Archive > December 2009

Taking a Little Time Off

» 30 December 2009 » In NPB Tracker » 1 Comment

Not much to add to the title; I’m taking a little time off and will be back in mid-January.

2009 flew by, and I’m expecting more of the same in 2010. Everyone have a safe New Year’s Eve and a happy New Year’s Day, and I’ll see you next year.

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Top 10 Events of 2009

» 28 December 2009 » In mlb, nichibei, npb, npb draft » 2 Comments

2009 went by super fast. Here are my top ten events in Japanese baseball for the year that was.

10. Koji Uehara, Kenshin Kawakami sign with MLB teams; Yomiuri, Chunichi don’t notice. Uehara and Kawakami both signed with MLB clubs early in 2009, meanwhile, their former teams finished 1-2 in the Central League, with Yomiuri taking the Japan Series Championship.

9. Tuffy Rhodes hits 450th NPB home run. Tuffy continued his remarkable comeback in 2009, reaching 450 homers early in the season. A healthy 2010 will see him reach 500.

8. Rakuten makes first ever post season appearance as Katsuya Nomura retires. Rakuten to reached the second round of the playoffs in their fifth year of existence and appears to have a bright near-term future. Nomura restored his legacy with Rakuten after arguably failing to revive Hanshin and his wife’s ugly tax fraud problems.

7. Mazda Zoom-Zoom Stadium opens. Japan’s first new stadium in years opens to rave reviews, and while the Carp look competitive at times, they ultimately slump to a fifth-place finish.

6. Yusei Kikuchi stays in Japan; gets selected by only six teams in draft. After a lengthy cross-Pacific courting process, Kikuchi gave into social pressures and choose to stay in Japan and enter the NPB draft. After speculation that he could get picked by 10 or 11 teams,he winds up getting taken by six, with the remaining six teams grabbing other players uncontested. He eventually signs a max contract with Seibu.

5. Hideki Matsui wins World Series MVP. Matsui leaves NY in style with a dominant World Series performance, despite not starting any of the games played in Philadelphia.

4. Bobby Valentine leaves Marines. Bobby V goes back to Connecticut after a successful six-year run with Chiba Lotte, in which he turned around a moribund franchise and became one of the finest advocates for Japanese baseball in the West.

3. Yomiuri wins first title since 2002. It took seven years for Yomiuri to win a Japan Series post-Matsui. The Giants won three times in his ten-year Giants career (1994, 2000, 2002).

2. Ichiro collects 200 hits for ninth straight year. ’nuff said.

1. Japan wins second straight WBC title. Japan is now 2-2 in WBC appearances, avenging its embarrassing 2008 Olypmic loss.

Honorable mentions: Junichi Tazawa reaches MLB in first pro season; great Koshien finale; Yu Darvish/Alex Ramirez win MVPs; Hanshin re-imports Kenji Johjima

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Twitter Weekly Updates for 2009-12-27

» 27 December 2009 » In Uncategorized » Comments Off

  • Twitter Weekly Updates for 2009-12-20: Twitter Weekly Updates for 2009-12-13: Twitter Weekly Updates for 2009-12-06… http://bit.ly/6NtHt8 #
  • A Brief Tribute to Norihiro Akahoshi: I didn’t write about this when it happened, but Hanshin OF Norihiro Akahosh… http://bit.ly/7zTXm0 #
  • Yokohama’s Offseason: Yokohama finished up their offseason shopping last week, introducing Takayuki Shinohara and… http://bit.ly/6SabLq #
  • Thanks Dave @d_a_cameron Pleased to announce Patrick Newman of npbtracker.com has joined FanGraphs. http://bit.ly/5iYVPY #
  • Hiroshima re-introduces Ken Takahashi: http://bit.ly/5zm564 #
  • Miura’s Best Pitch?: A question for those of you who regularly watched the Yokohama BayStars in 2009: what is Dai… http://bit.ly/8MTu9t #
  • Attention SoftBank, Hiroshima, Rakuten: If any of the teams in the title of this post are reading, you could all us… http://bit.ly/8B4vHU #
  • Chiba Lotte Still After Stults: Sponichi is reporting that the Chiba Lotte Marines are sending a rep Stateside at t… http://bit.ly/5rEHHy #
  • Merry Christmas to all. #
  • Merry Christmas: There’s still at least a few hours of Christmas left in most of the United States, so here’s m… http://bit.ly/74mpqq #
  • Sadowski to Korea: Ryan Sadowski has found his way to Asia. The former SF Giant has signed a deal to pitch for the … http://bit.ly/8ss0VP #

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Sadowski to Korea

» 25 December 2009 » In kbo » 3 Comments

Ryan Sadowski has found his way to Asia. The former SF Giant has signed a deal to pitch for the Lotte Giants in 2010.

You might recall that the Yokohama BayStars tried to get Sadowski during the 2009 season, but San Francisco decided they could use him on the big league roster and held on to his contract. Sadowski had a couple of good games at the MLB level before Jonathan Sanchez returned from bullpen exile to throw a no-hitter. Sadowski had signed with Houston earlier in the offseason, but I guess the Astros let him out of his contract.

Best of luck to Ryan in Korea!

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Merry Christmas

» 25 December 2009 » In Uncategorized » Comments Off

There’s still at least a few hours of Christmas left in most of the United States, so here’s my present to whoever happens to see this:

And if I missed your time zone, I hope you enjoyed the video all the same.

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Chiba Lotte Still After Stults

» 24 December 2009 » In nichibei, npb » 5 Comments

Sponichi is reporting that the Chiba Lotte Marines are sending a rep Stateside at the beginning of the year to negotiate with/for Dodgers pitcher Eric Stults. The Marines have been interested in Stults for a couple of months, and apparently the Dodgers turned them down once already.

In the event the Marines are unable to land Stults, the Marines are preparing a new list of candidates, which could include Yankees farmhand Romulo Sanchez. I don’t think I need to repeat my opinion, but I will — why negotiate for a pitcher who is under contract when Lenny DiNardo is available as a free agent?

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Attention SoftBank, Hiroshima, Rakuten

» 22 December 2009 » In nichibei, npb » 13 Comments

If any of the teams in the title of this post are reading, you could all use a suketto pitcher, and Lenny DiNardo is still unsigned. Give Lenny a shot.

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Miura’s Best Pitch?

» 22 December 2009 » In npb » 6 Comments

A question for those of you who regularly watched the Yokohama BayStars in 2009: what is Daisuke Miura’s best pitch?

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Yokohama’s Offseason

» 21 December 2009 » In npb » 2 Comments

Yokohama finished up their offseason shopping last week, introducing Takayuki Shinohara and Daisuke Hayakawa, and announcing the signing of Termel Sledge. Here’s the complete list of BayStars acquisitions, which ran on Sponich and was helpfully translated on Yakyu Baka:

Pos Player Name Age Previous Team
P Shimizu, Naoyuki 34 Chiba Lotte Marines
P Bootcheck, Chris 31 MLB – Pirates
P Shinohara, Takayuki 33 Softbank Hawks
P Sakamoto, Yataro 27 Nippon Ham Fighters
P Matsuyama, Suguru 20 Nippon Ham Fighters
P Sugihara, Yo 24 Nomo BC
P Wang, Yi-Zheng 24 CPBL – Bears
C Hashimoto, Tasuku 33 Chiba Lotte Marines
INF Inada, Naoto 30 Nippon Ham Fighters
INF Castillo, Jose 28 CPBL – Lions
OF Sledge, Terrmel 32 Nippon Ham Fighters
OF Hayakawa, Daisuke 34 Chiba Lotte Marines

That’s a decent group of players, but the key here is the guys they’ll be taking plate appearances and innings away from.

Yokohama has some decent core hitters (Shuichi Murata, Seiichi Uchikawa), but in 2009 they had too many positions that they got no offense from. In 2009, the ‘Stars had four who got over 100 plate appearances despite hitting under .200. Dropping the number to 40 pa’s reveals another four. The additions of Hashimoto, Inada, Hayakawa and Castillo should be a huge improvement over that group. A little improvement from younger guys like Keijiro Matsumoto wouldn’t hurt either.

On the mound, Yokohama only had one reliable starter (Daisuke Miura) in 2009, and only three relievers who threw more than 50 innings (Hiroyuki Sanada, Shun Yamaguchi, Kentaro Takasaki). To that end, Shimizu is a nice pickup. He’s really not the ace he’s sometimes billed as, but should absorb about 150 innings. The real improvements to the rotation, however, are already on the roster: full seasons from Hayato Terahara and Stephen Randolph. I see the bullpen arms ‘Hama acquired mostly interesting question marks — a former dominator who hasn’t pitched recently (Shinohara), a guy with a couple good seasons to his name (Sakamoto) and an American with good velocity but poor command at the MLB level (Bootcheck).

Finally, there is a feel-good story amongst this: Sugihara is a former Lotte farmhand, but was released after the 2006 season. He had been working at a Docomo mobile phone shop in Osaka and getting by on 80,000 yen ($800) per month while moonlighting with the Nomo Baseball Club, and now he’s getting another chance.

Is all this enough to get Yokohama off the cellar? We’ll have to see, but the BayStars should definitely be closer to the pack in 2010.

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A Brief Tribute to Norihiro Akahoshi

» 21 December 2009 » In npb » 2 Comments

I didn’t write about this when it happened, but Hanshin OF Norihiro Akahoshi abruptly retired the week before last, citing back and neck problems sustained from an injury diving for a ball last season.

I try not to let my bias as a fan show through too much, and in many ways, I’ve become a much more neutral baseball fan since starting this site. But I lived in and around Osaka for a couple years in the early 00’s, and I have dropped a few hints that my NPB team of choice is Hanshin. The Tigers’ 2003 Central League Championship run was the most exciting baseball season I’ve ever been around as a fan, and also, in a way, the most bittersweet. A doctor friend of mine managed to get me a single ticket to game three of the Japan Series, but it was rained out and I had to return to the US the following day, so I didn’t get to go.

Anyway, back to Akahoshi. I don’t think I have anything particularly poignant to say here, but Akahoshi was one of the guys that keyed Hanshin’s revival this decade. Despite being a mid-round draft pick he started his first season with the ichi-gun team, taking over center field from Tsuyoshi Shinjyo and leading the league in stolen bases. He missed half of 2002 with an injury, but still lead the league in stolen bases. Akahoshi entered his prime in 2003, when he started a run of three consecutive seasons hitting .300 or better with at least 60 steals. Despite not being as prolific on the base paths as he had been earlier in his career, Akahoshi had remained a threat to run and a respectable on-base guy until the end of his career.

Akahoshi contributed the most enduring image of the 2003 season, when he got bear-hugged by Senichi Hoshino after driving in the walk-off winner in the game that clinched the Central League for Hanshin. Of course, he also dressed as “Razor Ramon HG” during the 2005 beer kake

He’s going out early, but Akahoshi had the good fortune to play during a golden age of sorts for Hanshin, and will certainly be closely associated with Hanshin’s success in the 00’s. I’ll leave with this pic of Akahoshi I swiped from Wikimedia Commons, the first image I’ve ever run directly on NPB Tracker.

akahoshi

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