Archive > November 2011

Re-Run: Nihongo Lesson – Hot Stove Lexicon

» 23 November 2011 » In Uncategorized » 4 Comments

I first published this about a year ago, but it’s relevant again this autumn.


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 Nihongodict.com.

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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Yokohama to Post Sanada

» 22 November 2011 » In mlb prospects, nichibei » 2 Comments

Here’s one I didn’t see coming: according to the Jiji Press, Yokohama has agreed to post righthanded reliever Hiroki Sanada. This will be Yokohama’s first usage of the posting system, as previous BayStars alumni Kazuhiro Sasaki and Takashi Saito moved MLB via free agency.

I don’t expect Sanada will be a hot commodity on the posting market this offseason. He’s never been a strikeout machine, but he dipped to just 18 over 49 innings of work in 2011. That may be explained by a drop in velocity. But more importantly, I doubt he drew much scouting attention over the course of the season, as few would have anticipated him being posted. As such, he’s probably headed for a minimal posting fee and a minor league contract.

As a side rant, this is exactly the kind of player the posting system works against. If Sanada were a free agent, he could fly to Arizona and throw a few bullpen seasons for scouts and potentially find a fit for himself. Instead, he’ll have to hope that a team that has already seen him chooses to bid during the four days they are allowed to.

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Game Notes: Nippon Series Games 6 & 7

» 21 November 2011 » In mlb prospects, npb » 2 Comments

And so, my 12th season as an NPB fan has come to a close. Here’s how it happened:

Game 6 – Chunichi wins, 2-1:

  • Both starters, Kazuki Yoshimi and Tsuyoshi Wada, look tired. It’s been a long haul for them: like everyone else, they started camp in early February and experienced the delayed start to the season; but both also logged over 180 innings over the course of the year, plus three postseason starts each.
  • The guest commentator for game six? Yu Darvish. He didn’t really say anything interesting, at least not that I noticed.
  • Softbank started a better offensive lineup, with Hiroki Kokubo playing first base and Nobuhiko Matsunaka DHing. In the first two games at Yahoo Dome, Kokubo DHed while Shuhei Fukuda played first, with Matsunaka on the bench.
  • There was a great Softbank Hawks commercial with the Hawks players hitting line drives to each other.
  • Toru Hosokawa’s flyout in the third inning seemed like it would have been a home run with the old ball.
  • Chunichi got all of their offense out of the way in the first inning, courtesy of a two-run Kazuhiro Wada triple. After that, they never mounted much of a threat.
  • Softbank’s bats were equally lifeless, more so than in any game since their listless effort against Wei-Yin Chen in game one.
  • Four of the seven games resulted in a final score of 2-1.
  • I must admit… my notes are a little lacking from this one… so I must again turn to Michael Westbay’s write-up. Plus, he has a YouTube video of that commercial I mentioned.
Game 7 — read until the end:
  • Chunichi started Daisuke Yamai, the righty who pitched eight perfect innings in the decisive game five of the 2007 Nippon Series, only let closer Hitoki Iwase finish it off. Yamai only managed a third of a perfect inning this time, giving up a single to Yuichi Honda with one out in the first.
  • Softbank entrusted game seven to ace Toshiya Sugiuchi. Coincidentally, in September Sugiuchi took a no-hitter through six innings against Orix, but volunteered to leave the mound.
  • Like the game six starters, neither Yamai nor Sugiuchi scared anyone with their fastballs.
  • Critical point number one: bottom of the third. Softbank loaded the bases with Hitoshi Tamara singling, Yuya Hasegawa doubling on what was very nearly a great catch by Chunichi center fielder Yohei Oshima, and Katsuki Yamazaki walking on four straight bunt attempts. Hiromitsu Ochiai immediately went to his bullpen to play the matchup, bringing in lefty Masato Kobayashi to face Munenori Kawasaki and Honda, the Maximo Nelson to face righties Uchikawa and Kokubo. Kobayashi walked in a run, but got Honda, and Nelson induced a couple of lazy flyouts, so the strategy worked out pretty well. Hasegawa could have scored on Uchi’s flyout, but Softbank played it safe. Score: 1-0 Softbank.
  • Critical point number two: bottom of the fourth. Matsunaka drew a walk and Akiyama immediately took the bat out of one of his best hitter’s hands by having Matsuda bunt. After a Tamura line out, Chunichi pitched around Hasegawa for Yamazaki, and he made ‘em pay with a sharp single to right, scoring Matsunaka. Then Kawasaki ended the rally with a very good at bat that resulted in a line out to left field. Score: 2-0 Softbank.
  • Ryosuke Hirata had an atrocious stolen base attempt in the fourth, after reaching base on a chopper in Sugiuchi’s direction that took a bad bounce.
  • Critical point number three: top of the seventh. With one out, Tony Blanco bounced a grounder back up the middle for a single. Kazuhiro Wada struck out without much resistance, but Hirata drew a walk to give the Dragons a runner in scoring position for the first time in the game. Then Sugiuchi struck out Atsushi Fujii to end the threat. It would be Chunichi’s last of the year. Score: 2-0 Softbank.
  • Like the rest of the series, Chunichi’s lineup went down without a fight. They scattered four singles (one of which was a swinging bunt) and a couple walks. And the seventh was the only inning when two runners on at the same time, which was the only time they got as far as 2nd base. In general they had bad at bats and didn’t force Softbank’s defense to make tough plays.
  • One of Chunichi’s coaches seemed to be using an iPad or something similar during the game.
  • Cabrera again struck out in a pinch hitting appearance, off Takuya Asao. His only good swing was on a first pitch fastball. He fouled it off, and he knew he missed his pitch.
  • Critical point number four: bottom of the seventh. Cabrera struck out, Kawasaki walked, Honda bunted him over (great play by Asao), and Uchikawa singled him in. I think this was the only time in the series that Akiyama got his desired result with a bunt. Score: 3-0 Softbank.
  • Softbank did threaten again with two outs in the eighth, but nothing came of it.
  • Brian Falkenborg took a line drive off his wrist in the top of the ninth, but was okay. In his place, a relay of Masahiko Morifuku and Tadashi Settsu closed out the win.
  • Softbank owner Masayoshi Son handed what looked like money to the guy standing next to him. Akiyama shed tears, and was tossed seven times in a ceremonial douage.
  • And so it was that the Hawks took game seven 3-0, and thus the Nippon Series, their first Nippon-ichi in eight years and first under Softbank’s ownership.

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Farsa Darvish on Yu’s Status

» 19 November 2011 » In mlb prospects, nichibei, npb » 2 Comments

Yu Darvish was in Fukuoka with his manager Hideki Kuriyama on November 19 to provide commentary for game 6 of the Nippon Series. Discussion about the posting system was strictly off limits with Yu, but that didn’t stop Darvish’s father Farsa from commenting. Here’s what Farsa had to say:

“Yu and I are talking about having a family meeting once the Nippon Series is over.”

“At this point it’s about 50-50.”

Farsa did a longer interview a few weeks ago, which is available in English over at YakyuBaka. The Nippon Series wraps up on November 20.

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Game Notes: Nippon Series Games 3, 4, 5

» 19 November 2011 » In npb » Comments Off

So the day job kept me busy this week and I didn’t completely dissect these games or even take great notes, but I do have a few observations to share on the Nagoya leg of this year’s Nippon Series journey.

Game 3 – Softbank wins, 4-2:

  • Moving Tadashi Settsu into the rotation was probably the smartest move Softbank made this season. He is, simply put, a good pitcher. He throws strikes and always seems to make the right pitch.
  • Chunichi starter Maximo Nelson, on the other hand…. has a good arm but lacks Settsu’s polish. in Game three he seemed a little rough and let himself get into a lot of hitter’s counts.
  • Hitoki Tamura, who I ruthlessly criticized for his lackluster at bats in games one and two, went 3-4 with a home run. So did catcher Toru Hosokawa.
  • One of the fans in Softbank’s ouen-dan section kind of looked like Nagisa Arakaki.
  • Softbank manager Koji Akiyama took it easy on the bunting in game three and was rewarded with 12 hits from his lineup, nine at the expense of Nelson.
  • After taking losses in games one and two, Softbank closer Takahiro Mahara was benched in favor of Brian Falkenborg. Falkenborg spared Akiyama’s blood pressure by recording a save.

Game 4 – Softbank wins, 2-1:

  • I’ll have to admit that while I watched this game, I didn’t play particularly close attention to it. Michael Westbay has a much better recap.
  • Softbank got all the scoring they needed in the first. After allowing Softbank to string together a couple of singles and score a run, Chunichi starter Yudai Kawai induced a double play ball, but shortstop Masahiro Araki held on to his throw for too long and it skipped wide of first baseman Tony Blanco. This allowed Softbank’s second run to score and that was all they would need.
  • The hero for Softbank was corkscrewing lefty reliever Masahiko Morifuku, who bailed starter DJ Houlton out of a no-out, bases loaded jam in the 6th. Morifuku is a lot of fun to watch.
  • Falky recorded a six-out save in this one.

Game 5 – Softbank wins, 5-0:

  • Wei Yin Chen showed better velocity in Game 5 than he did in the series opener, but overall wasn’t nearly as good. He wasn’t particularly sharp with his breaking stuff and didn’t even throw it much, and worked up in the zone with his fastball. Overall he was a lot more hittable. He got singled to death in the 7th and 8th innings, but he was throwing pitches that Softbank’s hitters could make contact with.
  • Possibly the head-scratching-est move of the Series was made by Ochicai in the 8th. With the bases loaded and none out, Ochiai pulled Chen in favor of reliever Junichi Kawahara. Removing Chen was the right move, why bring in retread Kawahara instead of bullpen ace Takuya Asao? Chunichi was down 2-0 at that point, but still. Kawahara was on the mound for Softbank’s next three runs, all charged to Chen.
  • Motonobu Tanishige finished the game 0-4 and has still gotten hit safely in the Nippon Series.
  • Masaaki Koike left the game in the top of the fourth, after making a great, wall-crashing catch on a long fly ball off the bat of Nobuhiro Matsuda.
  • Softbank starter Hiroki Yamada comes close to violating NPB’s ban on two-stage deliveries with his double clutch windup. I don’t think I had previously seen him pitch this year. He wasn’t totally consistent with the double-clutch, but he did manage to keep Chunichi’s lineup quiet through six innings of work.
  • The one bullet Yamada dodged was in 6th, when he surrendered a double to Araki and Kazuhiro Ibata pulled a hard line drive just foul down the third base line before bouncing out to Kawasaki at shortstop.
  • Alex Cabrera looked awful yet again as a pinch hitter in the 7th.
  • Settsu pitched an inning of relief in the 8th, after having started game three, and with a  5-0 lead Akiyama let Mahara mop up the 9th.

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Rasner Back to Rakuten for 2012

» 18 November 2011 » In nichibei, npb » Comments Off

Earlier in the evening, I heard from a source that pitcher Darrell Rasner has agreed to a deal to return to the Rakuten Golden Eagles for 2012. I was able to confirm the deal with agent Matt Sosnick, who said Rasner will earn $1.5m plus performance bonuses.

Rasner performed well in 2011 after converting to relief, with a 2.04 ERA in 53 innings pitched. 2012 will be his fourth season with Rakuten.

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Game Notes: Nippon Series Games 1 & 2

» 14 November 2011 » In npb » 9 Comments

Lots of text today, so no intro here, just a few observations I’ve made about the Nippon Series so far. The ordering might be a little out of whack but so be it.

Game 1 — Chunichi wins 2-1 in ten innings:

  • Tsuyoshi Wada took a no-hitter into 7th, when he surrendered a home run to Kazuhiro Wada. Wada nibbled a bit and Chunichi had better at-bats the third time through the lineup, but he had his command and only gave up one hard hit ball aside from Kazuhiro’s home run.
  • Wei Yin Chen looked different than every other time I’ve seen him, including the two games I watched this year. The Chen that I’m used to throws a fastball in the 145-150 kmph range, a slider, a two-seam/shuuto with some late horizontal movement, and a forkball with inconsistent command, and works up and down the inside and outside parts of the zone. The Chen I saw on Saturday gave up a lot of fastball velocity, maxing out at 145 kmph but frequently working below 140 kmph, but with better command than usual. Yahoo’s data called Chen’s primary breaking pitch a slider, but it moved more like a changeup and worked extremely well.
  • Wada’s line: 8 IP, 29 BF, 119 pitches, 2 hits, 1 HR, 8 K, 2 BB, 1 R, 1 ER.
  • Chen’s line: 8 IP, 29 BF, 124 pitches, 4 hits, 0 HR, 11 K, 2 BB, 1 R, 1 ER.
  • Softbank’s lineup was disappointing. I thought they would start to recognize Chen’s good breaking stuff and wait for his average fastballs as the game progressed, but they actually got worse after their first time through the lineup. Hitoshi Tamura and Munenori Kawasaki were particularly bad in the later innings.
  • Yahoo Dome’s artificial turf looked like a pretty bad playing surface. Kawasaki took an error on a hard line drive that seemed to take an odd bounce, and then made a nice play on a softer hit up the middle that took an unpredictable bounce.
  • Chunichi won this game with home runs: the aforementioned Wada’s no-hitter breaker-upper, and Masaaki Koike’s winning shot in the 10th off an errant Takahiro Mahara forkball. Koike’s home run immediately followed some stats on the television broadcast about the lack of homers in NPB this season.
  • Mini-rant: Kawasaki led off the bottom of the first with a single, and what’s manager Koji Akiyama do? Immediately bunt him over, with a good on-base guy. I get that these are tight games, but why take the bat of your guy’s hands in the first?
Game 2 — Chunichi again wins 2-1 in ten innings:

  • Started by two of my favorite pitchers to watch: Toshiya Sugiuchi and Kazuki Yoshimi.
  • Sugiuchi didn’t quite have his best swing-and-miss stuff, like the last couple of times I’ve seen him. He had his pop-out stuff.
  • Sugiuchi’s one big mistake pitch was a positively fat 136 kmph fastball up in the zone in the 7th inning, which Ryosuke Hirata smacked off the left field fence for a double. Another meter or so and that ball would have been gone and the Dragons wouldn’t have needed Mahara to choke again.
  • Yoshimi wasn’t really at his best, but he generated a ton of groundballs and quieted each of Softbank’s threats until leaving with the bases loaded in the 7th. Takuya Asao mostly bailed him out, allowing only one run on a Kawasaki single, but the damage might have been worse if Softbank’s third base coach had sent Tamura instead of holding him at third. It looked like he had a chance to score.
  • Softbank again played a conservative game — lots of sacrifice bunting, holding Tamura.
  • Chunichi Motonobu Tanishige still has a good arm at age 40.
  • Hiromitsu Ochiai had the umpires check the tape on Seiichi Uchikawa’s bat in the third inning. Uchi changed bats, then lined to center on Yoshimi’s first pitch.
  • Softbank’s lineup isn’t executing. In game two they had runners in on base in each of the first five innings, including runners in scoring position in the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th, and failed to score each time.
  • Mahara wasn’t that bad in game 2. He lost, but his only really poor at-bat was when he walked Kazuhiro Ibata without really challenging him.
  • Highlights from 1999 Daiei-Chunichi Nippon Series — Akiyama was awesome as a player. Rodney Pedraza showed up in the highlights too.
  • For some reason I kept expecting to see Norihiro Nakamura emerge from Chunichi’s bench during game 2.
  • Another mini-rant: After Hiroki Kokubo lead off the 2nd with a double, Akiyama had Yuya Hasegawa, another good contact hitter, bunt him to third. Kokubo was stranded there after another listless strikeout by Tamura and ground out from Shuhei Fukuda. Akiyama bunted Kokubo over after his leadoff single in the 4th as well, with equivalent futility. Ironically the bunt attempt I agreed with was with Tamura in the 7th, but he couldn’t get it down and wound up singling with two strikes.
Overall, I’d say that Ochiai is out-managing Akiyama so far. The Dragons are clearly making better adjustments at the plate throughout the game, and though Akiyama can’t really be faulted for Mahara choking, Ochiai has created better matchups with his bullpen.

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Game Notes: PL Climax Series Final Stage Game 3

» 11 November 2011 » In npb » 5 Comments

Yes, this happened a week ago, but it was too good not to write about.

Game three of the Pacific League Climax Series Final Stage doesn’t usually drink beer, but when it does, it prefers Dos Equis. The deciding game of the Pacific League’s Climax Series had nearly everything, including a somewhat strange, anti-climactic ending.

First the good stuff: both starting pitchers were phenomenal. Seibu had the good version of Hideaki Wakui, who held the tough Softbank lineup hitless until the sixth inning. It’s easy to tell when Wakui has his good stuff: he tends to hit 145 kmph or so with his fastball while keeping the ball down, and have sharp command of his slider. He had both of those things against the Hawks. Maybe it was the level of competition or the fact that this was an elimination game, but he looked like a different pitcher than the one who took the mound against Nippon Ham a week earlier.

Softbank starter Toshiya Sugiuchi never really threatened for a no-hitter, but he matched Wakui’s zeroes through regulation. Sugiuchi has stopped trying to throw hard — his top fastball of the night was arough 138 kmph — but his command was masterful and every one of his pitches had movement. He looked a lot like he did the last time I saw him, about a month ago when he no-hit a hapless Orix lineup through six innings. Anyway, Sugiuchi scattered a few soft singles early in the game but cruised through the later innings, retiring 17 batters in a row from the fourth to the ninth inning.

Then the tears came. With one out inn the top of the 10th, Sugi surrendered back-to-back doubles to Okawari Nakamura and Jose Fernandez, resulting in the first run of the game for either side. With that, Softbank manager Koji Akiyama decided to turn to his excellent bullpen to preserve a shot at the win, and Sugiuchi broke down as he departed the game. This wasn’t really out of character, as Sugi’s known to shed a tear or two, but it was just the beginning of an emotional roller coaster.

After Softbank relievers Takehito Kanazawa and Masahiko Morifuku did what they’ve been doing all season (get guys out), Seibu sent Wakui out for the bottom of the 10th. Even this was a bit unusual. Shogo Saito, who had pinch run for DH Fernandez, stayed in the game to player center, while Wakui entered the lineup in the ninth spot, in place fo center fielder Masato Kumashiro. So Seibu played the rest of the game without a DH, a bit of strategy that makes sense given NPB stops games at 12 innings.

Anyway, it looked like Wakui was going to close things out for the Lions, after getting a pop-out, single and ground out on his first three batters of the 10th. Then Yuya Hasegawa doubled home pinch runner Shuhei Fukuda, tying the game at 1-1, and Wakui had his own tearful exit.

With the game tied going in to the 11th, I will point you back to the all-too-prescient Passerby’s comment from my predictions post:

Because there were many of them this year, this needs to be mentioned. In the Climax Series, a game can go up to the 12th inning. A tie goes to the team that has a better record in the regular season. (I’m actually waiting for an “unnecessary” bottom of the 12th, which I am not sure they will play.)

Both sides failed to score in the 11th, though Softbank threatened. With a man on second, Seibu walked top batter Seiichi Uchikawa, and brought in submarining closer Kazuhisa Makita to face brawny slugger Alex Cabrera. Cabrera was no match for Makita’s array of soft stuff, and the game proceeded to the 12th, still tied 1-1.

Softbank sent out closer Takahiro Mahara “close” the game, and he did his job, surrendering a leadoff single but nothing further. And so it was that for the first time (I assume), a postseason series was clinched before the final game was completed.

The Softbank Hawks were set to charge the field when Mahara completed the top of the 12th, but the mood-killing home plate umpire put the brakes on things, and made the Hawks bat for their half of the 12th. It didn’t matter, as the already-defeated Lions came out with a forgivably lethargic effort. Makita immediately surrendered a couple of hits, and the game officially ended in a 2-1 walkoff win for the Hawks.

Then, finally, the beer kake could begin. Alas, it was probably not Dos Equis.

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NPB Bullet Points: Coming & Going

» 08 November 2011 » In mlb prospects, nichibei, npb » 16 Comments

Looks like we’re in for a busy offseason on the posting market. Here’s the latest.
  • Like last year, Seibu shortstop Hiroyuki Nakajima will again ask his management to send him to MLB via the posting system this offseason. This year, Seibu is expected to grant his wish. Nikkan Sports keeps mentioning the Giants, Dodgers, Diamondbacks and Orioles as possibly interested teams, but it’s not clear where that information is coming from.
  • Yakult Swallows centerfielder Norichika Aoki has also petitioned his team to post him, according to Toshiyuki Tachimatsu of the Mainichi News.
  • As of October 26, Chunichi lefty Wei-Yin Chen was 50/50 on moving to MLB, according to the Chunichi Shimbun.
  • Nikkan Sports reports that Hiroshima has an offer out to Hiroki Kuroda. Kuroda commented: “I’m happy that they would evaluate my contributions like that. Naturally, I’m happy. A feeling that they really want to win came across. (Hiroshima’s competitiveness this season) has come to a frustrating place, to a place where they are one step away… I’m very happy I got an offer from the Carp.”
  • A number of NPB teams have interest in Kei Igawa, among them Rakuten and Orix, who are both managed by men who managed Igawa with the Hanshin Tigers.

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