Foreign Player Hits & Misses: Pacific League

» 21 November 2010 » In npb »

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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  1. Ken
    21/11/2010 at 3:09 pm Permalink
  2. Ken
    21/11/2010 at 3:17 pm Permalink

    Hah. When I saw the link I thought myself “how often do we see a foreigner in those?”

    Then the article has this:


    “Foreign players participating is extremely rare.”

  3. Ken
    21/11/2010 at 3:41 pm Permalink

    So you don’t think Billy Bean planned it from the outset to block Iwakuma and is talking about the Zito-type money to appease gullible fans?

  4. Ken
    21/11/2010 at 6:00 pm Permalink

    It’s possible, but then why would he have traded Vin Mazzaro? Unless of course, he really meant to trade Mazzaro anyway (he’s not that great) and it just fits with this story. Another thing is that Don Nomura has been known to overplay his hand at times.

  5. Ken
    22/11/2010 at 11:49 am Permalink

    Brian Wolfe was a bigger disappointment than Durbin.

  6. Ken
    22/11/2010 at 3:07 pm Permalink

    I’m going to have to go ahead and disagree with you there.

  7. Ken
    Ken Dick
    22/11/2010 at 5:48 pm Permalink

    I agree with Patrick. Though I saw Wolfe single-handedly blow a game early in the year (on 3/31, in case anyone cares), I think Durbin was clearly more disappointing.

  8. Ken
    22/11/2010 at 8:08 pm Permalink

    Wolfe started out Takeda Hisashi-quality awful when they tried to make him a closer, but late in the season he turned out to be a very good starter. As a Ham fan, I am glad he is coming back next season.

  9. Ken
    25/11/2010 at 12:15 am Permalink

    Giving Kim Tae Kyun’s year in statistics as justification for him being a “hit” is not very accurate, actually. He had a nice post season (some big hits in the Seibu series and the NS) and great early start (batting around .300 w/18 HR in June). And of course the team won the NS.

    But in the second half of the season you could make a case for him being the worst everyday player in the PL (non-catcher division). 3 HR in the last 3.5 months, routinely being unable to advance past first even on gapped balls or balls hit down the line, and for the entire season he had the lowest BA for all qualifiers w/ RISP, including .192 with bases loaded. His 92 RBIs are a function of spending most of the season hitting behind three hitters with OBPs of .423, .412, and .364 (Though Imae’s .364 came from lower in the order most of the year, Ogino had a .383 OBP in 46 games in the 2 spot and Kiyota had a .373 in 64 games, mostly in the 2 spot after Ogino’s injury). It’s telling that KTK finished the season batting 6 or 7th and was often pinch-hit for in late inning situations.

    I think he can be a nice hitter based on what he showed early in the year but he was just awful to watch for most of the last part.

  10. Ken
    Ken Dick
    25/11/2010 at 2:34 am Permalink

    I will defer you your judgment, as you know and watch the Marines much more than I ever could. Perhaps knowing how hot he was back in May colored my opinion a bit, too. There was a time when he was darn near not making outs and had a prolonged hitting streak, I recall. And I probably weighed the postseason a little too heavily.

    To be fair I did try to present how worthless he is on the basepaths and that he runs about as fast as I do. I accept your points; I’m not sure I’d call his overall season a “miss,” though.

  11. Ken
    Ken Dick
    25/11/2010 at 2:35 am Permalink

    Oops…to your judgment…I meant.

  12. Ken
    25/11/2010 at 7:48 am Permalink

    Ken, I wouldn’t call his season a miss either. After all it’s his early season exploits (along with T Ogino) that helped put Lotte in a position to even make it to the post season. It’s certainly fair to overvalue his Climax Series and Nippon Series contributions as they came at a time when they were most needed. It’s just the second half of the season that was so horrible to watch.

    From every interview I have read with him he seems to care quite a bit about how he is perceived, so I’m sure he’ll focus in the offseason on improving his game for 2011.