A Good Season For The BayStars

» 31 May 2011 » In npb »

The Yokohama BayStars have an impressive track record of futility. They’ve finished in the Central League’s basement seven of the last nine years, twice finishing more than 40 games out of first place. The February issue of Yakyu Kozo featured a detailed analysis of Yokohama’s 2010 futility. Among other things, the ‘Stars were the worst or second to worst in the Central League in scoring first in games, winning percentage after scoring first, wining percentage after failing to score first, advancing runners, scoring with runners in scoring position and less than two outs, and inducing swinging strikes on pitches outside the strike zone.

After an offseason that saw the BayStars wave goodbye to their best pure hitter, their best arm, and a productive middle infield bat, I figured another last place finish was the safest bet in Japan this year. So far Yokohama has matched this expectation, in 6th place with a 14-22-3 record. But it’s more competitive last place, with the bright spots being that so far Hama’s offense leads the Central League with 28 home runs and 133 runs scored. Their pitching is still way behind the rest of the league though, and that’s probably not a situation that will improve much during the season.

So the focus in Yokohama has to be on finding and developing the players who are going to be on the next good BayStars team. Some of them may be on the roster already, and here’s what I would consider a good season for the BayStars.

  • Development from Takayuki Makka, Kota Suda, Atori, Kisho Kagami and any other young pitcher that happens to be around.

Pitching has been the core of Yokohama’s problem for so long that pitching has the be the top priority, particularly developing the best prospects from the last two or three drafts. I don’t really see a potential ace among this group, but if three of these guys become useful pitchers, that’ll be a pretty big win.

  • Kentaro Takasaki‘s first eight starts not being a fluke.

I saw Takasaki pitch in relief a season or two ago and was not impressed. I saw him start a game against Chunichi early this season and was extremely impressed. Nothing he threw was overwhelming, but he seemed to throw the right pitch each time while I was watching. Through eight starts, Takasaki has a 2.60 ERA in 52 innings, with 36 K, 15 BB, 3 HR. The ERA is going to go up, but if he has another 120 quality innings in him it’ll be the best season a Yokohama starter has had in a while.

  • Getting some kind of sustainable contribution from at least one of their young foreign pitchers: Clayton Hamilton, Brandon Mann, Luis Gonzalez, Kuan-Yu Chen, and I-Cheng Wang.

The foreign pitcher section of Yokohama’s roster is mostly populated with development project types. I would be lying if I claimed to know much about any of these guys, aside from the observation that they mostly completely lack MLB experience and mostly lack upper minors experience. Finding useful innings from one of these guys over the next few seasons will be a plus. Hamilton’s heart seems to be in the right place, I’d love to see him to well.

  • Development from Keijiro Matsumoto or Sho Aranami.

Center field has been a hole for Yokohama since… when? Tatsuhiko Kinjo’s most recent good season? Hitoshi Tamura? Tatsuya Shimozono was actually respectable with the bat last year, but hasn’t played at all this season. I don’t really think Hichori Morimoto is a starter any more, though he is a useful player. Matsumoto and Aranami have both up up ugly lines at ni-gun this season; one of those guys turning things around and becoming a viable outfield option would be a major depth boost.

  • A good draft.

Most of the guys I’ve written about fall in to a supporting cast category. Yokohama needs more stars, particularly a frontline starting pitcher. There are a couple of big arms in this year’s draft, and they’ll need to score one of them.

I’d love to see a more competitive NPB, one that doesn’t have any doormats. With Orix showing signs of life these last few years, we’re only a healthy BayStars away from such a scenario.

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  1. Patrick
    01/06/2011 at 1:27 am Permalink

    “So the focus in Yokohama has to be on finding and developing the players who are going to be on the next good BayStars team.”

    Then they ought to be checking local maternity wards because Yokohama’s next good season is scheduled for 2036. Chances are, if any current players are going to be involved, it will be as coaches.

    Even when the BayStars won in 1998, the team had underwhelming pitching (with, of course, the exception of Sasaki who might have been that year the most impressive closer I have ever seen; you could sense the desperation of opponents if they were behind from about the 6th inning on because they knew they were running out of outs before Sasaki would take over). Their offense, though, was incredible. It was the year before Rose’s big season and the team was very balanced without a lot of power bit with lots of guys who would occasionally knock one over the wall. There was no easy out anywhere. They hardly ever bunted (Boy do I miss Gondo). They just got hit after hit after hit after hit after hit. What a team! And what a disappointment they have become. I have always wondered if Yokohama just got lucky back then with Sasaki and Rose, etc. or if management was actually trying.

    Why, oh why, did they have to destroy it all by bringing the horrible Mori? What would 1999 batting champion Kinjo’s career have been like if Mori had not taken the bat out of his hands and put him in a virtual straightjacket?

    Things might have been very different… I might not be a Ham fan today bitching about Nashida…

    It is sad that this once exciting team (the 1997-1999 BayStars are my favorite of all time) has dropped so low that 6th place with the ever-so-slight chance of 5th and a few possibly decent prospects qualifies as a “good season”.

    Thanks, Patrick, for the long-anticipated Yokohama content.

  2. Patrick
    01/06/2011 at 7:37 am Permalink

    Actually, the Gondoh period between 1997-2001 was the most successful run in team history, with five consecutive A-class finishes. Gondoh only had three of those years, but I still associate him with that team. The only other time the Yokohama franchise had more than one consecutive year in the top three was under Kaoru Betto, from 1968-70, when the team was called the Whales. Betto also held the helm for five seasons, the last Yokohama manager to run the team that long. It has been forty years since Yokohama has kept the same manager for more than three seasons.

  3. Patrick
    01/06/2011 at 7:44 am Permalink

    And I guess to add to that, a fifth place finish with no contribution from the younger players would not count as a success for me.

  4. Patrick
    01/06/2011 at 10:25 am Permalink

    The only other time the Yokohama franchise had more than one consecutive year in the top three was under Kaoru Betto, from 1968-70

    Since you went down the memory lane, I felt the urge to point out a minor thing. Those are Kawasaki years. The Yokohama franchise started in 1978.

  5. Patrick
    Patrick Wilson
    01/06/2011 at 3:09 pm Permalink

    Talking about the draft, could somebody make a list of the top 5 to 10 top prospect for october’s draft? I know there is Sugano, Fujioka, Nomura and Itoh from the college ranks but who else? I wish there was more info about it…


  6. Patrick
    01/06/2011 at 8:55 pm Permalink

    passerby — thanks for the clarification. I actually must admit ignorance; I didn’t know the Whales had been in Kawasaki prior to Yokohama.

    Patrick — here are the top 3 HS, university and industrial draft prospects, from the same issue of Yakyu Kozo that I cited in the article. Take ’em with a grain of salt:

    1. Shuhei Takahashi, IF Tokai-dai Kofu
    2. Takuro Ito, P Teikyo
    3. Tatsuya Maruko, IF Koriku (? I’m gonna be too lazy to look that one up here)

    1. Tomoyuki Sugano, P Tokai
    2. Takahiro Fujioka, P Toyo
    3. Yusuke Nomura, P Meji

    1. Reo Moriyasu, P Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Kobe
    2. Takashi Iha, P Hitachi
    3. Takao Suwabe, P Honda

  7. Patrick
    Patrick Wilson
    01/06/2011 at 9:07 pm Permalink

    Very nice of you. I figure Yakyu Kozo is the Baseball America of japanese baseball? Is there a english version of that site or magazine and if not I guess you are able to read kanji???

    I’m always really interested in amateur baseball and since the NPB graduates quickly the young draftees it’s really cool!


  8. Patrick
    01/06/2011 at 10:03 pm Permalink

    Nice article. I do think Suda is going to be good. Signing Morimoto was a pointless move that almost screamed Pittsburgh Pirates or the like. I enjoy watching Sledge play. That’s a positive I guess. As far as the foreign arms. Hamilton may get there, but he just doesn’t seem to have very good stuff. I’m not sure if Mann has made any non Ni-Gun appearances. But those two guys still seem to be really strange choices if you ask me. Losing Leach (who actually had a decent chance to contribute IMO) doesn’t help.

  9. Patrick
    Michael Westbay
    02/06/2011 at 8:13 am Permalink

    Regarding Hichori, my understanding is that his presence is what has sparked Murata to actually try hard this season. The difference between Murata’s attitude last year and this year is like night and day. Last year he never ran out a ground ball, this year he’s giving his all every time.

    Anyway, what I’ve heard (yes, this is all hearsay) is that starting in Spring training, many of the team members were having a positive reaction to Morimoto’s presence, and Murata actually started feeling like his leadership (having been made team captain) was being challenged. So Murata decided that the best way to lead was by example, and the turn around has been very positive.

    Yes, Morimoto’s sub-Mendoze-line average is a bit of a pain. I’ve liked his defensive efforts (especially over Yoshimura who I feel was responsible for two losses with his play in right), and he has hit a few very timely hits.

  10. Patrick
    02/06/2011 at 2:36 pm Permalink

    Well, Hichori was always a “mood maker” with the Fighters more than anything else — but his defense fit in very well for the Sapporo Dome. Plus he’s so goofy that you can’t help but smile around him, he really does loosen up his teammates.

    You know, I saw a LOT of Kagami and Suda in college and thought they were both fantastic. Kagami moreso only because he had a lot of stamina, he almost always had to pitch a complete game for Hosei because they didn’t have that many great pitchers at the time. I still think they might have blown out his arm something awful his sophomore year, but he seemed to have come back from it well enough — and developing his kickass changeup certainly won him a lot of games in his 3rd and 4th years. Anyway, I would hope that at least one of them works out well in the long run. Atori was amazing in high school — seriously — I remember seeing him when he was just a sophomore at Teikyo, and he already looked like he could go pro right then. Makka, I only saw him a few times at ni-gun, but he’s a huge lefty and well, as Westbay and some others know, I have reasons of my own for wanting him to succeed — he’s a really great kid. But he’s also super-tall and left-handed, and has a lot of space to develop.

    As for your top 3 — you know, I love Takuro Itoh, I really do — I saw him at Koshien as a freshman for Teikyo — but I’ve got to wonder, WTF is up with the fact that Teikyo hasn’t gone to Koshien SINCE then? He’s supposed to be their fireballing ace, but clearly isn’t dominating, and I haven’t been able to get to a game in quite a while, obviously. I kinda wonder how high Nichidai San’s Kentaro Yoshinaga is on the radar — he clearly has been winning a lot more games than Itoh is.

    The college “top 5” this year, at least on the cover of Shube’s magazine, were Nomura, Fujioka, Sugano, and then also Hayata Itoh (OF, Keio) and Yuhei Nakaushiro (P, Kinki). Itoh has been TEARING UP THE BIG 6 LEAGUE — he literally finished one hit short of the triple crown, in that he only batted .405/.527/.857 with 4 homers and 17 RBIs, and Yuji Naka batted .418. Itoh is seriously the best pure hitter in the Big 6 league right now. And he knows pi to over 100 places, too 🙂

    Patrick Wilson, btw, Yakyu Kozo is not Baseball America, it’s just a random baseball magazine, different issues have different themes. If you don’t know better you’d think it was a comic book if you saw it on the shelf, seriously. There are a whole ton of baseball magazines that come out there, and they all kind of focus on different things. For prospects, you want to look at either the specific draft issues of things like Shube or the draft issues put out by various newspapers, or to just read the specific HS baseball magazines or college or industrial (like Grand Slam).

  11. Patrick
    Patrick Wilson
    08/06/2011 at 4:38 pm Permalink

    Thanks Deanna for the details!