Archive > October 2010

Late Nippon Series Preview: Chunichi vs Lotte

» 29 October 2010 » In npb » 4 Comments

Edit: The game was in Nagoya. I must have been worn out when I wrote this.

In my grand tradition of starting a post and then taking forever to finish it, I’m wrapping this up in just the nick of time.

So this year’s Nippon Series opens later today (JST) in Nagoya Chiba, weather permitting. I’ve given the matchup a good look and I’m ready to share my pick.

Starting Rotation

Lotte’s ace, Yoshihisa Naruse, is good but home run prone. Number two starter Yuki Karakawa is supposed to come back for the Series, but after two long disruptions this season it’s hard to know what to expect from him. The next three starters, Shunsuke Watanabe, Bill Murphy and Hayden Penn are all capable of having good games,

Chunichi leads off with lefty ace Wei-Yin Chen, who is a contract in styles to Naruse. Kazuki Yoshimi (a personal favorite of mine) and Kenichi Nakata are both solid pitchers who struggled to absorb innings this year, though that shouldn’t come into play in a short series. No 4 man Daisuke Yamai has eight innings of Chunichi’s 2007 Nippon Series perfect game to his name. A fifth option, Maximo Nelson, was effective in the nine starts he got this season, but he could be used in the bullpen.

Edge: I prefer Chunichi’s starters, but it’s a bit closer than I originally perceived.

Bullpen

Hiroyuki Kobayashi made a successful transition to the ‘pen in 2010 for Lotte, and leads a solid bullpen that features four pitchers who appeared in at least 57 games in 2010. Yasuhiko Yabuta posted solid numbers in his return to Japan, though nine home runs in 65.2 innings of work is problematic for a reliever. Yoshihiro Itoh (64.2 IP, 3.58 ERA) and lefty Takuya Furuya (55.2, 2.91) round out the group.

Chunichi’s bullpen is led by longtime closer Hitoki Iwase, but the real relief ace in 2010 was Takuya Asao. The hard-throwing Asao appeared in 72 games, threw 80.1 innings, posted a 12-3 record and 1.68 ERA, and set an NPB record with an astonishing 59 “hold points” (holds + relief wins). Masafumi Hirai had one of his good years in 2010, and Akifumi Takahashi posted perhaps the best numbers of any lefty reliever in the Central League this season. Nelson will provide extra depth if he doesn’t start.

Edge: Chunichi has a big advantage here.

Lineup

Lotte’s run production was tops in the Pacific League, with 708 Marines crossing the plate in 2010. They did it with a remarkably balanced lineup. While Lotte only had one player top 20 home runs (Kim Tae-Gyun at 21), they had eight players who hit at least 10. Lotte scored by keeping runners on base: Tsuyoshi Nishioka (.423) and Tadahito Iguchi (.412) finished 2nd and 3rd in the Pacific League in OBP. Among their regulars, Shoitsu Ohmatsu had the worst OBP at .339, and even that was good enough for 21st in the Pacific League.

Chunichi has more of a “three-run home run” kind of lineup, with a menacing mid-order presence in Kazuhiro Wada, the steady bat of Masahiko Morino, and a proven power threat in Tony Blanco. After that, they’ve got slap-hitting top-order man Masahiro Araki and not much else.

Edge: Lotte. They are simpler better one through nine.

The Verdict

I’m saying Chunichi in six games. I think they have enough hitting to hang around, and the pitching to ice leads when they get them.

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Twitter Weekly Updates for 2010-10-24

» 24 October 2010 » In Uncategorized » Comments Off

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The First Ever Salary Cap in Sports

» 22 October 2010 » In something else » Comments Off

A thread on one of my favorite social news sites about gladiators inspired me to read up on the subject in Wikipedia. There, I found this:

Gladiatorial games, usually linked with beast shows, spread throughout the Republic and beyond.[45] Anti-corruption laws of 65 and 63 BCE attempted but signally failed to curb their political usefulness to sponsors.[46] Following Caesar’s assassination and the civil war, Augustus assumed Imperial authority over the games, including munera, and formalised their provision as a civic and religious duty.[47] His revision of sumptuary law capped private and public expenditure on munera – claiming to save the Roman elite from the bankruptcies they would otherwise suffer – and restricted their performance to the festivals of Saturnalia and Quinquatria.[48] Henceforth, the ceiling cost for a praetor‘s “economical” but official munus of a maximum 120 gladiators was to be 25,000 denarii ($500,000). “Generous” Imperial ludi might cost no less than 180,000 denarii ($3.6 million).[49][50] Throughout the Empire, the greatest and most celebrated games would now be identified with the state-sponsored Imperial cult, which furthered public recognition, respect and approval for the Emperor, his law, and his agents.[51] Between 108 and 109 CE, Trajan celebrated his Dacian victories using a reported 10,000 gladiators (and 11,000 animals) over 123 days.[52] The cost of gladiators and munera continued to spiral out of control. Legislation of 177 CE by Marcus Aurelius, which did little to stop it, was completely ignored by his son, Commodus.[53]

Obviously the difference is that the gladiators were being purchased as slaves and not paid these amounts. But even 2000 years ago, we had sports budgets spinning out of control, and rules to curtail them which were subsequently ignored.

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Darvish Denies MLB Move

» 19 October 2010 » In mlb prospects, npb » 6 Comments

I’ve been deliberately waiting to weigh in on the Yu Darvish rumors until information from credible, on-the-record sources emerges. With the exception of Nippon Ham manager Masataka Nashida saying that he wanted to keep Darvish, we have only had reports citing anonymous “persons familiar with the situation”.

Until now. Darvish himself has come out and addressed the rumors on his blog. I’ve translated the post in its entirety below:

Things are being said about the Majors.

I’ve received a lot of comments on my blog and Twitter, but I don’t know if everyone’s predictions are on the mark or what.

Next year…

I’ll be wearing a Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters uniform.

And here’s the original Japanese. I don’t think Darvish will mind me publishing it here.

メジャーどうこう言われています。

ブログやTwitterにもたくさんのコメント頂きましたが、皆さんの予想が合ってるかどうかわかりませんが。

来年は…

北海道日本ハムファイターズのユニフォーム着ていますよ(^^)

So there we have it. Those rumors will have to wait for another offseason.

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And the Tryouts Begin

» 18 October 2010 » In nichibei, npb » 7 Comments

With the season over for more than half the teams now, we’re seeing the tryouts begin. Lots of outside-the-boxing going on here:

  • Orix is looking at Venezuelans Luis Rodriguez and Victor Garate, both of whom have MLB experience. Garate is a 25 year-old lefty who has done well in 2A, but only reached 3A in 2010. Rodriguez is a 30 year-old infielder who bounced between the Majors and Minors between 2005-09, and spent last season on the White Sox’ 3A team. Orix had four Venezuelans on their roster last year, but management commented that it’s just a coincidence.
  • Rakuten brought in long-time US-based Indy Leaguer Travis Garcia for a tryout, but passed on signing him. Garcia has had some success in Indy ball but it’s not clear that he was active in 2010.
  • Yokohama brought in four pitchers for tryouts: 2A righty Clayton Hamilton and Indy Leaguers Jeff Ridgway, Brandon Mann, and Joseph Newby. Yokohama has had a hard time fielding a respectable pitching staff over the last several years, but I don’t think they’ll find the answer here. The pitchers in this batch are mostly in their late 20’s and haven’t had much success in the upper minors.
  • Hanshin worked out Venezuelan pitcher Robert Zarate a couple weeks ago. Zarate has three years of rookie ball experience under his belt, and pitched last year in the Independent BC League.

Of the guys listed in this post, only Rodriguez is a typical 4A type. We’ll see if any of them actually winds up signing contracts, but it looks like a trend of at least considering less-established players is emerging. The recent low-budget success of guys like Tony Blanco, Wirfin Obispo, Brett Harper and Francisco Caraballo have  shown that sometimes these kinds of moves can work out.

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Twitter Weekly Updates for 2010-10-17

» 17 October 2010 » In Uncategorized » Comments Off

  • Watched a little football yesterday, sort of by osmosis. I had forgotten it existed. #
  • Brooks Conrad — does he usually play 2b? #
  • scare for Heyward there, looks like he's OK. He obviously had a tough time picking up the ball. #
  • credit the sun with an rbi there. #
  • conrad successfully fields grounder #
  • twitter is alight with witticisms about the flaws of Brooks Conrad. #
  • gonzalez skillfully kept the ball away from conrad there. #
  • these commercials are doing me a great job convincing me not to drink captain morgan #
  • ouch #
  • It is written: Brooks Conrad. #
  • My latest FanGraphs work: http://bit.ly/9TRSQ9 #
  • Happy Thanksgiving / Jour de l'Action de grâce to my friends in Canada. #
  • Finally figured out who Brian Wilson's crazy beard reminds me of http://bit.ly/DOOe #

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My Post-Season Awards

» 17 October 2010 » In npb » 6 Comments

We’re still in the midst of the playoffs, but the regular season is in the books. There were a number of great individual performances this year, and if NPB asked me, these would be my picks for the post-season awards.

CL MVP: Kazuhiro Wada (OF, Chunichi)

Apologies to Alex Ramirez, Norichika Aoki and Matt Murton. This one was closer than I would have predicted. It’s a battle counted stats versus rate stats, with Ramirez having the league lead in home runs and rbis, and Wada leading in slugging and on-base percentages. At the end of the day, Wada hit with just as much power as Ramirez, made fewer outs and was the key bat on the League-winning team.

PL MVP: Tsuyoshi Nishioka (SS, Chiba Lotte)

Apologies to Hitoshi Tamura, Alex Cabrera. For me this one was a lot easier to pick. Nishioka lead his league in hits, batting average and runs, and plays a premium defensive position. A-Cab had another great year but was missed too many games with injury problems. And this is lame, but Tamura just doesn’t “feel” like an MVP to me, though he had a strong season all around.

CL RoY: Hisayoshi Chono (OF, Yomiuri)

Apologies to no one. I’ll have to eat my words here: I thought Chono was overrated coming in to the season but he was clearly part of Yomiuri’s best lineup. Chono was a great pickup for the Giants as Yoshitomo Tani started to show his age,  Yoshiyuki Kamei is looking like a one-year wonder, and Yoshinobu Takahashi missed half the season.

PL RoY: Keisuke Kattoh (RP, Softbank)

Apologies to Takashi Ogino. I would have gone with Ogino if he had gotten healthy, but Kattoh had a good season with a 2.96 era and 74 strikeouts in 76 innings pitched. Softbank has a knack for developing relievers.

Sawamura Award: Kenta Maeda

Apologies to Yu Darvish, Chihiro Kaneko. If this was the “best pitcher” award, I would go with Darvish, who was phenomenal yet again in 2010. But this is the Sawamura Award, with its seven criteria. Maeda and Darvish each miss on one criteria, Maeda on complete games and Darvish on wins. Maeda has more wins, starts, innings pitched, and a better winning percentage, while Darvish has the edge on strikeouts, complete games and era. So I’ll give it to Maeda on a split decision, even though Darvish had the edge on dominance.

Best Nine:

Position Central League Pacific League
P Kenta Maeda Yu Darvish
C Shinosuke Abe Motohiro Shima
1B Craig Brazell Alex Cabrera
2B Keiichi Hirano Tadahito Iguchi
3B Masahiko Morino Eichi Koyano
SS Hayato Sakamoto Tsuyoshi Nishioka
OF Norichika Aoki Hitoshi Tamura
OF Matt Murton Teppei
OF Kazuhiro Wada Yoshio Itoi
DH - T-Okada

Apologies to: Kenji Johjima (CL C), Alex Ramirez (CL OF), Michihiro Ogasawara (CL 1B/3B), Chihiro Kaneko (PL P), Kensuke Tanaka (PL 2B), Munenori Kawasaki (PL SS), Toshiaki Imae (PL 3B), Hiroyuki Nakajima (PL SS).

Toughest choices:

  • CL catcher: My gut was Johjima all the way, but Abe was better at the plate and made fewer errors behind it.
  • CL OF: it was really, really tough leaving one of Murton, Aoki, Wada and Ramirez off. In the end I went with Ramirez, because Murton set a new hits record, Aoki had the best year of his career, and Wada edges out Ramirez in terms of contribution.
  • PL 3B: Koyano and Imae both had great seasons, Koyano was just that much better in the final stats.
  • PL SS: This was actually an easy choice, which says more about Nishioka’s season than Kawasaki’s and Nakajima’s.
  • PL 2B: Tanaka had an eye-catching batting average, but Iguchi got on base more, hit with more power and made fewer errors.
  • And finally, it was tough leaving Ogasawara off, but Brazell was the more productive 1B, and I don’t think he played enough to count at 3B.

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Nippon Ham Turnover

» 05 October 2010 » In mlb prospects, nichibei, npb » 7 Comments

The season’s not over yet, but the offseason starts early for the B-class (bottom three) finishers. For the first time in five years, one of them is the Nippon Ham Fighters, and a few moves have been announced.

  • Righty reliever Yoshinori Tateyama is planning to exercise his right to global free agency this offseason and make a move to MLB. I don’t think I’ve seen him pitch (if I have, he didn’t leave much of an impression), but he’ll be 35 on December 26, and had a 1.80, 59 strikeouts and 11 walks in 55 innings this year. He throws from a low three-quarters position, and is primarily a fastball/slider pitcher.
  • The Fighters released 36-year old outfielder Tomoya Tsuboi and offered him a coaching job, but he wants to continue playing. Tsuboi has had a pretty good career, and could still possibly be a useful bench outfielder somewhere (Hiroshima?). Speculation is that he could look to the US minor or indy leagues if he doesn’t get an offer in Japan.
  • Ham has also cut Kazuhito Tadano loose. The latest news is that Yokohama is looking at picking him up. Tadano has struggled over the last two seasons, but Yokoyama’s pitching needs are such that a flyer on Tadano sounds like a pretty good idea. If he does wind up with the ‘Stars, it’ll be something of a return full circle, as the team was set to acquire out of college through the 2002 draft, before backing out due to well-publicized issues.
  • Surprisingly enough, Hichori Morimoto is reportedly looking into his free agency options, specifically with other NPB teams. Morimoto is the quintessential small-ball player, and could be particularly useful in the DH-free Central League… but I have a hard time seeing him play anywhere but Hokkaido. It’s just speculation at this point so it’s only potential turnover.

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NPB Bullet Points: The Month That Was

» 02 October 2010 » In mlb prospects, nichibei, npb » 4 Comments

Okay, time to hit the “play” button again. Here’s a recap of many of the notable events that happened while I was away.

  • SoftBank took the Pacific League title despite ultimately winning two fewer games than Seibu. Ties to the rescue! SoftBank tied five games to Seibu’s one, which was enough to put them a few win percentage points ahead.
  • Chunichi has also clinched the Central League crown. It was a come-from-behind year for the Dragons, as they trailed Yomiuri and Hanshin for most of the season before getting hot at the right time in September while their rivals slumped. Hanshin and Yomiuri are not finished with their schedules, and could both still catch up on wins, but not eclipse Chunichi’s winning percentage.
  • Prior to 2010, only three NPB players had reached 200 hits in a season: Ichiro (210 in 1994), Norichika Aoki (202 in 2005) and Alex Ramirez (204 in 2007). This year, we can add three more to the list: Lotte’s Tsuyoshi Nishioka with 204, Hanshin’s Matt Murton with 209, and Yakult’s Aoki with 204. Both Murton and Aoki both have games remaining and are poised to surpass Ichiro’s mark, although Ichiro got his 210 hits in 130 games while Murton and Aoki get 144. Media coverage of the record chase has been predictably biased towards Aoki, kind of like “Aoki has five games to get six hits to match Ichiro! Oh by the way, Murton only needs one hit and has more games to play.” Oh well, at least Murton’s not getting walked.
  • Nishioka beat Ichiro’s record for more modasho (three hits or more) games, with 27. Ichiro’s mark of 26 came in that magical 1994 season.
  • Another record this season is Chunichi middle reliver Takuya Asao’s astonishing 59 hold points (hold points = holds + relief wins). Asao figured in 59 of Chunichi’s 79 wins.
  • This just in — Murton has tied Ichiro’s record with a single against Hiroshima.
  • Rakuten manager Marty Brown attempted and failed to dig up second base in an argument with an umpire on September 23. Later in the week, Rakuten sent him packing, a year before his contract expired. The Eagles struggled to a last place, 62-79-3 finish this year, mostly due to an anemic offense.
  • The Yokohama BayStars are for sale. Hama’s current parent company, TBS Holdings, is in negotiations with a couple of potential buyers and the current leading candidate appears to be the Juseikatsu Group, a holdings company that owns numerous suppliers of household goods. There was some speculation that the team could move or be contract, but the current TBS management has come out and said that won’t happen. Once upon a time, Bobby Valentine was linked to a group that tried to purchase the BayStars. I wouldn’t mind seeing that idea revisited.
  • The “Yu Darvish to be posted” have spun out of control over the last couple weeks. I haven’t seen anything other than speculation and quotes from anonymous sources though. I’m still skeptical on him being posted this offseason, though as it makes no sense for Nippon Ham competitively and little sense economically. Very much in wait and see mode here.
  • On the other hand, I think Hisashi Iwakuma will be posted this offseason. He’s a free agent after 2011, so Rakuten is going to lose him anyway.
  • Yomiuri signed that “mystery Domican player” on September 27. His name turns out to be Noel Urena, he’s 21 and plays catcher and infield, though Yomiuri is having him work at third base.
  • The Yankees signed former Yokohama BayStar Naoya Okamoto to a minor league contract. Okamoto had spent the 2010 season in Mexico.

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