NPB Bullet Points: The Month That Was
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.