Tag Archive > Akinori Otsuka

No Bidders For Sanada

» 07 December 2011 » In nichibei, npb » 1 Comment

The posting period for Yokohama DeNA BayStars reliever Hiroki Sanada has quietly come and gone, with no MLB teams submitting a bid. This wasn’t exactly a surprise, for reasons explained earlier. Sanada is the third NPB player posted to fail to draw a bid following Akinori Otsuka in 2002 and Koji Mitsui (twice) in 2009.

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NPB Bullet Points: Barden Tweets, Otsuka Wants Back In

» 27 July 2011 » In mlb, mlb prospects, nichibei, npb » 4 Comments

A few notes covering the last couple days of news…

  • New Hiroshima Carp acquisition Brian Barden used Twitter to collect information on NPB prior to heading to Japan. Barden “tweets” under the handle @thegreatbardeni.
  • Akinori Otsuka wants to make a comeback. The 39 year-old righty hasn’t pitched in the Majors in four years, over which time he’s had three Tommy John surgeries. Otsuka is currently coaching and throwing bullpen sessions with Samurai All-Japan of the Western Baseball Association.
  • Hisashi Iwakuma is back after a two-month layoff. He won his return start with seven strong innings over Softbank.
  • Craig Brazell lined up rookie Issei Morita the other day with a shaving cream pie in the face during a post-game interview. Here’s the approach… and the delivery.
  • Number has an article on the trade rumors surrounding Hiroki Kuroda. For the most part it’s nothing you can’t find in the American press, but Kuroda does comment that it “took him three years to get used to the Majors.”
  • Yakult has signed lefty Naoya Okamoto, the former Yokohama BayStar who had been with the Yankees’ 2A affiliate in Trenton.
  • Korean slugger Tae-Kyun Kim is leaving the Chiba Lotte Marines, and will resume his career in Korea.
  • Seibu has said goodbye to reliever Brian Sikorski, who has been on the shelf since having his elbow scoped earlier this season. Look for Seibu to seek out bullpen help.
And in today’s bonus article veteran writer Jim Allen takes a brief look at Japan’s current resistance to the terms being offered by MLB for WBC participation.
Bonus #2 comes courtesy of my FanGraphs bud Navin Vaswani, who broke down the recent New York Times piece on Kei Igawa.

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Re-Run: The Effects of NPB Players Leaving for MLB, part 4

» 27 August 2010 » In mlb, mlb prospects, nichibei, npb » 4 Comments

I’ve spent most of my writing time this week over at FanGraphs, profiling some of Japan’s better players. In researching that set of articles, I came across this post I wrote in early 2009, before Koji Uehara and Kenshin Kawakami had signed with MLB clubs. Looking back at this, I don’t think I’d change the set of conclusions that I originally drew, but I will add the observation that this trend has hurt the overall depth of the league. Another interesting thing to note is that 11 of the 26 players listed here have returned to NPB, several since this article was written: Johjima, Iguchi, Kobayashi, Yabuta, Taguchi, Yabu and Fukumori.


Time to close out this series with some conclusions. I fear that I may be oversimplifying this a bit, but I’m looking for macro trends with this. These are casual observations, I didn’t do any hard research.

Check the three previous installments here: 1, 2, 3.

1. Most of the teams that lost a star to MLB took some kind of a hit in the standings. With the exception of Hiroshima, the teams losing the top 10 players listed below took years to replace the production they lost, and some still haven’t. It’s also important to remember that none of these departures happened in a vacuum; there were other things that affected the performance of each team, but overall the lose of these players has hurt their former teams competitively.

2. The only team that really took a popularity hit after losing a star to MLB was the Giants after losing Matsui. I bought walk-up tickets to a Giants game in 2005, which would have been unthinkable a few years earlier. Of course, while the Giants were down, the Tigers and Dragons were both up and have enjoyed competitive success and popularity since the early part of the decade. SoftBank has been less competitive since losing Johjima, but has not suffered at the gate. The team is actually adding 6000 seats to the Yahoo Dome for next season to help meet demand.

3. Signing foreign talent to replace departed stars doesn’t seem to work. Teams will often sign foreign players to fill the holes left by departed stars, but when the do so, they’re losing the opportunity to add depth at other positions with those roster spots. I can’t think of an example where a foreign star was a long-term replacement for an MLB bound star. Colby Lewis was great as Hiroki Kuroda’s replacement in 2008, but so was Kevin Hodges a few years ago and he flamed out after a single season.

4. Losing talent to MLB has a trickle-down impact on the smaller market teams. As an example, Hanshin may have been content with their outfield had Shinjo stuck around, but two years after he left they signed Tomoaki Kanemoto away from the Carp to play left field. Kanemoto has gone on to become a legend for the Tigers while the Carp have only recently begun to show signs of life. Hanshin and Yomiuri can spend to fill their holes, while smaller market teams like Hiroshima cannot.

5. On the positive side, stars moving to MLB has opened up (or could potentially open) spots for younger players, in a league where there is no rule 5 draft and blocked prospects and depth guys are seldom traded. We haven’t seen too many cases of prospects jumping in and filling the shoes of the top 10 guys I’ve listed below, but others have stepped in for 11-26.

Overall, I don’t think this trend is killing NPB. Attendance is stable, and Japan Series television ratings were up this year (mostly because the Giants played in it). Many of the players who have made the leap to MLB have actually been pretty successful, which has greatly improved the credibility of NPB overseas. On the downside, the loss of star players has hurt the competitive depth of the affected teams, and led many to question the viability of the league. I seeing the loss of these star players as an “Oakland A’s-ing” of the league — the A’s have gotten by with smart management, an ability to exploit market inefficiencies and a willingness to continually reinvent the team on the field. The A’s style doesn’t translate to the Japanese game completely, but the underlying principles of thrift and creativity are important for a group of teams that generally is not going to compete with MLB financially.

Below is a list of all the players I looked at, ranked in order of how much I think their departure affected their previous team and the league. For me, there are really about three or four classes: Matsui and Johjima, Iwamura through Iguchi, and everyone else. You can possibly put Matsui, Kobayashi and Yabuta in their own class as well, as guys who were quickly replaced but did leave a gap in their absences.

Rank Player Team Year Record Before Record After Impact
1 Hideki Matsui Yomiuri 2003 86-52-2 71-66-3 High
2 Kenji Johjima Daiei/SoftBank 2006 89-45-2 75-56-5 High
3 Akinori Iwamura Yakult 2007 70-73-3 60-84-0 High
4 Kosuke Fukudome Chunichi 2008 78-64-2 71-68-5 High
5 Daisuke Matsuzaka Seibu 2007 80-54-2 66-76-2 Medium
6 Ichiro Orix 2001 64-67-4 70-66-4 Medium
7 Hiroki Kuroda Hiroshima 2008 60-82-2 69-70-5 Medium
8 Kei Igawa Hanshin 2007 84-58-4 74-66-4 Medium
9 Kazuhisa Ishii Yakult 2002 78-56-6 72-64-2 Medium
10 Tadahito Iguchi Daiei/Softbank 2005 77-52-4 89-45-2 Medium
11 Kazuo Matsui Seibu 2004 77-61-2 74-58-1 Low
12 Masahide Kobayashi Lotte 2008 76-61-7 73-70-1 Low
13 Yasuhiko Yabuta Lotte 2008 76-61-7 73-70-1 Low
14 Takashi Saito Yokohama 2006 69-70-7 58-84-4 Low
15 Hideki Okajima Nippon Ham 2007 82-54-0 79-60-5 Low
16 Akinori Otsuka Chunichi 2004 73-66-1 79-56-3 Low
17 Shingo Takatsu Yakult 2004 71-66-3 72-62-2 Low
18 Tsuyoshi Shinjyo Hanshin 2001 57-78-1 57-80-3 Low
19 Keiichi Yabu Hanshin 2005 66-70-2 87-54-5 Low
20 So Taguchi Orix 2002 70-66-4 50-87-3 Low
21 Satoru Komiyama Yokohama 2002 69-67-4 49-86-5 Low
22 Kazuo Fukumori Rakuten 2008 67-75-2 65-76-3 Low
23 Norihiro Nakamura Kintetsu 2005 61-70-2 62-70-4 Low
24 Shinji Mori* Seibu 2006 67-69-0 80-54-2 Low
25 Yusaku Iriki* Nippon Ham 2006 62-71-3 82-54-0 Low
26 Masumi Kuwata Yomiuri 2007 65-79-2 80-63-1 Low

* I forgot about both these guys when compiling the original lists. Mori was successfully posted and signed with Tampa Bay, but got hurt in his first spring training and was never heard from again. Iriki played in the Mets and Blue Jays organizations, but got busted for PED usage and never reached the Majors. He resurfaced with Yokohama in 2008, but retired after the season.

** I left out Yukinaga Maeda as well.

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NPB Bullet Points: Interleague & FA Status

» 13 June 2010 » In mlb, nichibei, npb » 5 Comments

News and notes from around NPB, mostly in Japanese this time around.

  • Orix took this year’s Interleague title, and a with it a 50m yen ($500k) award for the team. The emergent T-Okada was credited as the hero of yesterday’s game, but stalwart slugger Alex Cabrera was 3-4 with two rbi’s and is hitting .394 on the season. Orix is now 32-30-1 in what I thought would be a rebulding season.
  • Hichori Morimoto has racked up enough service time for international free agency. When asked about it, he responded in jest “I’m interested, you know, in America”, then added, “I care about how other teams evaluate me, but playing for the Fighters is the best.”
  • Hisashi Iwakuma has also qualified for domestic free agency, but that’s a bit of a non-event given that he’s already under contract with Rakuten for next season. He’s represented by IMG, though, and I think he’ll make the MLB move after 2011, assuming he remains healthy and effective.
  • The Giants called up Taishi Ohta, and he made his first professional start on the 12th, going 0-3. He had another 0-3 outing on the 13th.
  • Yu Darvish’s June 12 start is archived on Justin.tv. Catch it while you can.
  • Akinori Otsuka attended a Padress-Mariners game over the weekend, and still wants to make an MLB comeback. It won’t be this year though. Aki had his third elbow (ひじ) surgery this past January, and has been playing catch for about three weeks. He’s hoping to be throwing at full strength in October. Aki is 38, so a comeback is a tall order given his injury history. Keiichi Yabu returned to MLB ball at a older age, but he was coming back from ineffectiveness, not injuries.
  • Here’s one in English: veteran NPB writer Jim Allen takes a look at Lotte’s hot first half.

And finally, off-topic content this week inspired by the South African-hosted World Cup: Emeka Okafor’s Timbuktu Chronicles and Appfrica, a blog site run by an Ugundan tech incubator. These outstanding blogs highlight areas of African resourcefulness and innovation.

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Injury Updates: Saito, Otsuka, Ishii, Williams

» 31 January 2010 » In npb » 3 Comments

A few updates on the guys who have been rehabbing for years, plus Williams.

  • Kazumi Saito is headed for the operating table yet again, this time to have his rotator cuff repaired. Saito last saw game action in 2007, and we can probably rule him out for this season too. In Saito’s three healthy seasons, he is a combined 54-9.
  • Like Saito, Akinori Otsuka hasn’t pitched since 2007, but he isn’t hanging up his cleats either. Otsuka had his third elbow surgery on January 20th, with the intent of  returning as an active pitcher. Like Saito, if he’s just had surgery, he’s probably looking at a 2011 return at best, at which time he’ll be 39.
  • Hirotoshi Ishii has been on the shelf since 2006, following a shoulder injury suffered during the ’06 WBC. Unlike Saito an Otsuka, Ishii actually pitched in games in 2008 and 2009, though for Yakult’s farm team. Ishii was one of the hardest throwing lefthanders ever in Japan, and he and former teammate Ryota Igarashi were known as the “Rocket Boys”. Ishii said early in the winter that he didn’t want to “lose to Igarashi”.
  • I don’t have much news on Jeff Williams, but according to Sanspo, Hanshin’s management is considering the situation a “blank page” and willing to give him a look when he’s ready. Jeff is not under contract with Hanshin, but has made it known that he wants to return to the team.

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Moves & Notes, December 1, 2009

» 01 December 2009 » In nichibei, npb » Comments Off

A couple of player personnel notes to pass along…

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Mitsui Again Fails to Draw a Bid

» 15 January 2009 » In mlb prospects, npb » 4 Comments

Update, Jan 16: Mitsui will remain with Seibu for 2009 and take another crack at a move to MLB next offseason.

Seibu’s second attempt to post Koji Mitsui this offseason has ended just like the first one did. This is the first time we’ve seen the same player posted twice in the same offseason; not sure why they expected it to go differently the second time. Akinori Otsuka was acquired by the Padres on his second posting attempt, but that was a full season after his first unsuccessful attempt. Otsuka is also one of the best relievers in NPB history, while Mitsui has been marginal.

Seibu team management is going to talk with Mitsui in the next couple of days and decide what direction to take in with him. I guess the two options would be for Seibu to release him outright and let him pursue an MLB contract, or let him rebuild value this season and try again next year.

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The Effects of NPB Players Leaving for MLB, part 4

» 03 January 2009 » In nichibei, npb » 2 Comments

Time to close out this series with some conclusions. I fear that I may be oversimplifying this a bit, but I’m looking for macro trends with this. These are casual observations, I didn’t do any hard research. 

Check the three previous installments here: 1, 2, 3

1. Most of the teams that lost a star to MLB took some kind of a hit in the standings. With the exception of Hiroshima, the teams losing the top 10 players listed below took years to replace the production they lost. Some of the teams still haven’t replaced the production they lost. It’s also important to remember that none of these departures happened in a vacuum; there were other things that affected the performance of each team, but overall the lose of these players has hurt their former teams competitively.

2. The only team that really took a popularity hit after losing a star to MLB was the Giants after losing Matsui. I bought walk-up tickets to a Giants game in 2005, which would have been unthinkable a few years earlier. Of course, while the Giants were down, the Tigers and Dragons were both up and have enjoyed competitive success and popularity since the early part of the decade. SoftBank has been less competitive since losing Johjima, but has not suffered at the gate. The team is actually adding 6000 seats to the Yahoo Dome for next season to help meet demand. 

3. Signing foreign talent to replace departed stars doesn’t seem to work. Teams will often sign foreign players to fill the holes left by departed stars, but when the do so, they’re losing the opportunity to add depth at other positions with those roster spots. I can’t think of an example where a foreign star was a long-term replacement for an MLB bound star. Colby Lewis was great as Hiroki Kuroda’s replacement in 2008, but so was Kevin Hodges a few years ago and he flamed out after a single season.

4. Losing talent to MLB has a trickle-down impact on the smaller market teams. As an example, Hanshin may have been content with their outfield had Shinjo stuck around, but two years after he left they signed Tomoaki Kanemoto away from the Carp to play left field. Kanemoto has gone on to become a legend for the Tigers while the Carp have only recently begun to show signs of life. Hanshin and Yomiuri can spend to fill their holes, while smaller market teams like Hiroshima cannot.

5. On the positive side, stars moving to MLB has opened up (or could potentially open) spots for younger players, in a league where there is no rule 5 draft and blocked prospects and depth guys are seldom traded. We haven’t seen too many cases of prospects jumping in and filling the shoes of the top 10 guys I’ve listed below, but others have stepped in for 11-26.

Overall, I don’t think this trend is killing NPB. Attendance is stable, and Japan Series television ratings were up this year (mostly because the Giants played in it). Many of the players who have made the leap to MLB have actually been pretty successful, which has greatly improved the credibility of NPB overseas. On the downside, the loss of star players has hurt the competitive depth of the affected teams, and led many to question the viability of the league. I seeing the loss of these star players as an “Oakland A’s-ing” of the league — the A’s have gotten by with smart management, an ability to exploit market inefficiencies and a willingness to continually reinvent the team on the field. The A’s style doesn’t translate to the Japanese game completely, but the underlying principles of thrift and creativity are important for a group of teams that generally is not going to compete with MLB financially.

Below is a list of all the players I looked at, ranked in order of how much I think their departure affected their previous team and the league. For me, there are really about three or four classes: Matsui and Johjima, Iwamura through Iguchi, and everyone else. You can possibly put Matsui, Kobayashi and Yabuta in their own class as well, as guys who were quickly replaced but did leave a gap in their absences. 

Rank Player  Team Year Record Before Record After Impact
1 Hideki Matsui Yomiuri 2003 86-52-2 71-66-3 High
2 Kenji Johjima Daiei/SoftBank 2006 89-45-2 75-56-5 High
3 Akinori Iwamura Yakult 2007 70-73-3 60-84-0 High
4 Kosuke Fukudome Chunichi 2008 78-64-2 71-68-5 High
5 Daisuke Matsuzaka Seibu 2007 80-54-2 66-76-2 Medium
6 Ichiro Orix 2001 64-67-4 70-66-4 Medium
7 Hiroki Kuroda Hiroshima 2008 60-82-2 69-70-5 Medium
8 Kei Igawa Hanshin 2007 84-58-4 74-66-4 Medium
9 Kazuhisa Ishii Yakult 2002 78-56-6 72-64-2 Medium
10 Tadahito Iguchi Daiei/Softbank 2005 77-52-4 89-45-2 Medium
11 Kazuo Matsui Seibu 2004 77-61-2 74-58-1 Low
12 Masahide Kobayashi Lotte 2008 76-61-7 73-70-1 Low
13 Yasuhiko Yabuta Lotte 2008 76-61-7 73-70-1 Low
14 Takashi Saito Yokohama 2006 69-70-7 58-84-4 Low
15 Hideki Okajima Nippon Ham 2007 82-54-0 79-60-5 Low
16 Akinori Otsuka Chunichi 2004 73-66-1 79-56-3 Low
17 Shingo Takatsu Yakult 2004 71-66-3 72-62-2 Low
18 Tsuyoshi Shinjyo Hanshin 2001 57-78-1 57-80-3 Low
19 Keiichi Yabu Hanshin 2005 66-70-2 87-54-5 Low
20 So Taguchi Orix 2002 70-66-4 50-87-3 Low
21 Satoru Komiyama Yokohama 2002 69-67-4 49-86-5 Low
22 Kazuo Fukumori Rakuten 2008 67-75-2 65-76-3 Low
23 Norihiro Nakamura Kintetsu 2005 61-70-2 62-70-4 Low
24 Shinji Mori* Seibu 2006 67-69-0 80-54-2 Low
25 Yusaku Iriki* Nippon Ham 2006 62-71-3 82-54-0 Low
26 Masumi Kuwata Yomiuri 2007 65-79-2 80-63-1 Low

* I forgot about both these guys when compiling the original lists. Mori was successfully posted and signed with Tampa Bay, but got hurt in his first spring training and was never heard from again. Iriki played in the Mets and Blue Jays organizations, but got busted for PED usage and never reached the Majors. He resurfaced with Yokohama in 2008, but retired after the season.

** I left out Yukinaga Maeda as well.

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On The Comeback Trail

» 27 December 2008 » In mlb prospects, nichibei » 1 Comment

Akinori Otsuka is in the news again. He’s planning to work out in front of all 30 MLB teams in Arizona next month. Padres GM Kevin Towers was quoted in Sports Hochi last week as saying he’d like to sign Otsuka if his elbow is okay. Otsuka was one of the best relievers in NPB history and had four solid MLB seasons, so unless his arm is about to fall off I’m guessing he’ll got a shot somewhere. It’s actually a little surprising that no one signed him for last season; he could have been had for a cheap two-year deal where he could have spent the first year rehabbing under team supervision. I guess no one wanted to take that kind of chance on his health. Otsuka (I believe) still has a residence in San Diego, so the Padres would be a logical destination. I threw out the idea a couple of weeks ago that he could sign with Seattle, as he has a good relationship with Don Wakamatsu from their days in Texas.

In other comeback news, Yomiuri Giants castaways Ken Kadokura and Shigeki Noguchi both worked out for a Cubs representative on Dec 23. Sports Hochi thinks that Kadokura has a shot at signing with the Chicago. Last we heard, Kadokura had an offer from SK in the Korean League, but now he’s saying that he wants to play in America. Noguchi, who failed a tryout with Rakuten last month, will retire if he doesn’t get a chance to play with an American organization. So far neither player has heard back from the Cubs.

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Winter Meetings Notes

» 09 December 2008 » In mlb, mlb prospects, nichibei, npb » 6 Comments

A couple of notes to pass along regarding Japanese player activity at this week’s MLB winter meetings:

  • Sponichi is reporting that the Astros are interested in So Taguchi. Agent Alan Nero has talked to five teams so far and is continuing to shop Taguchi around.
  • Tadahito Iguchi will be in the States during the meetings, and hopes to decide on a 2009 team by the 20th. Iguchi has offers on both sides of the Pacific, and has reportedly already decided against returning the Phillies.
  • Ken Takahashi’s agent isn’t expecting to see any movement for his client until the meetings start. Takahashi has been working out with a Major League ball.
  • The Orioles are reportedly preparing to offer both Kenshin Kawakami and Koji Uehara 2-year/$10m deals. This seems surprisingly low to me. Even in this bad economy, the Giants still found $8m for Jeremy Affeldt
  • Another report has an international scout from an AL East team putting the market for Uehara at 2 years, $5m. I think he would be a tremendous bargain at that price.
  • I had read that Rakuten manager Katsuya Nomura would be in attendance at the winter meetings, but I think the Golden Eagles are done shopping this offseason. SoftBank, HIroshima, Lotte and possibly Hanshin still have foreign player slots open and could be active at the meetings.
  • And this last one isn’t really winter meetings related, but I’ll through it out anyway. Remember Akinori Otsuka? He spent the year training and rehabbing after his injury in 2007. He wrote of his good relationship with new Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu in his blog, so I’ll speculate that if he’s healthy enough to pitch in 2009, Seattle might be the place. Otsuka seems to maintain a residence in San Diego, and he would be a Padres-type signing.

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