Archive > July 2010


» 15 July 2010 » In npb » 4 Comments

I’ve always meant to write about the culture of Japanese baseball, I figure two years in to blog I might as start. More importantly, Orix’s recent signing of Francisco Caraballo gives me an excuse to start one of my favorite things about Japanese baseball, the douage.

Ideally, this is more of a late-season post than a mid-season post, but what the heck.

The word douage (pronounced “doh-ah-gay”) doesn’t have an easy English translation. The most succinct translation I can come up with is something like “honoring an individual by tossing up and down in celebration”. The Japanese word itself, 胴上げ, comes from dou (胴), “torso” and age (上げ), “raise” or “lift”. Every year, Japanese baseball teams douage their retiring players, and championship teams douage their managers after clinching a pennant, playoff series, or Nippon Series.

But douages aren’t just for big wins and retirements. Caraballo’s BC League teammates and opponents sent him off with a douage. Keisuke Mizuta’s Seibu teammates did the same when he was traded to Hanshin last year (note, I didn’t actually watch the video in that link). And Deanna caught an on-field wedding on her trip to Niigata, in which the BC League players feted the groom with a douage.

Looking at more typical douages, the most significant one of last year was for Katsuya Nomura, who retired as the manager of Rakuten after a life-long career in baseball. Both Rakuten and the opposing Nippon Ham Fighters took part in the celebration. Masaaki Mori’s 1987 Nippon Series douage is a famous one, but it’s mostly remembered for Kazuhiro Kiyohara breaking down and crying with one out left in the game. And finally, here’s one for my Brewers-blogging FanGraphs bud, Jack Moore: when Ken Macha retired from the Chunichi Dragons in 1985, he was presented with a bouquet and douage’d (farewell ceremony starts at 5:10), a real rarity for foreign players.

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NPB Bullet Points: Foreign Players

» 13 July 2010 » In npb » 4 Comments

A few notes on NPB’s sukketo-tachi, all in Japanese.

  • Retired Cuban slugger Omar Linares, who spent the last few years of his career in Japan with Chunichi, is returning to Japan as a coach for Cuba’s entry in this year’s World University Baseball Championship.
  • Hanshin is saying they’re going to keep both Craig Brazell (30 HR) and Matt Murton (.351 AVG) for 2011. Brazell will be a free agent and figures to get a hefty raise from the $800k he’s earning, while Murton, according to the linked article, has a second year on his contract which is structured as a buyout. I’ve seen this referred to in other articles as an option, which I guess is functionally similar. Either way, the team gets to choose whether to keep him in 2011, though a buyout suggests there is a payment attached if they don’t. That would seem to make it even more of a no-brainer.
  • Speaking of Murton, he and Kenji Johjima visited the Osaka University Children’s Hospital on their off-day Monday.
  • Brett Harper is off to a torrid start in Japan — 10 for his first 21 with 3 HR. Here’s a pic of him connecting off Kenta Maeda on the 13th.
  • Orix has placed new signee Francisco Caraballo on it’s regular roster, and passed on signing Hyang-Nam Choi.

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Twitter Weekly Updates for 2010-07-11

» 11 July 2010 » In Uncategorized » Comments Off on Twitter Weekly Updates for 2010-07-11

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New Imports: Penn, Caraballo

» 08 July 2010 » In nichibei, npb » 9 Comments

Update on Penn: Pirates beat writer Dejan Kovacevic has tempered the Penn discussion a bit, saying that it’s only an inquiry so far. Here’s a more complete translation of what originally appeared in Sponichi: “Team representative Ishikawa has traveled to America and is in the midst of negotiations. It appears that an agreement is impending, with an official announcement to happen following a decision on the acquisition.” Originally that was one Japanese sentence but I busted it into two for readability.

A couple of items to note as we inch toward NPB’s July 31 player acquisition deadline…

  • Just as I praise the Orix Buffaloes for a series of out-of-the-box moves, they go and make another, signing outfielder Francisco Caraballo out of the independent Baseball Challenge (BC) League. Caraballo hadn’t played higher than 2A ball in America, but moved to Indy ball in Japan last year where he lead the Island League in home runs (18) and RBI (76). This year he was hitting .364 with 15 HR and 46 RBI in 37 games for the Gunma Diamond Pegasus of the BC League. Thanks to the always-on Passer By for the tip on this one.
  • Meanwhile, Chiba Lotte is closing in on an agreement to bring in Hayden Penn, who is currently playing for the Pirates’ 3A affiliate. Rotation depth is Lotte’s weakness, particularly with Yuki Karakawa on the shelf, and the Marines have a foreign roster spot to allocate, so another starter is a sensible acquisition.

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Re-run – Q & A: Honkbal Hoofdklasse with Rogier van Zon

» 08 July 2010 » In international baseball » 2 Comments

With the Haarlem Baseball Week about to start, I thought it would be a good time to re-run my interview last year with Dutch baseball expert, Rogier van Zon of This post originally ran on July 16 of last year.

Back in May, I wrote that I was looking for expertise on baseball in the Netherlands and Brazil for content on the site. An emailer tipped me off to Rogier van Zon, editor-in-chief of the Dutch-language Honkbalsite has been online since 2000, and is the most popular site on Dutch baseball. Rogier took the time to share his knowledge of Dutch baseball with us.

NPB Tracker: I suspect the biggest impression readers will have of Dutch baseball is from this year’s WBC, which for me was one of the highlights of the tournament. Was the WBC a notable story in the Netherlands? Did the national team’s performance have any impact on the popularity of baseball in the Netherlands?

Rogier van Zon: When the Dutch beat the Dominican Republic in the WBC, it was one of the best days in Dutch baseball. It also proved that Dutch baseball is getting stronger each year. Not many people know that the Dutch team has won the European championship 20 times since 1956. They were number 4 during the last two World Cups and they forced Cuba to extra innings during the final of the last Intercontinental Cup.

Maybe it is hard to believe, but when the Dutch beat the Dominicans and advanced to the second round, there was hardly any newspapers or tv stations in the Netherlands that brought the news. The only media attention was a small article on one of the last pages of the sports section. Except baseball fans, probably the most people in the Netherlands didn’t even know what the Dutch team had done. Baseball isn’t a popular sport in the Netherlands. The game and it’s rules are to hard to understand. People prefer soccer, volleyball, cycling and speedskating. During the last world Port Tournament, just two games were televised (a recap in the evening).

NT: Can you give a brief overview of the Honkbal Hofdklasse?

RvZ: The Dutch Hoofdklasse is a league consisting of eight teams. They are located in and around Haarlem, Amsterdam and Rotterdam. The reigning champion is L&D Amsterdam (the team names are mostly from the sponsors), and DOOR Neptunus (Rotterdam) is one of the strongest teams. They won the championship from 1999-2005. Another strong team is Corendon Kinheim (Haarlem). These teams rely a lot on their veteran players, mostly players from the Dutch national team. For example Raily Legito, Diegomar Markwell (Neptunus), Sidney de Jong (Amsterdam), Danny Rombley, Vince Rooi and David Bergman (Kinheim).

You can compare the level of the competition with SingleA/Double A in the United States. Each team is allowed to have one player without a European passport. One of these players is the Cuban Fausto Álvarez. He is 48 years old, but still one of the best in the league. He hit 24 home runs in his last four seasons. another strong player is Ryan Murphy. He is one of the best pitchers and batters in the Hoofdklase.

The Dutch league is an amateur league. This means that most of the players have a dayjob next to baseball. So they have to work during the daytime and have training in the evening. Baseball is not a very big sport in the Netherlands. Games in the Dutch Hoofdklasse attract a couple of hundred visitors.

NT: Who are some of the top players?

RvZ: The top players are of course well known players like Sidney de Jong (he was part of the Olympic lobby in Lausanne last month), Rob Cordemans (he also played in Taiwan for a couple of months) and Dirk van ‘t Klooster. Van ‘t Klooster has played 164 for the Dutch national team. These players were part of the team during the WBC.

Because Curaçao, Aruba and Sint-Maarten are part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, the players from these islands are allowed to play for the Dutch national team. That’s why the Dutch team can also rely on players like Major Leaguers Wladimir Balentien, Shairon Martis and Jair Jurrjens. There are (at this moment) around forty Antillean players in the Minors. Besides that, there are thirteen in Holland-born player in the Minors. These numbers will definitely will increase in the next years. The Netherlands have also started baseball academies. Former Yankees player Robert Eenhoorn is the progenitor. The academies bring a lot of talent.

Because the Netherlands can use players form Curaçao and Aruba, it is possible to create a very strong team. But this is not the key to the success. During the last World Cup, where the Netherlands reached the semi-finals, just four players of the Dutch team were not born in the Netherlands. The biggest key to success is the movement the Dutch manager Eenhoorn started. He made baseball in the Netherlands “professional”. He created two nationals teams: one for Dutch tournaments with players from the Hoofdklasse and another team for big tournaments with players from the Minors and Majors. This is just like Team USA has different national teams. The things Eenhoorn did are very important for baseball in the Netherlands.

NT: The Netherlands hosts some important international tournaments, notably the World Port Tournament and the Haarlem Baseball Week. Can you describe these tournaments?

RvZ: These two tournaments are events Dutch baseball fans really look forward to. It’s the only time baseball games in the Netherlands are sold out. During these games there are about4500-5000 visitors. For the Netherlands that is a lot. Mostly participants are Asian teams like Taipei and Japan, but also Cuba and American teams. The level of teams isn’t very high. Most of the teams play with college players, but for baseball fans in the Netherlands it is one big party.

NT: The 2009 World Port Tournament just wrapped up with Cuba as the champion. Were there any players on any team in the tournament that you were particularly impressed with?

RvZ: Cuba participated in the tournament with a very strong team. They couldn’t afford to lose another championship. They came to Rotterdam with a handful of players that had participated in the Olympics and World Baseball Classic. Some of the strong players were pitchers Miguel A. González (MVP during the Cuban playoffs) and Maikel Folch (a Cuban All Star). Some other All Stars were in Rotterdam: outfielders Giorvis Duvergel and Leonys Martin, second baseman Yoilán Cerce and catcher Rolando Meriño.

Cuba had the four players with the best batting averages: Adonis García (16-34 / .471), Ariel Borrero (15-34 / .441), Yoelvis Fiss (17-40 / .425) and Eriel Sánchez (14-35 / .400).

The Netherlands started the tournament with 8 players who never played for the Dutch A-team. One of them was the 17 year-old Nick Urbanus. He’s a big talent. His father is Charles Urbanus and is grandfather is Han Urbanus, who both played for the national team. They are some of the best players ever in the Netherlands. Another rookie was Bas de Jong (24 years old). He was 5 for 5 against Cuba in his only second game for the Dutch team. He ended up as the best hitter for the Netherlands (.379).

NT: And finally, since NPB Tracker is primarily about Japanese baseball, I must ask, how did the Japanese team do?

RvZ: The Japanse team did play a couple of good games. They played 11 innings against Taipei in the first game and almost beat the Dutch team. The Dutch team scored two runs in the bottom of the ninth to win 4-3. If Japan would have won these games, it would have been a whole other tournament and they would even have reached the finals.

Japan was the only team this tournament that has beaten Cuba. They won 2-1 because of a great performance by pitcher Syogo Suenaga (Ed. note: Teikyo University senior). He allowed just four hits in nine innings. It was the first time Cuba lost in nineteen games during the World Port Tournament. They had not lost since 2001.

Suenaga pitched and won complete games against both finalists. He also shutout the Netherlands (3 hits in 9 innings) earlier in the tournament.

You can find al of the statistics on

If you are interested in Dutch baseball, you can read more:

NT: Thank you Rogier!

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Rebuilding Orix

» 07 July 2010 » In npb » 4 Comments

A year or so ago, I came across a Japanese-language blog called something like “Orix saiken heno michi” (オリックス再建への道), which means “the road to rebuilding Orix”. I’d link to it if I could find it again, but I was unable to.The title pretty much explains the content of the blog, and the content of this post as well.

Aside from a somewhat improbable run to a 2nd place finish and playoff birth in 2008, Osaka’s second team has been serially uncompetitive since the 2004 Orix-Kintetsu merger. After last season, the team replaced manager Daijiro Ohishi with former Orix Blue Wave player and Hanshin Tigers manager Akinobu Okada, and kicked off another rebuilding effort.

Orix has had more than its share of tribulations this year, most notably the tragic suicide of Hiroyuki Oze, and the more recent passing of team dormitory master Toshio Hohya. Despite that, the team stands at a competitive 39-39 record as of July 7, thanks largely to a 16-8 run in interleague. Part of the team’s success has been due to the rather large number of acquisitions and roster tweaks Okada and the front office have made.

Offseason and Pre-Season Moves

  • Selected five college/industrial league/independent league pitchers in 09 draft: Okada’s stated strategy was to rebuild the pitching staff with more experienced amateurs. He stayed out of the Yusei Kikuchi race and got his top choice, Shuichi Furukawa, uncontested. Two ’09 draftees, Furukawa and Toru Anan (5th round), have already made their ichi-gun debuts.
  • Let Tuffy Rhodes walk: I’m already on the record as calling this a bad move.
  • Traded Yasunari Takagi to Yomiuri for Hiroshi Kisanuki: I loved this deal for Orix when it happened, and it’s been a home run for them so far. Kisanuki has been a reliable starter, throwing 100 innings of 3.87 ball, and is headed to the All-Star game. Takagi hasn’t made an appearance for the Giants.
  • Signed Aarom Baldiris: Baldiris showed he could play the field from his time with Hanshin, but he never hit enough to keep a regular ichi-gun job with Kansai’s other team. After starting this season on the farm, Baldiris has taken over third base and is hitting .297 with a .766 OPS through 164 PA’s. We’ll see if he can keep it up.
  • Signed So Taguchi: Taguchi spent his NPB career with the old Blue Wave version of Orix, before his eight-year stint in MLB. At 40 years old, he’s basically what he was in the States: a useful, if slightly below-average outfield bat off the bench.
  • Traded Masahiro Abe to Seibu for Shogo Akada: I’ll call this spring training trade a wash as neither player has performed well with his new team.
  • Signed Freddie Bynum: Another spring training move, it looks like Bynum has lost out to Baldiris, and is buried so far down the foreign depth chart that it’s unlikely we’ll see much more of him this year.
  • Committed a regular spot in the lineup to T-Okada: The presence of manager Okada led to the player formerly known as Takahiro Okada adopting the fan-suggested T-Okada moniker. It’s worked out pretty well, as he’s sporting an .857 OPS with 17 HR in his first season of regular duty.

In-Season Moves

  • Traded Takehito Kanazawa to SoftBank for Hisao Arakane and Keisuke Kaneko: Another two-player return for a non-contributor. Kaneko has been a non-factor so far, but Arakane has hit .295 though his first 88 at-bats. I’d be a little surprised if the 32 year-old fringey veteran keeps it up though.
  • Saw Satoshi Komatsu get healthy: He started the season in the bullpen, and overall doesn’t look the same to me as he did in his fantastic 2008 season, but Komatsu has kicked in 56.1 innings of 3.04 ball.
  • Traded Yuichiro Mukae to Hiroshima for Masayuki Hasegawa and Go Kida: it’s hard not to love this trade for Orix — they turned a career .177 hitter into a guy who can at least handle pinch hitting duties, and a once-promising righthander who can still be effective if healthy. Kida’s value as a bench bat is somewhat negated in the DH-using Pacific League, but Orix got a big return on Mukae. Supposedly Hiroshima really wanted Naoyuki Ohmura.
  • Signed Fernando Seguignol: Seguignol comes full-circle, having spent an unproductive season with the Blue Wave way back in 2002. Seguignol was signed to provide injury depth behind Alex Cabrera, but only appeared in six games before being sent down.

So not every move Orix made has worked out, but there are plenty of wins in this list. I still think Orix will settle to the bottom this year and miss the playoffs, as they just don’t have the star power to compete with the rest of the Pacific League. But they’re making it interesting.

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NPB Bullet Points: Four Unrelated Notes

» 06 July 2010 » In npb » 3 Comments

Title says it all, here are the bullet points. Everything’s in Japanese for this edition:

  • Remember Naoya Washiya, the California jr college player who was drafted by Washington last year? He’s been released and has returned to Japan.
  • Orix is bringing former KBO and 3A pitcher in Hyang-Nam Choi for a workout. Choi is 39, but prior to this season he put up good numbers in 3A stints with Cleveland and LA, including a very solid season last year as a reliever in Albuquerque, a notoriously hitter-friendly environment.
  • Rookie Yusei is returning to Seibu’s farm team after a two-month layoff due to shoulder discomfort. I’ve written very little about the prospect formerly known as Kikuchi this season, but his pro career is off to a bit of a rough start.
  • Yu Darvish’s July 3 start is available on, spread across 1 2 3 links. Darvish showed great velocity, struck out 10, and worked from the stretch all the time in this game. Darvish set a new NPB best with a 155 km/h fastball, which he threw by Masato Nakamura on an 0-2 count. The pitch can be seen at about 47:22 of the first link.

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Will 2010 See a 20-Game Winner?

» 05 July 2010 » In npb » 2 Comments

It’s not year that we see a 20 game winner in NPB. The last pitcher to pull it off was Hisashi Iwakuma, with his remarkable 21-win season in 2008. The last time prior to that was 2003, when Kei Igawa and Kazumi Saito each won 20, and shared the Sawamura Award. Bonus points will be awarded to the reader who can name the last 20-game winner prior to Igawa and Saito.

At the halfway point this season, a number of pitchers have won enough to have a shot at 20:

Pitcher Team Record Starts ERA
Shun Tohno Yomiuri 11-2 15 2.40
Tsuyoshi Wada SoftBank 11-4 15 3.24
Bobby Keppel Nippon Ham 10-1 14 3.07
Toshiya Sugichi SoftBank 10-3 15 3.82
Kenta Maeda Hiroshima 10-3 16 1.56
Hideaki Wakui Seibu 10-4 16 2.90
Takayuki Kishi Seibu 9-5 15 3.36

So will any of them do it? Assuming good health, each one of these guys should get 10-13 more starts this year, so, as always, winning 20 will require both effectiveness and luck.

If I were to place a bet on one of these pitchers winning 20, I think I’d reluctantly go with Tohno. The Giants will keep winning and he’s been very effective, but Tohno doesn’t go deep into games and will rely on his bullpen to lock down wins for him. The fact that Maeda, the only other Central Leaguer on this list, plays for the also-ran Hiroshima seems to work against him, but remember that Iwak

I could see one of the Pacific League pitchers making a run too, but the Pa-League is so balanced this year it’s hard to guess which one.

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Twitter Weekly Updates for 2010-07-04

» 04 July 2010 » In Uncategorized » Comments Off on Twitter Weekly Updates for 2010-07-04

  • Twitter Weekly Updates for 2010-06-27: Twitter Weekly Updates for 2010-06-20: Matt Murton takes the Central League… #
  • Brian Falkenborg makes all-star team, is tall #
  • mlb parks #
  • in the wrong line of work: "An MLB source said Zambrano's three-day suspension cost him close to $300,000 in salary." #
  • live feed: Shingo Takatsu pitching in Taiwan: #
  • actually, make that, "Shingo struggling with his command in Taiwan" #
  • Wow, Shingo argued balls and strikes and got pulled from the game immediately. To be fair, the ump made the right call. #
  • these guys that come on espn after the World Cup… who can possibly enjoy watching these guys? #
  • Ryota Igarashi is not justifying my optimism in him. #
  • Where the World Cup players work, a data visualization from Brazil: #
  • 2010: A Uniform Odyssey: It’s time again for my annual alternative uniforms roundup. Here’s what we have this year… #
  • Being repeatedly exposed to "Around the Horn" over the last few weeks has inspired me to dust this off: #
  • Charts of the Week: A couple of velocity charts have caught my eye this week. Here they are: Ryota Igarashi has ha… #
  • Today's Matt Murton update: he has a 17-game hitting streak for Hanshin #
  • live feeds tonight: Lotte vs Seibu: #
  • and Rakuten vs NIppon Ham: #
  • Bill Murphy throws a breaking ball in the dirt, catcher misses it, ball his umpire in the cup, rolls away. runner advances two bases #
  • HR by Nakajima, long double by Takayama, HR by Brown, HR, by Hirao. Wind is blowing out in Chiba; it's not Bill Murphy's day #
  • highest velocity we've seen from Darvish this year: #
  • A feed for tonight: Yokohama vs Hiroshima #

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Charts of the Week

» 01 July 2010 » In mlb, npb » 7 Comments

A couple of velocity charts have caught my eye this week. Here they are:

  • Ryota Igarashi has had a rough go of things in New York — this follows a rough end to last season with Yakult. Taking a look at the data from last year, his fastball velocity noticeably lower in his last four appearances. He’s averaging about 93.5 mph this season.
  • Another guy who’d seen a noticeable dip in velocity is one of my favorites, Kazuki Yoshimi. He was throwing harder on July 1, and had a decent game until allowing four consecutive singles in the 8th inning. Overall, Yoshimi’s numbers this year have been solid, but more pedestrian than last year: low to mid-3.00’s ERA, 6-ish K/9IP.
  • On the other hand, Kyuji Fujikawa’s fastball velocity seems to have increased this season.Kyuji is having another dominant year, with 47 strikeouts in 31 innings.
  • Chris Bootcheck made his first start in Japan on June 27, going 6.1 IP, with 6K, 0BB, 2ER while getting the win. Here’s what he mixed in.

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