Tag Archive > Chiba Lotte Marines

NPB Bullet Points: Mulhern, MLB Scouts, Rakuten Fireworks

» 13 July 2011 » In nichibei, npb » 6 Comments

Today’s news and notes from around Japan, with a focus on scouting and player personnel.

  • Daily Sports reports that Seibu is working on signing Ryan Mulhern out of the Mexican League. I had never heard of Mulhern before yesterday, but he’s spent the last two seasons in indy ball and Mexico, and prior to that it looks like he’d mostly been an organizational player. It’s great to see this kind of player get a shot and I wish him the best of luck.
  • Chunichi Sports points out that Ryan Vogelsong is the third non-Japanese player with NPB experience to make an MLB All-Star team. The other two? Cecil Fielder and Alfonso Soriano.
  • Wladimir Balentien’s contract with Yakult includes language that prevents him from moving to another NPB team after the season. Said someone familiar with the situation: “Discussion about foreign players leaving the team or not ended with Chang-Yong Lim last offseason. New players acquired since then have contractual provisions against moving domestically.”
  • Sponichi reports that the Rays, Indians, Astros and Angels had scouts at Hisashi Iwakuma’s most recent rehab start.
  • Hanshin is reportedly looking to acquire Korean slugger Dae-Ho Lee this offseason.
  • The “Big 3″ college pitchers – Tomoyuki Sugano, Takahiro Fujioka and Yusuke Nomura – have all disavowed interest in skipping NPB in favor of MLB. The trio had been attracting attention from MLB scouts.
  • MLB scouts from three un-named teams watched Shoji Yoshimoto, who Nikkan Sports called “the Darvish of Shimomachi Shitamachi.”
  • Rakuten will feature fireworks displays after all 13 of it’s home games in August. As an added promotion, 20 families will get to watch the fireworks from the field.
  • In more Rakuten news, the Eagles ni-gun team has it’s own ustream.tv channel. Unfortunately the angle they shoot the games from is almost unwatchable.
  • And now for something completely different: Lotte has stadium and uniform advertising for Nexon this season. I never know what Nexon does, but I happened to find out from this English-language article on Techcrunch.

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2011 Uniform Roundup, Volume 2

» 05 July 2011 » In npb » 5 Comments

Here is the much-anticipated followup to my earlier uniform roundup post.

 

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News Item: Saburo Traded to Yomiuri

» 29 June 2011 » In npb » Comments Off

It has become clear within the last hour that the Chiba Lotte Marines have traded outfielder Saburo Omura to the Yomiuri Giants in exchange for outfielder Takahito Kudo and cash.

It’s quite a surprising move, considering how popular Saburo is among Lotte fans and how much of a fixture he has been in their outfield and lineup. The 35 year-old was in the midst of his 17th season with Lotte, batting .271 with 2 home runs and 9 runs driven in. He had appeared in 19 games this season.

Kudo had not made an appearance at the ichi-gun level in 2011 for Yomiuri. Prior to his two seasons with the Giants, he spent parts of three seasons with Nippon Ham. Kudo is a career .262 hitter still looking for his first home run in NPB.

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Post-Nishioka

» 16 January 2011 » In npb » 5 Comments

Last season, the Chiba Lotte Marines rode the Pacific League’s top offense to a playoff birth and a Cinderella Nippon Series win. This year, the Marines will return with largely the same lineup, though with one notable absence — Tsuyoshi Nishioka, who was posted to the Minnesota Twins. Lotte hasn’t gone outside their organization to find a full-time replacement, so they’ll open camp with a group of in-house options.

  • Takashi Ogino – Based on media reports, second-year man Ogino making the swith from center field seems to be the preferred option pre-camp. And for good reason: as a rookie in 2010, Ogino impressed with the bat before his season ended very prematurely on May 21, and after his injury fellow rookie Ikuhiro Kiyota emerged in center field. Ogino has shown he can hit at the ichi-gun level, but how well he shakes of the injury rust and transitions to the infield will be open question marks this spring.
  • Shunichi Nemoto - Spare a thought for Nemoto. In his only extended look at the ichi-gun level (314 ABs in 2008), he posted a strong .799 OPS, but was was immediately buried on the depth chart by the arrival of Tadahito Iguchi.
  • Kei Hosoya - Lotte’s third option is newly-minted 23 year-old Hosoya. Hosoya spent most of of 2010 at ni-gun, where he was competent at the plate with a .295/.359/.487 line, but lacking in the field, with a .944 fielding percentage and 15 errors in 58 games at short. I always take minor league stats with a grain of salt, but that fielding percentage is concerning

The one infield acquisition Lotte made was getting Takayuki Takaguchi from Nippon Ham, but as far as I can tell he looks like a utility guy. He, along with utility incumbents Keisuke Hayasaka and Hisao Horiuchi, could also see more playing time in Nishioka’s absence.

It would be unrealistic to expect this group to replicate what Nishioka did in 2010, but then again you could say the same about Nishioka himself. It should be possible, however, for some combination of these players approach Nishioka’s pre-2010 level of performance.

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Looking back at 2010

» 13 January 2011 » In npb » 5 Comments

2010 was an eventful year for Nippon Pro Yakyu. Today we look back at some of the notable stories from the year that was.

Murton Hits

The story of individual accomplishment in 2010 easily went to Matt Murton. Murton, a 28-year-old journeyman toiling in America’s minor and major leagues, found sustained success with the Hanshin Tigers. Initially reluctant to play in Japan, he embraced Japanese baseball culture, all the while surpassing expectations and breaking a hitting record. In his first year in Japan, Murton batted .349/.395/.499 while driving in 91 runs. The powerful righty smashed 17 home runs and tattooed left-handed pitchers at a .408 clip. Most notably though, his 214 hits broke Ichiro’s NPB record for the most hits in a season. The total was only 58 fewer than he had recorded over a Major League Baseball career that spanned five seasons.

Lotte Wins

Finishing with a record of 75-67-2 (.528), the Chiba Lotte Marines just managed to edge out the Nippon Ham Fighters for third place in the Pacific League. While the Fighters missed the playoffs by ½ a game in the standings, the Marines took the postseason opportunity and ran with it.  Lotte won a pair of 1-run games against the Seibu Lions in the first stage of the Climax Series, setting them up for a showdown in Fukuoka. Against the favored Pacific League champion Hawks, Marines pitching held their opponent to 9 runs over the six game series. More surprisingly, Lotte didn’t allow a home run the entire series, while getting enough timely hitting to win four road games.

In the Japan Series, Lotte and the Chunichi Dragons traded wins and losses for the first four games, with Games 2 and 3 becoming lopsided affairs. Lotte won Game by by a 10-4 margin to take a 3 to 2 series lead. Things then got really crazy as the teams played 15 innings in the Nagoya Dome to a 2-2 Game 6 tie. Game 7 was a seesaw battle, as the Marines rallied from a 6-2 deficit and eventually took a 7-6 into the 9th inning. Chunichi sent the game to extra innings with a triple and ensuing sacrifice fly. In the 12th inning Lotte got a big triple of their own to win the game 8-7 and the Japan Series title. Toshiaki Imae batted .444 and was named the Series MVP. As a team the Marines hit .281 and won their 4th crown in team history.

Posting Hits & Misses

One year shy of international free agency, the Rakuten Eagles decided that the time was right to allow veteran starter (and 2008 Sawamura Award winner) Hisashi Iwakuma to pursue a career in MLB. While the posting system has worked well for others, Iwakuma’s case exposed the flaws in it. It was revealed that the Oakland Athletics had won the bidding, but the team and Iwakuma’s agent Don Nomura were unable to reach an agreement on a contract. Negotiations became contentious at times, and the 30 day negotiating window was allowed to expire. So the right-hander will find himself back in Sendai for the 2011. He will be free to determine his own career path without the use of the posting system after the season.

The other off-season posting went well. Tsuyoshi Nishioka, coming off a career year (.346/.423/.482) year and a championship, had his posting request granted by the Chiba Lotte Marines. The Minnesota Twins’ posting fee of around $5 million US was accepted, and Nishioka agreed to a 3-year/$9.25 million contract in December. The contract has an option for a 4th year at $4 million.

It seems as if every off-season fans on both sides of the Pacific go through a round of Yu Darvish posting speculation. This winter was no different, even though the result was the same. Though he remained unsigned into December, Darvish used social media to assure his fans that he would pitch for the Fighters in 2011. Though his marital life and divorce proceedings became fodder for the tabloids, Darvish’s career is in fine shape, as he rightfully became Japan’s highest paid player (500 million yen) for 2011.

Brown Departs

Replacing a legend is one of the hardest things to do in sports. In 2010 Marty Brown learned that lesson the hard way.

Tagged to replace aging legend and previous manager Katsuya Nomura, Brown didn’t exactly come to Sendai with stellar career numbers. His stint in Hiroshima had been unimpressive at 256-306-16 and three 5th place finishes. He was nevertheless tagged to replace an unhappy Nomura who had led Rakuten to a 2nd place finish the year before. Unfortunately for Brown and Rakuten fans, the team crashed out of the pennant race early and wound up in last place at 62-79-3. Motohiro Shima’s superb season couldn’t save Brown’s job, though, as he was dumped and replaced with Senichi Hoshino for 2011.

The Saito Generation Begins

Though the season had ended for 10 of 12 NPB teams, the 2010 draft gave fans a reason to stay in touch with baseball in late October. Yuki Saito, coined “The Handkerchief Prince” after his captivating performance during 2006 Summer Koshien, was draft eligible. He and teammate Tatsuya Ohishi had been part of a formidable pitching staff for Waseda University in the ensuing years, capping off a stellar college career with a final game championship in Tokyo Big6 play.

When it came to draft day, both pitchers were highly sought after, with four teams submitting Saito’s name in the draft lottery. Somewhat surprisingly, Nippon Ham came away the winner, setting off ‘Saito-mania’ in Hokkaido.

In Memoriam

Sadly, 2010 didn’t pass without tragedy. In early February, 24-year old outfielder Hiroyuki Oze was found dead outside his Miyakojima spring training hotel. The cause of death was ruled a suicide. Various tributes to the young Orix player were held early in the season in his memory.

Equally shocking came the sudden death of Giants coach Takuya Kimura in April. Kimura-coach was hitting ground balls to his team in Hiroshima when he suddenly collapsed from what was later diagnosed as a brain hemmorage. On April 7th, five days after the initial incident, the 37-year old Kimura passed away.

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NPB Bullet Points: Ouen-dan, Wakui, Darvish, Orix Uniforms

» 08 January 2011 » In mlb prospects, nichibei, npb, npb draft, NPB Tracker » 10 Comments

Before I get caught up on my more analytical pieces, here’s about a week’s worth of news items:

  • The Yomiuri Giants have broken up the Tokyo Yomiuri Kyojin-gun Ouen-dan (Tokyo Yomiuri Giants Cheering Club) over “improper re-sale of game tickets”.
  • Seibu ace Hideaki Wakui is having a hard time reaching an agreement with the Lions on his 2011 salary. It’s reportedly possible that he won’t have a contract signed by the time camp opens, and thus have to pay his way there.
  • Chiba Marine Stadium has been rechristened QVC Marine Field. Yes, that’s QVC, the television shopping network.
  • Sponichi points out that, in addition to being the son of former Chunichi Dragon Mark Ryal, Rusty Ryal was also the guy that hit a line drive off Hiroki Kuroda’s head back in 2009.
  • The Yukan Fuji paper published an article about Bill James projections found at my other haunt, Fangraphs.com. The headline was James’ projection that Koji Uehara would save 31 games with a 2.81 ERA for the Orioles this upcoming season.
  • According to Sankei News, the Chiba Lotte Marines took in 8bn yen in revenue in 2010, the highest figure in team history. While the club finished 2bn yen in the red, they lost 1.3bn yen less than the previous year, and the 8bn yen represents a quadrupling in revenue since 2004. Winning the Nippon Series and posting Tsuyoshi Nishioka helped boost Lotte’s income.
  • Despite being in great shape, former Yokohama and Orix player Katsuaki Furuki got his face bashed in his fighting debut.
  • Yu Darvish’s New Year’s Resolutions are to read two books per month, and watch movies that he doesn’t typically like. His intent is to “refine his sensitivity” (“感性を磨けるかなって理由です(^^)”).
  • Darvish’s Nippon Ham teammate, incoming rookie Yuki Saito, wants to play until he’s 50.
  • Here’s a great pic of Hiroshima ace Kenta Maeda working out with a medicine ball.
  • Lotte managed to sign their 6th-round draft pick, USC right Shuhei Fujiya. Fujiya gets Johnny Kuroki’s number 54.
  • Orix has unveiled their new uniforms. I’m a little disappointed, I thought they would change them more. I think they should have brought back the old Kintetsu Buffaloes logo, at least on an arm patch or something.
  • And finally, one in English: speaking to ESPN, Matt Murton called going to Japan “100 percent the best decision I made.”

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Late Nippon Series Preview: Chunichi vs Lotte

» 29 October 2010 » In npb » 4 Comments

Edit: The game was in Nagoya. I must have been worn out when I wrote this.

In my grand tradition of starting a post and then taking forever to finish it, I’m wrapping this up in just the nick of time.

So this year’s Nippon Series opens later today (JST) in Nagoya Chiba, weather permitting. I’ve given the matchup a good look and I’m ready to share my pick.

Starting Rotation

Lotte’s ace, Yoshihisa Naruse, is good but home run prone. Number two starter Yuki Karakawa is supposed to come back for the Series, but after two long disruptions this season it’s hard to know what to expect from him. The next three starters, Shunsuke Watanabe, Bill Murphy and Hayden Penn are all capable of having good games,

Chunichi leads off with lefty ace Wei-Yin Chen, who is a contract in styles to Naruse. Kazuki Yoshimi (a personal favorite of mine) and Kenichi Nakata are both solid pitchers who struggled to absorb innings this year, though that shouldn’t come into play in a short series. No 4 man Daisuke Yamai has eight innings of Chunichi’s 2007 Nippon Series perfect game to his name. A fifth option, Maximo Nelson, was effective in the nine starts he got this season, but he could be used in the bullpen.

Edge: I prefer Chunichi’s starters, but it’s a bit closer than I originally perceived.

Bullpen

Hiroyuki Kobayashi made a successful transition to the ‘pen in 2010 for Lotte, and leads a solid bullpen that features four pitchers who appeared in at least 57 games in 2010. Yasuhiko Yabuta posted solid numbers in his return to Japan, though nine home runs in 65.2 innings of work is problematic for a reliever. Yoshihiro Itoh (64.2 IP, 3.58 ERA) and lefty Takuya Furuya (55.2, 2.91) round out the group.

Chunichi’s bullpen is led by longtime closer Hitoki Iwase, but the real relief ace in 2010 was Takuya Asao. The hard-throwing Asao appeared in 72 games, threw 80.1 innings, posted a 12-3 record and 1.68 ERA, and set an NPB record with an astonishing 59 “hold points” (holds + relief wins). Masafumi Hirai had one of his good years in 2010, and Akifumi Takahashi posted perhaps the best numbers of any lefty reliever in the Central League this season. Nelson will provide extra depth if he doesn’t start.

Edge: Chunichi has a big advantage here.

Lineup

Lotte’s run production was tops in the Pacific League, with 708 Marines crossing the plate in 2010. They did it with a remarkably balanced lineup. While Lotte only had one player top 20 home runs (Kim Tae-Gyun at 21), they had eight players who hit at least 10. Lotte scored by keeping runners on base: Tsuyoshi Nishioka (.423) and Tadahito Iguchi (.412) finished 2nd and 3rd in the Pacific League in OBP. Among their regulars, Shoitsu Ohmatsu had the worst OBP at .339, and even that was good enough for 21st in the Pacific League.

Chunichi has more of a “three-run home run” kind of lineup, with a menacing mid-order presence in Kazuhiro Wada, the steady bat of Masahiko Morino, and a proven power threat in Tony Blanco. After that, they’ve got slap-hitting top-order man Masahiro Araki and not much else.

Edge: Lotte. They are simpler better one through nine.

The Verdict

I’m saying Chunichi in six games. I think they have enough hitting to hang around, and the pitching to ice leads when they get them.

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The Makuhari Steamroller

» 24 June 2010 » In npb » 4 Comments

Put the 2010 Chiba Lotte Marines season down as something I was wrong about. In a year when I thought they’d be mid-division at best, Lotte has by meany measures been the best team in the Pacific League this year. They lead the league in team scoring with 370 (SoftBank is next with 323), run differential at a whopping +106 (Seibu has a +32), batting average (.284), and home runs (72). The pitching staff has done its job too, holding the opposition to 264 runs in 67 games. Lotte has fallen behind Seibu in the standings, but if they keep this up, as they have through the first three months of the season, they’ll be in the race all year.

I’ve only watched two Lotte games this year (a Yuki Karakawa start against Seibu early in the year, and a game against SoftBank prior to interleague), so I’m not the best guy to analyze Lotte’s success (I would recommend this guy, actually), but I won’t let that stop me. Here are a few observations.

In the lineup…

  • Tsuyoshi Nishioka and Toshiaki Imae are healthy and hitting like the Tsuyoshi and Imae we all know and love.
  • Takashi Ogino was having a great rookie year until he went down with a knee injury that required surgery.
  • Everyone’s getting on base: Lotte has five of the Pacific League’s 10 best OBP’s lead by Tadahito Iguchi with a robust .450. Iguchi is leading Japan in walks with 59; no one else has more than 42 and no one else in the Pacific League has more than 35.
  • With a .290/.372/.524 slash line, Kim Tae-Kyun has been the best Korean hitter we’ve seen in NPB since Lee Seun-Yeop’s heyday, and has already given Lotte more production from their foreign hitter slot than they got from anyone they had last year.

On the mound…

  • Yasuhiko Yabuta has put up outstanding numbers in his return engagement, and SoftBank castoff Akichika is looks like an inspired pickup.
  • Bill Murphy has moved into the rotation and won all six starts he’s made so far. I’m trying to think of the last time a suketto had any success as a starter with Lotte… Dan Serafini maybe?
  • Yoshihisa Naruse is off to a strong start, with 95 K’s in 104.1 innings so far to go along with a 2.95 ERA. I could see him setting new career highs in innings and strikeouts this year.
  • Hiro Kobayashi has made a successful transition to the closer role, picking up 12 saves so far this season.

There are a few minor question marks…

  • Ogino won’t be back until the All-Star game, in late July. His return should be a huge boost.
  • Yuki Karakawa has been out since taking a line drive off his right hand on May 13, and his return is unclear.
  • Without Karakawa, a rotation front three of Naruse, Murphy and Shunsuke Watanabe is a shade below the front three’s of Seibu, Nippon Ham, and Rakuten.
  • Spare a thought for Shunichi Nemoto, who was replaced in the lineup by Iguchi despite a solid 2008 season, and has fallen into no-man’s land.

The Pacific League is pretty well-balanced this year, so you never know what will happen, but Lotte’s chances look pretty good.

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Let the Alternates Begin

» 21 May 2009 » In npb » 5 Comments

NPB teams typically use interleague play as an opportunity to bust out the alternative uniforms. Interleague started earlier this week, and this season is no exception.

The SoftBank Hawks introduced their third uniforms yesterday, and Sanspo has pics here and here. I think I prefer this to their normal third jersey, but I hope at some point they bring back the helmet the old Daiei Hawks wore in the late 80’s.

The only other team to have introduced their throwbacks so far this year is the Hanshin Tigers, who have sensibly opted to revive their 1985 Nippon-ichi uniforms. If you’ve been following Japanese baseball over the last few years, you are probably aware that Hanshin has a checked past when it comes to alternate jerseys: last year’s awful fade/airbrush design, 2007’s alternate logo and yellow pinstripes on black, and the earlier 70’s era throwabacks, which I kind of like.

Seibu has plans to wear 80’s-era throwbacks, and Yakult is going to dust off their old Kokutetsu Swallows design, but neither team has introduced the uniforms yet, so don’t bother with the links unless you’re interested in re-reading what I just wrote in Japanese.

My favorite recent throwback was last year’s Lotte Orions revival. I hope they use those again. Lotte has one of the best home uniforms in Japan, the classic black pinstripes on white. But their road and alt uniforms… not so much.

For more on Japanese baseball uniforms, check out the two posts that UniWatch ran last month. UniWatch produces so much content it’s almost a sensory overload, but they don’t miss a thing and it’s worth the read, especially when you can find something like this set of 1981 Chicago White Sox prototype uniforms.

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Chiba Lotte’s Free Agents

» 21 October 2008 » In mlb prospects, npb » Comments Off

Alright, looks like I’ll have time to squeeze in a blog entry this morning. This is about the third time that I’ve thought my hiatus would come to an end, only to have something pull my attention away. This time I’m determined to make it stick.

Over the next couple of weeks, I’ll be looking at offseason plans for players and teams, as well as working on some essay-type stuff. There’s also the playoffs and Japan Series, so there’s plenty to write about.

Let’s start with The Chiba Lotte Marines, who today announed that Bobby Valentine’s contract has been renewed, and have a number of guys who qualify for free agency.

Naoyuki Shimizu, SP: Shimizu was set to be a hot commodity among NPB teams this winter, drawing rumored interested from Hanshin, Rakuten, Yakult, Yokohama and the Giants, but has recently revealed that he intends to pass on free agency this year with an eye toward the majors later on.

Shingo Ono, SP: After a little indecision, Ono appears to be leaning towards free agency. “I feel like would like to remain with Lotte, but they’re developing good young pitchers and I have to think about moving. I have confidence that I can play for another team.” Yokohama is rumored to be interested in his services.

Tasuku Hashimoto, C: Hashimoto feels like he can start, but is stuck behind all-star Tomoya Satozaki, so I think he’ll be likely to try his fortunes somewhere else. A number of teams are rumored to be interested after his strong 2008 season (.311, 11hr off the bench), but Hanshin is expected to make the biggest play to sign him. Current Tigers catcher Akihiro Yano won’t last forever, and there’s no internal heir apparent.

Saburo, OF: Saburo’s two-year contract is coming to an end, and he’s considering his options, which include moving to MLB. Saburo is quoted as saying, “I’ve compared myself to the major league rightfielders that I see on TV, and if I’m going to go now is my only chance.” Saburo is coming off a solid offensive season (.289/.359/.416) and has won Gold Gloves in 2005 and 2007, but he still profiles as a 4th outfielder on most teams.

Julio Zuleta, DH/1B: Zuleta has been plagued by injuries and ineffectiveness in his two years with the Marines. Expect him to be replaced this off-season.

I’ll add these guys to my free agent list tonight. 

Coming up next: a look at some other free agents and the playoffs thus far.

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