Archive > July 2010

A Flurry of Trades

» 31 July 2010 » In npb » 5 Comments

With the July 31 player aquisition deadline passed, all the trades for this season are in the books. I didn’t cover them closely this season, so here’s a recap, roughly in reverse chronological order:

Masafumi Togano to Rakuten, Hideki Asai to Yomiuri (Sponichi): In the final deal of this year’s trading season the Giants and Eagles swapped righties. I haven’t seen enough of Togano to have an opinion on him, but Asai has gottne a long look at Rakuten and apparently no longer fits into their plans.  Verdict: even.

Koji Mise (RHP) to Chunichi, Masaumi Shimizu (C) to SoftBank (Sponichi): SoftBank needed catching depth after Katsuki Yamazaki went down with an injury, and found it in Shimizu. Shimizu has yet to appear in a game for SoftBank as Hidenori Tanoue is doing all the work behind the plate. Mise holds the distinction of being the oldest RoY winner in recent memory (of all time?), bu hadn’t done much lately for the Hawks. He has a 15.00 ERA in six appearances with Chunichi. Verdict: draw.

Yuya Kamada (RHP) to Rakuten, Koki Watanabe (LHP) to Yakult (Sanspo): A swap of two guys with similar career numbers who are about the same age, but throw with different hands. Watanabe has seen action as a LOOGy for Yakult, while Kamada languishes on Rakuten’s farm. Verdict: I’ll give Yakult the edge here.

Tomohito Yoneno (C) to Seibu, Minoru Yamagishi to Yakult (Daily Sports): Another deal necessitated by an injured catcher, this time Seibu’s Ginjiro. Yoneno has so far provided unused catching depth for Seibu has Toru Hosakawa and Tatsuyuki Uemoto carrying the load. Yamagishi hasn’t made an appearance for Yakult’s ichi-gun team. Verdict: a carbon copy of the Mise-Shimizu deal.

Masayuki Hasegawa (RHP) and Go Kida (PH) to Orix, Yuichiro Mukae (OF) to Hiroshima (Daily Sports): I’ve already written about what a good deal this was for Orix. To reiterate: Orix gets a potentially serviceable starter and an established bench bat for an outfielder whom they were never going to use. Verdict: Orix wins by unanimous decision.

Yuji Yoshimi (LHP) to Lotte, cash to Yokohama (Sanspo): When this deal happened, I thought it was an inspired pickup up for the Marines. Yoshimi is once-promising lefty who bounced back from injuries to eat up 88+ average innings last year for Yokohama. That might not sound like much, but a similar performance would have been a big help for Lotte. Verdict: Lotte had the right idea.

Kenji Sato from Lotte to Nippon Ham in an uncompensated (musho) trade (Nikkan Sports): Here’s another inspired pickup. Nippon Ham found a 21 year-old kid who wasn’t getting at-bats with Lotte’s ni-gun team and got him for nothing, and so far he’s hit .344/.469/.442 at Kamagaya. Sure it’s a limited number of at-bats, but Nippon Ham found some upside at a cost of zero. Verdict: small win for Nippon Ham.

Takehito Kanazawa (RHP) to SoftBank, Hisao Arakane (OF),  Keisuke Kaneko (IF) to Orix (Nikkan Sports): The story here is Arakane, who is currently sporting an .888 OPS through 159 PA’s with Orix. Nothing in his statistical track record hinted at this kind of ability, so we’ll see if he keeps it up. Kanazawa, who Orix wasn’t using, is getting regular work with SoftBank. Kaneko is with Orix’s farm team. Verdict: Orix wins by split decision.

Teruaki Yoshikawa (RHP) to SoftBank – Shotaro Ide (OF) to Yokohama (Sponichi): Not much to say about this one. Yoshikawa has gotten six innings of work in for the Hawks, Ide is hitting .200 for the BayStars. Verdict: incomplete.

Shintaro Ejiri (RHP) to Yokahama, Yuya Ishii (LHP) to Nippon Ham (Sponichi): I had the impression that Ejiri was pretty good, but he’s been pedestrian by the Bay. Ishii’s only pitched 9.2 innings for Nippon ham, but he has an 8:0 K:BB ratio and is lefthanded. Verdict: my gut still says Yokohama on this one.

Yusuke Kawasaki (LHP) to Hanshin, cash to Lotte (Sanspo): I figured this was a budget reduction move for Lotte, since Kawasaki has had some success in the past. But I guess they knew something I didn’t, because Kawasaki’s has a 5.06 ERA for Hanshin and has been injured since June. Verdict: I’ll call this one in Lotte’s favor, since they wound up getting a different lefty (Yoshimi) who can start. But if Kawasaki returns to his previous form, Hanshin wins.

So quite a bit of activity this season, with every team making at least one trade. None of these deals are going to have any impact on the pennant race in either league, but Orix managed to acquire some interesting options for expendable players.

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Tryouts: Yabu, Ballestas

» 28 July 2010 » In npb » Comments Off

Updates on a couple of recent NPB tryouts…

  • Chiba Lotte has passed on Keiichi Yabu after a two-day audition. Things were looking good for Yabu when he hit 146 km/h (91mph) on the gun in day one, but topped out at only 136 km/h (85 mph) on the second day. This was problematic for Lotte as they were looking at Yabu as a middle reliever who could pitch on consecutive days.
  • Freddy Ballestas’s trial with Orix went better, resulting in an ikusei contract. Ballestas has low minors experience in the Phillies system, and played Indy ball in the States this year. The righty pitcher is the eighth foreign player, and fourth Venezuelan, that Orix currently has under contract.

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2010 At The Half

» 27 July 2010 » In npb » 5 Comments

This post is a little late — we’re officially in the second half of the season as the first post-All-Star games were played on Monday. The All-Star game is only a symbolic marker anyway though, as all the NPB teams have played at least 87 games out of the 144-game schedule. Still it’s a good time to take stock of the season that’s been played so far. Here are some thoughts conveniently split up into three categories.

A few general observations:

  • The Central League is again a three-team race between Yomiuri, Hanshin, and Chunichi. This makes the playoff race somewhat uninteresting but the playoffs themselves should be good.
  • The Pacific League is much more balanced, with SoftBank, Seibu, and Lotte nine or more games over .500, Orix even and Nippon Ham one game under. Rakuten is in the cellar at 40-49, but they have the second best pitching results in the league and could get into contention for a playoff spot if they start to hit.
  • We’re seeing a strong performances from a number of starting pitchers.

Follow up from previous posts:

  • The answers to my six storylines so far: no, yes, unfortunately not, maybe, yes/not yet, probably none.
  • Yokohama is again a doormat. I thought they’d be a little more competitive this year.
  • My rookies to watch are either injured (Yusei, Kazuhito Futagami, Takashi Ogino), fat (Ryoji Nakata) or Hisayoshi Chono (Chono).
  • A couple of the imports I put on my watch list, Matt Murton and Kim Tae-Gyun, have taken off in Japan. Gio Alvarado is getting it together as well.
  • The veterans I picked to watch have mostly been duds, which isn’t a surprise as I deliberately listed a bunch of guys with question marks. That said, Yoshinobu Takahashi is having a nice bounce back season, Aarom Baldiris has contributed some a performance to Orix, and Sho Nakata is showing some signs of life.

NPB Tracker mid-season awards:

  • My first half MVPs: Central League – Kazuhiro Wada (Chunichi), Pacific League - Hiroyuki Nakajima (Seibu)
  • First half Sawamura Award winner: Kenta Maeda (Hiroshima)
  • First half RoYs: Central League – Chono (Yomiuri), Pacific League – Ogino (Lotte) despite missing significant time on the injured list
  • Breakout players: Central League – Shun Tohno (Yomiuri), Pacific League – T-Okada (Orix)

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Twitter Weekly Updates for 2010-07-25

» 25 July 2010 » In Uncategorized » Comments Off

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Gyro-Cutter

» 24 July 2010 » In mlb prospects, npb » 6 Comments

I normally don’t pay much attention to the All-Star Game, but this caught my attention.

Yu Darvish unveiled a new pitch called the “gyro-cutter” in his All-Star appearance this year. According to the linked article, he had just shown it in practice on the 21st. Said Darvish: “it’s the first time I used it in a game. It’s one type of cut fastball. Just the trajectory is different from what we’ve had until now.”

Here’s a YouTube clip I found of Darvish throwing the pitch against Giants catcher Shinnosuke Abe. The pitches shown in this video are numbers 13-22 of Darvish’s appearance, if you’d like to check out his velocity chart for the game. The pitches show up at cut fastballs in the data I collected.

Abe had this to say about the at-bat, which resulted in an RBI double: “it’s like a rising pitch from a submariner. I tried with all my might to outlast it with foul balls.”

So what’s “gyro” about this cut fastball? The spin. The Gyroball is supposed to spin sideways toward the plate, rather than rotating top over bottom. I think the best example of the pitch’s grip and trajectory can be seen at about 0:40 of the video. I own a copy of Gyroball originator Kazushi Tezuka’s book, but I haven’t read it, so take what I’m saying here with an appropriate measure of salt. In any event, Abe had a good at-bat and looked capable of fighting the pitch off.

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Lotte to Audition Yabu

» 21 July 2010 » In npb » Comments Off

Looks like the Chiba Lotte Marines are bringing Keiichi Yabu in for an audition on July 26. Last time we heard from Yabu, he was training in Arizona and hoping to play in a US-based independent league. If Yabu has anything left in the tank, I expect Lotte to sign him.

With Yuki Karakawa and Shingo Ono on the shelf, Lotte’s rotation has been short staffed. Bill Murphy stepping into a starting role has been a boost, none of the other options tried –Ryoji Katsuki, Yuji Yoshimi, Bryan Corey — have stuck. Karakawa should be back soon and Hayden Penn is on his way, but a little extra depth never hurt.

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Chulk to Hiroshima

» 21 July 2010 » In nichibei, npb » Comments Off

Sponichi tells us that the Hiroshima Carp are wrapping up a deal with Vinnie Chulk. There have been rumblings about this on this side of the Pacific as well, and the Carp could use a bullpen arm with Mike Schultz on the shelf following hernia surgery. Chulk will join Hayden Penn in moving from the Pirates organization to Japan.

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NPB Bullet Points: Caraballo Debuts, Kudoh Returns, Chunichi Rolls

» 20 July 2010 » In npb » 7 Comments

A couple of debuts and a new NPB record to share. Today’s articles will require your Japanese language skills, or the Fish.

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Deadline Talent

» 19 July 2010 » In nichibei, npb » 3 Comments

Last autumn, I compiled a list of guys who I thought would be good candidates to play in NPB this season. A couple of them made it over, most did not.

I didn’t rank my selections, but there were four guys that I liked better than the rest. One of them was Matt Murton (easy for me to say now, yes); let’s take a look at how the others have done Stateside this season:

  • Mike Hessman – having a 3A career year with a .985 OPS, but missed time with a stress fracture in his right hand, and is just beginning to rehab.
  • Lenny DiNardo – was having a typical DiNardo 3A campaign with a 3.52 ERA and plenty of groundball outs, but has been on the shelf since late May, I believe with a hamstring injury.
  • Kevin Frandsen -bounced from San Francisco to Boston to Anaheim, and is currently on the Angels’ 25-man roster. My FanGraphs colleague Marc Hulet gave his work with the Angels a moderate thumbs up a couple weeks ago. For what it’s worth, I kind of saw Frandsen as a spiritual successor to Bobby Rose in Yokohama.

Suffice to say, none of these guys will be playing in Japan this season. The July 31 player acquisition deadline is looming, and more than half the NPB teams have looked outside of Japan for reinforcements, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Hayden Penn turned out to be the last.

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Twitter Weekly Updates for 2010-07-18

» 18 July 2010 » In Uncategorized » Comments Off

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