ago that Contreras reached out to the Hanshin Tigers, who despite being in need of pitching, aren’t interested in his services. The Hanshin source quoted by Sanspo said that “it seems like he wants to play in Japan. We’ve already decided against it, but it’s not 100%,” later adding, “(Contreras) seems like he would be quite inexpensive, so there will probably be other teams that show interest.”

Sanspo also pointed out that this would be the first time NPB is in the mix for a big-name player since Sammy Sosa tried to get a deal in Japan for the 2006 season.[1]

I didn’t think much of this story at first, but now it makes a little more sense. Today Nikkan Sports published a report saying that Contreras’s son, Kevin, is hoping to take part in an exchange program to Fukuoka’s Yanagawa high school. Kevin, 16, is a catcher at the IMG Baseball Academy in Florida, where he heard about the Koshien Tournament from his Japanese academy-mates. Yanagawa has played in the spring and summer Koshien Tournaments a total of 16 times.

The Contreras family is going to visit Japan next week, to look for Jose’s next employer and visit Kevin’s prospective high school. If Kevin does wind up attending high school in Fukuoka, the geographically close SoftBank Hawks and Hiroshima Carp would appear to be the most logical choices. I saw Contreras once or twice after he was traded to Colorado, and he showed a good fastball and splitter, which makes me think he has a little life left as a reliever. Then again, I saw him pitch against the Giants. Even at 37, he has good enough stuff to succeed in Japan, whether he has the health and composure to is another question. If everything comes together, this has the makings of a great story.

[1] After posting a dreadful season for Baltimore, Sosa offered to play the 2006 season for the Yokohama BayStars for 50m yen ($500k), but was turned away. A Yokohama executive was quoted in the media as saying “just because a player can’t play in America, it doesn’t mean he can play in Japan. He’d leave in two months.”

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Giants Sign Chih-Lung Huang

» 21 November 2009 » In international baseball, npb » Comments Off

The Tokyo Yomiuri Giants have agreed to terms with 20 year-old Taiwanese pitcher Chih-Lung Huang as an ikusei player. According to Sponichi, there were Major League teams interested in his services, but Chih-Lung Huang decided to start his career in Japan, where he had dreamed of playing.

Huang comments, “Since when I was young, I was interested in Japanese baseball rather than baseball in the States. I feel honored to be a member of a traditional team in the Giants.”

Huang’s fastball reportedly tops out at 152 kmph (~95mph) and he has a number of breaking pitches in his arsenal.Yakubaka has more details on the Huang signing and his numbers from the 2009 World Cup.

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Kikuchi Signs With Seibu

» 20 November 2009 » In npb, npb draft » Comments Off

Yusei Kikuchi is officially a pro. The young lefty has inked his first contract with the Seibu Lions. Unsurprisingly, Kikuchi gets the max deal: 100m yen (about $1m) signing bonus, a 15m yen ($150k) first year salary, 50m yen ($500k) in performance bonuses.

Kikuchi will wear number 17. Word is that he’ll be in camp with the top team next spring, and have a special training program.

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Hiroshima Movement

» 20 November 2009 » In international baseball, nichibei, npb » Comments Off

According to Chugoku Shimbun, the Hiroshima Toyo Carp have agreed to re-sign right hander Michael Shultz to a two-year contract and are also working on a deal to add outfielder Jeff Fiorentino, who appeared in 24 major league games with the Baltimore Orioles last season. The scouts liked Fiorentino’s average against left-handers and believes his batting eye is well-suited for the NPB.

As posted earlier in the week, the Carp are working on adding Justin Huber.

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Yokohama to Acquire Three

» 20 November 2009 » In npb » 7 Comments

According the local Kanagawa news website Kanaloco.jp, the Yokohama BayStars are working on adding three additions to their foreign roster.

  • Chris Bootcheck, who appeared in the majors with Pittsburgh in 2009, and another guy from my list of foreign player candidates
  • Jose Castillo, the former top prospect who spent 2009 with the 7-Eleven Lions of Taiwan
  • Termel Sledge, Nippon Ham’s best power threat in ’09

Negotiations with Bootcheck and Castillo are in final stages, and while negotiations with Sledge haven’t started yet, Yokohama appears to be the favorite to land him.

Whoever Yokohama winds up with will join Stephen Randolph on the roster next season.

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SoftBank Signs Lee; Carlyle to Nippon Ham

» 19 November 2009 » In npb » Comments Off

The SoftBank Hawks have picked up Korean slugger Lee Beom-Ho on a two-year, 300m yen deal. Sadaharu Oh had talked about wanted to pick up another import slugger, and he found one who’s hit at least 20 KBO home runs in five of the last six years. Lee will give the Hawks another option at DH and the infield corners.

And I didn’t have time to post this when it happened, so I’ll defer to Yakyu Baka’s coverage, but the Nippon Ham Fighter’s signed Buddy Carlyle to fill most likely a bullpen spot.

Buddy and Lee were both on my list of import candidates for 2010, so I’m glad I got at least two right. NPB’s interest in Lee was well publicized though, so that wasn’t exactly a tough one.

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