Archive > November 2010

Foreign Player Signing Summary

» 29 November 2010 » In nichibei, npb » 4 Comments

I haven’t done a great job of staying up to date with NPB transactions this offseason. To catch up on things, here’s my tally of who’s signed so far this autumn:

In addition, Hiroshima added Scott McClain as a US-based scout.

This year, I published my list of picks for Japan-bound players over at FanGraphs. So far I’ve gotten two correct, Bullington and Torres. I took a long look at Sarfate and Albaladejo, but I left Sarfate off because of his walk rate, and Albaladejo off because I thought he’d get a job in the Majors. I also asked FanGraphs’ readers to suggest players who could go over, and so far that list has produced one correct prediction, Hoffpauir.

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Lim Stays With Yakult

» 28 November 2010 » In npb » 1 Comment

After an on-again-off-again sort of negotiation, Chang Yong Lim has agreed to a deal that will keep him in the Yoyogi area of Tokyo. The headlines are calling it a three-year, 1.42 bn yen deal, but read a little more carefully and you’ll see that it’s really a two-year, 750m yen deal, with a mutual option for year three.

Yakult is reportedly now going after pitcher Young-Soo Bae, of the KBO’s Samsung Lions.

I thought Yakult might be a possible landing spot for Marc Kroon, but that’s a lot less likely with Lim returning. At this point, Rakuten seems like his best shot at a closing job in 2011.

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Don Nomura on the Posting System

» 28 November 2010 » In mlb prospects, nichibei » 8 Comments

Author’s note: I wrote this last Wednesday, before the Thanksgiving holiday, but decided not to publish it and deleted it. For some reason, it was not deleted, and I’ve changed my mind and decided to publish it, with a few edits.

Without assessing blame, I have to say that I’m quite disappointed at the way Oakland-Hisashi Iwakuma negotiations have gone. Being a resident of the Bay Area, I was really looking forward to the opportunity to watch each one of his starts and seeing if my optimism in him was justified. It’s not too late for the two sides to work out a deal but it isn’t looking good.

Iwakuma’s agent Don Nomura was a constant presence in the Japanese media for a few days after talks broke down last weekend. This Sponichi piece with his comments on the posting system caught my eye.

“This system is extremely one-side. The team (that acquired negotiating rights) can offer a minor league contract (and break off negotiations) without losing anything. The player’s side is at a disadvantage.”

“The top three bidding teams should get negotiating rights.”

Despite my afore stated disappointment, I find this kind of perversely poignant. Nomura’s gaming of the system in the 90’s led to the creation of the posting system. It seems oddly appropriate that he’s now frustrated by its limitations.

Neither side is without fault here — Iwakuma’s camp should have known that they were leaving a lot of negotiating leverage on the table by pursuing the posting process. And why did Oakland put in such an outsized bid (third biggest winning posting fee), only to follow it up with a seemingly low-ball offer? We’re missing some data and the story isn’t over yet, so we’ll just have to see how it plays out.

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Japanese Lesson: Hot Stove Lexicon

» 27 November 2010 » In something else » 2 Comments

This is something I’ve always wanted to do — find a way to be more supportive of people learning Japanese. I occasionally get asked to translate things, but only rarely do those queries come from a Japanese learner.

So here’s a mini Japanese lesson, consisting of terms that are contextual to the offseason and hot stove league. Many of these terms won’t appear in your run-of-the-mill Japanese class, but you will find most of them on

Japanese Reading English Notes
ストーブリーグ sutoubu rigu hot stove league Japanese does away with the “hot” and calls it simply a “stove league”.
獲得 kakutoku acquire
契約 keiyaku contract
契約更改 keiyaku koukai contract renewal Most NPB players go year to year with their contracts, so during each offseason, a new contract at a new salary is negotiated for the following year.
仮契約 karikeiyaku provisional contract This is usually used to the first contract signed by recent NPB draftees.
大型条件 ougata jouken significant terms This indicates a big contract offer, usually in terms of number of years or annual salary.
新戦力 shinsenryoku new competitive strength “senryoku” doesn’t translate particularly nicely in a baseball context. This term, with the “shin” prefix, is used to describe the acquisition of a new player. For example, a new pitcher acquired by an NPB team might be refered to as “shinsenryoku”, where as in English we might say the team has “bolstered” it’s pitching staff.
戦力外 senryokugai uneeded competitive strength consersely, adding the “gai” (outside) modifier to “senryoku” indicates that a player is no longer needed and will be released. In English we might say the player “doesn’t fit into the team’s plans”.
ポスティングシステム posutingu shisutemu posting system
入札制度 nyusatsu seido bidding system when the term “posting system” appears in a Japanese article, it is usually followed with this term in parentheses
入札 nyusatsu bid
大リーグ / メジャー挑戦 Dai rigu / mejaa chousen big league / major league challenge “chousen suru” is a general term meaning to
入団 nyudan join a team
テスト入団 testo nyudan tryout with a specific team in English we usually call this a “tryout” or ‘trial”.
12球団合同トライアウト juuni kyudan goudou toraiauto 12 team group tryout The NPB 12-team tryouts occur every offseason, and give players who have been released a chance to showcase themselves for other teams. It includes some kind of simulated game played by the players taking part, but I’m not sure how simulated and how competitive it is.
決定 kettei confirmed
オファー ofaa offer
交渉 koushou negotiations
フリーエージェント(FA)宣言 furii eejento (FA) sengen declare free agency Free agency is abbreviated as FA, and comes in two varieties “kokunai” (国内, domestic) and “kaigai” (海外, overseas)
移籍 iseki move used when a player moves to a new team. Ie,松井、エンジェルズ移籍. Can be couple with FA (FA Iseki
残留 zanryu remain used when a player who is eligible for free agency and stays put. The big recent example is Hisashi Iwakuma
有力 yuuryoku lead In the hot stove context, this is often used to indicate the leading candidate to land a player.
提示 teiji proposal Differs from “offer” in that this is usually a general proposal of terms, while offer is more official.
代理人 dairinin agent
トレード toreedo trade
大筋合意 osuji goui agree to terms

Obviously, this isn’t a comprehensive list. If anyone out there has any questions or any terms to add to the list, fire away in the comments.

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Lotte, Nishioka Press Conference For Nov 26

» 24 November 2010 » In mlb prospects, nichibei » Comments Off on Lotte, Nishioka Press Conference For Nov 26

Update: In the press conference, Lotte’s management only said they would accept the high bid and didn’t identify the winning bidder. It’s been all over the place this morning that the Twins had the high bid.

The news is a day old at this point, but Tsuyoshi Nishioka has drawn at least one bid via the posting process. The Chiba Lotte Marines are expected to accept the high bid regardless of its amount, and have scheduled a press conference for November 26th (JST).

Here’s hoping things go better for Nishioka than they have for Hisashi Iwakuma.

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The Short Lifespan of a Rumor

» 23 November 2010 » In mlb prospects » 15 Comments

On Friday, I found an article that I liked and “tweeted” it,  which my friends at MLB Trade Rumors then picked up and wrote a post on. Within a half hour of the MLBTR post, journalist Nick Piecoro had refuted the information in the original article with one of the principles of the story.

What was the story? A summary and some speculation about the Diamondbacks interest in Lotte reliever Hiroyuki Kobayashi. The story included a quote from D-Backs GM Kevin Towers, one that he made in late September: “We have strong interest in Japanese pitchers. Once we size up the market, if we decide that Japanese pitchers like Hiro Kobayashi fit our team we’ll move to acquire them.” The article went on to say that the Diamondbacks have “already prepared a contract of around $3m over two years,” and explain the team’s bullpen issues and Towers’ experience acquiring Akinori Otsuka.

It seemed plausible enough, and still does, but got denied pretty quickly. Two things jump out at me here, both related to Twitter. The first is the speed at which this took place — from the time I saw the article it only took a tweet, a blog post, a text message and another tweet to shoot the news down. The second is the limitations of Twitter as a vehicle for information. One of Twitter’s founding fathers, Evan Williams, recently said “we’ve lowered the barriers to publishing almost as far as they can go.” While that’s true, the 140 character format of Twitter messages isn’t conducive to including a lot of qualifying contextual information. Twitter is a great way to build an audience and communicate with readers, but it turns out that it’s not terribly compatible with my style of making information available.

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Condition Oakland

» 21 November 2010 » In mlb prospects, nichibei » 13 Comments

Further Edit: Apparently, the four-year, $30m figure that Sponichi reported is inaccurate.

Update, Sunday Night: It’s being widely reported that Iwakuma will return to Rakuten next season. The Mainichi Shimbun has a piece with quotes attributed to Iwakuma’s agent (Don Nomura) as saying “the two sides won’t sit down at the negotiating table again” and “after our first proposal, we were thinking we had a compromise through negotiation, but the Athletics seemed to think ‘if you can’t take this price, you don’t have to come here’. That wasn’t a condition we could accept.”

Meanwhile, Sponichi is saying that Iwakuma was looking for a deal for four years, $30m, but the A’s were only offering $3.5 – $3.75 annually. Paraphrasing Sponichi, that’s about what Iwakuma has been making in Japan, and he’s used to seeing starting pitchers who move to MLB get a big raise relative to their last season in NPB. Such are the perils of the posting, in my opinion.

I thought Rakuten might try to post him again this offseason, but the rules stipulate that under this scenario, the player can’t be posted again until November 1 of the following year. By then, Iwakuma should have completed enough service time to qualify for free agency.

Sunday Afternoon: Interesting news from my fellow Bay Area-ian, Susan Slusser: negotiations between Oakland and Hisashi Iwakuma are not going well and the two sides are far apart on a deal. Supposedly, the A’s are offering a deal of about fours year, $15m, while Iwakuma’s side is looking for about $15m per year. Barry Zito money, to use a particularly poor comparison. Shinya Tsuruta of Chunichi Sports puts negotiations at three years, $20m, which sounds a lot more reasonable.

The news broke yesterday in Japan, while I was taking a day off from writing. Sponichi had the first coverage of the story that I saw, and called the idea that Iwakuma might remain with Rakuten a “worst case scenario.” Tsuruta also pointed out that Iwakuma will take part in Rakuten’s Fan Appreciation Day on the 23rd, though his participation is qualified with the quote “it’s just as the words say, an event to show appreciation to the fans.” But the idea he could stay in Sendai is picking up steam. Iwakuma was signed for 2011 at 300-400m yen ($3.6-$4.8m), so I assume he would play for Rakuten under the terms of that contract should he and the A’s fail to work out a deal.

What no one seems to be saying is that Iwakuma is leaving a lot of money on the table in pursuing the posting route to the Majors. The posting system, by definition, assigns the player’s negotiating rights to a single team, and a large posting fee acts as a dis-incentive for the team to sign the player to a large contract (or rather, the posting fee is only viable if the player can be signed for a below-market rate). If Iwakuma were to return to Rakuten for 2011, barring injury he would be eligible for international free agency after the season. On the open market, I would expect him to command somewhere between $8m and $12m per season, for about three years. So in the end it will be up to Iwakuma to decide if getting to the Majors one year sooner is worth it.

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Twitter Weekly Updates for 2010-11-21

» 21 November 2010 » In Uncategorized » Comments Off on Twitter Weekly Updates for 2010-11-21

  • The Latest on Nishioka: The idea that the Chiba Lotte Marines would post Tsuyoshi Nishioka has been a bit of a h… #

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Foreign Player Hits & Misses: Pacific League

» 21 November 2010 » In npb » 12 Comments

Since we’ve already looked at the Central League side, it’s time to examine the successful and not-so-successful new foreign players in the Pacific League:


Tae-Kyun Kim, infielder, Chiba Lotte Marines

In the first season of his three year contract, the stocky Korean first baseman paid dividends for the eventual champions.  Kim appeared in all but three of his team’s games, hitting .268/.357/.429 with 21 home runs and 92 RBI. While his lack of speed (0 SB, 24 GIDP) and high strikeout total (140) brought down his value, Kim showed some patience at the plate with 74 walks. The World Baseball Classic star hit .345 during that tournament in 2009; he posted an identical batting average in the 2010 Japan Series en route to the championship.

Bill Murphy, pitcher, Chiba Lotte Marines

The left-handed Californian had a pleasantly surprising season in Chiba prefecture. Appearing in 38 games, Murphy was able to win 12 games (coupled with 6 losses) with an ERA of 3.75 while limiting his opponents to a .244 batting average. He whiffed 125 batters in 144 innings of work (7.81 K/9IP ratio).  Murphy did struggle with his command, though, as he led the Pacific League in walks issued (84) and wild pitches (11).

Bobby Keppel, pitcher, Nippon Ham Fighters

Keppel was a reliable starter for a team that just barely missed making the Pacific League’s postseason. He won 12 games and lost 8 with a 3.35 ERA this past season.  In the United States, Keppel had never been a strikeout pitcher and he stayed true to form in Japan. In 158 2/3 innings he K’ed only 85 men, but was able to throw two complete games, including one shutout.


J.D. Durbin, pitcher, Fukuoka Softbank Hawks

Durbin’s 2010 season in Japan was split between the Hawks’ ichi-gun and ni-gun teams. After passing a May tryout he was signed, but was ineffective at the top level soon thereafter. He worked 16 innings and gave up 12 runs, posting an unsightly 6.75 ERA and an equally unpleasant 1.62 WHIP. At ni-gun he was better, slimming his ERA to 3.68 while going 5-0 over 49 innings. Unfortunately for Durbin, Hawks management was unwilling to give him a second chance in 2011, and he was cut loose by the organization in September.

Beom-Ho Lee, infielder, Fukouka Softbank Hawks

Lee was signed out of Korea as a third-baseman with a nifty glove and a slugging bat. I was reluctant to include him on this list because I’m not really sure he had a full chance to prove his talents. In 48 games he came to the plate 139 times, hitting .226/.294/.355. The .649 OPS is weak, however he made only 1 error in the field. He might get more playing time in 2011 as Softbank modifies their roster this offseason. Keep in mind that he will still be behind Nobuhiro Matsuda on the Hawks’ depth chart, which could scuttle that plan.

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Foreign Player Hits & Misses: Central League

» 19 November 2010 » In npb » 6 Comments

Every year sees a new crop of foreign players in Japan. 2010 was no different, and several newcomers to NPB were smashing successes, while others completely missed the mark this past season. Let’s take a look at some in the Central League:


Matt Murton, outfielder, Hanshin Tigers.

Easily the foreign-born player of the year (and perhaps the story of the year), Murton’s season was a record setter. A career .286 hitter over five seasons in Major League Baseball, Murton put up a stunning .349/.395/.499 batting line in his rookie season with Hanshin. He set a new Japanese single season hits record with 214, while leading his team with 105 runs scored. He also knocked in 91 runs while helping the Tigers to a second place finish. As an example of Murton’s batting prowess, he had seven games with four or more hits, and only went hitless in 28 (he played in all 144). Murton will undoubtedly be back playing for the Tigers in 2011, perhaps as their everyday right fielder, as they have already picked up his option for next season.

Brett Harper, infielder, Yokohama Bay Stars.

Harper was a pretty good mid-season find for a team that crashed to a 95 loss season.

Harper’s final line over his partial 2010 season read .316/.395/.596. That slugging percentage would have easily led the team if Harper had gotten enough playing time to qualify for leader boards. He hit 19 home runs in only 261 plate appearances. Harper looks like a keeper for 2011.

Josh Whitesell, infielder, Yakult Swallows.

Another mid-season pickup, Whitesell was a pretty good find for Yakult. The 28 year-old left handed hitter poked 15 home runs on his way to a .309/.399/.591 line. While he only saw action in 68 games he provides the Swallows with a pretty good first base option going forward. Like many first basemen he struck out at a high clip (71 times), but hit .359 with runners in scoring position. It looks as if Yakult will invite him back to Japan in 2011, though the sample size for his numbers is limited by his late start.

Giancarlo Alvarado, pitcher, Hiroshima Carp.

Alvarado seemed to be the only foreigner on Hiroshima’s staff whose season wasn’t a disappointment. The Puerto Rican right-hander provided a poor Hiroshima club with an 8-8, 4.07 ERA in 119 1/3 innings. The eight wins were good for second-highest on the team (Kenta Maeda earned 15) and his ERA was a full run lower than fellow newcomer Eric Stults’. Slightly concerning were Alvarado’s 4 wild pitches and team high 5 balks.


Justin Huber, infielder, Hiroshima Carp.

The Carp didn’t have any foreign hitters with pop in their bat like they have had in previous seasons (Alex Ochoa, Scott McClain, Scott Seabol, and Andy Phillips come to mind). Huber certainly didn’t hit the ball out of the park very often, and didn’t hit it much elsewhere either. In his 80 games Huber batted .220 for a team that didn’t improve their win total very much under new manager Kenjiro Nomura. Huber (like most of the rest of the 2010 Carp foreigners) was a washout.

Casey Fossum, pitcher, Hanshin Tigers.

2010 was not a productive season for the left-handed Fossum. Originally signed to be used as a starter, management changed course with him and tried him out of the bullpen. In 12 games at the ichi-gun level Fossum allowed 36 earned runs over 56 2/3 innings for an unsightly 5.72 ERA and 2-5 record. A demotion to ni-gun helped his numbers, as he posted a 3.10 ERA in 18 games at that level with a single win (1-0). Signed for only one year, the Tigers officially cut ties with Fossum in October.

Dionys Cesar, infielder/outfielder, Chunichi Dragons.

Cesar, a utility infielder who played in the Mexican League prior to coming to Japan, was a disappointment in 2010. Converted to the outfield, the switch-hitter batted a paltry .215 with a single home run (.215/244/.269). He struck out 45 times and walked only 7 times in 194 plate appearances. Chunichi cut ties with the Dominican at the end of the 2010 season.

Tony Barnette, pitcher, Yakult Swallows.

Barnette will not be offered a contract for 2011 after a rather poor 2010 performance. He posted a lackluster 5.99 ERA era at the ichi-gun level over 16 games (79 2/3 IP, 4-5 record). With Yakult’s ni-gun team the results were equally sub-par: 1 win, 3 losses, a 5.03 ERA over 34 innings.

One for debate

Jose Castillo, infielder, Yokohama Bay Stars.

In his first year in Japan, Castillo provided a .273/.309./446 year as Yokohama’s primary second baseman. He led the team with 16 errors and drew only 22 walks, which kept his OBP low. On the plus side, his 19 home runs were good for a third place tie on the team. It appears that despite his power, Yokohama will look for a player to replace Castillo in 2011.

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