Tag Archive > Hideaki Wakui

Kikuchi to Debut as Reliever?

» 29 November 2009 » In npb » 2 Comments

Seibu Lion’s manager Hisanobu Watanabe has suggested that his plan for Yusei Kikuchi might be to have the highly-touted lefty start his pro career in middle relief. The Lions already has a starting rotation which consists of 2009 Sawamura Award winner Hideaki Wakui, a proven young starter in Takayuki Kishi, and also former major leaguer Kazuhisa Ishii. Unless Kikuchi shows his ability to be part of the rotation during spring training, the plan, barring injuries, may be that he will start his professional career from the bullpen.

Manager Watanabe also reminded Kikuchi through the media of three points in challenging for a spot in the rotation.

1. Don’t practice too much

This comes from the concern that Kikuchi could overwork himself if he pushed to hard to start the season in the rotation. What the manager and the baseball world really want to see at the start of the spring training is a healthy Yusei Kikuchi.

2. Don’t neglect the fundamentals

Watanabe already gave Kikuchi a practice menu written by the training coach and he believes that building the basis of his body will lead to successful pitching.

3. No special treatment

Ichi-gun on opening day? I have no answer for that. I am not going to put him on the roster because he can just pitch. He needs to show results during spring training.”

Continue reading...

Tags: , , , ,

The Sawamura Award and the Best of the Rest

» 17 November 2009 » In npb, pitching » 2 Comments

The 2009 season concluded with Hideaki Wakui of the Seibu Lions being honored with the Sawamura Award, but a number of pitchers had outstanding years and we wanted to take a closer look at them. Sawamura Award candidate are judged on how close they get to the following seven criteria:

  • Game Appearances… 25 or above
  • Complete Games… 10 or above
  • Wins… 15 or above
  • Winning Percentage… .600 or above
  • Innings Pitched… 200 or above
  • Strikeouts… 150 or above
  • ERA… Under 2.50

Obviously the only pitcher surpassing each of the criteria is Wakui with 11 complete games which made him the only true candidate for the award. An unwritten criterion necessary to win the Sawamura Award is strength and the ability to stay healthy. Even though Yu Darvish started out the season with a stellar performance, his injury in the second-half cost him his chance to win his second Sawamura Award.

G CG W Win Pct. Inn. K ERA
Hideaki Wakui 27 11 16 0.727 211.2 199 2.30
Yu Darvish 23 8 15 0.75 182 167 1.73
Toshiya Sugiuchi 26 6 15 0.75 191 204 2.36
Masahiro Tanaka 25 6 15 0.714 189.2 171 2.33
Wei-Yin Chen 24 5 8 0.667 164 146 1.54
Dicky Gonzalez 23 2 15 0.882 162 113 2.11
Kazuki Yoshimi 27 5 16 0.696 189.1 147 2.00

The Best Nine Awards are still up still unannounced, and there are a lot of worthy candidates for the top pitcher in both the Central and Pacific Leagues. Who is most deserving of the award?

Continue reading...

Tags: , , , , , ,

Regular Season Ends for NPB

» 13 October 2009 » In npb » Comments Off on Regular Season Ends for NPB

The NPB regular season concluded in both leagues and the championship series will get under way Friday, October 16th JST. The Tokyo Yomiuri Giants, the winner of the Central League and the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters, the winner of the Pacific League will get a bye during the first round.

The Chunichi Dragons and the Tokyo Yakult Swallows will square off in the first round of the Central League Championship series, and the Rakuten Golden Eagles versus the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks will match up in the Pacific League.

With the regular season in the books, the awards for each batting and pitching categories have been determined (Central League and Pacific League winners listed respectively):

Batting Average: Alex Ramirez, .322 (Giants) & Teppei (Golden Eagles), .327

Home Runs/RBI: Tony Blanco (Dragons), 39/110 & Takeya Nakamura (Lions), 48/122

Stolen Base: Kazuki Fukuchi (Swallows), 42 & Yasuyuki Kataoka (Lions), 51

ERA: Wei-Yin Chen (Dragons), 1.54 & Yu Darvish (Fighters), 1.73

Wins: Kazuki Yoshimi (Dragons)/ Shohei Tateyama (Swallows), 16 & Hideaki Wakui (Lions), 16

Strikeouts: Colby Lewis (Carp), 186 & Toshiya Sugiuchi (Hawks), 204

Saves: Hitoki Iwase (Dragons), 41 & Hisashi Takeda (Fighters), 34

Another season of baseball in the books and now the fight for the Championship will begin. It was another exciting year of regular season baseball in Japan as the attendance rose five percent compared to the previous season and the Hanshin Tigers continued their winning ways at the gate, earning the top attendance record for five straight seasons.

Continue reading...

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

NPB Bullet Points: Brazell Becomes a Dad, KBO Offers for Bobby

» 26 August 2009 » In kbo, npb » 8 Comments

Japanese Stories:

  • Craig Brazell commemorated the birth of his son, Trot, with two home runs in Hanshin’s 9-3 win over Yokohama. Congratulations to the Brazell family!
  • Lotte reportedly has some interest in bringing Julio Zuleta back to Japan. Why? Good question — he wasn’t effective his last few years in Japan, and he got himself released from his Mexican League team early in the season. Lotte team management says he would have to pass a tryout get a contract.
  • Chris Aguila is headed back to the States at the end of the month and is almost certainly done with SoftBank. He only managed to hit .095 and hasn’t played at ichi-gun since May.
  • Yomiuri is considering sending pitcher Norihito Kaneto among others to the Arizona Fall League this year. The team sent a couple of guys to play in the Dominican last winter.
  • “Shaggy” Shugo Fujii has qualified for domestic free agency.
  • It was a “draw”: Hisahi Iwakuma threw 149 pitches over 10 innings on August 25, but Hideaki Wakui threw 162 over nine. Neither pitcher figured in the decision, which Seibu took in a walk-off in the 11th. The winning Lions stormed the field, Taketoshi Gotoh wearing a mask that is supposed to resemble Barrack Obama.
  • Javelin thrower Yukifumi Murakami is reportedly getting a little attention from NPB teams as a pitcher. He supposedly hit 152 kmph (95mph) on the gun in college but maxed out at 142 kmph (87mph) in a recent speed gun competition.

English Stories:

  • Gen passes along a Sponichi report saying that Bobby Valentine is getting offers to manage in Korea.
  • You know those ESPN commercials that make Buster Olney look like an undercover operative or something? It took me two or three times to figure out what he’s supposed to be saying on the phone in Japanese. It’s “Ichiro! My favorite outfielder!” (“Ichiro! Boku no sukina gaiyashu!”).
Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Continue reading...

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

Aoki MVP of Game 1; Ohtake and Wakui to Start Game 2

» 24 July 2009 » In international baseball, npb » 2 Comments

I was able to catch the last couple innings of Game 1 on justin.tv and the slugfest resulted with the Central League defeating the Pacific League, 10-8. The MVP was Norichika Aoki (Tokyo Yakult Swallows) blasting a go-ahead 2-run HR in the 9th inning. Aoki went 2-4 with a 2B, HR, 2RBI, 3RS and a BB.

Aoki has had some struggles in the first half of the season for the Swallows hitting .249 with 7HR and this performance at the break might be a postive for him heading into the second half of the season, with the Swallows hunting for a playoff spot.

Yu Darvish (Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters) went one inning and allowed two hits on 14 pitches. He did not throw the scheduled two innings as he left the game after taking a liner to the right shoulder. According to a statement issued by his team, it did not seem serious. Masahiro Tanaka (Rakuten Golden Eagles) picked up the extra work, going three innings and allowing 2H, ER with 2K facing 11 batters. Daisuke Miiura (Yokohama Baystars) earned the win throwing the last two innings without allowing a hit.

For game two, Hideaki Wakui (Saitama Seibu Lions) will start for the Pacific League and Kan Ohtake (Hiroshima Toyo Carp) will make the start at his home stadium for the Central League in Hiroshima.

Continue reading...

Tags: , , , , ,

Velocity Charts

» 12 April 2009 » In npb, pitching » 7 Comments

I’m working on a way to gather pitching information for NPB games. It’s not quite Pitch F/X but it should yield some interesting information. I’m not done yet, but the early results are good. I was able to chart the velocity on each pitch thrown by Hisashi Iwakuma and Hideaki Wakui in their April 10 matchup, which Wakui won 6-0.

(Click to enlarge the charts)

iwakuma_velocity

Iwakuma was lifted after six innings and 92 pitches, allowing three runs. 

wakui_velocity

Wakui used seven different pitches, though he only threw his changeup a couple of times. He threw 138 pitches, and note that his fastball’s velocity drops toward the end.

Continue reading...

Tags: , ,

Prediction: Pacific League

» 29 March 2009 » In npb » 3 Comments

It’s much harder to predict the standings for the Pacific League as the teams are so evenly matched. But I’ll give it a shot.

1. Seibu Lions: I think we’ll see a little regression from Okawari Nakamura and Kazuyuki Hoashi, but a better performance from Hideaki Wakui. Overall it looks like the Lions have enough to repeat.
Key Players: Wakui, Hoashi, whoever gets the most at-bats at 1st base

2. Nippon Ham Fighters: Nippon Ham was actually outscored by their opponents last year. I’m putting them here because I believe that they have the pitching and defense to win close games, and that Sho Nakata will turn up at some point during the season and provide a little offense.The new additions to the bullpen have the task of replacing Michael Nakamura as well.
Key Players: Nakata, Ryan Wing, Masanori Hayashi

3. Chiba Lotte Marines: I didn’t think I’d have the Marines making the playoffs, but I’m putting them in third because they have a solid front four in their rotation, and no real holes in their lineup. Hopefully Bobby V can find a way to keep Tadahito Iguchi and Shunichi Nemoto both in the lineup, as Nemoto broke out last year with a .296/.369/.430 line.
Key Players: Bobby V, Yoshihisa Naruse, Yuuki Karakawa

4. Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles: The Eagles have two WBC heroes at the top of their rotation (Hisashi Iwakuma, Masahiro Tanaka), a couple of solid mid-rotation guys (Darrell Rasner, Hideaki Asai), and some power in the middle of their lineup (Norihiro Nakamura, Fernando Seguignol, Takeshi Yamasaki). But on the other hand they have some holes in their lineup and bullpen.
Key Players: the bullpen

5. Orix Buffaloes: Manager Daijiro Ohishi took over in May of last year and lead the Buffaloes to a seemingly improbable playoff run. Looking back, the Buffaloes pitched better than I realized, with a 3.93 team era and four starters with sub-4:00 eras and at least 10 wins. If the pitching staff can repeat that performance, and the aging lineup of foreign sluggers holds up, they’ll be competitive. If not, look for a B-class finish.
Key Players: Tuffy Rhodes, Alex Cabrera, Jose Fernandez, Greg LaRocca

6. Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks: It’s hard to pick the Hawks to finish this low with the amazing rotation depth they have — Tsuyoshi Wada, Toshiya Sugiuchi, Nagisa Arakaki, Shota Ohba, Kenji Ohtonari, Kameron Loe, Kazumi Saito (if he can come back from his injuries) and rookie Shingo Tatsumi. But on the flipside, their lineup just isn’t what it used to be. The Hawks hit just 99 home runs last year and haven’t added any significant bats. They’re hoping for a return to form from aging sluggers Hiroki Kokubo and Hitoshi Tamura, who have been shells of their former selves in recent years.
Key Players: Kokubo, Tamura

It was tough to pick any of these teams to finish last, because the league is so balanced and all the teams have strengths. It seems likely that Seibu will finish in the top 3 and SoftBank will finish in the bottom 3, but everything else is up for grabs. What are your thoughts?

Continue reading...

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

WBC Roster Set

» 22 February 2009 » In international baseball, mlb, npb » 5 Comments

Japan manager Tatsunori Hara has settled on a WBC roster. Here it is:

Pitchers
Yu Darvish
Takahiro Mahara
Masahiro Tanaka
Hideaki Wakui
Daisuke Matsuzaka
Minoru Iwata
Hisashi Iwakuma
Kyuji Fujikawa
Tetsuya Utsumi
Satoshi Komatsu
Shunsuke Watanabe
Tetsuya Yamaguchi
Toshiya Sugiuchi

Catchers
Kenji Johjima
Shinnosuke Abe
Yoshiyuki Ishihara

Infielders
Hiroyuki Nakajima
Yasuyuki Kataoka
Akinori Iwamura
Michiro Ogasawara
Shuichi Murata
Munenori Kawasaki

Outfielders
Kosuke Fukudome
Norichika Aoki
Seiichi Uchikawa
Yoshiyuki Kamei
Atsunori Inaba
Ichiro

(SI has the AP article as well)

Notable departures are Nobuhiko Matsunaka (achilles problem), Kenta Kurihara (affected by elbow surgery last year), Toru Hosokawa (right shoulder pain), Tsuyoshi Wada, and Takayuki Kishi. Health reasons were not cited for Wada and Kishi.

Overall, the roster looks pretty good to me, though it’s somewhat short on power.The inclusion of Yoshiyuki Kamei makes no obvious sense to me, but I could see him as a defensive replacement/pinch runner. The only other questionable pick I see is Shunsuke Watanabe. He’s been hit or miss in NPB, and as I recall he wasn’t that great in the 2006 WBC.

Continue reading...

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

Red Sox Notes: Matsuzaka, Saito & Tazawa

» 16 February 2009 » In mlb » Comments Off on Red Sox Notes: Matsuzaka, Saito & Tazawa

The Red Sox have four Japanese pitchers on their 40-man roster, and as such are getting their share of coverage in the Japanese media. 

  • Daisuke Matsuzaka has been training in advance of the WBC with his former team, the newly re-uniformed Saitama Seibu Lions. See if you can spot him in this YouTube footage. The catching drill around 5:55 is worth watching too.
  • Perhaps taking a cue from Ichiro, Matsuzaka also found his way to the batting cage. Matsuzaka took 28 swings off Seibu ace Hideaki Wakui, hitting 13 over the fence. A passing John Wasdin commented, “it’s Japan’s Big Papi”, probably with a tone of sarcasm that didn’t make the trip from English to Japanese and back. Matsuzaka did make at least one pinch-hitting appearance in his Seibu days.
  • Junichi Tazawa is getting a quick start on his Boston career. He’s been in camp for a couple days and is working out with Takashi Saito. Sanspo has pics of his first Red Sox bullpen session: 12. He threw 62 pitches.
  • Tazawa followed that up with a 54-pitch session on the 14th.
  • Takashi Saito celebrated his 39th birthday with a 4km run.
  • And I’ll close with an English-language article, an Alex Speier piece reflecting on Hideo Nomo, with comments from Tazawa and Saito.

Continue reading...

Tags: , , , ,

The Effects of NPB Players Leaving for MLB, part 1

» 30 November 2008 » In nichibei » 8 Comments

To me, the trend of NPB stars moving to MLB has meant more jobs for Japanese players and more opportunities for exchange. For others, it’s signified a decline in Japanese baseball. But let’s take a look at how each player’s move to MLB has affected the teams involved. 

Player movement is a part of the business of baseball, and while there’s a general trend of Japanese players wanting to test their skills in MLB, each situation is a little bit different. We’ve seen players ranging from role players like Hideki Okajima and So Taguchi to Hall of Fame-caliber stars like Ichiro and Daisuke Matsuzaka make the move over. We’ve MLB departures go unnoticed, and have a huge impact on a team’s fanbase. So let’s examine each case and see what the impact has been overall.

2008

Hiroki Kuroda (SP, Carp -> Dodgers): Despite losing both Kuroda and star 1st baseman Takahiro Arai (Hanshin) to free agency, Hiroshima still managed to improve from 5th place (60-82-2) in 2007 to 4th (69-70-5) in 2008. Of course, if the Carp had been able to hang on to either one of those guys, they probably would have beat out Chunichi for the last playoff spot. Still, Colby Lewis did an outstanding job taking over for Kuroda as the ace, and the team looks primed to make a step forward in it’s new stadium.

Impact: Medium. Losing Kuroda probably kept the Carp out of the playoffs in ’08, but the team still improved on it’s record. Hiroshima is a small market and losing free agents domestically been a reality for the Carp for years.

Kosuke Fukudome (RF, Dragons -> Cubs): Chunichi won the Japan Series in 2007 despite Fukudome missing significant time due to injuries. The Dragons signed veteran slugger Kazuhiro Wada to take Fukudome’s place in the lineup, surrendering reliever Shinya Okamoto the Lions as compensation. Wada had a solid year (.302/.345/.475) but Chunichi fell from 2nd to 3rd place, and lost out to the Giants in the playoffs.

Impact: High. Wada is an above-average hitter but lacks Fukudome’s defensive skills, and cost the Dragons some bullpen depth. Chunichi looks set for a step back next season with Kenshin Kawakami and Norihiro Nakamura out the door as well. The team continues to draw well though.

Masa Kobayashi (RP, Marines -> Indians)
Yasuhiko Yabuta (RP, Marines -> Royals): Soichi Fujita (Yomiuri) departed as well, breaking up Lotte’s “YFK” relief combination. The Marines dropped from 2nd place in 2007 (76-61-7) to 4th (73-70-1) in 2008. Bullpen performance may have played a role in the increase in losses (six fewer ties compared to 2007), but Bobby Valentine still had four relievers who posted an era of 3.05 or lower. 

Impact: Low. Bullpens fluctuate, and on paper Lotte managed to replace the performance they got out of Yabuta and Kobayashi. 

Kazuo Fukumori (RP, Eagles -> Rangers): Rakuten seemed ready to compete for a playoff spot for most of 2008, but wound up finishing one game out of last despite outscoring their opponents by 20 runs. A return to form from Fukumori would have helped, but this was a guy that posted a 4.75 ERA in 2007.

Impact: Minimal. Fukumori was expendable coming off a bad season. 

2007

Daisuke Matsuzaka (SP, Lions -> Red Sox): Obviously a huge loss for the Lions, as they went from 2nd (80-54-2) to 5th (66-76-2). Jason Johnson was signed to replace Matsuzaka in the rotation, but was more interested in hanging out in Roppongi and never panned out. Hideaki Wakui, on the other hand, established himself as an ace, and the team rebounded in 2008 to win the Japan Series. Seibu used the $51M they received for Matsuzaka to make some stadium improvements, but otherwise hasn’t changed the way they run the team.

Impact: Medium. Everyone knew Matsuzaka was going to MLB, and Seibu got the maximum return by hanging on to Matsuzaka for as long as they could. Despite popularity problems, Seibu has always found ways to win. 

Hideki Okajima (RP, Fighters -> Red Sox): Nippon Ham lost some bullpen depth when Okajima left, but still managed to make it to their 2nd consecutive Japan Series in 2007. The Fighters acquired Okajima for a couple of very spare parts so they basically got a free year out of him. 

Impact: Low. Losing Michihiro Ogasawara (Yomiuri) and Tsuyoshi Shinjo (retirement) has had a bigger affect on Nippon Ham’s competitiveness. I wold suggest that Trey Hillman’s departure to MLB had a bigger impact on the Fighters than Okajima’s.

Kei Igawa (SP, Tigers -> Yankees): Igawa went 14-9 in 2006 as Hanshin finished 2nd to Chunichi with an 84-58-4 record. Without him in 2007, Hanshin dropped to 74-66-4 and a 3rd place finish. In addition to the loss of Igawa, Hanshin’s other starters took a step back in 2007, with Tsuyoshi Shimoyanagi leading the team in innings pitched with just 129 1/3. Igawa’s departure also coincided with the Tigers’ offense regressing, as Tomoaki Kanemoto, Andy Sheets, Akihiro Yano and Osamu Hamanaka all performing significantly worse than the previous season.

The rotation improved 2008, with Minoru Iwata stepping into a more prominent role. The offense improved as well, and Hanshin led the Central League comfortably for most of the year before choking down the stretch to finish 2nd. 

Impact: Medium. Igawa was the only significant personel change, and the team finished 10 wins worse in 2007 than in 2006. Hanshin recovered in 2008 though, and the loss of Igawa never affected the team at the gate. Igawa was inconsistent for his last three seasons in Japan, but the Tigers still haven’t found an innings eater to take his place. Looking back though, Hanshin definitely sold high on Igawa and got a nice infusion of cash back for him without sacrificing on long-term competitiveness.

Akinori Iwamura  (3B, Swallows -> Rays): Yakult replaced Iwamura on the field with Aaron Guiel, and saw it’s record go from 70-73-3 in ’06 to 60-84-0 in ’07. It wasn’t Guiel that cost the team 10 wins, as he posted an .874 OPS compared to Iwamura’s .933 mark in ’06. Guiel dsappeared in ’08 as the Swallows rebounded slightly to 66-74-4. 

Impact: High. Short-term, the impact of losing Iwamura probably wasn’t that great. By the time Iwamura was sold to the Rays, most of the Swallows stars from the team’s mid-90’s glory years were gone or fading, and the team was heading into a period of decline anyway. Yakult has a star to build around in Norichika Aoki, but losing Iwamura has certainly slowed their return to competitiveness. 

Masumi Kuwata (SP, Giants -> Pirates): The Giants had banished Kuwata to the farm team for all of 2006 and didn’t notice he was gone. Kuwata, meanwhile, had a great “nothing to lose” attitude during his time with the Pirates.

Impact: None, except making the Giants look bad for unceremoniously dropping another veteran.

Agree? Disagree? Any information I haven’t presented here? 

I’ll look at players that moved from 2000-2006 in parts 2 and 3 of this series.

Continue reading...

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