Tag Archive > Hideki Irabu

Top Ten From 2011

» 01 January 2012 » In mlb prospects, nichibei, npb » 2 Comments

I really wanted a list of 11 things, but I could only think of ten things I wanted to include, so here we go… the top ten events from 2011.

10. Hideki Irabu commits suicide

Obviously a very sad event and something I wish didn’t have to be on this list.

9. The Central League MVP award goes to… a setup man

Chunichi’s Takuya Asao, to be specific.

8. Mass departure of veterans to MLB

Yu Darvish, Hisasahi Iwakuma, Tsuyoshi Wada, Wei-Yin Chen, Norichika Aoki, Hiroyuki Nakajima and Munenori Kawasaki are MLB-bound, though only Wada has signed so far. In with the new

7. That whole thing with Yomiuri and former GM Hidetoshi Kiyotake

Shortly after the season, there was a bust-up between (now former) Yomiuri GM Kiyotake and chairman Tsuneo Watanabe, over Watanabe’s meddling in coaching personnel decisions. I didn’t write about this one at all, so I’ll rely on the Japan Times’ run down of it. The row eventually led to Kiyotake’s dismissal, which is a shame because he did a pretty good job with the Giants, setting up an effective development program and poaching mostly the right guys from other NPB teams.

6. Softbank wins its first Japan Series since buying the Hawks from Daiei, immediately suffers pitching exodus

Softbank’s years of consistent competitiveness were finally rewarded with its first Nippon-Ichi since 2003, when the team was still the Fukuoka Daiei Hawks. Then three-fourths of its core rotation hit the road, with Tsuyoshi Wada joining the Orioles and Toshiya Sugiuchi and DJ Houlton departing for Yomiuri.

5. Chunichi dismisses the manager that oversaw the most successful period in team history, Hiromitsu Ochiai

Apparently five Nippon Series appearances in eight years wasn’t good enough. Worst baseball decision in franchise history?

4. The new, standardized NPB ball renders wood cylinders known as baseball bats largely useless

I don’t think I did a post dedicated to the new ball, but it was a big enough story for the NY Times to cover. Six starting pitchers finished with sub-2.00 ERAs, plus Hirokazu Sawamura and Shohei Tateyama right behind at 2.03 and 2.04 respectively.

3. DeNA buys Yokohama, immediately injects some life into the franchise

I haven’t written about DeNA yet, but there is more buzz and excitement around the BayStars now than there has been since the Bobby Rose days. Hopefully it translates into competitive baseball at Yokohama Stadium.

2. Yu Darvish finally moves to MLB via the posting system

He has yet to sign, so it’s not a done deal, but Darvish is certainly the most widely-anticipated Japanese import in MLB history.

1. The Great Tohoku Earthquake

Hopefully this goes without saying, but like the Irabu item, I wish this one wasn’t on the list. While the earthquake was probably the single most devastating event in 2011, it was still only one of many significant events in a turbulent year. I hope 2012 will bring global recovery and a greater level of peace.

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RIP Hideki Irabu

» 28 July 2011 » In nichibei » 2 Comments

If you’re on this site, you’ve probably already seen the news elsewhere: today former NPB and MLB pitcher Hideki Irabu was found dead in his home from an apparent suicide. He was 42. Obviously we are saddened by this news.

For me, Irabu’s legacy won’t be as the former owner of the record for the fastest pitch thrown by a Japanese pitcher, or the “Jellyfish of Makuhari”, or the guy who refused to play for the Padres, or the divisive Yankees under-performer. For me Irabu will be a key member of the 2003 Hanshin Tigers, who came within a game of winning the Japan Series in the most enjoyable year of baseball I’ve ever been around.

I wrote about that season for Baseball Digest a few years ago, when Irabu began his short-lived indy league comeback. Normally I don’t like to go back and read things I’ve written in the past, but this one is an exception.

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NPB Bullet Points: Sugiuchi v Darvish, Irabu Done in Kochi

» 14 September 2009 » In npb » Comments Off on NPB Bullet Points: Sugiuchi v Darvish, Irabu Done in Kochi

As the end of the season approaches, we learn who will be released and who is in contention for postseason awards. Japanese links only today.

Japanese Articles:

  • Jose Fernandez left Orix’s 10-8 loss to Seibu in the 7th inning after taking a batted ball to the face. He’s out for the remainder of the season, and may be done with Orix. Literally adding insult to injury, the Orix front office commented that “his results don’t match his salary.” Fernandez hit .261 with 15 HR and 61 RBI, and is getting paid 100m yen ($1m) this year.
  • Toshiya Sugiuchi is making a play for some Sawamura Award consideration. He K’ed 11 Rakuten Eagles on the 13th, his fourth straight game with double-digit punchouts, becoming the first lefty to ever accomplish the feat in the Pacific League. He now is tied for the lead league with 15 wins and has the lead in strikeouts all to himself.
  • But then Yu Darvish said “not so fast” as he returned from injured reserve and shut down the Marines, allowing one run on six hits over eight innings. According to Nikkan Sports, however, the hardest he threw was 148 km/h (91 mph). Not his hardest fastball, but then again he never really needed to extend himself.
  • SoftBank has passed the 2,000,000 mark for attendance again this season, reaching the milestone in their 65 home game.
  • Hideki Irabu has been granted his release from the independent Kochi Fighting Dogs. He has tendinitis in his right thumb, and won’t be able to return in time to play again this season, so he bit the bullet and is heading home to America to recover. He intends to continue his comeback.
  • In place of the loss-making Asia Series, this autumn the Japan and Korea league champions will face off in the Nikan Club Championship. The game will be held on November 14 in Nagasaki.
  • Veteran infielder Toshihisa Nishi is done with Yokohama at the end of the year, but wants to continue playing and will search for a new team this offseason.
  • Hiroshima is looking to import pitching next year, notably of the lefthanded variety, and has mobilized US scout Eric Schullstrom to find some.
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NPB Bullet Points: Koshien Wraps Up, Dragons Get Sick Too

» 24 August 2009 » In amateur baseball, international baseball, Koshien, npb » 1 Comment

Koshien wrapped up yesterday with a wild finale. If you missed it live, you can still check it out in the Justin.tv archives. Standard justin.tv url-tweaking applies. On to the links…

Japanese Articles:

English Articles:

  • Goro Shigeno live-blogged yesterday’s Koshien final. Despite losing, Nihon Bunri put a great never-say-die effort.
  • With Koshien over, Japan will send a team of high school all-stars to Compton, CA for a three-game series against US all-stars. Gen has the Japanese roster, and before you ask, no Yusei Kikuchi will not take part, ostensibly due to his back injury.
  • Toshiya Sugiuchi struck out 15 Nippon Ham Fighters on Sunday and has quietly put up another excellent season.
  • I’m no Deanna, but I’ve travelled a bit and taken a few pictures. I decided to share a few of the better ones as desktop backgrounds. Give ’em a look if you’re interested.
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NPB Bullet Points

» 21 August 2009 » In Koshien, npb » 4 Comments


  • Yokohama dai-veteran Kimiyasu Kudoh was assessed with the first ever ball called due to the 15-second rule. He got hit with the call while shaking off signs in the 7th inning of Yokohama’s 10-3 loss to the Giants on the 18th.
  • Kudoh’s fellow geezer Hideki Irabu has made his first appearance for Kochi, throwing one inning in a practice game against Shikoku Bank. Gen relays a report that Yokohama might kick the tires on Irabu this offseason.
  • The Hiroshima Carp are holding a tryout on September 19 at Mazda Stadium. To qualify you must be between ages 17 and 24 and be at least 175cm (5’8) tall.
  • Hiroki Kuroda is playing catch again after his horrific accident. He joked, “I’m glad I didn’t forget how to throw”, though he is still experiencing headaches.


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Next Stop for Irabu: Japan

» 26 July 2009 » In international baseball, npb » 1 Comment

Looks like Hideki Irabu is planning on hanging around beyond this season. According to Sponichi, the big righty is looking to continue his comeback in Japan and could join an independent league team as soon as September, after his Golden League season is over.

Irabu has put up a seemingly respectable 3.87 era in eight Golden League starts, and shown a fastball that has reportedly reached about 93mph with a hard forkball. Word is that his right knee, which caused him to retire in the first place, also isn’t bothering him.

Irabu’s agent, Don Nomura, has reached out to NPB teams including Irabu’s former teams Lotte and Hanshin, and Nomura’s stepfather’s Rakuten. An anonymous representive from an un-named team was quoted as saying “he wasn’t a match for the points we need to improve, but I felt his drive”. NPB has a player acquisition deadline of July 31, which essentially closes the door on him playing with an NPB club this season.

It’s interesting to see Nomura in the news again. Nomura has faded out of the spotlight in recent years, but he was once a Scott Boras-like figure who played a central role in bringing Irabu, Hideo Nomo, and Alfonso Soriano to MLB.

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A Year of NPB Tracker

» 15 June 2009 » In NPB Tracker » 11 Comments

It’s now been a year since my first post on NPB Tracker.

It’s been a fun year of blogging, it’s gone by quickly. I’ve been able to reach far more people with the site than I expected, and the response I’ve gotten has been overwhelming positive. NPB Tracker is a tiny pixel on 200-inch HDTV that is blogosphere, but considering the nichieness of the content, I’m happy with the audience the site has built. I hope to continue to produce content that people will enjoy.

The positive reaction I’ve gotten to the site has motivated me to write more. When I started this site, I anticipated posting three to five times a week, but looking back now we’ve published over 400 articles. I say “we” because Ryo has contributed a couple dozen posts – Thanks Ryo!

Another unexpected outcome of this blog is that I’ve gotten to see my work and occasionally my name in some more mainstream media outlets. Here are a few of my favorites:

  • Both Rob Neyer and Will Carroll picked up my news about Ichiro pitching earlier in the year. I’ve enjoyed reading both Rob and Will for years so it was very exciting having them link to NPB Tracker.
  • The baseball blogger at the Washington Post mentioned my work a number of times, including this blurb about Junichi Tazawa.
  • The Boston Score asked me some questions last autumn, also on Tazawa.
  • My busted translation of a Nikkan Sports piece on Hideki Irabu’s comeback got picked up by NBC New York. This was one of the best because the writer gave EWC a nod as well.
  • Links to NPB Tracker have started showing up on Wikipedia.

I think my overall favorite was my interview with Ted Berg of sny.tv. An inaccurate article that Ted wrote back in 2007 was part of my motivation for starting the site, and I shared the story in a thread on EWC, which Ted then found and contacted me after reading. Getting to take part in that interview was like coming full circle in a way.

I hope this doesn’t come across as self promoting; the attention this site has gotten has definitely exceeded my expectations and it’s a great honor to have been acknowledged by this group of people.

So, what does the next year hold for NPB Tracker? Mostly more of the same. The majority of the content will still be about Japanese baseball, and it will mostly be in English. I’m planning to have some content on baseball in other countries as well. Outside of that, I’m hoping to find some time to add some additional functionality to the site, mostly with the goal of making it more interactive (suggestions are always welcome).

So thanks for reading everyone, the pleasure has been all on this side of the ‘net.

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Irabu Wins Golden League Debut

» 06 June 2009 » In international baseball » Comments Off on Irabu Wins Golden League Debut

Hideki Irabu won his first appearance for the Long Beach Armada, striking out six in six innings.

Reports out of Japan put his hardest fastball at 92 mph, and Sanspo has plenty of pictures if you’re interested.

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Armada Introduces Irabu

» 19 May 2009 » In international baseball » Comments Off on Armada Introduces Irabu

The Long Beach Armada of the independent Golden League formally introduced Hideki Irabu on May 18. Sanspo quoted Irabu as saying, “I want to feel the joy of standing on the mound and have fun out there. I’m excited”. Sanspo also has a couple of photos of Irabu in his jersey and at the press conference. That’s Long Beach manager Gary Templeton on Irabu’s left in the second picture, and a guy who kind of looks like actor Ray Liotta on his right. Irabu is scheduled to make his first game appearance on June 5.

Last month, Long Beach’s Golden League rival Calgary Vipers announced the signing of Mac Suzuki as well (thanks to reader Dave G for the tip), so we’ll have two of the Japanese MLB pioneers in the same indy league this year. Ironically, along with Hideo Nomo, Irabu and Suzuki hold an ownership stake in the independent Elmira Pioneers, who currently participate in the New York State Collegiate League. So we have a couple of guys who own a team in one league playing in another.

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Irabu Joins Golden League

» 26 April 2009 » In nichibei » 2 Comments

Sanspo and others have the scoop — Hideki Irabu has signed a deal with the Long Beach Armada of the independant Golden League. There’s an official announcement reportedly coming on the 27th.

Irabu is still a name, particularly on this side of the Pacific, and I think he’ll sell a few tickets for the Armada. We’ll see if he has enough left in his right arm to help them on the field.

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