Tag Archive > Atsunori Inaba

Game Notes: Darvish vs Chen

» 11 June 2011 » In mlb prospects, npb » 1 Comment

Summary: These notes are about a game that took place on Tuesday, June 7. Nippon Ham edged Chunichi 1-0 in a great pitcher’s duel.

What a pitching matchup. Yu Darvish was his usual self, striking out 10 with no walks and three hits in another shutout, running his personal scoreless streak to 44 innings. But Wei-Yin Chen managed to keep up with him and pitched a game that would have earned him a “w” under normal circumstances.

Darvish did everything well — he kept everything down, or unhittably high in the zone; got ahead of nearly ever batter; got into only two three-ball counts; surrendered virtually zero hard contact. Catcher Keiji Koyama managed two of Chunichi’s three hits, a single off an early-count fastball, and another off a slider that got a little too much of the plate. The only other Dragons batter to look remotely competent was Kazuhiro Wada, who hit the hardest ball off Darvish, a sharp line drive that Fighters second baseman Kensuke Tanaka made a great jumping play on. Wada also hit an opposite field single to lead off the seventh inning, which after a sacrifice bunt by Takahiro Saeki turned into the only Dragons threat of the evening. But Darvish subverted that minor threat by dominating Ryosuke Hirata, who could only vaguely defend the strike zone, and Masahiko Morino, who struck out on three pitches.

You couldn’t say that Chen matched Darvish pitch for pitch, but he put up a dominant performance in his own way. Chen scattered four hits in an eight-inning compete game, needing only 88 pitches to work through Nippon Ham’s lineup three and a half times. The difference in the game came in the top of the seventh, when Chen surrendered an uncharacteristic walk to Atsunori Inaba, then hung a slider to Sho Nakata on an 0-2 count. Nakata smacked a double off the left field wall, with the ball bouncing far enough from Wada to allow Inaba to score from first. Chen wasn’t rattled though, and with Nakata still on second, mowed down Tomohiro Nioka, Dai Kan Yoh, and Micah Hoffpauir.

Though the results differed by the slimmest of margins, the two pitchers took differing approaches on the mound. Darvish’s arsenal is such that he can feature a couple of different looks. In this game, he featured at the power end of his range, relying on his four-seam, cutter and tailing two-seam/one-seam/shuuto. When Chunichi’s hitters started fouling the hard stuff off, Darvish would go to his slider or curve for a different look.

Chen, by comparison, kept things a lot simpler. He fed Nippon Ham a strict diet of fastballs and sliders, showing great location and keeping nearly everything on the edges of the strike zone. To make an unfair comparison, he lacked Darvish’s velocity and movement, but he worked quickly, threw strikes, and knew what he wanted to do with each hitter. It definitely felt like he was pitching to contact, but it worked as he mostly limited the Fighters to infield pop ups and lazy fly balls.

I don’t really have anything more to say about this game, so I’ll close with this remarkable fact. Darvish’s opening day: seven innings pitched, seven runs, seven earned. Darvish since then: 69 innings pitched, six runs, five earned.

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Awards Announced

» 18 November 2009 » In npb » 1 Comment

The 2009 season is in the books, and the MVPs go to Yu Darvish in the Pacific League, with Alex Ramirez receiving the honor for the Central League. Darvish earns the award for the second time in his career and Ramirez obtains the award for the second straight season.

The Rookie of the Year award is received by Tokyo Yomiuri Giants outfielder Testuya Matsumoto, the first time in 51 years that two players from the same team received the RoY in consecutive years (Giants reliever Tetsuya Yamaguchi took the prize last year). The Pacific League award goes to reliever Tadashi Settsu of the Softbank Hawks.

The Best Nine Awards have also been announced and the winners are as follows:

Central Pacific
P Dicky Gonzalez Yu Darvish
CA Shinnosuke Abe Hidenori Tanoue
1B Tony Blanco Shinji Takahashi
2B Akihiro Higashide Kensuke Tanaka
3B Michihiro Ogasawara Takeya Nakamura
SS Hayato Sakamoto Hiroyuki Nakajima
OF Seiichi Uchikawa Teppei
OF Norichika Aoki Yoshio Itoi
OF Alex Ramirez Atsunori Inaba
DH Takeshi Yamazaki

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Golden Glove Winners

» 12 November 2009 » In npb » 1 Comment

The 2009 Golden Glove Winners have been announced, and Nippon Ham dominated the Pacific League with seven players receiving the award. Tetsuya Matsumoto of the Giants became the first former ikusei player to win a Golden Glove.

Central League Pacific League
P Dicky Gonzalez (Giants) Hideaki Wakui (Lions)
CA Motonobu Tanishige (Dragons) Shinya Tsuruoka (Fighters)
1B Kenta Kurihara (Carps) Shinji Takahashi (Fighters)
2B Masahiro Araki (Dragons) Kensuke Tanaka (Fighters)
3B Shinya Miyamoto (Swallows) Eiichi Koyano (Fighters)
SS Hirokazu Ibata (Dragons) Makoto Kaneko (Fighters)
OF Norichika Aoki (Swallows) Yoshio Itoi (Fighters)
OF Tetsuya Matsumoto (Giants) Tomotaka Sakaguchi (Buffaloes)
OF Yoshiyuki Kamei (Giants) Atsunori Inaba (Fighters)

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More Than A Game

» 21 May 2009 » In international baseball, npb, sports business » 9 Comments

The Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters are expanding their product beyond baseball, and into the dating industry. On the July 11th and 12th home games, the Fighters are selling special tickets directed to 50 men and 50 women looking for a partner. Participant are limited to people over the age of 18 for the purchase to Konkatsu Seat.

In recent years, only one of four young people in Japan are getting married and action needs to be taken place in order to reverse the trend and increase the number of marriages. The word Konkatsu (Kekkon Katsudou; Action for Marriage) has become part of the common vernacular. This is the main reason the Fighters decided to take a nationwide problem and utilize it in their business.

Here are some bullet points about the Konkatsu Seat project:

  • Male fans will be given a recognizable symbol to attach to their clothes. Female fans will recieve a card with a matching symbol. The couple will be assigned randomly with the male mark on their clothes matching the female mark on their card
  • Fans who purchase Konkatsu Seat tickets will be in a drawing for gifts such as a free pair of airplane tickets
  • Seat changes will occur between innings to add on to the excitement
  • The seats will be placed behind home plate and fans might need courage to participate as there is the possibility they will be shown on television

Fighthers star outfielder Atsunori Inaba comments on Sponichi: “It’s great that the Sapporo Dome can be the starting point. Having the same interest is important. We hope that new couples will come back to the game for a date”.

If a couple that meets at the game ends up getting married the plan is to invite them for the ceremonial first pitch to have their first appearance as a wife and husband on the field.

The results after the first day of sales for the Konkatsu seating are surprising… the female demand has surpassed the supply and the female ticket allotment sold out on the first day. On the other hand, the male tickets are still available and only about ten tickets had been sold after the first day. Team personnel were suprised by this result, and it might be a new opportunity to attract female fans to the ballpark.

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2009 NPB Team Payroll Ranking

» 25 April 2009 » In international baseball, npb, sports business » 9 Comments

This ranking is based on calculating information from Daily Sports Online, and converting into US dollars at the April 24 dollar-yen exchange rate from Google Finance. The numbers are based on the start of the 2009 season. I hope this will be interesting and insightful for new NPB fans to learn how much Japanese teams pay their players.

Rank Team Payroll Players Under Contract Highest Paid Player
1 Yomiuri Giants $45.30M 78 Seung-Youp Lee, $6.2M
2 Hanshin Tigers $40.49M 74 Tomoaki Kanemoto, $5.6M
3 Softbank Hawks $34.11M 74 Nobuhiko Matsunaka, $5.1M
4 Chunichi Dragons $30.02M 70 Hitoki Iwase, $4.4M
5 Chiba Lotte Marines $27.67M 78 Naoyuki Shimizu, $2.4M
6 Seibu Lions $26.75M 68 Kazuhisa Ishii, $2.8M
7 Orix Buffaloes $26.04M 69 Tuffy Rhodes, $3.3M
8 Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters $24.97M 66 Atsunori Inaba, $3M
9  Tokyo Yakult Swallows $23.77M 71 Norichika Aoki,$ 2.6M
10 Yokohama Baystars $23.03M 68 Shuichi Murata, $2.6M
11 Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles $20.74M 67 Hisashi Iwakuma, $3M
12 Hiroshima Toyo Carp $17.71M 70 Katsuhiro Nagakawa, $1.6M
  • One note is that teams with more than 70 players on contract are from the existence of ikusei (training) players.

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WBC Musings

» 13 March 2009 » In international baseball » Comments Off

Time to get back into the swing of things and get back to writing here. I don’t think I’ll be able to post as often as I had been before, but hopefully I’ll get back to a decent pace. Let’s start with some thoughts on the WBC.

  • No matter who wins the WBC, the story of the tournament will be the Netherlands’ upset of the Dominican Republic. I watched the end of the second game and it was electric baseball —  the kind of thing that makes the tournament worth watching. I saw the last couple of innings of the Netherlands-Puerto Rico game, and the Dutch side didn’t look that good at the plate. They couldn’t catch up with what looked like MLB-average fastballs up in the zone. But then again, they were coming off an emotional game against the Dominicans, and were playing in front of a very enthusiastic Puerto Rican home crowd. They’ll be the underdogs against Venezuela, but I’m expecting a good game.
  • I stayed up late to watch some of the Asian pool games, specifically the ones involving Japan. Even I found Orestes Destrade’s Japan bias to be a little annoying. Anyway, the baseball was good. Yu Darvish mostly looked good against China, but I thought he nibbled a little too much and could have challenged the Chinese hitters with his excellent fastball a little more. He had complained about not being able to command his breaking pitches with the WBC ball, so we’ll see if that becomes an issue later on. 
  • Japan’s lineup looks a lot better with Atsunori Inaba not batting fourth. I didn’t expect them to pound Korea 14-2, nor did I expect them to lose 1-0 in the next game. We’ll see how they do against Cuba in round 2. 
  • What’s with the Italian team? Only 10 of the 28 players are actually from Italy. I saw a lot of commenters saying that their win over Canada was “good for Italian baseball” but how does it help if it’s Dan Serafini and Frank Catalanotto (nothing against those two guys)? 

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WBC Roster Set

» 22 February 2009 » In international baseball, mlb, npb » 5 Comments

Japan manager Tatsunori Hara has settled on a WBC roster. Here it is:

Pitchers
Yu Darvish
Takahiro Mahara
Masahiro Tanaka
Hideaki Wakui
Daisuke Matsuzaka
Minoru Iwata
Hisashi Iwakuma
Kyuji Fujikawa
Tetsuya Utsumi
Satoshi Komatsu
Shunsuke Watanabe
Tetsuya Yamaguchi
Toshiya Sugiuchi

Catchers
Kenji Johjima
Shinnosuke Abe
Yoshiyuki Ishihara

Infielders
Hiroyuki Nakajima
Yasuyuki Kataoka
Akinori Iwamura
Michiro Ogasawara
Shuichi Murata
Munenori Kawasaki

Outfielders
Kosuke Fukudome
Norichika Aoki
Seiichi Uchikawa
Yoshiyuki Kamei
Atsunori Inaba
Ichiro

(SI has the AP article as well)

Notable departures are Nobuhiko Matsunaka (achilles problem), Kenta Kurihara (affected by elbow surgery last year), Toru Hosokawa (right shoulder pain), Tsuyoshi Wada, and Takayuki Kishi. Health reasons were not cited for Wada and Kishi.

Overall, the roster looks pretty good to me, though it’s somewhat short on power.The inclusion of Yoshiyuki Kamei makes no obvious sense to me, but I could see him as a defensive replacement/pinch runner. The only other questionable pick I see is Shunsuke Watanabe. He’s been hit or miss in NPB, and as I recall he wasn’t that great in the 2006 WBC.

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Offseason Changes: Nippon Ham Fighters

» 05 February 2009 » In npb » 4 Comments

Coming: Ryan Wing, Tomohiro Nioka, Masanori Hayashi, Luis Jimenez (in camp but not signed)

Going: Michael Nakamura, Takahito Kudoh, Ryan Glynn

Staying: Jason Botts, Termel Sledge, Brian Sweeney, Atsunori Inaba

Trending: a bit to the negative side

Synopsis: I think I’d rather have Nakamura than Nioka, but if Nioka bounces back and Hayashi gives the Fighters 75% of what they had with Nakamura, it will be a net gain. Those are two big “ifs” though. Yu Darvish remains the key to this though; as he goes so will the Fighters. Sho Nakata waiting in the wings doesn’t hurt either.

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Free Agency Updates

» 01 November 2008 » In mlb prospects, npb » 1 Comment

I’ve added some updates to my free agent list. Here is a summary.

International Free Agents

NPB-only Free Agents

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Olympic League Play Recap

» 21 August 2008 » In npb » Comments Off

Well, Japan squeaked into the medal round of the Olympics with a 4-3 record in group play. Japan is the 4th seed and draws top-ranked Korea in the opening game of the medal round.

Japan blew out Taiwan, the Netherlands and China, edged Canada, and lost to Cuba, Korea, and the United States. Japan beat the teams it needed to beat, and lost to the stronger competitors. The lose to Cuba was the only game that Japan didn’t have a chance to win, mostly due to Yu Darvish’s disappointing performance (5 earned runs, 12 baserunners in 4 IP).

The losses to Korea and the USA were closer — both games were tied until the late innings. Japan had Korea tied 2-2 going into the 9th, but Chunichi closer Hitoki Iwase gave up 3 runs in 1 1/3 IP to take the loss. Simon from jhockey does a much better job breaking down the game than I could possibly do here.

Japan and the US took a scoreless tie into the 11th, when the lottery tie-breaker rule kicked in. Japan left Iwase on the hill for a second inning and he gave up 4 runs. Japan responded with 2 in the bottom of the inning but that obviously wasn’t enough to win. I’ll have to admit that I didn’t see Iwase pitch in the Olympics, so I don’t know what kind of impression he’ll have made on the many scouts present.

I’m a little disappointed to see Japan and Korea play in the first game of the medal round. I don’t really want to see either of these teams go home without a medal, but one of them will (what was I thinking — the loser will have a shot at the bronze). A Japan-Korea gold medal game would have been phenomenal but that isn’t going to happen.

I’ll close out this post with some random Olympic-related notes and articles I’ve picked up over the last week. These links are all to Japanese articles:

And finally, John Donovan shares his picks for Japan’s “Dream Team” simply by adding Japanese Major Leagurs to the existing Olympic roster.

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