Tag Archive > Hanshin Tigers

A Midsummer Night’s Blog Post

» 18 August 2012 » In mlb, nichibei, npb » 2 Comments

While my baseball consumption has not returned to it’s previous levels, my itch to write has returned, so tonight I’m taking a hiatus from my hiatus to share a few thoughts on the season so far.

  • After years of anticipation, Yu Darvish, has made his Major League debut. The results have been mixed — lots of strikeouts, lots of walks. The walks are a surprise to me; the mid-season struggles are not. I must admit that fate has conspired against me, and I haven’t seen a single Darvish start all the way through this year.
  • Nippon Ham has carried on without Darvish, currently leading the Pacific League by a game over Seibu. 24 year-old lefty Mitsuo Yoshikawa took advantage of the hole left by Darvish, and is enjoyed a breakout season. While he lacks Darvish’s eye-popping dominance, a 10-4 record with a 1.91 ERA isn’t too shabby.
  • I never thought I’d see Ichiro traded, but last month it happened. It felt more like Ichiro was on the path to retirement this season, but his bat has woken up a bit with the Yankees. Perhaps playing for a winning time will revive his career.
  • The Japanese Players Association is threatening to sit out next year’s World Baseball Classic if WBC Inc doesn’t give them a bigger share of the revenue. So far neither side is willing to budge. I hope they can work out some sort of agreement because a Japanese boycott would be bad for both sides.
  • I didn’t get to finish my predictions this spring, but every year I think that Chunichi is going to stumble and that Seibu is going to be good. And, every year I’m wrong, at least about the Chunichi side of the prediction. This year was no exception. I thought Chunichi was set for a big step backwards, but they’re comfortably in second place in the Central, and had been in the hunt for first until Yomiuri started to pull away. Seibu got off to a rough start and appeared to be headed for a disappointing season, but has righted the ship and is now in the hunt for a league title.
  • I was going to write something about Brad Penny here but I don’t think I’ll bother.
  • Softbank veteran Hiroki Kokubo announced his retirement last week. Otsukare-sama.
  • Yomiuri veteran and personal favorite Yoshinobu Takahashi slugged his 300th career home run last week. Jason Coskrey has more.
  • The two young players I’ve enjoyed watching the most this year? Hiroshima’s Yusuke Nomura and Yokohama DeNA’s Sho Aranami.
  • While it doesn’t stack up to MLB’s three perfect games this season, NPB has seen a pair of no-hitters this year: Toshiya Sugiuchi’s against Rakuten on May 30, and Kenta Maeda’s against DeNA on April 6. Although, I did not witness either of these games, I did catch a pair of near no-hitters. Another personal favorite, Daisuke Miura, took a no-no into the 9th against Hanshin on May 12, but pinch-hitter Shinjiro Hiyama put up a veteran at-bat, working a full count before finally hitting a long single. Hanshin eventually scored and Miura lost his shutout, but won the game. The other was another Sugiuchi gem, thrown on May 4 against Hanshin. The only solid contact I recall Sugiuchi surrendering happened to be the only hit Hanshin managed, a sharp single, hit mid-game by Takashi Toritani. The game lacked the drama of a late-innings no-hit bid, but was a dominant performance nonetheless.

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New Uniforms: Hanshin, Chunichi, Yokohama

» 03 February 2012 » In npb » 3 Comments

Spring Camps have opened and there is plenty to write about, but my schedule isn’t quite cooperating so I hope this recap of this year’s new uniforms will do. Fully half of the Central League is donning new threads this season, and here they are:

 

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2011 Uniform Roundup, Volume 1

» 24 May 2011 » In mlb, npb » 10 Comments

It’s time again for my semi-annual NPB uniform roundup. This year, I’ve decided to break things up into two posts, so look out for another one later in the season, after more alternative unis are introduced.

  • Orix has been wearing these throwback Hankyu Braves uniforms off and on. The most retro-looking guy is probably Mike Hessman.
  • I hope to one day see Orix revive the old Kintetsu Buffaloes uniform and logo. I figure if they can advertise one Osaka-area railway (Hankyu) they can do the same for another (Kintetsu).
  • Rakuten has only been around for seven seasons, so they don’t exactly have throwback uniforms… but that isn’t stopping them from running out these 1980’s Houston Astros knock-offs.
  • I don’t know if I’ll ever get used to Nippon Ham’s gold road uniforms. One thing that’s kind of cool about the new Fighters uniform is the tag on the inside of the collar, which has four stars representing the Japan Series title and three Pacific League titles that Nippon Ham has won in recent years.
  • Hanshin has a spotty record when it comes to alternative uniforms, but this they’re going with these classic Osaka Tigers threads.
  • This one isn’t an NPB uniform, but former Yomiuri and Yokohama closer Marc Kroon suited up in this Homestead Grays throwback for a 3A game a few weeks ago.
  • Here’s last year’s uniform post. And 2009’s. Results may vary with the links on those pages.

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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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New Stadium in Niigata

» 11 July 2009 » In international baseball, sports business » 6 Comments

As one of our readers brought up, Hard Off Eco Stadium opened on July 7th (Japan time) with a two-game series between the Hanshin Tigers and the Hiroshima Toyo Carp. This stadium had its challenges in reaching to the point of being able to host an NPB game. The construction of the stadium was been delayed by the World Cup co-hosted by Japan and South Korea in 2002 and an earthquake hitting the region in 2004.

The stadium includes an artificial turf field, an indoor practice facility (a much needed indoor bullpen as the weather can be chilly in Niigata), lights for night games, and 30,000 seats in the stands making Hard Off Eco Stadium the biggest baseball stadium in the state.

Many generations will benefit from the new stadium as not only professional games will be played here, but independent league games, high school tournaments, sports festivals are currently scheduled to be hosted at the stadium over the next three months.  Even though risks are involved in a new stadium, structuring a high class stadium in a sports-deprived region should create some buzz and lead to new opportunities for the city.

People will be able to attend a stadium tour taking place four times a day for free, which is a great opportunity to see behind the scenes and the structure of the new stadium. A blog is updated frequently for further details about the stadium. Also the details about the naming rights can be seen on the Niigata prefecture website.

The stadium’s naming sponsor, HARD OFF Corportation, is a second-hand goods chain founded in Niigata in 1993 that currently has 619 franchises around the nation. The second-hand goods chain is active in different areas with the most well-known probably being BOOK-OFF, which sells used books, CDs, DVDs, and video games. HARD OFF corporation already has a partnership relationship with the hometown J-League team Niigata Albirex as an ecology sponsor, so their interest in expanding to the sports industry in nothing new.

Purchasing the naming rights for the first hometown baseball stadium should benefit the corporation, but the real test of the stadium should be after a couple of years when the buzz is gone, but for now it will be interesting how much impact the stadium will bring to this sports-deprived area of the country.

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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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Mench Deactivated

» 24 April 2009 » In npb » 2 Comments

Hanshin has deactivated Kevin Mench and replaced him on the roster with utility infielder Aarom Baldiris. Mench’s struggles have been well-publicized, and now the team is looking for a physiological explanation for his performance. Hanshin’s trainer commented that Mench is “horribly fatigued”.

Baldiris is a useful utility guy who made a good impression last year with his hustle and positive attitude, but he’s kind of a fringey NPB’er and certainly not the mid-lineup Hanshin thought they were getting in Mench. To that end, the Tigers have deployed US-based scouts Tom O’Malley and Andy Sheets in case they need to make a mid-season acquisition.

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NPB Bullet Points (2008/09/11)

» 11 September 2008 » In mlb, npb » 1 Comment

There’s been lots of news about Junichi Tazawa over the last day or two, but I could use a break for him so I’m going to write about other stuff. If you’re looking for info on Tazawa, check out the stuff I’ve posted over the last few days.

On to the bullet points…

English Articles:

Japanese Articles:

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Highlights & Web Gems

» 08 September 2008 » In npb » Comments Off

Well, it was an off-day in Japan today and I don’t have any essay type material ready, so here’s my version of NPB Web Gems.

  • An 18 year-old Daisuke Matsuzaka blows away Atsushi Kataoka with a 97 mph heater in his debut game.
  • The 2001 Kintetsu Buffaloes clinched the 2001 Pacific League title in dramatic fashion. Highly recommended viewing.
  • Tsuyoshi Shinyjo homers to send the game into extra innings, moves from the outfield to 2nd base , and then… watch the clip.
  • Masafumi Yamamori scales the outfield fence to save a home run… twice. The first play is in the Major League Hall of Fame.
  • Koji Akiyama used to back flip on to home plate after going deep for Seibu. Here’s one he did in the 1986 Japan Series. Impressive, yes, but definite beanball fodder if it happened in MLB.
  • Sherman Obando once took out a Seibu Dome camera with a home run.
  • The 7th inning stretch is a little different in Japan — rather than sing Take Me Out to the Ballgame, fans release balloons. The Hanshin Tigers fans put on the best show.

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NPB Bullet Points (2008/08/16)

» 16 August 2008 » In npb » Comments Off

A busy work schedule kept me away from the blog for a few days, but I’m back with another post. We’ll start with the usual randomness and hopefully I’ll have some more focused content to post in a couple of days.

English Articles:

Japanese Articles:

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