Archive > May 2010

Blackhawks Vs Sharks and the NHL Playoffs

» 12 May 2010 » In something else » 2 Comments

It’s playoff time. Has been for a couple weeks, in fact. One year ago today, I posted on the resurgent Chicago Blackhawks, pledging my support to my hometown team, who of course went on to lose in the conference finals to Detroit. My first loyalty as a hockey fan is to my current local team, the San Jose Sharks, but last year the decision to root for the Hawks was made for me when the Sharks flamed out in the first round.

This year is different. Both the Sharks and the Hawks handily won their first two playoff rounds and will meet in the Western Conference Finals. Does this put my loyalties to the test? Not really. I’m a Sharks fan. I live the Bay Area and have been following this team for years. And they’re a veteran team that’s been on the cusp of greatness for the last couple of years, and they’re just due. It’s a shame Jonathan Cheechoo is no longer around though.

Now having said that, I can’t help but be a little bit nervous about this series as a Sharks fan. The Blackhawks outplayed the Sharks pretty convincingly in the two teams’ four regular season meetings, and have a talented team with tremendous scoring depth. The Sharks actually have the more experienced, skilled top group (the “Gold Medal” line of Joe Thornton, Dany Heatley and Patrick Marleau), but they haven’t really gotten going in the playoffs until the last few games. It should be a good series.

I’m still gonna link to Here Come the Hawks though. You can get the mp3 of the regular version here and the instrumental here.

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Yakult Looking for Offensive Help

» 10 May 2010 » In nichibei, npb » Comments Off on Yakult Looking for Offensive Help

Yakult has struggled so far this season, and is currently occupying last place in the Central League with a weak 13-23-1 record. With a middle of the pack pitching staff (148 runs allowed, 3.57 era), the front office is reportedly looking to upgrade its offense, which has scored a league-low 125 runs, 15 fewer than the 5th-place Hiroshima Carp.

Sponichi says that Yakult is looking at employing a copycat strategy of re-importing a player who has experience playing in Japan. The names Sponichi gives us are Fernando Seguignol, Hiram Bocachica, and Jose Fernandez.

I’m sure that’s a partial list, but I don’t see any of those guys outperforming Aaron Guiel or Jaime D’Antona over the course of the season. D’Antona and Guiel have ugly batting averages at .202 and .233 respectively, but lead the team with 10 and seven home runs, and have decent ops figures of .832 and .749. Both guys need to bring their averages up and D’Antona in particular needs to cut down on his strikeout number, but they’ve both shown to be capable of

If they’re going to go after a guy that the league already knows, why not give Tuffy Rhodes a call? Okay, he’ll have to play the field and he will want more money than they’ll be willing to pay, but he’s been better more recently than any of the guys Sponichi mentions. And he wouldn’t count against the foreign player limit. Or how about Tyrone Woods? Money was an issue for him after his last contract with Chunichi expired, and he hasn’t played since 2008, but he was a fearsome slugger in Japan, and knows the Central League.

If Yakult wanted to give someone new a chance, Mike Hessman is off to a good start with the Mets’ 3A affiliate.

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Twitter Weekly Updates for 2010-05-09

» 09 May 2010 » In Uncategorized » Comments Off on Twitter Weekly Updates for 2010-05-09

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Ikusei for Olmsted

» 08 May 2010 » In nichibei, npb » 1 Comment

The SoftBank Hawks have signed 23 year-old righty Michael Olmsted to an ikusei contract. The former Mets farmhand worked out last for SoftBank along with JD Durbin, who also signed a deal with the Hawks. So the Hawks went two-for-two on that tryout.

Olmsted will be competing with SoftBank’s other ikusei players for a spot on the team’s 70-man roster. I recall reading that Durbin took the last spot on Softbank’s 70-man, so it’s possible that Olmsted won’t shed his ikusei status this season.

There have been a couple notable success stories among foreign ikusei signings: Wirfin Obispo chipped in 58.2 productive innings towards Yomiuri’s nippon-ichi team last year, and former Hiroshima Carp ikusei player Esmailin Caridad reached the majors with the Cubs last season.

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NPB Bullet Points: While I Was Away

» 07 May 2010 » In mlb, nichibei, npb » 6 Comments

It’s been a while since I’ve written any actual content about Japanese baseball… sometimes real life gets in the way. Let’s see if we can fix that, at least for now.

  • The surprise of the season so far for me has been the performance of the Chiba Lotte Marines, who are neck and neck and neck with the SoftBank Hawks and resurgent Seibu Lions for the Pacific League lead. Lotte is getting it done in style too, leading the Pa-League in team runs scored, runs allowed, batting average and era. Will it continue? You have to figure that Kim Tae-Kyun and Tadahito Iguchi will cool off at some point, but they have a decent lineup 1-9. The pitching is a little bit of a concern too, as new manager Nishimura is letting some of his starters go a bit further into games than Bobby V used to. We’ll see if that turns into a problem down the stretch.
  • Over in the Central League, it’s nice to see the Yokohama BayStars competing with a respectable 16-18 record so far. Yokohama is getting good production from a number of pitchers, including newcomers Naoyuki Shimizu, Shigeru Kaga, and Shintaro Ejiri. The ‘Stars are still struggling in spots offensively, but should be better over the course of the season by virtue of the sheer number of weak bats they took out of the lineup last offseason.
  • Bridging the gap between those first two bullet points is the apparently impending trade of Yuji Yoshimi from Yokohama to Lotte. The big lefty was once a promising starter, but injuries derailed him for a couple of years and recently he’s been more of a middle-of-the-pack long reliever. Lotte seems to want him as a starter.
  • And more on Lotte: reliever Hiroyuki Kobayashi has qualified for international free agency, and is reportedly likely to seek a move to the majors. This has come up before with Kobayashi so it isn’t exactly a surprise at this point. I could see him playing for the San Francisco Giants, if they have an opening for a righthander. Former Lotte man Shun Kakazu scouts Japan for the Giants, and Brian Sabean can be creative in putting together his bullpen.
  • Former Hanshin lefty Jeff Williams wants to return to the Tigers as an active pitcher, but the Tigers want to bring him back as a scout. The idea would be for current scout Andy Sheets to focus on hitters, while Jeff would look for pitchers. Jeff certainly knows what it takes to succeed in Japan, but I would love to see him pitch for the Tigers again and eventually get a proper do-age send-off.
  • Who will be this year’s Junichi Tazawa or Yusei Kikuchi? Maybe it will be Chuo University pitcher Hirokazu Sawamura, who seems to be eclipsing Yuki Saito in terms of media ink. The Giants and Mets each had a scout at Sawamura’s most recent scout, with Mets’ Isao Ojimi saying that it would “be a waste for him to say in Japan”, while the Giants’ Shun Kakazu said that he hit 97 on his gun. Draft Reports has a quote from Sports Hochi from February saying that Sawamura is favoring playing in Japan.
  • Moving along to Kikuchi, the young lefty now known simply as Yusei struggled with both his command and velocity in his first couple ni-gun appearances, but showed signs of improvement on May 4th, when he threw five scoreless innings and hit 147 kmph (92mph) on the gun. Seibu is saying he won’t be promoted before the All-Star break, but could get a look afterward.
  • Casey Fossum bought the PSP version of Pro Yakyu Spirits 2010 for his five year-old son, but was annoyed to learn that Konami made him pretty bad in the game, and vowed to use it as motivation to do well and be a better player in next year’s version of the game. Speaking of Fossum, he’s blogging about his experiences in Japan.
  • Off-topic bullet point: I came across this essay about the state of Japan’s technology and IT sector (link to PDF file), and why it’s in trouble. It makes some good points, but overall I found it disappointing as it covers the usual tired criticisms of over-reliance on manufactured consumer goods and an under-developed services sector.

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Twitter Weekly Updates for 2010-05-02

» 02 May 2010 » In Uncategorized » Comments Off on Twitter Weekly Updates for 2010-05-02

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