Tag Archive > Bobby Keppel

Offseason Changes: Nippon Ham Fighters

» 06 February 2011 » In npb » 8 Comments

Coming: Wirfin Obispo, Yuki Saito, Micah Hoffpauir, Kenta Matsusaka, Tomohisa Nemoto

Going: Hichori Morimoto, Hideki Sunaga, Toshimasa Konta, Yoshinori Tateyama, Takayuki Takaguchi, Kazunori Yamamoto, Buddy Carlyle, Tomochika Tsuboi

Staying: Yu Darvish, Kazuhito Tadano, Kensuke Tanaka

Summary: Did anyone else hear that Yuki Saito is on his way to Hokkaido? Yes? Believe it or not, there was news concerning other members of the Nippon Ham Fighters this winter. While the Fighters welcomed two new foreign players this offseason, said goodbye to one, and saw a fan favorite slip away, the most anxiety surrounded the fate of their ace.

Despite some ominous sounding tweets from Yu Darvish saying that his “situation had changed,” it hadn’t from a baseball standpoint. The Fighters’ ace and most important player is staying in Sapporo for at least one more season. He reeled in a JPY 500m contract, NPB’s top salary, as we welcomed in 2011. Carrying the load behind him will be Bobby Keppel and Masaru Takeda, who make up the top of a stingy staff that was arguably the best in Japan in 2010.

The back of the rotation faces some uncertainty, though, as Hirotoshi Masui comes into spring camp proclaiming that he wants to be the #4 starter. Throw newcomer Wirfin Obispo and incumbent Tomoya Yagi into the mix along with perhaps Saito and some other worthy candidates, and you have a full-on battle. We’ll have to see how it shakes out.

One name who won’t be in the mix this year is Buddy Carlyle. The man who was once traded for Marc Kroon in America finds himself back in the States… along with Kroon, as fate would have it. Joining them on the other side of the ocean will be Yoshinori Tateyama, who skipped town as a free agent to join the Texas Rangers.

Lovable goofball Hichori Morimoto took his talents south to Yokohama. It’ll be strange for a while seeing him donning a blue and white uniform. Coming into the lineup to hopefully supply more pop will be self described “doubles hitter” Micah Hoffpauir. The left-handed veteran of the Chicago Cubs system will presumably play first base; he’ll try to match or surpass the 22 home runs he hit at AAA last year.

In my assessment, despite having a power starved lineup, their pitching should get them into the playoffs. They nearly made it wast year, being edged out by 1/2 game in a frantic scramble. They need Hoffpauir’s bat to be what they hope it is, and could really use a big contribution from Sho Nakata, in what could be a make-or-break year for him. Players like Atsunori Inaba, Makoto Kaneko and Tomohiro Nioka aren’t getting any younger, and 2011 may be their last chance (and Darvish’s) to bring Hokkaido another title. While I don’t see them finishing atop the Pacific League, I think a playoff spot is theirs to lose.

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Foreign Player Hits & Misses: Pacific League

» 21 November 2010 » In npb » 12 Comments

Since we’ve already looked at the Central League side, it’s time to examine the successful and not-so-successful new foreign players in the Pacific League:

Hits

Tae-Kyun Kim, infielder, Chiba Lotte Marines

In the first season of his three year contract, the stocky Korean first baseman paid dividends for the eventual champions.  Kim appeared in all but three of his team’s games, hitting .268/.357/.429 with 21 home runs and 92 RBI. While his lack of speed (0 SB, 24 GIDP) and high strikeout total (140) brought down his value, Kim showed some patience at the plate with 74 walks. The World Baseball Classic star hit .345 during that tournament in 2009; he posted an identical batting average in the 2010 Japan Series en route to the championship.

Bill Murphy, pitcher, Chiba Lotte Marines

The left-handed Californian had a pleasantly surprising season in Chiba prefecture. Appearing in 38 games, Murphy was able to win 12 games (coupled with 6 losses) with an ERA of 3.75 while limiting his opponents to a .244 batting average. He whiffed 125 batters in 144 innings of work (7.81 K/9IP ratio).  Murphy did struggle with his command, though, as he led the Pacific League in walks issued (84) and wild pitches (11).

Bobby Keppel, pitcher, Nippon Ham Fighters

Keppel was a reliable starter for a team that just barely missed making the Pacific League’s postseason. He won 12 games and lost 8 with a 3.35 ERA this past season.  In the United States, Keppel had never been a strikeout pitcher and he stayed true to form in Japan. In 158 2/3 innings he K’ed only 85 men, but was able to throw two complete games, including one shutout.

Misses

J.D. Durbin, pitcher, Fukuoka Softbank Hawks

Durbin’s 2010 season in Japan was split between the Hawks’ ichi-gun and ni-gun teams. After passing a May tryout he was signed, but was ineffective at the top level soon thereafter. He worked 16 innings and gave up 12 runs, posting an unsightly 6.75 ERA and an equally unpleasant 1.62 WHIP. At ni-gun he was better, slimming his ERA to 3.68 while going 5-0 over 49 innings. Unfortunately for Durbin, Hawks management was unwilling to give him a second chance in 2011, and he was cut loose by the organization in September.

Beom-Ho Lee, infielder, Fukouka Softbank Hawks

Lee was signed out of Korea as a third-baseman with a nifty glove and a slugging bat. I was reluctant to include him on this list because I’m not really sure he had a full chance to prove his talents. In 48 games he came to the plate 139 times, hitting .226/.294/.355. The .649 OPS is weak, however he made only 1 error in the field. He might get more playing time in 2011 as Softbank modifies their roster this offseason. Keep in mind that he will still be behind Nobuhiro Matsuda on the Hawks’ depth chart, which could scuttle that plan.

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Will 2010 See a 20-Game Winner?

» 05 July 2010 » In npb » 2 Comments

It’s not year that we see a 20 game winner in NPB. The last pitcher to pull it off was Hisashi Iwakuma, with his remarkable 21-win season in 2008. The last time prior to that was 2003, when Kei Igawa and Kazumi Saito each won 20, and shared the Sawamura Award. Bonus points will be awarded to the reader who can name the last 20-game winner prior to Igawa and Saito.

At the halfway point this season, a number of pitchers have won enough to have a shot at 20:

Pitcher Team Record Starts ERA
Shun Tohno Yomiuri 11-2 15 2.40
Tsuyoshi Wada SoftBank 11-4 15 3.24
Bobby Keppel Nippon Ham 10-1 14 3.07
Toshiya Sugichi SoftBank 10-3 15 3.82
Kenta Maeda Hiroshima 10-3 16 1.56
Hideaki Wakui Seibu 10-4 16 2.90
Takayuki Kishi Seibu 9-5 15 3.36

So will any of them do it? Assuming good health, each one of these guys should get 10-13 more starts this year, so, as always, winning 20 will require both effectiveness and luck.

If I were to place a bet on one of these pitchers winning 20, I think I’d reluctantly go with Tohno. The Giants will keep winning and he’s been very effective, but Tohno doesn’t go deep into games and will rely on his bullpen to lock down wins for him. The fact that Maeda, the only other Central Leaguer on this list, plays for the also-ran Hiroshima seems to work against him, but remember that Iwak

I could see one of the Pacific League pitchers making a run too, but the Pa-League is so balanced this year it’s hard to guess which one.

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New Foreign Players — Which Ones Did I Get Right?

» 27 February 2010 » In nichibei, npb » Comments Off

Last November, I made a few predictions about guys we might see move to NPB for 2010. I actually got a couple right:

  • Buddy Carlyle (Nippon Ham)
  • Lee Beom-Ho (SoftBank)
  • Kim Tae-Gyun (Lotte)
  • Matt Murton (Hanshin)
  • Chris Bootcheck (Yokohama)
*excluding the players on my list that were already in Japan in 2009

So that’s 5/28 (without the 2009 NPB guys), and the two Koreans were pretty easy predictions. I thought I got Bobby Keppel right too, but when I looked back at my list it was Bobby Korecky that I had guessed.

There were other guys that I took long looks at, but decided to leave out for various reasons. These were the last three in my notes:

  • Andy Marte thought he would get an MLB shot with the rebuilding Indians
  • Carlo Alvarado – the number of 3A innings he threw over the last two years caught my eye; in retrospect I didn’t have enough starters on my list
  • Jeff Fiorentino – call this one gut feel. I favored slugging left fielder-types in my list, and thought Murton’s MLB experience distinguished him from Fio

Alvarado and Fiorentino signed with the Carp over the winter, while I assume Marte will get another look with Cleveland. Ironically, I would have loved to see the Carp get Marte instead of Justin Huber, but I don’t know if he was ever available.

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Johjima Scouts for Tigers

» 06 November 2009 » In npb » 6 Comments

Update: Looks like this caught at least one of the players mentioned by surprise. Keep in mind, the story is about a list of guys the Tigers are looking at and not necessarily in active negotiations with.

One of the fringe benefits Hanshin trying to get out of bringing in Kenji Johima is some additional scouting intelligence on pitchers in MLB organizations. Aside from Jeff Williams, Hanshin’s only sustained import success over the last several years has been righty Scott Atchison, who is leaving the team this offseason. After Atchison, Jerrod Riggan was good while he lasted and Darwin Cubillan had his moments, but that’s pretty much where it ends.

Sports Hochi Osaka has a list of candidates Hanshin is looking at, compiled presumably with Joh’s input:

  • Ryan Rowland-Smith
  • Chris Jakubauskas
  • Bobby Keppel
  • DJ Carrasco

I can’t believe that the Mariners would move Rowland-Smith, but Hanshin has the right idea with him. Carrasco spent a year in Japan with SoftBank and didn’t have a favorable experience, so I’d be surprised if he came back. Jakubauskas and Keppel sound about right.

Sanspo adds a few more names to the list, most of which we’ve seen before:

  • Brad Thomas
  • Juan Morillo
  • Jo Jo Reyes
  • Wil Ledezma
  • Charlie Haeger

The only new name on this list is Haeger, who is an interesting candidate. We don’t see a lot of knuckleballers in NPB.

In related news, Hanshin has announced that they are cutting ties with Jeff Williams, Scott Atchison, Kevin Mench and Aarom Baldiris, while moving to retain Craig Brazell and Kai-Wen Cheng. None of this is really news either, except that Williams has come out and said that he wants to return to the team after rehabbing for the next year. He’ll be about 40 if he can return in 2011, but here’s hoping he can come back and end his career properly.

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