Archive > December 2010

NPB in English: Goodbye to 2010

» 29 December 2010 » In nichibei, npb » Comments Off

As 2010 draws to a close, here’s a look at what the blogs and newspapers are saying about NPB:

  • Our own Patrick Newman joins Gen Sueyoshi from Yaku Baka in offering some thoughts on where the league is headed. The interview comes courtesy of Tokyoswallows.com.
  • Gen also has news from the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks, including Nobuhiko Matsunaka’s pay cut, the largest ever in Japanese baseball.
  • Amazin’ Avenue has a look back at Benny Agbayani’s career and finds out what he’s doing these days. Benny was one of my favorite players on both sides of the Pacific.
  • Jason Coskrey takes a look at Japan’s aging crop of closers and who may be in line to replace them.
  • Jim Allen, in his Daily Yomiuri column, gets Jim Small’s thoughts on the NPB/MLB relationship moving forward.
  • Lastly, Wayne Graczyk looks back at a 2010 season filled with moments to remember.

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Upcoming Schedule

» 29 December 2010 » In NPB Tracker » 5 Comments

Here’s what we have in the works:

  • Another post or two on news and bullet points
  • Japanese participation in Winter Leagues
  • Nishioka’s potential successors at SS for Lotte
  • More on the Chen situation and what it means for NPB teams developing foreign prospects
  • Taking on some of Jim Small’s recent comments

And in January, we’ll be doing a team-by-team breakdown of the player personnel moves that occurred this offseason. Of course if there’s anything you would like to see, I’ll be happy to take it into consideration.

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More Signings: McCrory, Vechionacci, Sikorski, Graman

» 27 December 2010 » In nichibei, npb » 3 Comments

A couple more signings to pass along tonight. All source content is in Japanese.

  • The Chiba Lotte Marines have announced the signing of Orioles farmhand Bob McCrory. McCrory is expected to help fill the void left by departing closer Hiroyuki Kobayashi. He was quoted as saying, “for my style, I feel that I’m the type that attacks batters with a fastball and a good sinker. I will do my best to show all the Marines fans my best performance.” McCrory has done a good job limiting home runs in the minors, which backs up his climb of having a good sinker.
  • The ink is dry on Marcos Vechionacci’s ikusei deal with Hanshin. Vechionacci gets a 6m yen signing bonus, a 4m yen salary, and number 128.
  • Seibu is bringing both Brian Sikorski and Alex Graman back for 2011. Sikorski gets 90m yen for 2011, while Graman will be paid 50m yen.

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NPB Bullet Points: Year End Blowout

» 26 December 2010 » In npb » 20 Comments

Alright, it has been a while since I’ve done one of these posts, but I have been reading. Here’s a list of stories I’ve gathered up over the last month, in roughly chronological order. Most of the source content is Japanese but there are a few English items in there.

  • Back in early December, Osamu Yamamoto of the Chugoku Shimbun shed some light on the Hiroshima Carp’s US scouting practices, and shared some evaluations of players that the Carp signed over the last few years. Among this year’s signings, Dennis Sarfate graded at the top of the team’s five point scale with an A, while Chad Tracy and Bryan Bullington punched in a notch below at the AB level. Hiroshima has also added former Carp player Scott McClain as a second US-based scout.
  • Yakult lefty Masato Nakazawa has gotten married.
  • Speaking of weddings, Yankees lefty farmhand Naoya Okamoto attended one in Kyoto, where he bumped into several former teammates. Judging by the pictures, I’m concerned Okamoto may have joined a gang (笑).
  • A personal favorite of mine, Nagisa Arakaki has signed for 25% pay cut next season. Once upon a time I thought Arakaki was Japan’s next great pitcher, but he’s been done in by injuries. Hopefully he’s able to come back, but I fear his days as a power pitcher are over.
  • Kengo Kubo of Nikkan Sports fills us in on Yomiuri Giants representative Hidetoshi Kiyotake’s ideas for increasing Japanese participation abroad, including establishing a “Team Japan” to play in overseas winter leagues. This year, six players including Yoshiyuki Kamei played in Australia. Hopefully I’ll find some time to write more about this subject because there are some interesting ideas out there.
  • Sanpo reports that Yusei Kikuchi has signed a management contract with talent agency HoriPro, the first active baseball player to do so.
  • Norichika Aoki’s 2011 goal is to surpass Ichiro’s record of 210 hits within the first 130 games of the season. Incidentally, Ichiro’s 1994 pace translates to 232 hits over the current 144-game schedule.
  • Hiroshima’s Kenta Maeda was quoted in Sanspo as saying he’d like to “try going to the Majors”, in response to a question from pro golfer Mika Miyazato. However, a couple days after he said this, Gen over at Yakyubaka.com found him contradicting himself.
  • Former Yakult Swallow Jaime D’Antona was on the field when Matt Murton broke Ichiro’s hits record, and shared his thoughts on the official Swallows blog. Here’s an excerpt: “It was great also, since it was at Jingu,to see our fans appreciate his achievement and cheer for him with the Tigers fans. That showed a lot of class for our fans and proves we have great baseball fans, not just all or nothing Swallows fans. I think that is important in sports and you don’t see that too often.” I caught this one via the Tokyo Swallows Twitter feed, and recommend following them if you happen to use Twitter.
  • Yoshiaki Kanemura looks back on Hideo Nomo’s historic move to the Dodgers.
  • Like Aoki, Softbank’s Munenori Kawasaki is taking aim at the single-season hits record next year. As part of his offseason training, he’s working on hitting bad pitches. Last year, Kawasaki finished just behind Murton, Aoki and Tsuyoshi Nishioka with a Hawks-record 190 hits.
  • The great Mister-Baseball.com has covered the Australian Baseball League this season, which Kamei and Shuhei Fukuda participated in.
  • Deanna attended some bounenkai (year-end) parties and found this cool glass.
  • Nikkan Sports reports that Rusty Ryal will by paid 100m yen (lazy conversion: $1.2m) and play third base for Yomiuri. Rusty’s dad Mark played for Chunichi.
  • Yomiuri’s Kiyotake commented again on Winter Leagues on the 24th in Sanspo, saying that he had a “request for players from Puerto Rico”, and that he wants to get players “opportunities in competitive games overseas.”

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ChuSpo: Chen to MLB for 2012

» 25 December 2010 » In mlb prospects, npb » 9 Comments

On Christmas Eve (in my time zone, anyway),  Chunichi Sports published the latest on pitcher Wei-Yin Chen, who has been vocal about his desire to move to MLB. Since the report is brief, I’ve translated it in its entirety:

Chen to the Majors Next Offseason

Regarding pitcher Wei-Yin Chen (age 25), who is looking to move to the big leagues, we learned on the 24th that the Chunichi ball club intends to allow him to move to America as a free agent. An official contract is expected in January, as the finer points such as salary are to be worked out. Although it’s assured that he’ll remain next season, it looks like Chunichi will lose their rights to him at the end of next season.

チェン、来オフメジャー

大リーグ移籍を視野に入れるチェン・ウェイン投手(25)に対して、中日球団は来オフに自由契約による米移籍を容認する方向であることが24日、 分かった。年俸など細部については今後詰められ、来年1月に正式契約の見込み。来季残留は確保されたものの、来季終了後にも中日は保有権を失うことになり そうだ。

Some context is missing here, so let me fill that in. Chen has not yet signed a contract for 2011, which is what the January agreement refers to. He will not be eligible for tenured free agency next year, so Chunichi will grant him his release. This is a big advantage for Chen as it lets him avoid the posting system.

Normally I wouldn’t bother to post this, since the level of detail is so low and there are no attributed quotes. But I figure that Chunichi Sports knows something about what’s going on with the Chunichi Dragons, and Chen has been quite vocal this offsesason.

To all who happen to be reading this, Merry Christmas!

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Orix’s Rotation

» 24 December 2010 » In npb » 7 Comments

The Orix Buffaloes have added a few arms this offseason, and have a number of interesting options for their 2011 rotation. Let’s take a look at how things could fit together.

Strong Incumbents

The Orix rotation discussion begins with an established ace and two solid arms.

Chihiro Kaneko — Orix has a legitimate ace in Kaneko. He’s been good in each of the three years he’s spent as a starter, but he reached new heights in 2010 with 17 wins, 204.1 innings, six shutouts and 190 strikeouts.

Hiroshi Kisanuki — Orix bought low on Kisanuki, and were rewarded with a solid 174.1 innings of 3.98 ball. Kisanuki’s been around for a while, so it is a little surprising that 2010 was just the fourth time he’s thrown over 100 innings, and the first since 2007. This may explain why he was strong in the first half but struggled down the stretch. If he can stay healthy again in 2011, he’ll continue to be a solid innings eater.

Kazuki Kondo – I like Kondo, he reminds me of Junichi Tazawa. His 5-10, 4.35 performance in 2010 belies the fact that he took a big step forward with a career-high 133 strikeouts in 142.2 innings. Like Kisanuki, he wore out down the stretch, and was basically done after a 144-pitch outing in early September. Kondo has established a ceiling of 140-150 innings in a season, but he’s a good mid-rotation arm.

Health Question Marks

Then we have a group of talented pitchers with poor track records for health.

Hayato Terahara — Terahara is another personal favorite of mine, and I think Orix absolutely fleeced Yokohama in getting him for Shogo Yamamoto and Go Kida. Terahara had a big breakout year as a starter in 2007, then a solid year as Yokohama’s closer in 2008, but has missed significant time with injuries over the last two seasons. If Orix can coax a healthy season out of him, they’ll have something. It’s a good risk to take.

Satoshi Komatsu — It seems like a long time ago that Komatsu went 15-3, won the Rookie of the Year award, and was chosen for Japan’s WBC team. It’s been a rough, injury-laden couple of years since then. Komatsu did make 13 starts last year, but now seems destined for the bullpen.

Masayuki Hasegawa – Getting Hasegawa for the unused Yuichiro Mukae was an inspired move, but he’s no ace. Realistically, Hasegawa’s contribution will be that he can take the ball every so often and keep his team in the game for five or six innings.

New Imports

Next year, Orix should have a foreigner taking regular rotation turns for the first time since Tom Davey in 2007.

Chan Ho Park – Park is obviously the big name here, having collected 124 wins over a 17-season MLB career. Park signed with Orix to start, so we can assume he’ll open the season in the Buffaloes rotation. There are some question marks though; he’s 37 and hasn’t worked anything close to a full season as a starter since 2006 in San Diego. On the other hand, getting more rest between starts and reduced travel might suit him well.

Alfredo Figaro – And at the other end of the spectrum, there’s Figaro. Figaro has only 31.2 MLB innings under his belt, and is still only 26 years old. Back in 2009, Marc Hulet of FanGraphs put his upside as a back-rotation MLB starter, which makes him an interesting NPB prospect. He’ll bring plus velocity and a good slider to the table.

My Rotation

Assuming health, I’d stack the rotation going into the spring something like this:

  1. Kaneko
  2. Kisanuki
  3. Park
  4. Terahara
  5. Kondo
  6. Figaro

Kaneko’s the ace and Kisanuki earned his #2 spot with his 2010 performance. Park’s MLB track record will probably give him the edge for the next spot, though I like Terahara better if he’s healthy. Kondo is next, and I put Figaro in the last spot because I have decided what I expect from him yet.

The catch is that every pitcher I listed here is a righty. With Yamamoto dispatched in the Terahara trade, Orix doesn’t have an obvious rotation lefty. Shinya Nakayama got a few starts in 2010, but has never been able to stick at the ichi-gun level. Another option might be sophomore Shuichi Furukawa, but he pitched exclusively out of the bullpen in his first professional season.

Overall, Orix has assembled a deep group of starters. It’ll take a few things going right, but Orix could have one of the best rotations in Japan next season.

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Kazuo Matsui and Tsuyoshi Nishioka

» 22 December 2010 » In mlb prospects, nichibei, npb » 4 Comments

This caught my eye: Kazuo Matsui offered up some advice for Tsuyoshi Nishioka publicly in Sanspo. I’ve translated it here:

(1) The effect natural grass has on defense at second base is small. Don’t have negative preconceptions. (2) Be careful about getting spiked during double plays (3) Gather data on batters with speed.

(1)二塁守備に天然芝の影響は少ない。悪い先入観を持つな (2)併殺時の足下を狙うスライディングに要注意 (3)俊足打者のデータ収集

Interesting. Especially that first point. Kazuo is generally thought to have made a poor transition to grass infields, but according FanGraphs he hovered around league average after he got out of New York. Then again, he did specifically mention second, so maybe he’s implying the effect is bigger at shortstop. Or maybe I’m over-thinking it.

I’ve been asked several times this offseason if Nishioka is the next Kazuo Matsui. In each instance, my answer has been the same: Nishioka is not another Kazuo; Kazuo had a significantly better record of success than Nishioka has had. If I had been asked in 2002, I would have said that of the two Matsuis, “Little” had the edge on Godzilla as the better MLB prospect. Both Matsuis really were phenomenal in 2002: Kazuo hit .332/.389/.617 with 88 extra base hits, and Hideki nearly won the Triple Crown with 50 HR, 107 RBI and a .334 BA (Kosuke Fukudome overtook him in September and finished at .343). Personally I thought Kazuo’s athleticism and all-around game would translate better than Hideki’s Yomiuri slugging. MLB expectations were justifiably high for both players, which is why Kazuo’s lack of success Stateside was such a disappointment.

So what does that mean for Nishioka? For me, it doesn’t mean anything. Nishioka is joining a good team, in a less demanding home market, and won’t have a top prospect pushing him like Kazuo did with Jose Reyes. So he’ll be in a position to focus on his main competencies of playing good defense and getting on base. If he can stay healthy and do those two things, he won’t be a disappointment.

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More Acquisitions: Park, Leach

» 20 December 2010 » In nichibei, npb » 18 Comments

More acquisitions to report today…

  • Always-on readers passerby and DeGavph shared links showing the Orix has acquired pitcher Chan Ho Park. Park is the second Korean star Orix has added this offseason, the first being former Yomiuri Giant Seung-Yeop Lee.
  • Meanwhile, I heard from a source that Yokohama has signed lefthanded pitcher Brent Leach. Leach has five years experience in the Dodgers system, including 20.1 innings at the MLB level in 2009.

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New Imports: Jimenez, Lerew, Guzman

» 19 December 2010 » In nichibei, npb » 8 Comments

Edit, December 20 AM: Corrected the details of the Lerew situation. It’s close, but not a done deal yet.

Three new sukketo players will make their way to Japan for the first time in 2011.

  • Readers of this site are well-informed and have already been discussing this one, but I’ll post it anyway. Rakuten has signed pitcher Kelvin Jimenez, who spent last season with Doosan of the KBO. Jimenez won 14 games in Korea in 2010, and will be a rotation option to go with
  • Softbank is close to acquiring pitcher Anthony Lerew. The two sides are working out the finer points of a one-year deal paying about 50m yen (roughly $600k). Softbank is looking for Lerew to improve the righty side of its rotation.
  • Chunichi signed 1B/3B/OF Joel Guzman to a one-year, $500k deal. Comments from Chunichi’s Mori-head coach suggest that they picked up Guzman to keep incumbent 1B slugger Tony Blanco honest. Guzman was once a top prospects for the Dodgers and (Devil) Rays.

And this post features a bonus export:

  • The Cleveland Indians have signed former Yomiuri pitcher Toru Murata. This signing is in the same mold as the Orioles getting Ryohei Tanaka a few years ago; Murat is a former first-round draft pick who never reached the top level in NPB. At 25 he should still have some upside left.

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NPB in English: Ex-Managers, Morimoto, Saito

» 15 December 2010 » In npb » 19 Comments

While there aren’t any NPB games to report on right now, the English language bloggers have still been busy. Here are some of the latest stories updates:

Got any additions? Add them in the comments.

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