Archive > August 2011

More Data

» 27 August 2011 » In npb, NPB Tracker » 3 Comments

Real-life responsibilities have largely kept me away from writing and baseball in general over the last month, but I did find a few hours to add a feature to the data site: pitching lines! Each pitcher’s profile page now includes a complete pitching line for each game he’s appeared in. The caveat is that the data only goes as far back as 2009, which is when I started collecting it.

Here are a couple examples: Ryan Vogelsong, Hayato Terahara and Masahiro Tanaka. Oh, right, and Yu Darvish.

As always, if you see anything that looks wrong, please let me know.

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Stars of Summer Koshien

» 21 August 2011 » In amateur baseball, Koshien » 4 Comments

Now that the 93rd National High School Baseball Championship, or Summer Koshien, has concluded, it’s time to take a look at the players who shined on high school baseball’s biggest stage.

As you may recall, there were many standouts from the Spring Tournament, which was won by Kanagawa Prefecture’s Tokaidai Sagami. The spring champs, however, didn’t make it into the field of 49 finalists.

Nichidai San, who represents West Tokyo (East and West are split in the tournament), came close to titles in both Spring 2010 and 2011 (finalists and semi-finalists, respectively). They were finally crowned champions on Saturday.

Sanko, as they are known, were one of only three teams in the field given the highest pre-tournament rating by all three sports dailies polled (Hochi (Yomiuri), Nikkan Sports and Sponichi). They were prohibitive favorites and are perhaps a bit over-represented represented below. That said, they lived up to the billing and did not wilt under pressure.

Here are some of this tournament’s standout individual performers:

Kentaro Yoshinaga, pitcher, Nichidai San, West Tokyo

Where would Nichidai San be without their ace pitcher? Not basking in the glory of a national championship, for sure. The right-hander started 5 out of his team’s 6 games, pitching all but 4 1/3 innings of the tournament.

Over his 49 2/3 innings, he allowed 42 hits but struck out a healthy 59 batters. He struck out at least double digits in three games, suffering only one major hiccup; a 15 hit, 8 earned run pounding at the hands of Shimane’s Kaisei. His team bailed him out with one of their patented big innings (in this case, a 6-run 6th) and the team advanced.

Yoshinaga finished with a 2.90 tournament ERA and a 1.21 WHIP, both improvements on his Spring tournament numbers.

Despite being tired and laboring at times during the final game, he was still able to pitch his team to an 11-0 win and hold opponents Kosei Gakuin to 5 hits.

Yoshinao Kamata, pitcher, Kanazawa, Ishikawa

My “pitcher to watch” from the Spring, Kamata did not disappoint. Unlike Nichidai San, his Ishikawa team was not blessed with a potent offense. He K’ed 10 in an opening game 4-0 shutout, scattering 5 hits. He repeated the strikeout total in his second start, scattering 8 hits in a 4-2 victory.

In his third start Kamata ran into a very good Narashino team from Chiba, who edged Ishikawa 2-1. In that game his fastball reached 153 KPH, his high velocity for the tournament.

The fireballer struck out 29 over 26 innings, allowing 21 hits and putting up a tidy 1.04 ERA. Unfortunately his offense only provided him with an equal 21 hits to work with.

Yujo Kitagata, pitcher, Karatsu Sho, Saga

Admittedly, Kitagata came out of nowhere for me. His school hadn’t been to Summer Koshien since 1984 and I hadn’t paid too much attention to the Saga Prefectural qualifiers.

Tied for the hardest thrower with Kamata at 153 KPH, his scouting report said he featured a slider, cut fastball, curve, and forkball. I noticed the fastball and a power slider, because he relied on them to mow down opposing batters.

Against Furukawa Kogyo, he allowed just 4 hits and struck out 13, but was wild, walking 6 batters. It added up to three earned runs on his ledger, but his team won 9-4.

They didn’t win their second round game, though, as Sakushin Gakuin beat him 3-2. He struck out 10 again, walked 3, and allowed only 1 earned run. It wasn’t good enough, but he seems to have a promising future ahead.

Shunsuke Michibata, catcher, Chiben Wakayama, Wakayama

Of the highly regarded “big name” catchers (Michibata, Kensuke Kondo and Shuto Takajo) that made it to Koshien, it is debatable whether the Chiben Wakayama backstop had the best tournament. He gets the nod because Kondo and Takajo had truncated tournaments; both their teams lost early on. Nichdai San’s Takahiro Suzuki made terrific plays in the field; I just don’t think his bat is on par with the others.

Michibata was part of a good offense that put up 23 runs in just 3 games. He went 5 for 15, having a nice 3 for 6 day in round 2.

Toshitake Yoko, third base, Nichdai San, West Tokyo

One might say that Sanko’s third sacker is a little overweight. Fortunately for the champs, his bat is also pretty hefty.

In the qualifying tournament leading up to the Koshien finals, Yokoo put up a .500/.571/.792 line over 7 games.

In the finals he went out and improved upon it. He bashed out a ridiculous .625/.690/.708 (15 for 24).

Shun Takayama, right field, Nichdai San, West Tokyo

Another guy whose bat made a huge statement in the tournament. He tattooed pitchers for a line of .500 (13 for 26) while getting on base at a .536 clip and slugging a silly .885. He hit two critical home runs, including one in the final game to dead center.

Honorable mention:

Sho Azegami, center field, Nichdai San, West Tokyo

The team captain played a stellar CF and was one of Sanko’s reliable offensive weapons (6 for 24). His slow start in the early rounds held his numbers down.

Hiroaki Saiuchi, pitcher, Seiko Gakuin, Fukushima

Struck out 16 in his opening game. 19 IP, 16 H, 30 K over tournament (2 games).

Author’s note: For even more coverage and a non-stop Nichidai San love-fest, please visit Deanna Rubin’s wonderful Marinerds, etc. site.

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Orix Adds Ikusei Player Veloz

» 05 August 2011 » In npb » Comments Off

The Orix Buffaloes have announced the signing of Dominican infielder Gregory Veloz to an ikusei contract.

Veloz has four years of minor league ball under his belt, but has never posted impressive numbers.

 

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Game Notes: Yakult vs Chunichi (Aug 3)

» 05 August 2011 » In mlb prospects, npb » 1 Comment

The most interesting game I watched this week was Chunichi and Yakult’s 1-1 tie, played on Wednesday at Nagoya Dome. Here are a few observations from the game.

  • The last time I watched Wei-Yin Chen, he was extremely effective but I wasn’t sure how I felt about him as an MLB prospect. This start was a bit more confidence-inspiring. He showed a broader repertoire, working in his curveball and forkball, but more importantly I saw a little movement on his fastball that I had noticed earlier in the year. It was almost like a shuuto, with a little tailing movement away from righthanded hitters. Chen only tasted trouble in the second inning, when he gave up a series of line drive singles, yielding Yakult’s only run of the game; and in the third, when a series of elevated fastballs to Shingo Kawabata eventually resulted in a triple. On the negative side, he still didn’t have the great 150+ kmph (94+ mph) velocity that he’s shown in previous years, and he did work up in the zone a bit. That will catch up to him against better competition.
  • This was the first time I really watched Yakult rookie Yuki Shinchijyo. He kind of reminds me Lotte starter Yuki Karakawa.
  • Joel Guzman actually looked pretty good at the plate, at least in two of his at bats. His approach seems to have improved: he didn’t wave at bad pitches the way he did early in the season and looked more focused on making contact than trying to hit a home run. He was rewarded for this better approach with a pair of singles. Maybe he was seeing the ball better; Guzman was wearing goggles, which I don’t remember him having early in the year.
  • Wladimir Balentien, on the other hand, is going in the opposite direction. He looked like a complete mess at the plate; just hacking away without any kind of plan and behind everything. Chen struck him out three times, and only the third at bat was remotely competitive.
  • Ryoji Nakata started at first base for the Dragons, in the place of the the injured Tony Blanco. He’s clearly in batter shape than he was last year, though still quite round. It wasn’t a good game for Nakata, as he struck out three times times, including a big spot in the ninth, with runners on second and third and two outs. Nakata looks like he can drive balls thrown over the lower inside part of the strike zone, but pretty clearly struggles with the outside half of the plate.
  • Norichika Aoki’s plate discipline seems to have regressed.
  • Chunichi mascot Doala failed to land his trademark backflip, but a Dragons cheerleader executed one perfectly. In a show of support, visiting Yakult mascot Tsubakuro gave Doala a friendly pat on the back.

 

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2011 NPB Trade Review

» 02 August 2011 » In npb » 4 Comments

As usual, the NPB trade/player acquisition deadline passed with a whimper. There were, however, seven trades consummated over the course of the season, with the Seibu Lions and Yomiuri Giants being the most active on the market. Here’s a rundown.

Takuya Takahama to Lotte, from Hanshin as compensation for signing Hiroyuki Kobayashi – There were rumors that Lotte would wind up with a more established player; instead they got infield prospect Takahama. He’s hitting .215 at ni-gun. Verdict: not sure who else was available to Lotte but it appears they wound up with a very ordinary farmhand.

Naotaka Takehara to Orix, cash to Lotte — Orix has, by and large, done a good job at getting useful contributions out of castoffs from other places. Takehara has not been one of those moves, as the Buffaloes gave him just 16 at bats at the top level. Verdict: Lotte wins, cash and a roster spot for a guy they weren’t going to use.

Shinji Takahashi to Yomiuri, cash to Nippon Ham — Takahashi is once-productive contact-hitting catcher/first baseman who fell on hard times in 2010, and apparently found himself without a role in Hokkaido. Yomiuri seems to have acquired him with pinch hitting in mind, but so far that idea hasn’t panned out as Takahashi only has one hit in 13 at bats. He is, however, hitting well at ni-gun, so maybe he has something left. Verdict: nice buy-low opportunity Yomiuri. We’ll see where he fits in next year.

Takanori Hoshi to Seibu, cash to Yomiuri — This one makes some sense. Hoshi’s path to ichi-gun was effectively blocked by the presence of catchers Shinnosuke Abe and Kazunari Tsuruoka, and Yomiuri has pretty good catching depth at ni-gun. Meanwhile, Seibu is down a man, having lost Toru Hosokawa to free agency last offseason. Hoshi still appears to be the low man on Seibu’s catching totem pole, but he’ll have less blockage from the top levels. Perhaps more importantly to the media, it prevents the Hoshi from realizing his “Kyojin no Hoshi” destiny. Verdict: in theory this seems like a good idea for Seibu.

Chikara Onodera to Yakult, Yuji Onizaki to Seibu — Onodera is a righty reliever with a hard fastball who enjoyed several years of success toward the back of Seibu’s bullpen until falling down the depth chart last season, then off the radar completely this year. Perhaps in anticipation of losing shortstop Hiroyuki Nakajima this offseason, Seibu took this opportunity to move him into urban Tokyo in exchange for infield farmhand Onizaki. Onodera got lit up and demoted at Yakult, while Onizaki has taken over as Seibu’s ni-gun starting shortstop. Verdict: instinctively I prefer this deal for Seibu, though Onizaki is 28 and I have to wonder how much upside he has left.

Hirotaka Egusa to Seibu, Haruki Kurose to Hanshin — Lefty reliever Egusa was a key cog in Hanshin’s excellent bullpen from 2005-2009, before seeing his effectiveness (and velocity) fade in 2010. Supplanted by newcomers like Daiki Enokida, Hanshin swapped him for utility infielder Kurose, who himself had been made redundant with Seibu’s acquisition of Onizaki. This trade was essentially the other half of the Onodera deal, which took place one day earlier. Seibu has been struggling all season to find regular bullpen contributors, so it made sense for them to take a chance on a guy like Egusa, but so far it hasn’t worked out. Egusa only got eight innings at ichi-gun, where he walked nine batters, though he’s been better at ni-gun. Verdict: can’t fault Seibu for trying.

Saburo Ohmura to Yomiuri, Takahito Kudo to Lotte — And in the only trade of the year involving at least one player capable of starting, Yomiuri grabbed Saburo in exchange for reserve OF Kudo. This one is a bit of a head-scratcher. Clearly Yomiuri wanted to inject some life into its lineup. Saburo was not a bad pickup, but he’s another outfielder on the wrong side of 35. Meanwhile, Lotte gets a player in Kudo who has never established an ability to play a large chunk of the season. Oddly, Lotte started Kudo several games immediately after acquiring him, indicating that the were interested in him as a starter. Verdict: talent for talent, a win for Yomiuri.

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