Tag Archive > Craig Brazell

Changes for 2012: Hanshin Tigers

» 04 February 2012 » In npb » 3 Comments

Coming: Hayata Itoh (1st round draft pick), Shingo Matsuzaki, manager Yutaka Wada

Going: Tsuyoshi Shimoyanagi, Kodai Sakurai, Ikuro Katsuragi, Keiji Uezono, manager Akinobu Mayumi

Staying: Matt Murton, Craig Brazell, Randy Messenger, Jason Standridge, Takashi Toritani, Kyuji Fujikawa

Hanshin’s biggest change this season is in the dugout, where Yutaka Wada replaces Akinobu Mayumi, who failed to lead the Tigers to a Central League crown or a Japan Series appearance in three years at the helm. Wada is a Hanshin lifer, having spent his entire 16 year playing career with the team, followed by another 10 years in various coaching roles in the Tigers organizatoin. Wada also occupies a special place in Hanshin lore, as the last active player from Hanshin’s legendary 1985 championship team at the time of his retirement in 2001.

Wada inherits a roster that is largely unchanged from 2011, a team finished fourth in the Central League despite outscoring its opponents by 39 runs. In a small league though, run differentials are deceiving, and a big chunk of those 39 runs came from blowing out Yokohama a few times. Rookie outfielder Hayata Itoh figures to get a serious look during spring training, as center field is a hole, and left fielder Tomoaki Kanemoto is on his last legs after a venerable career. Retaining Matt Murton was a big win for Hanshin, as they can count on his steady bat in right.

Hanshin made no significant changes to its pitching staff this offseason. Hiroyuki Kobayashi is working on a move to the rotation after a so-so season in middle relief; I wonder if lefty Daiki Enokida could make a few starts as well. Depth is always a plus, and while Hanshin had four starters pitch 150+ innings with 3.00 or lower ERAs, lefties Minoru Iwata and Atsushi Nohmi both struggled with injuries prior to 2011. On the farm, Taiwanese prospects Ikketsu Sho and Kai-Wen Cheng both put up good numbers at ni-gun last year, and righty Takumi Akiyama has shown promise as well.

Hanshin is beginning to age at some positions, but overall still has a talented veteran roster. That coupled with regression from of last year’s top three should see the Tigers back in playoff position this year.

Continue reading...

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

NPB Bullet Points: Barden Tweets, Otsuka Wants Back In

» 27 July 2011 » In mlb, mlb prospects, nichibei, npb » 4 Comments

A few notes covering the last couple days of news…

  • New Hiroshima Carp acquisition Brian Barden used Twitter to collect information on NPB prior to heading to Japan. Barden “tweets” under the handle @thegreatbardeni.
  • Akinori Otsuka wants to make a comeback. The 39 year-old righty hasn’t pitched in the Majors in four years, over which time he’s had three Tommy John surgeries. Otsuka is currently coaching and throwing bullpen sessions with Samurai All-Japan of the Western Baseball Association.
  • Hisashi Iwakuma is back after a two-month layoff. He won his return start with seven strong innings over Softbank.
  • Craig Brazell lined up rookie Issei Morita the other day with a shaving cream pie in the face during a post-game interview. Here’s the approach… and the delivery.
  • Number has an article on the trade rumors surrounding Hiroki Kuroda. For the most part it’s nothing you can’t find in the American press, but Kuroda does comment that it “took him three years to get used to the Majors.”
  • Yakult has signed lefty Naoya Okamoto, the former Yokohama BayStar who had been with the Yankees’ 2A affiliate in Trenton.
  • Korean slugger Tae-Kyun Kim is leaving the Chiba Lotte Marines, and will resume his career in Korea.
  • Seibu has said goodbye to reliever Brian Sikorski, who has been on the shelf since having his elbow scoped earlier this season. Look for Seibu to seek out bullpen help.
And in today’s bonus article veteran writer Jim Allen takes a brief look at Japan’s current resistance to the terms being offered by MLB for WBC participation.
Bonus #2 comes courtesy of my FanGraphs bud Navin Vaswani, who broke down the recent New York Times piece on Kei Igawa.

Continue reading...

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Game Report: Ogasawara Reaches 2,000 Hits

» 05 May 2011 » In npb » 3 Comments

Summary: Hanshin defeated Yomiuri 2-1, but Michihiro Ogasawara reached his milestone.

This game had quite a few juicy storylines coming in. The Giants’ rookie Hirokazu Sawamura made his Tokyo Dome debut, and “Guts” Ogasawara was one hit away from 2,000 for his career. 45,313 people were on hand at Tokyo Dome to perhaps witness history.

Sawamura, selected out of Chuo University last autumn, seemed to get off to a rocky start. The first two batters he faced made solid contact. Matt Murton lined a ball to third base for an out, and Keiichi Hirano ripped a single into right field.

According to the broadcast I was watching, in the first inning Sawamura basically threw fastballs and what was described a forkball. If their graphic was right, he didn’t throw another one until several innings later. Nevertheless, he hit 150 kmph at least twice that I saw but was wild, especially to third hitter Takashi Toritani. He did manage to reign in his control and strike out Takahiro Arai and Craig Brazell to escape the jam.

If the crowd was hoping to see hit number 2,000 from Ogasawara in the first inning, they were disappointed. He popped up on the infield for the third out.

Sawamura had an easy second frame and it looked like Yomiuri might open the scoring in their half of the inning. Alex Ramirez had the Giants’ first hit of the day, followed by a seeing eye single up the middle from Hisayoshi Chono. But two outs and an intentional pass later Iwata was left facing his counterpart whom he easily struck out.

In the third inning, Hirano collected his second hit of what would become a very good game for him. Nothing came of it for Hanshin, just as nothing came of Ogasawara’s second chance at history in the bottom half. He K’ed on a check swing called strike three.

Yomiuri broke the stalemate on the scoreboard in the 4th when Ramirez absolutely destroyed a pitch from Iwata into the left field stands. The ball was a no-doubter, landing close to the top of the bleachers filled with Tigers fans and very near the aisle that surrounds the seats. It was a solo shot and Rami’s 6th of the season.

Of note, Hanshin again chose to semi-intentionally walk (after 3 balls) the eighth hitter Ken Kato to face Sawamura.

The 5th inning was Sawamura’s hardest working frame of the day. Shunsuke Fujikawa led off with a double, but Iwata was unable to move him over with a failed bunt attempt. When Murton was retired it looked as if Sawamura would escape unscathed, but the pesky Hirano drove in Shunsuke with his 3rd hit of the day. The game was tied at 1-1, with the Tigers threatening for more.

Perhaps he was rattled, after a botched pickoff attempt allowed Shunsuke to move up to second base. Toritani and Arai walked, but Sawamura regained his composure and retired Brazell to end the inning.

The thing that most impressed me about Sawamura in that spot was his fearless approach that he took with the large American, choosing to go right after him. That speaks well for Sawamura’s future.

Ogasawara was stuck on 1,999 hits as he hit into a double play for try number three. Lefties have really baffled him all series long.

In the top of the 6th, Sawamura made a glaring mistake to Kenji Johjima, hanging a breaking pitch right over the plate. Johjima taught the youngster a lesson by promptly slamming it into the seats in left to give Hanshin a 2-1 lead. It was Johjima’s 2nd homer of the year.

Of little consolation, Sawamura retired Hirano for the first time of the day later that inning. Hirano finished with a 4 for 5 day at the plate.

When Toritani singled in the Hanshin 7th, it signaled the end of Sawamura’s day. Sawamura’s final line was 6.1 IP, 111 pitches, 8 H, 5 K, 4 BB, 2 ER. It’s hard to call it a good outing considering the hit and walks number, including a few glaring mistakes (the pickoff throw and Johjima’s HR), but I’d call it a solid game. Especially for someone with such little NPB experience under his belt.

Only a close play at the plate (and perhaps and ill-advised coaching decision at third base) prevented the score from becoming 3-1. Brazell knocked a double into right field off of new pitcher Yasunari Takagi, but Arai missed home plate on a tumbling slide and was tagged out.

At Lucky 7 time, it was still 2-1 Tigers.

Fast forward to the bottom of the 8th, when the moment most of the crowd had been waiting for finally happened. With one out and right-hander Hiroyuki Kobabyashi in the game, Guts smashed a 1-2 pitch past the reliever’s head and into center for hit number 2,000. Flowers, of course, were presented and the game continued on with little delay.

A Chono walk later in the inning provided the Giants with a two out threat, but Rusty Ryal was retired on strikes to end the frame.

There little delay in securing the win for the visitors on this day, as Kyuji Fujikawa slammed the door on the Giants in the 9th with two quick outs, a hit batsman, and a Sakamoto fly out to right caught by a sliding Murton.

Continue reading...

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

NPB Bullet Points: Fukui Wins, Hessman Hits, Balentien Hits Way More

» 04 May 2011 » In npb » 1 Comment

Notes to pass along from the last few days of NPB action.

  • Hiroshima pitcher Yuya Fukui posted an emotional win over Yokohama on May 3rd. It was the heralded rookie’s first win since April 20, when his older brother Ryuichi died in a car accident. Ryuichi advised Yuya against signing with Yomiuri when they drafted him in the fourth round out of high school.
  • Takafumi Nakamura, who played last year in the Indians organization, is back in Japan with Shinano of the independent BC League. The lanky righty is hoping to advance to NPB.
  • According to Nikkan Sports, Yomiuri has passed on moving lefty Adam Bright from the ikusei roster to the regular 70-man roster (shihaika).
  • New Orix import Mike Hessman collected his first NPB hit off none other than Yu Darvish, noting that he “had seen him at the Beijing Olympics” and “was glad to get a hit off such a good pitcher.”
  • Hanshin sluggers Takashi Toritani, Takahiro Arai and Craig Brazell hit back-to-back-to-back home runs on May 4th, recalling the fabled 1985 san renpatsu (three consecutive blasts) starring Randy Bass, Masayuki Kakefu, and Akinobu Okada. I couldn’t find video of this week’s renpatsu, so here’s the 1985 version.
  • Wladimir Balentien is off to a hot start in Japan: .387/.487/.885 slash line, nine home runs 61 at bats, and 13 walks against 12 strikeouts.

Continue reading...

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

NPB Bullet Points: Late Contracts, New Uniforms

» 30 January 2011 » In npb » 4 Comments

We interrupt our series of 2011 offseason reviews to bring you a bullet list of news items from around NPB. All links in Japanese.

  • Beom-Ho Lee has left the Softbank Hawks and will join the Kia Tigers of the Korean Baseball Organization. Lee hit .205 in 132 at-bats last year, and was well-down the Hawks’ depth chart for this season. He had said that he would go back to Korea if he couldn’t stick at third base, so I give him credit for sticking to his words.
  • In other Hawks news, Hitoshi Tamura finally signed for 2011, agreeing to a one-year deal that will pay a JPY 180m salary. Softbank had offered a multi-year deal but he wanted a one-year deal, saying that he can perform better.
  • Hiroyuki Nakajima was another late signing, agreeing to a JPY 280m salary for 2011. He’ll gun for MLB again next offseason.
  • Craig Brazell has arrived in Japan, and from the looks of things he came straight from the golf course.
  • The Nippon Ham Fighters have unveiled their new uniforms
  • Wladimir Balentien brought his PlayStation 3 to camp, with the idea that he could get to know his teammates over a couple of auto racing games during the spring. He impressed the author of the linked Sponichi article by arriving in Okinawa early and working out on consecutive days.
  • Hideaki Wakui had his salary dispute with Seibu settled in a rare NPB arbitration case, reports Naoko Toyakoshi of Nikkan Sports. Wakui will see his salary rise to JPY 253m, a little short of the JPY 270m he had requested.
  • Meanwhile, Hanshin ace Yasutomo Kubo has yet to renew for 2011 and could wind up paying his own way to camp.
  • Rakuten items: Kazuo Matsui and Akinori Iwamura modeled their Eagles uniforms at K-Sta; later new manager Senichi Hoshino led his team to a pre-camp shrine visit on a snowy day in Sendai; Byung-Hyun Kim was also introduced in the snow.

Continue reading...

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

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.

Continue reading...

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

NPB Bullet Points: News & Retirements

» 02 September 2010 » In international baseball, npb » 7 Comments

(insert witty introduction here)

Around NPB

  • Chihiro Kaneko has gotten himself in to the mix for the Pacific League’s wins title, with a career-best personal 10-game winning streak. Kaneko is now 14-7 on the season. He also has six shutouts.
  • The Giants have slumped to sub-.500 records in each of the last two months, and it’s showing on Tatsunori Hara’s face.
  • Craig Brazell cranked out his 40th bomb of the season the other day, becoming the first Hanshin foreigner to since Randy Bass back in ’86.
  • Orix righty Kazuki Kondo pitched a 144-pitch complete game loss on the 1st… and then got sent down. I didn’t see the game, but it must have been a save-the-bullpen kind of effort, as Kondo had allowed seven runs by the third inning.
  • Nippon Ham lefty Masaru Takeda has a personal seven-game winning streak going, and leads the Fighters with 12 wins.
  • Rakuten ace Masahiro Tanaka is out a minimum of three weeks with a torn pectoral muscle, and with Rakuten languishing in last place, it’s looking unlikely that he’ll pitch again this year.
  • At least one MLB club was seen watching lefty Daiki Uekida’s September 2 outing for Tokyo Gas of the Industrial Leagues. I haven’t seen Uekida but at first glance he looks like a Hisanori Takahashi type.
  • Today’s Japanese word: moudasho (mo-da-sho, 猛打賞), which means three hits in one game. An example: Lotte shortstop Tsuyoshi Nishioka has 22 moudasho games this season, a club record. Ichiro, of course, holds the NPB record with 26. With 21 team games left in the season, Nishioka has a shot at Ichiro’s record if he gets hot.

Player Personnel

  • Yakult is looking into re-acquiring Akinori Iwamura. Pittsburgh is set to move on from Aki after this season, and I believe Yakult still controls his NPB rights.
  • Longtime Hanshin catcher Akihiro Yano is calling it a career at the end of the season. Something of a late-bloomer, Yano made seven All-Star appearances in his 20-year career and was the runner-up for the 2003 MVP.
  • Orix ni-gun infielder Masahiro Nagata has already retired, according to a team announcement from August 31. Nagata was once a pretty decent prospect, but never made an impact at the top level.
  • Cuban pitcher Pedro Lazo is also retiring. I was planning on listing him as a dark horse to move to Japan next season, as Omar Linares and Orestes Kindelan did at the end of their careers.

Continue reading...

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

NPB Bullet Points: Foreign Players

» 13 July 2010 » In npb » 4 Comments

A few notes on NPB’s sukketo-tachi, all in Japanese.

  • Retired Cuban slugger Omar Linares, who spent the last few years of his career in Japan with Chunichi, is returning to Japan as a coach for Cuba’s entry in this year’s World University Baseball Championship.
  • Hanshin is saying they’re going to keep both Craig Brazell (30 HR) and Matt Murton (.351 AVG) for 2011. Brazell will be a free agent and figures to get a hefty raise from the $800k he’s earning, while Murton, according to the linked article, has a second year on his contract which is structured as a buyout. I’ve seen this referred to in other articles as an option, which I guess is functionally similar. Either way, the team gets to choose whether to keep him in 2011, though a buyout suggests there is a payment attached if they don’t. That would seem to make it even more of a no-brainer.
  • Speaking of Murton, he and Kenji Johjima visited the Osaka University Children’s Hospital on their off-day Monday.
  • Brett Harper is off to a torrid start in Japan — 10 for his first 21 with 3 HR. Here’s a pic of him connecting off Kenta Maeda on the 13th.
  • Orix has placed new signee Francisco Caraballo on it’s regular roster, and passed on signing Hyang-Nam Choi.

Continue reading...

Tags: , , , , ,

NPB Bullet Points: Home Runs

» 26 June 2010 » In npb » 1 Comment

Alright, time for another edition of NPB Bullet Points. Today we’ll look at some notable home runs that have been hit over the last week or so.

  • Craig Brazell had a six-game home run streak end on June 23rd against Hirohima. Sadaharu Oh and Randy Bass jointly hold the home run streak record at seven games. Brazell had been leading the Central League (and Japan) in dingers until…
  • Shinnosuke Abe got hot. Abe hit his 10th home run in June on the 23rd, marking the third time in his career he’s reached double digit home runs in a month. Abe commented, “right now in my at bats, in a good way I’m thinking ‘I’m a foreign hitter. I have awesome power’.” He then went out and hit two more bombs on the 26th to take over the league lead from Brazell. Abe is capable of hitting home runs in bunches; back in 2004 he opened the season with 20 homers in 33 games.
  • When Abe’s Giants teammate Alex Ramirez went deep for the 20th time this season on the 22nd, he become the second foreign player to hit 20 homers in each of his first ten seasons in Japan. The first? Tuffy Rhodes, of course. Ramirez had this to say: “I hit my first home run in Japan in a Yakult uniform at Jingu Stadium, so I’m glad I was able to achieve this in this ballpark.”
  • This happened a few hours after the original publication of this post, but Hanshin veteran Tomoaki Kanemoto hit his 450th career home run on the 27th. Kanemoto is just the 13th NPB player to reach that mark, and the first since Rhodes last year.

In unrelated news, the San Francisco Giants retired the number of Hall of Fame outfielder and African-American pioneer Monte Irvin today. It’s a bit overdue but definitely a feel-good story.

Continue reading...

Tags: , , ,

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:

Continue reading...

Tags: , , ,