Tag Archive > Casey Fossum

Offseason Changes: Hanshin Tigers

» 29 January 2011 » In npb » 8 Comments

Coming: Hiroyuki Kobayashi, Akihito Fujii, Ryota Arai, Robert Zarate, Marcos Vechionacci

Going: Casey Fossum, Akihiro Yano, Satoru Kanemura, Daiyu Kanemura, Keisuke Mizuta

Staying: Matt Murton, Craig Brazell, Jason Standridge, Randy Messenger

Summary: Hanshin’s offseason starts with the successful retention of the team’s foreign core — Murton, Brazell, Standridge. Messenger also received a contract for 2011, despite his disappointing results last season. The fact that Hanshin’s foreign roster isn’t overcrowded may mean that incumbent Kai Wen Jeng gets a few innings at the ichi-gun level, or that the Tigers will seek reinforcements if Standridge or Messenger stumble. Beyond that, Hanshin’s only significant acquisitions were scooping up Kobayashi after he failed to land an MLB contract, acquiring catcher depth in Fujii, and trading for Takahiro Arai’s brother Ryota. Reports of a Jeff Williams comeback have unfortunately not yet come to fruition.

With the return of Murton and Brazell, Hanshin will again field a strong offense, though it is a good bet they will see some regression. The Tigers lineup was spectacular in2010, with five regulars who batted .300 or higher (and Brazell right behind at .297) powering the team to a league-top 740 runs. Hanshin’s lineup will be good in 2011, but Keiichi Hirano is not going to hit .350 again, and Kenji Johjima is on the shelf recovering from knee surgery until sometime after the season starts. And as good as Murton and Brazell are, it would be unrealistic to expect them to match their superb 2010 results. That said though, Hanshin still has an offense rivaled only by Yomiuri in the Central League.

Hanshin’s rotation has a lot more question marks than its lineup. Yasutomo Kubo has been a godsend, last year becoming the first Hanshin pitcher to throw 200 innings since Kei Igawa back in 2006. Standridge was something of a godsend in 2010 as well, finished second on the team with 126.1 innings. Then 42 year-old lefty Tsuyoshi Shimoyanagi contributed his brand of six-inning appearances, but only 19 times. The laws of the universe dictate that he’ll have to stop someday, but who knows when that will be? Beyond those three guys, Hanshin’s rotation is filled with a bunch of question marks. Minoru Iwata, Atsushi Nohmi, and Yuya Ando have all had success in the past but are coming off injuries. Touted 2009 draftee Kazuhito Futagami didn’t throw a pitch last year; Takumi Akiyama threw many with considerable success, but he’s still only 20. Naoto Tsuru finished last season well and could be poised for a breakout. Hanshin’s bullpen also remains a strength, anchored by ace closer Kyuji Fujikawa.

Overall I see Hanshin as a team with a lot of talent, but one that is kind of on the edge. Despite their thin rotation, the Tigers finished one game out of first last season. If their stable pitchers hold steady and a couple of the question marks pan out, they could be dominant. If they falter and the injury guys don’t come back, Hanshin’s bullpen will be overworked and we’ll see a lot of high scoring games.

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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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Hanshin Import Pitching: Messenger, Jeng, Fossum

» 09 November 2010 » In nichibei, npb » 1 Comment

Alright, here we go.

Hanshin is hanging on to pitcher Randy Messenger. The news that Hanshin wants keep him broke over the weekend, and I heard from a reliable source on Monday that the two sides have agreed to terms for next season. Messenger didn’t light up the Central League in year one, but he’ll remain in the picture for both bullpen and rotation innings in 2011.

In the same Sanspo piece, it was reported that Taiwanese righty Kai-Weng Jeng has agreed to a deal for next season that will pay him 10m yen. Jeng signed out of a Taiwanese college in 2009.

In older news, Hanshin announced a few weeks ago that they will not offer Casey Fossum a contract for 2011. No word yet on Jason Standridge.

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NPB Bullet Points: While I Was Away

» 07 May 2010 » In mlb, nichibei, npb » 6 Comments

It’s been a while since I’ve written any actual content about Japanese baseball… sometimes real life gets in the way. Let’s see if we can fix that, at least for now.

  • The surprise of the season so far for me has been the performance of the Chiba Lotte Marines, who are neck and neck and neck with the SoftBank Hawks and resurgent Seibu Lions for the Pacific League lead. Lotte is getting it done in style too, leading the Pa-League in team runs scored, runs allowed, batting average and era. Will it continue? You have to figure that Kim Tae-Kyun and Tadahito Iguchi will cool off at some point, but they have a decent lineup 1-9. The pitching is a little bit of a concern too, as new manager Nishimura is letting some of his starters go a bit further into games than Bobby V used to. We’ll see if that turns into a problem down the stretch.
  • Over in the Central League, it’s nice to see the Yokohama BayStars competing with a respectable 16-18 record so far. Yokohama is getting good production from a number of pitchers, including newcomers Naoyuki Shimizu, Shigeru Kaga, and Shintaro Ejiri. The ‘Stars are still struggling in spots offensively, but should be better over the course of the season by virtue of the sheer number of weak bats they took out of the lineup last offseason.
  • Bridging the gap between those first two bullet points is the apparently impending trade of Yuji Yoshimi from Yokohama to Lotte. The big lefty was once a promising starter, but injuries derailed him for a couple of years and recently he’s been more of a middle-of-the-pack long reliever. Lotte seems to want him as a starter.
  • And more on Lotte: reliever Hiroyuki Kobayashi has qualified for international free agency, and is reportedly likely to seek a move to the majors. This has come up before with Kobayashi so it isn’t exactly a surprise at this point. I could see him playing for the San Francisco Giants, if they have an opening for a righthander. Former Lotte man Shun Kakazu scouts Japan for the Giants, and Brian Sabean can be creative in putting together his bullpen.
  • Former Hanshin lefty Jeff Williams wants to return to the Tigers as an active pitcher, but the Tigers want to bring him back as a scout. The idea would be for current scout Andy Sheets to focus on hitters, while Jeff would look for pitchers. Jeff certainly knows what it takes to succeed in Japan, but I would love to see him pitch for the Tigers again and eventually get a proper do-age send-off.
  • Who will be this year’s Junichi Tazawa or Yusei Kikuchi? Maybe it will be Chuo University pitcher Hirokazu Sawamura, who seems to be eclipsing Yuki Saito in terms of media ink. The Giants and Mets each had a scout at Sawamura’s most recent scout, with Mets’ Isao Ojimi saying that it would “be a waste for him to say in Japan”, while the Giants’ Shun Kakazu said that he hit 97 on his gun. Draft Reports has a quote from Sports Hochi from February saying that Sawamura is favoring playing in Japan.
  • Moving along to Kikuchi, the young lefty now known simply as Yusei struggled with both his command and velocity in his first couple ni-gun appearances, but showed signs of improvement on May 4th, when he threw five scoreless innings and hit 147 kmph (92mph) on the gun. Seibu is saying he won’t be promoted before the All-Star break, but could get a look afterward.
  • Casey Fossum bought the PSP version of Pro Yakyu Spirits 2010 for his five year-old son, but was annoyed to learn that Konami made him pretty bad in the game, and vowed to use it as motivation to do well and be a better player in next year’s version of the game. Speaking of Fossum, he’s blogging about his experiences in Japan.
  • Off-topic bullet point: I came across this essay about the state of Japan’s technology and IT sector (link to PDF file), and why it’s in trouble. It makes some good points, but overall I found it disappointing as it covers the usual tired criticisms of over-reliance on manufactured consumer goods and an under-developed services sector.

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Bullet Points: NHL Playoffs, Debuts

» 19 April 2010 » In mlb, nichibei, npb » 8 Comments

First a little diversion into hockey: the NHL playoffs are underway and my local San Jose Sharks won the top seed in the Western Conference, and are off to an… interesting start to their first series. If you’ve paid any attention to the Sharks over the last few years, you know that they’ve made a habit of perennially flaming out in the early rounds of the playoffs. So I had modest expectations coming in, which I thought were realized with a rather lackluster game one. But in game two I saw a Sharks team that I haven’t seen in a long time. I can’t remember the last time I saw them play with such a level of urgency. And they took it up a notch in game three, completely dominating the puck in the second and third periods.

But the Sharks had their flaws in both games two and three: in game two they few chances they gave up were top-notch, and Evgeni Nabakov didn’t make any big saves in regulation; in game three the Sharks just couldn’t manage to score, despite getting 51 shots to the net, and eventually lost on an own-goal in overtime. The Sharks are clearly more talented than Colorado but have yet to really play a complete game.

Somewhere in an alternate universe, the Sharks kept their young players together, Jonathan Cheechoo never fell apart, and a team featuring lines of Joe Thornton, Cheechoo, and Devin Setoguchi and Patrick Marleau, Milan Mihalek, and Steve Bernier has played Pittsburgh in the Stanley Cup finals the last two years.

And while we’re on hockey, Janblurr put up a post last week on the state of German professional hockey and some of the issues currently facing the Deutsche Eishockey Liga.

On with the bullet points…

  • On April 18, Hanshin’s Tomoaki Kanemoto failed to play every inning of his team’s game for the first time since 1999, ending his “full inning” streak at 1492. Just think about that for a second. 1492 games without missing an inning, from age 31 to 42. Kanemoto did make a pinch hit appearance, so his consecutive game streak is alive.
  • Roberto Petagine updates: Petagine will make his SoftBank debut during the interleague games in May at the earliest, and word is he’ll retire after his time in Fukuoka. Roberto’s 62 year-old wife Olga will be accompanying him to Japan.
  • Randy Johnson threw out the first pitch at a Seibu game last week.
  • One of my players to watch, Romash Tasuku Dass, made his first ichi-gun start of 2010 last week. The results? Not impressive. I didn’t see the game but he featured mostly a mid-80’s fastball, and got knocked out of the game early. Deanna was right.
  • Casey Fossum also made his Japan debut last week, throwing six shutout innings in a Tigers win. His velocity wasn’t great either.
  • SoftBank worked out Michael Olmsted and JD Durbin. Based on the Nikkan Sports write-up, Olmsted was the more impressive of the two, striking out six of nine batters faced. Durbin struck out four of 11. I’m not sure if these were live batters or in a simulated game scneario.

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Add Powell to Hanshin’s List

» 27 March 2010 » In nichibei, npb » 5 Comments

Casey Fossum has started the season in minors, and Hanshin continues to hunt for reinforcements. According to a Sports Hochi report from a couple days ago, the Hanshin Tigers have added former NPB’er Jeremy Powell to their shopping list. Powell has extensive experience in Japan, joining the old Kintetsu Buffaloes franchise midway through the 2001 season, and hanging around with Yomiuri and SoftBank until 2008. He’s pretty not too far away from having enough service time to shed his foreign player status, though he did miss time with injuries while in Japan. Powell put up a 3.74 era in 98.2 innings for Pittsburgh’s 3A club last year.

So this brings Hanshin’s list to:

  • Powell
  • Eric Stults
  • Seth McClung
  • Jo-Jo Reyes
  • Jack Taschner

All indications are that Stults remains Hanshin’s preferred target. Word is that Stults being shopped by the Dodgers since he’s out of options and is no longer a candidate for the team’s  fifth rotation spot. Stults probably has the most MLB upside of anyone on this list (though Reyes is kind of a wild card), and though Hanshin would pay a decent transfer fee for him, LA may prefer to get a player back.

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Hanshin Looking to Import More Pitching

» 21 March 2010 » In nichibei, npb » 2 Comments

Edit: Sanspo adds Jack Taschner to the list here.

The Central League season hasn’t even opened, and already the Hanshin Tigers are worried about their rotation. Staff ace Minoru Iwata has left the team with pain in his throwing elbow, solid righty Yasuyuki Kubo has suffered from gastroenteritis, and new import Casey Fossum is coming off a bad spring training start. Fossum has also been kind of a question mark this spring, reportedly struggling with poor velocity. The Tigers see him as a starter and if he can’t crack the opening day rotation, he’ll start with the farm team, rather than in the top team’s bullpen.

The solution Hanshin is eyeballing is to import another arm. Sports Hochi gives us three names:

  • Eric Stults (Dodgers)
  • Jo-Jo Reyes (Braves)
  • Seth McClung (Marlins)
  • Jack Taschner (Pirates)

Lotte was after Stults during the offseason, but he’s in the mix for a starting job with the Dodgers. Hanshin was linked to Reyes earlier in the offseason, but nothing came of it. Reyes is an interesting option given that he’s younger and has more of an injury history than the typical Japan-bound player. Like so many other pitchers that go to Japan, McClung brings a mix of good velocity and middling command to the table. I’m not sure why Taschner is an option if they are looking for a starter.

Hanshin’s foreign player roster is already maxed out with Fossum, Randy Messenger, Matt Murton and Craig Brazell, with Taiwanese right Kei-Wen Cheng waiting in the wings. Brazell’s and Murton’s spots are likely safe, so if a new pitcher is added, he’ll have to compete with Fossum and Messenger for roster time.

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New Pitches

» 04 March 2010 » In mlb, npb » Comments Off

It’s spring training, and that means pitchers are refining their arsenals. Here are some of the guys that are working on new pitches this spring:

We’ll have to wait and see what from this list survives to see game action.

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Hanshin Notes: Murton, Brazell, Fossum

» 12 December 2009 » In npb » Comments Off

A couple of Hanshin Tigers foreign player items of note in the news today:

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