Tag Archive > Hiroki Kuroda

Changes for 2012: Hiroshima Carp

» 28 January 2012 » In npb » 4 Comments

Coming: Kam Mickolio, Nick Stavinoha, Yusuke Nomura (1st round draft pick)

Going: Gio Alvarado, Mike Schultz, Dioni Soriano, Kiyoshi Toyoda, Wilfreiser Guerrero, Masaki Hayashi, Chad Tracy

Staying: Bryan Bullington, Brian Barden, Dennis Sarfate, Kenta Kurihara

The key offseason move for Hiroshima was the one that didn’t happen. For the second straight winter, the Carp failed to lure its former ace, Hiroki Kuroda, back from his successful Major League tenure. Had Kuroda returned, Hiroshima would have opened camp with a good shot at having the best rotation in Japan. Even without Kuroda though, Hiroshima’s rotation has some solid pieces to work with. Kenta Maeda and Bryan Bullington are strong at the top, second-year man Yuya Fukui showed proimsed in 2011, and perhaps rookie Yusuke Nomura and sophmore Kyohei Nakamura will join the mix. Veteran Kan Ohtake showed signs of life toward the end of last season, and 24 year-old lefty Yuki Saito should return from the back injuries that sidelined him for all of 2011. Kuroda would have been a great addition to this group, taking the pressure of the younger guys and the injury returnees.

At the plate, Hiroshima suffered a severe power shortage in 2011, hitting a league-low 52 home runs. To that end if Nick Stavinoha can establish himself and slug .450, it will be a huge addition. The retention of Brian Barden is a sound move, as he hit a respectable .280/.368/.371 over half a season last year. Simply getting a full season out of him at third base, which has been a hole since Takahiro Arai departed, will be a plus and if he can find some pop, all the better. We’ll see about the rest of the lineup once the open-sen season opens.

So while their approach is contingent on the younger players maturing and contributing, Hiroshima seems to be headed in the right direction.

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A Fitting Tribute

» 03 January 2012 » In npb » 3 Comments

The other day, Sports Hochi reported that, in the event that he signs with the Rangers, the Nippon Ham Fighters will “semi-retire” Yu Darvish’s number 11. The number won’t be officially retired, but will remain unused until the team develops another “absolute, Darvish-caliber ace”.

So it’ll be something like a Nippon Ham adaptation of number 18, Japanese baseball’s recognized “ace number”. Incidentally, Darvish wore 18 for Japan’s 2008 Olympic Team, because Kenshin Kawakami had 11. I could have my historical facts not-quite-right here, but I believe the ace number tradition was popularized by 18-wearer Tsuneo Horiuchi, Yomiuri’s 60’s and 70’s-era ace. After Horiuchi retired, number 18 was eventually passed down to Masumi Kuwata who went on to have a lengthy career. Every NPB except Yakult currently has number 18 assigned to a pitcher. In the Major Leagues, Hiroki Kuroda, Daisuke Matsuzaka and now Tsuyoshi Wada wear number 18.

I’m on board with this one, I think treating 11 as a new ace number is a great idea. Darvish’s tenure in NPB has been short, but legendary, and he’s certainly left his mark on Japanese baseball.

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Kuroda’s Decision

» 02 January 2012 » In mlb » Comments Off

Hiroki Kuroda will not be wearing a Dodgers uniform on opening day 2012. I don’t have any special insight into where he might wind up, but I do have a couple of quotes from Kuroda and his agent to pass along.

Here’s a one from Kuroda that appeared in Sponichi on December 30th:

“It’s an important offseason in that I’m taking another look at my life in baseball. I’d like to take as much time as is permissible and carefully make a decision.”

 

「野球人生を見つめ直す意味で大事なオフ。時間の許す限り、じっくり決断を下したい」

And the second is from agent Steve Hilliard, and appeared in Sponichi the previous day:

“We’re steadily getting closer to decision time.”

 

「(去就)決断の時期は着々と近づいている」

 

“Currently he’s carefully considering all his options, including Hiroshima and MLB teams, but it’s a very difficult decision.”

 

「彼は現在、広島とメジャー球団、全ての選択肢を検討し熟考している段階だが、とても難しい決断になっている」

The quotes from Hilliard are translations of translations, and I couldn’t find the original quotes published in English, so we’ll have to live with them for now.

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NPB Bullet Points: Coming & Going

» 08 November 2011 » In mlb prospects, nichibei, npb » 16 Comments

Looks like we’re in for a busy offseason on the posting market. Here’s the latest.
  • Like last year, Seibu shortstop Hiroyuki Nakajima will again ask his management to send him to MLB via the posting system this offseason. This year, Seibu is expected to grant his wish. Nikkan Sports keeps mentioning the Giants, Dodgers, Diamondbacks and Orioles as possibly interested teams, but it’s not clear where that information is coming from.
  • Yakult Swallows centerfielder Norichika Aoki has also petitioned his team to post him, according to Toshiyuki Tachimatsu of the Mainichi News.
  • As of October 26, Chunichi lefty Wei-Yin Chen was 50/50 on moving to MLB, according to the Chunichi Shimbun.
  • Nikkan Sports reports that Hiroshima has an offer out to Hiroki Kuroda. Kuroda commented: “I’m happy that they would evaluate my contributions like that. Naturally, I’m happy. A feeling that they really want to win came across. (Hiroshima’s competitiveness this season) has come to a frustrating place, to a place where they are one step away… I’m very happy I got an offer from the Carp.”
  • A number of NPB teams have interest in Kei Igawa, among them Rakuten and Orix, who are both managed by men who managed Igawa with the Hanshin Tigers.

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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.

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My Team Japan

» 08 May 2011 » In npb » 27 Comments

Last week, I got a pretty good question Twitter — who would my Japanese national team be today?

It’s a good question, and a nice change of pace from the Darvish questions I frequently get, so I decided to write up a post about it. Coincidentally back when I was teaching English at the now-defuct NOVA, I used to do a lesson like this with my baseball fan students, and it was always a fun one.

I’m picking my team as if they would have to compete at the highest level, so as cool as I think the World Port Tournament is, I’m following the WBC roster rules. In summary, I get a maximum of 28 players, with a minimum of two catchers and 13 pitchers.

Outfield

No reason to deviate from the 2009 WBC starting outfield of Ichiro, Kosuke Fukudome, and Norichika Aoki. For my fourth outfielder I’ll go with the gap power, strike zone judgement, and defensive prowess of Nippon Ham CF Yoshio Itoi.

Infield

There’s one easy call for me in the infield: Hiroyuki Nakajima at shortstop. At second base, I’ll start Tsuyoshi Nishioka, without regard to his current injury.

The corners are a little trickier. At third base, I like Takeya “Okawari-kun” Nakamura’s bat and Eiichi Koyano’s glove, with Takahiro Arai striking a balance between the two. Choices are a bit limited on other side of the diamond, and Sho Nakata might be the best choice by the end of the year, but for now I prefer the contact bat of Seiichi Uchikawa.

This group of four gives me some flexibility. I can play the stronger defensive group with Koyano at third, Arai at first, and Okawari-kun DH’ing, or I can for the better offensive lineup and have Arai at third, Okawari-kun at first, and one of my other candidates batting DH. The presence of Uchikawa gives me the option of playing the hot hand as well.

On the bench, I’ll stash Yasuyuki Kataoka and Munenori Kawasaki, both of whom can pinch run, steal bases, get bunts down and play good defense all over the infield.

Designated Hitters

Nakamura would DH for my team when he’s not playing in the field. Hideki Matsui never participates in these things, but dammit,this is my dream team, so he’s in.

Catchers

Catcher is an easy call. Kenji Johjima starts, Shinnosuke Abe backs up.

Starting Pitchers

The first three starters are easy choices: Yu Darvish, Hisashi Iwakuma and Hiroki Kuroda. The next three are pretty easy too: Masahiro Tanaka, Hideaki Wakui, Kenta Maeda. Hang on, no lefties in there, so I’ll call on Tsuyoshi Wada, Toshiya Sugiuchi, and Masaru Takeda.

That’s nine starters, so some of these guys are are going to relieve. In particular, I like Tanaka as a power arm out of the bullpen, and Takeda as a lefty specialist.

Relief Pitchers

I’m rounding out my 13-man pitching staff with four full-time relievers for my squad: Kyuji Fujikawa, Takuya Asao, Hitoki Iwase and Tetsuya Yamaguchi.

Those last two are kind of risky picks, given Iwase’s struggles in the 2008 Olympics, and the fact that Yamaguchi got lit up for 10 home runs last year. But Iwase is a good pitcher, and I like Yamaguchi’s ability to get lefthanded batters out.

Notable absences

The last name I deleted off my list of candidates was Chihiro Kaneko (ignoring the fact that he’s been out injured all season). It was either him or Koyano, and I went with Koyano for his third base defense and gap bat. Kaneko’s righty starter skillset is already well-represented.

I would love to have another power bat on this team, but the only other guy I really thought about was Shuichi Murata. A few years ago, his inclusion would have been a no-brainer, but I prioritized defense, and his down numbers last season concern me. Nobuhiko Matsunaka would have been a great inclusion, but he is a shadow of his former self.

I gave some consideration to Koji Uehara and Takashi Saito, but they are too injury-prone to displace either Fujikawa or Asao, and too righthanded to bump Iwase or Yamaguchi.

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MLB Updates: Spring Training Winds Down

» 25 March 2011 » In mlb » 1 Comment

A few updates from Japan as MLB players are finishing up spring training and preparing for Opening Day.

  • For those who haven’t been following the Twins this spring, MLB rookie Tsuyoshi Nishioka has hit in 12 straight spring training games. “It’s important (for me) to get used to being tired,” Nishioka told reporters following his first day game after a night game. He will also start on the 25th against the Orioles.
  • Kenshin Kawakami, a trade candidate for what seems like ages, will try to impress in his last spring training appearance for the Braves on March 27th. Kawakami allowed 3 runs (1 earned) in 3 innings in his first spring start this week.
  • Meanwhile in Arizona, the Dodgers’ Hiroku Kuroda says he’s not bothered by his spring training results. “I’ve come this far without getting hurt, and that’s the most important thing.” Kuroda, who has been working on a curve ball this spring and currently sports a 5.78 ERA, will make his first regular season start against the Giants on April 3rd.
  • Koji Uehara returned to action earlier this week in a minor league game, pitching a scoreless inning with one strikeout. Uehara has battled elbow issues this spring but remains upbeat. “As long as my elbow and my face are in good shape, I’m okay.” The Orioles’ reliever was clocked at 88 mph in his minor league appearance, but assured reporters he was only throwing “at 70 or 80 percent…I feel great.”
  • Hisanori Takahashi continues to dazzle, having allowed no runs over 11 innings in relief. He’ll be the lefty set up man in the Angels’ bullpen to start the year. Regarding the start of the regular season, Takahashi says, “I don’t need to change anything.”
  • Hideki Matsui‘s statement on Thursday that, “My job is the DH. More than defending, I’ve got to hit,” reinforces the fact that he is no longer a reliable outfield option. Despite a spring batting average that has sunk to .125, Matsui told reporters, “It’s no problem. Everyone starts out hitting .000 on opening day.”

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Post-Quake News

» 16 March 2011 » In npb » 7 Comments

With northern Japan still not out of the woods, baseball has rightfully taken a backseat in the news. But there is already news about the charitable activity of NPB players, as well as discussion about when NPB’s season should begin, and I’d like to share those items tonight. No opinion here, just news.

And finally I and my family have made small contributions to Global Giving and Save The Children, and are researching other organizations. If anyone has any suggestions, I’m all ears.

 

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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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Re-Run: The Effects of NPB Players Leaving for MLB, part 4

» 27 August 2010 » In mlb, mlb prospects, nichibei, npb » 4 Comments

I’ve spent most of my writing time this week over at FanGraphs, profiling some of Japan’s better players. In researching that set of articles, I came across this post I wrote in early 2009, before Koji Uehara and Kenshin Kawakami had signed with MLB clubs. Looking back at this, I don’t think I’d change the set of conclusions that I originally drew, but I will add the observation that this trend has hurt the overall depth of the league. Another interesting thing to note is that 11 of the 26 players listed here have returned to NPB, several since this article was written: Johjima, Iguchi, Kobayashi, Yabuta, Taguchi, Yabu and Fukumori.


Time to close out this series with some conclusions. I fear that I may be oversimplifying this a bit, but I’m looking for macro trends with this. These are casual observations, I didn’t do any hard research.

Check the three previous installments here: 1, 2, 3.

1. Most of the teams that lost a star to MLB took some kind of a hit in the standings. With the exception of Hiroshima, the teams losing the top 10 players listed below took years to replace the production they lost, and some still haven’t. It’s also important to remember that none of these departures happened in a vacuum; there were other things that affected the performance of each team, but overall the lose of these players has hurt their former teams competitively.

2. The only team that really took a popularity hit after losing a star to MLB was the Giants after losing Matsui. I bought walk-up tickets to a Giants game in 2005, which would have been unthinkable a few years earlier. Of course, while the Giants were down, the Tigers and Dragons were both up and have enjoyed competitive success and popularity since the early part of the decade. SoftBank has been less competitive since losing Johjima, but has not suffered at the gate. The team is actually adding 6000 seats to the Yahoo Dome for next season to help meet demand.

3. Signing foreign talent to replace departed stars doesn’t seem to work. Teams will often sign foreign players to fill the holes left by departed stars, but when the do so, they’re losing the opportunity to add depth at other positions with those roster spots. I can’t think of an example where a foreign star was a long-term replacement for an MLB bound star. Colby Lewis was great as Hiroki Kuroda’s replacement in 2008, but so was Kevin Hodges a few years ago and he flamed out after a single season.

4. Losing talent to MLB has a trickle-down impact on the smaller market teams. As an example, Hanshin may have been content with their outfield had Shinjo stuck around, but two years after he left they signed Tomoaki Kanemoto away from the Carp to play left field. Kanemoto has gone on to become a legend for the Tigers while the Carp have only recently begun to show signs of life. Hanshin and Yomiuri can spend to fill their holes, while smaller market teams like Hiroshima cannot.

5. On the positive side, stars moving to MLB has opened up (or could potentially open) spots for younger players, in a league where there is no rule 5 draft and blocked prospects and depth guys are seldom traded. We haven’t seen too many cases of prospects jumping in and filling the shoes of the top 10 guys I’ve listed below, but others have stepped in for 11-26.

Overall, I don’t think this trend is killing NPB. Attendance is stable, and Japan Series television ratings were up this year (mostly because the Giants played in it). Many of the players who have made the leap to MLB have actually been pretty successful, which has greatly improved the credibility of NPB overseas. On the downside, the loss of star players has hurt the competitive depth of the affected teams, and led many to question the viability of the league. I seeing the loss of these star players as an “Oakland A’s-ing” of the league — the A’s have gotten by with smart management, an ability to exploit market inefficiencies and a willingness to continually reinvent the team on the field. The A’s style doesn’t translate to the Japanese game completely, but the underlying principles of thrift and creativity are important for a group of teams that generally is not going to compete with MLB financially.

Below is a list of all the players I looked at, ranked in order of how much I think their departure affected their previous team and the league. For me, there are really about three or four classes: Matsui and Johjima, Iwamura through Iguchi, and everyone else. You can possibly put Matsui, Kobayashi and Yabuta in their own class as well, as guys who were quickly replaced but did leave a gap in their absences.

Rank Player Team Year Record Before Record After Impact
1 Hideki Matsui Yomiuri 2003 86-52-2 71-66-3 High
2 Kenji Johjima Daiei/SoftBank 2006 89-45-2 75-56-5 High
3 Akinori Iwamura Yakult 2007 70-73-3 60-84-0 High
4 Kosuke Fukudome Chunichi 2008 78-64-2 71-68-5 High
5 Daisuke Matsuzaka Seibu 2007 80-54-2 66-76-2 Medium
6 Ichiro Orix 2001 64-67-4 70-66-4 Medium
7 Hiroki Kuroda Hiroshima 2008 60-82-2 69-70-5 Medium
8 Kei Igawa Hanshin 2007 84-58-4 74-66-4 Medium
9 Kazuhisa Ishii Yakult 2002 78-56-6 72-64-2 Medium
10 Tadahito Iguchi Daiei/Softbank 2005 77-52-4 89-45-2 Medium
11 Kazuo Matsui Seibu 2004 77-61-2 74-58-1 Low
12 Masahide Kobayashi Lotte 2008 76-61-7 73-70-1 Low
13 Yasuhiko Yabuta Lotte 2008 76-61-7 73-70-1 Low
14 Takashi Saito Yokohama 2006 69-70-7 58-84-4 Low
15 Hideki Okajima Nippon Ham 2007 82-54-0 79-60-5 Low
16 Akinori Otsuka Chunichi 2004 73-66-1 79-56-3 Low
17 Shingo Takatsu Yakult 2004 71-66-3 72-62-2 Low
18 Tsuyoshi Shinjyo Hanshin 2001 57-78-1 57-80-3 Low
19 Keiichi Yabu Hanshin 2005 66-70-2 87-54-5 Low
20 So Taguchi Orix 2002 70-66-4 50-87-3 Low
21 Satoru Komiyama Yokohama 2002 69-67-4 49-86-5 Low
22 Kazuo Fukumori Rakuten 2008 67-75-2 65-76-3 Low
23 Norihiro Nakamura Kintetsu 2005 61-70-2 62-70-4 Low
24 Shinji Mori* Seibu 2006 67-69-0 80-54-2 Low
25 Yusaku Iriki* Nippon Ham 2006 62-71-3 82-54-0 Low
26 Masumi Kuwata Yomiuri 2007 65-79-2 80-63-1 Low

* I forgot about both these guys when compiling the original lists. Mori was successfully posted and signed with Tampa Bay, but got hurt in his first spring training and was never heard from again. Iriki played in the Mets and Blue Jays organizations, but got busted for PED usage and never reached the Majors. He resurfaced with Yokohama in 2008, but retired after the season.

** I left out Yukinaga Maeda as well.

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