Tag Archive > Brett Harper

Changes for 2012: Yokohama DeNA Baystars

» 28 January 2012 » In npb » 9 Comments

It’s time again for this series of posts.I was hoping to get these in before camps open on February 1, but alas, sometimes real life intervenes. This year we’ll go in the reverse order of the final 2011 standings, Central League first. 

Coming: Alex Ramirez, Masaaki Koike, Shugo Fujii, Gio Alvarado, Kazunari Tsuruoka, Masanori Hayashi, Kazumasa Kikuchi, Taketoshi Goto, DeNA ownership, manager Kiyoshi Nakahata, new uniforms

Going: Shuichi Murata, Termel Sledge, Brett Harper, Shingo Takeyama, Naoto Inada, Tomo Ohka, Daisuke Hayakawa

Staying: Clayton Hamilton, Brandon Mann

2011 was another year in the cellar for Yokohama. The Baystars finished last in the Central for the eighth time in ten years, including the last four consecutively with sub-.360 winning percentages. Better news came following the season though, when the previous ownership group TBS finally found a buyer, mobile gaming company DeNA. The combination of new ownership and charismatic new manager Kiyoshi Nakahata has generated a level of buzz around the team unseen since Kazuhiro Sasaki’s return.

Despite 2011’s last place finish, there were a few bright spots: Kentaro Takasaki emerged as a solid starter, slugger prospect Yoshitomo Tsutsugo performed well in his late-season trial, 2009 ikusei draftee Yuki Kuniyoshi emerged as a prospect, and lefty Brandon Mann put up good numbers in limited work.  The obvious rub is that of the four guys mentioned, only Takasaki made a contribution that lasted the entire season.

The Baystars’ 2012 roster changes aren’t going to vault the team into contention, but they aren’t going to hurt either. Yomiuri refugee Alex Ramirez and the emerging Tsutsugo should cancel out the losses of Termel Sledge and Shuichi Murata, and perhaps the departure of Brett Harper will lead to a few at-bats for prospect Atsushi Kita. Ramirez will be a defensive liability, and Tsutsugo probably will be as well, but then again, Sledge and Murata weren’t exactly gold glovers.

The bigger issue for Yokohama over the last several seasons has been run prevention. Last year, Yokohama had only two pitchers through 100 or more innings, Kentaro Takasaki and NPB Tracker favorite Daisuke Miura. To that end, if newcomers Gio Alvarado and Shugo Fujii can contribute 100-120 IP of league average or slightly better ball, the dual benefit of giving the younger pitchers some breathing room and making the more competitive will be realized.

The Baystars seem destined for another last-place finish in the Central this year, but for the first time in quite a while it feels like there’s a little competitive light visible at the end of the tunnel.

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90 Minutes of Baseball on Opening Day

» 12 April 2011 » In npb » 4 Comments

The NPB season is finally upon us. On Monday evening (Pacific Time) I found about 90 minutes to spend watching two games, and talking baseball on Twitter. Here are my notes from what I saw of the games.

Chunichi vs Yokohama

  • The ‘Stars drew a pretty nice crowd.
  • Chunichi starter Maximo Nelson looked a little rough around the edges early on.
  • Yokohama starter Shogo Yamamoto can get a bunt down.
  • Forkballs and low fastballs still to work against Brett Harper.
  • Hirokazu Ibata has cool glasses.
  • Yamamoto left a mistake out over the plate for Joel Guzman, who tagged it for the first NPB home run of 2011. Yokohama manager Takao Obana wisely brought in righty Shintaro Ejiri before Guzman’s next at bat, and he made quick work of both Guzman and Tony Blanco.
  • Right after Guzman’s home run, yet another earthquake struck, shaking the lighting towers at Yokohama Stadium.

Yokohama eventually won 5-4, on a Yuta Naito walk-off hit off Takuya Asao.

Rakuten vs Lotte

  • There were quite a few fans holding signs encouraging the Tohoku region at QVC Marine Field. Lotte has great fans.
  • I thought the “Ganbarou Tohoku” patch on the Rakuten uniforms was a little small. Lotte wore black stripes on their shoulders.
  • Lotte starter Yoshihisa Naruse was locked in early on, and had six or seven strikeouts in the first four innings. I thought he was getting some low strikes called in his favor.
  • Takashi Ogino’s showed of his speed in the fourth inning: after singling, he stole second, and advanced to third on a hard fly out to left field. He then scored on a ground out to third base, though he probably would have been out if Motohiro Shima had been able to hang on to the ball. Ogino looked like he got into Hisashi Iwakuma’s head a little bit, as he seemed distracted when he was on first base.
  • Kim Tae Kyun looks fatter than last year.
  • Iwakuma got himself into a couple of minor jams in the fourth and fifth, but came away unscathed. His fastball velocity wasn’t great though.
  • I wasn’t impressed with Rakuten’s 1B/DH duo: Takeshi Yamasaki started at first, but hisfielding days should rightfully be behind him, and Randy Ruiz looked bad in his first two at bats against Naruse.
  • Just as I was signing off, Shima took Naruse deep for a three-run homer, giving Rakuten a lead they would extend and never relinquish. As great as Naruse is, his control has to be spot on, because he throws so softly that his mistakes can be very costly. Last year he struck out 192, but gave up 29 home runs.

Lotte mounted a comeback against Iwakuma in the ninth, but Justin Speier relieved him and stopped the Marines for his first NPB save. The final score was 6-4.

Other items of note from games I didn’t watch:

  • Matt Murton hit a home run in his first at bat of the season
  • Yu Darvish got lit up for seven earned runs in seven innings, in the worst opening day performance of his career.

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Offseason Changes: Yokohama BayStars

» 22 January 2011 » In npb » 16 Comments

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be publishing team-by-team summaries of this offseason’s NPB transactions. There aren’t enough hours in the day to make this a comprehensive list of all movement, so we’ll focus on the highest-impact changes. Our series starts at the bottom of the Central League, which again means the Yokohama BayStars.

Coming: Hichori Morimoto, Shogo Yamamoto, Go Kida, Naoto Watanabe, Brandon Mann, Clayton Hamilton, Brent Leach, Ikki Shimamura, Koji Ohnuma, Kuan Yu Chen

Going: Seiichi Uchikawa, Hayato Terahara, Kazuya Takamiya, Chris Bootcheck, Stephen Randolph, Jose Castillo, Atsushi Kizuka,Yataro Sakamoto, Toshihiro Noguchi, Takahiro Saeki, Shingo Nonaka, Kentaro Kuwabara

Staying: Shuichi Murata, Brett Harper, Termel Sledge, Tatsuhiko Kinjoh, Tomo Ohka

Summary: A lot of turnover for the BayStars again this year, headlined by the losses of Uchikawa and Terahara. Uchi will be missed, as he was Hama’s most consistent on-base threat, and while Morimoto is a useful player, he doesn’t match up at the plate. And trading Terahara for Yamamoto… I just can’t understand that one. Even if they were dead set on acquiring a lefty, they could have simply signed Eric Stults or kept Randolph. But ‘Stars took a different approach to their import roster this year, signing less experienced minor leaguers Mann, Hamilton and Leach rather than getting more 4A guys. Signing a number of guys and seeing if one of them works out is actually a decent strategy for a team that can’t realistically expect to content in 2011. Or perhaps ownership is keeping the payroll down in anticipation of a team sale.

Yokohama finished last in run production and run prevention last year, and didn’t acquire any veteran talent that will immediately improve the team on either side of the ball. So is there any hope by the Bay in 2011? If there is, it has to come from the team’s young talent. The BayStars’ 2010 draft focused on college and Industrial League players who can help soon, and top picks Kota Suda, Kisho Kagami, and Sho Aranami should all be in the mix for ichi-gun time as rookies. Yokohama doesn’t have great organizational pitching depth, but any steps forward taken by Takayuki Makka, Hitoshi Fujie, Atori Ohta and Yoh Sugihara will be meaningful. Overall, though, this looks like a team that is headed for another last place finish.

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Foreign Player Hits & Misses: Central League

» 19 November 2010 » In npb » 6 Comments

Every year sees a new crop of foreign players in Japan. 2010 was no different, and several newcomers to NPB were smashing successes, while others completely missed the mark this past season. Let’s take a look at some in the Central League:

Hits

Matt Murton, outfielder, Hanshin Tigers.

Easily the foreign-born player of the year (and perhaps the story of the year), Murton’s season was a record setter. A career .286 hitter over five seasons in Major League Baseball, Murton put up a stunning .349/.395/.499 batting line in his rookie season with Hanshin. He set a new Japanese single season hits record with 214, while leading his team with 105 runs scored. He also knocked in 91 runs while helping the Tigers to a second place finish. As an example of Murton’s batting prowess, he had seven games with four or more hits, and only went hitless in 28 (he played in all 144). Murton will undoubtedly be back playing for the Tigers in 2011, perhaps as their everyday right fielder, as they have already picked up his option for next season.

Brett Harper, infielder, Yokohama Bay Stars.

Harper was a pretty good mid-season find for a team that crashed to a 95 loss season.

Harper’s final line over his partial 2010 season read .316/.395/.596. That slugging percentage would have easily led the team if Harper had gotten enough playing time to qualify for leader boards. He hit 19 home runs in only 261 plate appearances. Harper looks like a keeper for 2011.

Josh Whitesell, infielder, Yakult Swallows.

Another mid-season pickup, Whitesell was a pretty good find for Yakult. The 28 year-old left handed hitter poked 15 home runs on his way to a .309/.399/.591 line. While he only saw action in 68 games he provides the Swallows with a pretty good first base option going forward. Like many first basemen he struck out at a high clip (71 times), but hit .359 with runners in scoring position. It looks as if Yakult will invite him back to Japan in 2011, though the sample size for his numbers is limited by his late start.

Giancarlo Alvarado, pitcher, Hiroshima Carp.

Alvarado seemed to be the only foreigner on Hiroshima’s staff whose season wasn’t a disappointment. The Puerto Rican right-hander provided a poor Hiroshima club with an 8-8, 4.07 ERA in 119 1/3 innings. The eight wins were good for second-highest on the team (Kenta Maeda earned 15) and his ERA was a full run lower than fellow newcomer Eric Stults’. Slightly concerning were Alvarado’s 4 wild pitches and team high 5 balks.

Misses

Justin Huber, infielder, Hiroshima Carp.

The Carp didn’t have any foreign hitters with pop in their bat like they have had in previous seasons (Alex Ochoa, Scott McClain, Scott Seabol, and Andy Phillips come to mind). Huber certainly didn’t hit the ball out of the park very often, and didn’t hit it much elsewhere either. In his 80 games Huber batted .220 for a team that didn’t improve their win total very much under new manager Kenjiro Nomura. Huber (like most of the rest of the 2010 Carp foreigners) was a washout.

Casey Fossum, pitcher, Hanshin Tigers.

2010 was not a productive season for the left-handed Fossum. Originally signed to be used as a starter, management changed course with him and tried him out of the bullpen. In 12 games at the ichi-gun level Fossum allowed 36 earned runs over 56 2/3 innings for an unsightly 5.72 ERA and 2-5 record. A demotion to ni-gun helped his numbers, as he posted a 3.10 ERA in 18 games at that level with a single win (1-0). Signed for only one year, the Tigers officially cut ties with Fossum in October.

Dionys Cesar, infielder/outfielder, Chunichi Dragons.

Cesar, a utility infielder who played in the Mexican League prior to coming to Japan, was a disappointment in 2010. Converted to the outfield, the switch-hitter batted a paltry .215 with a single home run (.215/244/.269). He struck out 45 times and walked only 7 times in 194 plate appearances. Chunichi cut ties with the Dominican at the end of the 2010 season.

Tony Barnette, pitcher, Yakult Swallows.

Barnette will not be offered a contract for 2011 after a rather poor 2010 performance. He posted a lackluster 5.99 ERA era at the ichi-gun level over 16 games (79 2/3 IP, 4-5 record). With Yakult’s ni-gun team the results were equally sub-par: 1 win, 3 losses, a 5.03 ERA over 34 innings.

One for debate

Jose Castillo, infielder, Yokohama Bay Stars.

In his first year in Japan, Castillo provided a .273/.309./446 year as Yokohama’s primary second baseman. He led the team with 16 errors and drew only 22 walks, which kept his OBP low. On the plus side, his 19 home runs were good for a third place tie on the team. It appears that despite his power, Yokohama will look for a player to replace Castillo in 2011.

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And the Tryouts Begin

» 18 October 2010 » In nichibei, npb » 7 Comments

With the season over for more than half the teams now, we’re seeing the tryouts begin. Lots of outside-the-boxing going on here:

  • Orix is looking at Venezuelans Luis Rodriguez and Victor Garate, both of whom have MLB experience. Garate is a 25 year-old lefty who has done well in 2A, but only reached 3A in 2010. Rodriguez is a 30 year-old infielder who bounced between the Majors and Minors between 2005-09, and spent last season on the White Sox’ 3A team. Orix had four Venezuelans on their roster last year, but management commented that it’s just a coincidence.
  • Rakuten brought in long-time US-based Indy Leaguer Travis Garcia for a tryout, but passed on signing him. Garcia has had some success in Indy ball but it’s not clear that he was active in 2010.
  • Yokohama brought in four pitchers for tryouts: 2A righty Clayton Hamilton and Indy Leaguers Jeff Ridgway, Brandon Mann, and Joseph Newby. Yokohama has had a hard time fielding a respectable pitching staff over the last several years, but I don’t think they’ll find the answer here. The pitchers in this batch are mostly in their late 20’s and haven’t had much success in the upper minors.
  • Hanshin worked out Venezuelan pitcher Robert Zarate a couple weeks ago. Zarate has three years of rookie ball experience under his belt, and pitched last year in the Independent BC League.

Of the guys listed in this post, only Rodriguez is a typical 4A type. We’ll see if any of them actually winds up signing contracts, but it looks like a trend of at least considering less-established players is emerging. The recent low-budget success of guys like Tony Blanco, Wirfin Obispo, Brett Harper and Francisco Caraballo have  shown that sometimes these kinds of moves can work out.

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Harper’s Home Runs

» 19 August 2010 » In nichibei, npb » 5 Comments

Brett Harper has gotten off to quite a start in Japan. Though he’s cooled off a little bit (3 for his last 23, with 8 K’s), through 33 games and 137 plate appearances he’s sporting a 1.077 OPS and 11 home runs. Harper racked up those 11 homers quickly, in his first 100 or so ABs.

This got me thinking, it is the league or Harper? So I wrote a little query to get the opposing pitcher, pitch type, velocity and count for each of his 11 home runs:

game result pitcher pitch mph balls strikes outs
2010071802 本塁打[ サヨナラ満塁ホームラン ] Marc Kroon forkball 0 0 0 1
2010081002 本塁打 Wei-Yin Chen fastball 88.125 3 2 2
2010070602 本塁打 Wei-Yin Chen fastball 91.875 2 2 1
2010072703 本塁打 Kyuji Fujikawa fastball 96.25 3 2 1
2010072102 本塁打 Kazuki Yoshimi fastball 90 1 1 1
2010070903 本塁打 Yasutomo Kubo forkball 81.25 1 2 1
2010071301 本塁打 Kenta Maeda slider 81.875 3 1 0
2010081102 本塁打[ バックスクリーン ] Masato Kobayashi fastball 82.5 1 2 1
2010080602 本塁打 Shouhei Tateyama fastball 91.875 0 1 1
2010071401 本塁打[ ポール直撃 ] Giancarlo Alvarado slider 81.875 0 0 2
2010080702 本塁打 Masato Nakazawa curve 70.625 1 0 0

Notes: 1. today’s Japanese vocabulary is “honruida”, (本塁打), “home run”. 2. the ‘0’ velocity on the HR off Kroon is the result of my data source lacking velocity data for some pitches.

I was a little surprised; I thought there would be a little bit more of a trend. Harper has hit six bombs on fastballs, and five on breaking pitches. His home runs have come against some of Japan’s best pitchers: Chen, Fujikawa, Maeada, Yoshimi, and some solid performers in Kudo, Tateyama and Alvarado.

So on the flip side, what has Harper struggled with? I wrote another query to get the pitches he’s swung and missed on. Harper has done a pretty good job of making contact, swinging and missing 62 times on the 556 pitches he’s seen this season. Here’s the breakdown:

pitch swinging strikes
changeup 2
curve 4
cut fastball 3
fastball 8
forkball 28
shuuto 1
sinker 1
slider 14
special 1

Forkballs and sliders. Further querying reveals that Harper has seen 94 forkballs and 104 sliders, so he’s chased a large percentage of the forks he’s seen.

So going back to Harper’s recent slump, I took a look at what pitches he’s seen over his last six games:

pitch # thrown
changeup 6
curve 15
cut fastball 8
fastball 39
forkball 33
shuuto 1
slider 20

So it looks like the league has caught on to Harper’s forkball weakness, as he’s seen nearly as many forkballs as fastballs. And accordingly, he’s whiffed on 14 of them.

Now that Harper has shown he can mash NPB fastballs, he won’t see as many of them. Harper’s early success is a great sign, but he’ll have to lay off the breaking stuff and get pitches he can drive.

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Foreign Player Signings: Fernandez, Harper

» 25 June 2010 » In nichibei, npb » Comments Off

A couple of new imports this week to report…

  • Seibu has brought back Jose Fernandez back to Saitama on a $300k deal. Fernandez played for Seibu in 2004-5, and has spent seven years in Japan overall. He had been tearing up the Mexican League with a 1.010 ops this season, after Orix cut him loose last year.
  • Yokohama has officially introduced Brett Harper, who passed an audition last week and signed a contract earlier this week. It’s an interesting contract that pays based on how many games Harper appears in at both levels, topping out at $100k. The deal also includes an option for next year. Harper is a big first baseman who has bounced around four MLB organizations since a strong 2008 season for the Giants 3A affiliate in Fresno. This signing kind of reminds of when the BayStars acquired Cedrick Bowers a few years ago,

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