Archive > February 2012

Darvish to Debut on the 7th

» 27 February 2012 » In mlb » 3 Comments

According to Sanspo, Yu Darvish will make his Texas Rangers spring debut on March 7, against the Padres in Peoria. The plan is for Darvish start the game and to throw up to two innings.

Alas, I won’t be in Arizona for spring training this year, so I won’t be able to attend.

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NPB in English: Policy Shifts, Player Movements, KBO

» 26 February 2012 » In kbo, mlb prospects, npb » 7 Comments

There’s plenty of excellent English-language content being authored on Japanese and Asian baseball. Here are links to a few examples.

I’m always on the lookout for new blogs and sources of content on Japanese baseball. If you know of any that I don’t link to, let me know.

 

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NPB Bullet Points: Spring Training Notes

» 14 February 2012 » In nichibei, npb » 9 Comments

While pitchers and catchers are just now showing up to MLB camps, NPB spring training has been in full swing for a couple of weeks. Here’s a collection of random news stories from around the league. All links are in Japanese.

  • Chunichi has signed outfielder Victor Diaz, who had been in camp with the team on a try out basis. Diaz has MLB experience with the Mets and Rangers and played in Mexico last season.
  • Sumo wrestler Hakuho spent a day in camp with Yomiuri. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.
  • Hanshin righty Randy Messenger tweeted about a soba restaurant he enjoyed.
  • Japan newcomers Scott Mathieson and John Bowker got to try eel.
  • A Sponichi report from February 8th indicates that the Nippon Ham Fighters will give Korean lefty Yoon-Hee Nam a tryout. Nam, 24, was a first-round pick of Doosan in 2006, but opted to sign with the Texas Rangers instead. He pitched five seasons in the Rangers’ system, reaching high A in 2010.
  • Softbank is working out two young Dominican pitchers, Juan Carlos Paniagua and Wanel Mesa.
  • One of the more interesting positional battles (for me anyway) is for Orix’s cleanup spot, where newcomer Dae-Ho Lee is taking on incumbent T-Okada. Lee has the lead in the “huge gut” category.
  • NPB legends Masaichi Kaneda and Katsuya Nomura turned up at Yomiuri’s camp. They both have quite an eye for fashion, particularly Nomura.

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Changes for 2012: Yakult Swallows

» 11 February 2012 » In npb » 1 Comment

Coming: Lastings Milledge, Orlando Roman, Kenta Abe, Tatsuo Kinoshita, Itsuki Shoda

Going: Norichika Aoki, Aaron Guiel, Hirotoshi Ishii, Osamu Hamanaka, Ryo Kawashima, Josh Whitesell

Staying: Wladimir Balentien, Tony Barnette, Chang Yong Lim

First a admission: whatever I write here won’t be as good as what you’ll find at TokyoSwallows.com. That site’s entirely in English, so click the link without fear. It was tempting to not write this at all and just stop with that link, but onward I shall press.

Yakult’s offseason boils down to this: Norichika Aoki out, Lastings Milledge in.

In fulfilling Norichika Aoki’s long held wish and sending him to MLB via the posting system, Yakult waved good by to one of the statistically best hitters in team history, but a guy who’s OPS fell from .944 to .718 with the introduction of the new ball. Milledge might not take over center, but he’ll step in to an outfield spot left open by Aoki and should bring a bit more power, a bit less contact, and a bit less defensive prowess.

And that’s pretty much it for offseason moves for Yakult. I thought they could have used another starter, but there weren’t too many on the market. Orlando Roman provides some interesting pitching depth, but he’ll have to beat out Tony Barnette for roster time, as foreigners Milledge, Wladimir Balentien and Chang Yong Lim have secure roster spots. Perhaps that other starter is already on the roster, in the from of improvement from sophomore Yuki Shichijyo, a return to health from Yoshinori, or a return to form from Kyohei Muranaka.

Will the Swallows compete in 2012? They finished second in 2011, but it seemed like they got there by getting off to a hot start, and then playing enough games to hang around for the rest of the year. Instinctively an Aoki-less 2012 Yakult feels similar to Hiroshima, though with more power. Like the Carp, Yakult has front-rotation strength (Yakult has Shohei Tateyama and Masanori Ishikawa), a strong foreign closer (Lim), and some mid-rotation and middle relief question marks. Only the presence of Yakult’s power bats of Balentien, Kazuhiro Hatakeyma and probably Milledge seem to differentiate. So, yeah, it’s a cop-out, but this feels like a middle-of-the-pack roster that could compete with regression from the rest of the league or break-out performances, or could suffer from the inverse.

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Darvish’s Japanese Press Conference

» 09 February 2012 » In mlb, mlb prospects, nichibei » Comments Off

Yu Darvish’s farewell press conference took place about two weeks ago. I really wanted to translate this while it was still fresh, but I didn’t manage to find the time or motivation until today. It’s been long enough that the link that I got this text from is expired. It looks like Nikkan Sports has a better transcription, but we’ll go with this for now.

So, here we have it, my unofficial translation of Darvish’s farewell press conference. The original Japanese text follows below.

–the reason he decided to move to MLB

 

“The number one reason was that before games, I would hear from my opponents ‘don’t throw that pitch’, ‘I can’t hit that’, and eventually the thought that ‘I’m not having fair matchups’ stuck. The environment in Japan suits me the best. I was really torn about it, but I felt that I had to move to play baseball at a higher level.”

 

–his goal

 

“I want to become a pitcher that anyone in the world can call number one.”

 

–his impression of the Rangers

 

“Starting with the front office, the manager and players, and the fans are all tremendous warm, and I think it’s a team that resembles Nippon Ham.”

 

–on his enthusiasm for the Rangers’ drive to another World Series appearance

 

“I don’t know how the games progress in the Majors, so I can’t just say we’ll win, but if I do what I have to do and put up my best results, I’ll be happy.”

 

–message to the (Nippon Ham) fans

 

“When I joined the team in 2005, I immediately did that thing (the underaged smoking incident during his camp in his rookie season) but the fans welcomed m warmly, and I renewed my efforts. I’m grateful to have had your constant support for seven years. If it wasn’t for everyone I wouldn’t be here today. I’ll never forget these seven years, and do my best, and I’ll be happy if I can come back here in the end.”

And here’s the original text, in case I made any translation mistakes.

--メジャー挑戦を決めた理由は。

◆一番の要因は、相手から試合前に「この球投げないでよ」「もう打てない」と聞いて、だんだん「フェアな対戦をしていないのではないか」と引っかかった。日本の環境は一番合ってる。だいぶ悩んだが、野球をやる上で場所は変えなきゃいけないと思った。

--目指す投手は。

◆世界中の誰もにナンバーワンと言ってもらえる投手になりたい。

--レンジャーズの印象は。

◆フロントの方をはじめ、監督や選手、ファンの方々もすごく温かくて、日本ハムに似ているチームだと思った。

--悲願のワールドシリーズ制覇への意気込みは。

◆メジャーの試合がどう進んでいくかもわからないので簡単に優勝とは言えないが、やることをやって一番いい結果になればうれしい。

--ファンにメッセージは。

◆2005年に入団して、いきなりやっちゃいまして(1年目のキャンプで未成年ながら喫煙が発覚)、温かく迎えてくれたことで頑張りに変えられた。7年間、支えられっぱなしでありがたい限り。皆さんがいなければ今日僕はここにいない。この7年間を忘れず頑張って、最終的にここに戻って来られたらうれしい。

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NPB Bullet Points: Offseason Leftovers

» 09 February 2012 » In npb » 7 Comments

Please excuse the randomness of these links — I accumulated them over the offseason but never found the time to post them.

  • Yakult commemorated the retirement of Hirotoshi Ishii with this decorative mobile phone strap. Ishii was once Japan’s top power lefty, but hadn’t pitched above ni-gun for several years due to injuries.
  • In contrast, Softbank power righty (and NPB Tracker favorite) Nagisa Arakaki is on his way back. Arakaki pitched in November’s Asia Series, his first “ichi-gun level” game action in three years.
  • A number of NPB prospects participated in the Australian Baseball League this offseason, and the ABL’s official Twitter stream was kind enough to tweet me with updates on Yusei Kikuchi, Kenta Imamiya, and Takumi Akiyama.
  • I discovered a new blog recently: NPB Prospect Watch. This blog fills a much-needed niche for me and has a very good chance of making it into my regular rotation.

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Changes for 2012: Yomiuri Giants

» 06 February 2012 » In npb » 5 Comments

Coming: Toshiya Sugiuchi, DJ Houlton, Shuichi Murata, John Bowker, Scott Mathieson, Yoshito Ishii, Takayuki Takaguchi

Going: Shugo Fujii, Alex Ramirez, Seth Greisinger, Rusty Ryal, Chih-Lung Huang, Micheal Nakamura, Saburo Ohmura, Jonathan Albaladejo, Carlos Torres, Josh Fields, Brian Bannister, Shinji Takahashi, Toshimasa Konta, Kazunori Tsuruoka

Staying: Ryota Wakiya

As usual, Yomiuri did lots of reshuffling this year, including a couple of significant moves.

Let’s start with the pitching. The Kyojin-gun took advantage of Softbank botching negotiations with ace Toshiya Sugiuchi, and scooped him up with a four-year deal. Sugiuchi was always my favorite Softbank lefty, and he’ll be a great addition to Yomiuri’s rotation. Yomiuri also raided Softbank for another starter, American DJ Houlton. Houlton’s four year’s in Japan have gone like this: mediocre, quite good, bad, great. Which of course, suggests that he’s due for a down year, if you believe such things. Houlton’s numbers may regress from his 19 wins and 2.29 ERA, but at his best he’s good for 170 innings of work, which is a valuable commodity.

At the plate, Yomiuri’s main moves essentially boil down for swapping Shuichi Murata and John Bowker in for Rusty Ryal/Josh Fields and Alex Ramirez. Initially this felt like a wash to me, but Murata is younger than Ramirez and plays a difficult position to fill, and maybe playing for a winning team will revive his motivation. Bowker simply needs to not be a total bust to eclipse the results of Ryal and Fields. Outfield depth is a bit of a concern with an unproven Bowker and a usually unhealthy Yoshinobu Takahashi, so a return form for recent non-performers Yoshiyuki Kamei and Tetsuya Matsumoto would be well-timed. Or maybe Kosuke Fukudome would be a fit.

So another offseason of the Giants doing what the Giants do — spending money. But it appears to be money well spent, addressing needs rather than just stacking up sluggers because they can. Expect them to compete for the Central League title this year.

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Softbank Signs Brad Penny

» 05 February 2012 » In npb » 3 Comments

The Softbank Hawks have officially announced the acquisition of righty Brad Penny, according to the Yomiuri Shimbun (edit: confirmed on the team’s website). Penny’s deal is for one year and $3m plus performance bonuses. Sanspo adds that Penny will travel to Japan on February 8th, and join Softbank’s camp on the 9th.

Softbank’s rotation was gutted this offseason with the loss of Toshiya Sugiuchi, Tsuyoshi Wada and DJ Houlton, so Penny’s presence fills a big void. I expect that the #2 spot in Softbank’s rotation is his to lose.

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Chunichi Signs Jorge Sosa

» 05 February 2012 » In npb » 1 Comment

Sanspo has reported that the Chunichi Dragons have signed reliever Jorge Sosa. Sosa had been in camp with the Dragons as a test-sei, which I’ll roughly translate as “non-roster invitee”. Sosa received a $100k signing bonus and will be paid a $300k salary. The signing is to be made official on February 7th (JST).

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Changes for 2012: Hanshin Tigers

» 04 February 2012 » In npb » 3 Comments

Coming: Hayata Itoh (1st round draft pick), Shingo Matsuzaki, manager Yutaka Wada

Going: Tsuyoshi Shimoyanagi, Kodai Sakurai, Ikuro Katsuragi, Keiji Uezono, manager Akinobu Mayumi

Staying: Matt Murton, Craig Brazell, Randy Messenger, Jason Standridge, Takashi Toritani, Kyuji Fujikawa

Hanshin’s biggest change this season is in the dugout, where Yutaka Wada replaces Akinobu Mayumi, who failed to lead the Tigers to a Central League crown or a Japan Series appearance in three years at the helm. Wada is a Hanshin lifer, having spent his entire 16 year playing career with the team, followed by another 10 years in various coaching roles in the Tigers organizatoin. Wada also occupies a special place in Hanshin lore, as the last active player from Hanshin’s legendary 1985 championship team at the time of his retirement in 2001.

Wada inherits a roster that is largely unchanged from 2011, a team finished fourth in the Central League despite outscoring its opponents by 39 runs. In a small league though, run differentials are deceiving, and a big chunk of those 39 runs came from blowing out Yokohama a few times. Rookie outfielder Hayata Itoh figures to get a serious look during spring training, as center field is a hole, and left fielder Tomoaki Kanemoto is on his last legs after a venerable career. Retaining Matt Murton was a big win for Hanshin, as they can count on his steady bat in right.

Hanshin made no significant changes to its pitching staff this offseason. Hiroyuki Kobayashi is working on a move to the rotation after a so-so season in middle relief; I wonder if lefty Daiki Enokida could make a few starts as well. Depth is always a plus, and while Hanshin had four starters pitch 150+ innings with 3.00 or lower ERAs, lefties Minoru Iwata and Atsushi Nohmi both struggled with injuries prior to 2011. On the farm, Taiwanese prospects Ikketsu Sho and Kai-Wen Cheng both put up good numbers at ni-gun last year, and righty Takumi Akiyama has shown promise as well.

Hanshin is beginning to age at some positions, but overall still has a talented veteran roster. That coupled with regression from of last year’s top three should see the Tigers back in playoff position this year.

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