Tag Archive > Hiroshi Kisanuki

Spring Training Story Lines

» 03 February 2013 » In npb » 2 Comments

Spring has arrived in Okinawa, and NPB camps are underway. As with every new season, there are a number of stories developing. Here are a few to look out for:

  • How long before Nippon Ham settles on a position for Shohei Ohtani?

Part of Nippon Ham’s pitch to Ohtani was letting him pitch and hit. Ohtani has the physique and high school track record to make this a very interesting idea, but I suspect that reality will eventually settle in and he’ll wind up sticking to his best role. That said, here’s hoping he pulls it off. I’d love to see him come in from right field to close a game.

  • How will top draftee Shintaro Fujinami adapt to life as a pro?

There is no such positional debate about the other high school prize of last year’s draft, Hanshin pitcher Fujinami. The sentiment echoed throughout the Japanese media following the draft was the question of whether Hanshin has the ability to develop a pitcher with the potential of “Mount Fuji”; now we begin to find out.

  • How will Yomiuri draftee Tomoyuki Sugano perform after a year away from competition?

Sugano took a year off in 2012, after his rights were won by the Nippon Ham Fighters in the 2011 draft. Undeterred, the Giants grabbed him uncontested in the first round of the 2012 draft, and he immediately signed. If he’s some approximation of this, the Giants will be quite happy he was insistent on playing for them.

  • Which of the bari bari Major Leaguers will sink and which will swim?

Andruw Jones, Bryan LaHair, Casey McGehee, Jose Lopez, Vincente Padilla and Nyjer Morgan are among this year’s NPB imports. It’s always hard to predict who will do well in Japan, but I’m particularly pessimistic about Padilla and Morgan.

  • Who will step in to Hiroyuki Nakajima’s shoes for Seibu?

History repeats itself. 10 years ago, Nakajima stepped forward as the replacement for star shortstop Kazuo Matsui, who had departed for the Majors. Now Seibu finds itself needing a replacement for Nakajima. It looked like Hideto Asamura could emerge as a successor, but he failed to impress last season. A return to form from speedster Yasuyuki Kataoka would be welcome, and perhaps Esteban German could see time at shortstop.

  • Who is Eddy Rivera?

Billed a “mystery” player, Rivera is in camp with the Chunichi Dragons on a trial basis (“testo sei“). Rivera has Dominican Summer League experience with academy affiliates of the Cardinals and Padres, but hasn’t appeared in a game since 2010.

Rivera stepped off his flight from the Dominican and immediately impressed with his velocity. Chunichi has found Latin American bargains such as Tony Blanco and Enyelbert Soto in recent years, we’ll see if lightning strikes again.

  • Has Orix improved?

Orix recently grabbed headlines for acquiring star outfielder Yoshio Itoi in a trade with Nippon Ham, but has made a couple other interesting moves this offseason. The Buffaloes signed 2B Keiichi Hirano, picked up starter Shun Tono in a trade with Yomiuri, and snagged closer Takahiro Mahara as compensation for losing free agent starter Hayato Terahara. On the negative side of the ledger, the B’s parted ways with talented, but health-challenged starters Terahara Hiroshi Kisanuki, as well as Alfredo Figaro. Orix is still on the outside looking in at a top-3 finish, but if everything goes absolutely right for them, they could make things interesting.

  • Has Yokohama DeNA improved?

DeNA’s offseason largely consisted of poaching Tony Blanco, Jorge Sosa and Enyelbert Soto from Chunichi, getting OF Hitoshi Tamura back from Softbank, and signing Nyjer Morgan. All of these moves, with the probable exception of Morgan, improve the Baystars, but none really addresses the team’s main weaknesses of the starting rotation and middle infield. The real step forward will have to be lead by the ‘Stars young players: 3B Yoshitomo Tsutsugo, C Shuto Takajo, pitchers Yuki Kuniyoshi and Kisho Kagami, and 2012 draftees IF Hiroyuki Shirasaki and pitcher Kazuki Mishima.

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Orix’s Worst Pitchers

» 10 July 2011 » In npb » 6 Comments

After a rough start to the season, the Orix Buffaloes have clawed their way to a .500 record and into contention a playoff spot. So far, they’ve followed the same path that they took last: making up for a bad start by beating up on Central League teams in interleague play, then continuing to hover around respectability. So far they’re three games over .500 since returning to league play.

Orix has so far posted the worst ERA in the Pacific League, though not by much (3.28 to Seibu’s 3.25). That’s not terribly surprising, but going into the season, I really liked Orix’s rotation options. I saw a lot of question marks, but plenty of depth and a lot of upside as well. A couple of the question marks have come up positive, most notably Hayato Terahara and Alfredo Figaro, but Orix’s bad pitchers have been the worst in the Pacific League. Check out these numbers:

  • Satoshi Komatsu — 0.1 IP, 5 ER
  • Tatsuya Kajimoto — 1.1 IP, 3 ER
  • Masahide Kobayashi — 4.2 IP, 7 ER
  • Masato Nishikawa — 3 IP, 4 ER
  • Evan MacLane — 2.1 IP, 2 ER
  • Kazuya Takamiya — 6.1 IP, 5 ER
  • Hiroshi Kisanuki — 43 IP, 27 ER (32 R)

Add it all up and these seven pitchers have surrendered 53 earned runs over 61 innings pitched, which works out to an ugly 7.82 ERA, and over a fifth of Orix’s team total.The non-Kisanuki members of the group have an even more jarring 13.00 ERA over 18 innings of work, though to be fair, none of them has gotten much of a look. And to be intellectually honest, even if we took these 61 innings away and replaced them with scoreless innings, Orix would still be a ways off Nippon Ham and Softbank in terms of run prevention.

So, what happens next? Over the road back to respectability, Orix seems to have found a bullpen that works a bit better, as most of the guys from my bullet point list haven’t seen any recent game action. Kisanuki pitches on the 11th, so we’ll see if he has any bounce-back in him season. Chihiro Kaneko and Kazuki Kondo have both missed time with injuries this season, but are back now. Chan Ho Park was had some rough spots early in the season, has good enough stuff to compete in Japan. He’s currently out with a torn muscle and is expected back around the All-Star break. It looks like there is enough here to keep things interesting, even if they probably won’t contend for a title.

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Game Notes: Darvish vs Orix

» 03 May 2011 » In npb » 10 Comments

Summary: Nippon Ham wins 6-3 in 10 innings.

Yesterday, the old saying held true: it ain’t over ’til it’s over. I went to bed after the eighth inning of the Nippon Ham-Orix game. Having watched Yu Darvish and Hiroshi Kisanuki battle to 3-1 Fighters lead, I figured it was a safe bet that Orix wouldn’t make a comeback, considering that they had only managed two hits over the first eight innings.

I would have lost that bet. With two on and two outs in the bottom of the ninth, Mike Hessman came up as a pinch hitter and singled on the first pitch he saw, scoring Makoto Moriyama from second and advancing Shingo Nonaka from first to third. Aarom Baldiris followed up with another single, tying the game at 3-3.

After catcher Fumihito Suzuki ended the Orix rally with a flyout, relief ace Mamoru Kishida opened the 10th with two quick strikeouts, before walking Eiichi Koyano. Atsunori Inaba reached on a Baldiris error, then Kazuya Murata singled, setting up a bases loaded situation for Sho Nakata, who cleared ‘em with a triple. 6-3, Nippon Ham.

Orix went down in order in bottom of the 10th, and that’s how it ended.

That was what I missed. What I saw was a pretty good pitching matchup between Kisanuki and Darvish. Kisanuki had the Fighters’ number the first two trips through the lineup, limiting them to three hits and no runs. All the damage came in the seventh, when he clearly looked fatigued, but was was to some extent let down by a couple of unfortunate plays in the field.

The first was came against Inaba, who opened the inning with a bouncer down the first base line. Seung-Yeop Lee casually jogged over to it, veering into foul territory, snagged the ball, and stepped on first. Foul ball.  It seemed harmless enough, but he looked like it would have been an easy out had he kept his feet in fair territory. A few pitches later, Inaba scored Ham’s first run with a solo home run.

The second came after Yoshihisa Hirano came in to relieve Kisanuki. With two outs and a runner on second, Hirano induced a soft fly to right-center from Kensuke Tanaka. It looked like an easy out off the bat, but Orix’s outfield had Tanaka played so shallow it went for a run-scoring double that gave Nippon Ham a 3-1 lead.

Darvish was his usual self, which is to say he was quite a bit different from his last appearance, against Softbank a week ago. Darvish used his “slow” delivery this week, the one where he pauses at the top of his kick. Contrast that to last week, when he pitched with somewhat of an abbreviated delivery and was a bit quicker to the plate.

Darvish also went with a slightly different arsenal against Orix. Most of his breaking stuff was of the downward-breaking variety, curveballs, forkballs, changeups and softer, downward-breaking sliders, as opposed to the primarily fastball/horizontal slider repertoire he attacked Softbank with last week. A bit surprising was that Darvish just wasn’t getting strikes called on fastballs off the outside corner. There were a couple of borderline calls that would have resulted in strikeouts had they gone his way.

After the first three innings, I seriously thought Darvish had a chance to no-hit the Buffaloes’ listless offense. As it turned out, he held them to two hits through the first eight innings, allowing only two hard-hit balls, one of them a long foul by T-Okada. Orix did of course have that rally in the ninth, which seems to be the trend with them — no offense the first two times through the order, then a late threat. Perhaps their advance scouting and game preparation has yet to come together.

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Orix’s Rotation

» 24 December 2010 » In npb » 7 Comments

The Orix Buffaloes have added a few arms this offseason, and have a number of interesting options for their 2011 rotation. Let’s take a look at how things could fit together.

Strong Incumbents

The Orix rotation discussion begins with an established ace and two solid arms.

Chihiro Kaneko — Orix has a legitimate ace in Kaneko. He’s been good in each of the three years he’s spent as a starter, but he reached new heights in 2010 with 17 wins, 204.1 innings, six shutouts and 190 strikeouts.

Hiroshi Kisanuki — Orix bought low on Kisanuki, and were rewarded with a solid 174.1 innings of 3.98 ball. Kisanuki’s been around for a while, so it is a little surprising that 2010 was just the fourth time he’s thrown over 100 innings, and the first since 2007. This may explain why he was strong in the first half but struggled down the stretch. If he can stay healthy again in 2011, he’ll continue to be a solid innings eater.

Kazuki Kondo – I like Kondo, he reminds me of Junichi Tazawa. His 5-10, 4.35 performance in 2010 belies the fact that he took a big step forward with a career-high 133 strikeouts in 142.2 innings. Like Kisanuki, he wore out down the stretch, and was basically done after a 144-pitch outing in early September. Kondo has established a ceiling of 140-150 innings in a season, but he’s a good mid-rotation arm.

Health Question Marks

Then we have a group of talented pitchers with poor track records for health.

Hayato Terahara — Terahara is another personal favorite of mine, and I think Orix absolutely fleeced Yokohama in getting him for Shogo Yamamoto and Go Kida. Terahara had a big breakout year as a starter in 2007, then a solid year as Yokohama’s closer in 2008, but has missed significant time with injuries over the last two seasons. If Orix can coax a healthy season out of him, they’ll have something. It’s a good risk to take.

Satoshi Komatsu — It seems like a long time ago that Komatsu went 15-3, won the Rookie of the Year award, and was chosen for Japan’s WBC team. It’s been a rough, injury-laden couple of years since then. Komatsu did make 13 starts last year, but now seems destined for the bullpen.

Masayuki Hasegawa – Getting Hasegawa for the unused Yuichiro Mukae was an inspired move, but he’s no ace. Realistically, Hasegawa’s contribution will be that he can take the ball every so often and keep his team in the game for five or six innings.

New Imports

Next year, Orix should have a foreigner taking regular rotation turns for the first time since Tom Davey in 2007.

Chan Ho Park – Park is obviously the big name here, having collected 124 wins over a 17-season MLB career. Park signed with Orix to start, so we can assume he’ll open the season in the Buffaloes rotation. There are some question marks though; he’s 37 and hasn’t worked anything close to a full season as a starter since 2006 in San Diego. On the other hand, getting more rest between starts and reduced travel might suit him well.

Alfredo Figaro – And at the other end of the spectrum, there’s Figaro. Figaro has only 31.2 MLB innings under his belt, and is still only 26 years old. Back in 2009, Marc Hulet of FanGraphs put his upside as a back-rotation MLB starter, which makes him an interesting NPB prospect. He’ll bring plus velocity and a good slider to the table.

My Rotation

Assuming health, I’d stack the rotation going into the spring something like this:

  1. Kaneko
  2. Kisanuki
  3. Park
  4. Terahara
  5. Kondo
  6. Figaro

Kaneko’s the ace and Kisanuki earned his #2 spot with his 2010 performance. Park’s MLB track record will probably give him the edge for the next spot, though I like Terahara better if he’s healthy. Kondo is next, and I put Figaro in the last spot because I have decided what I expect from him yet.

The catch is that every pitcher I listed here is a righty. With Yamamoto dispatched in the Terahara trade, Orix doesn’t have an obvious rotation lefty. Shinya Nakayama got a few starts in 2010, but has never been able to stick at the ichi-gun level. Another option might be sophomore Shuichi Furukawa, but he pitched exclusively out of the bullpen in his first professional season.

Overall, Orix has assembled a deep group of starters. It’ll take a few things going right, but Orix could have one of the best rotations in Japan next season.

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Rebuilding Orix

» 07 July 2010 » In npb » 4 Comments

A year or so ago, I came across a Japanese-language blog called something like “Orix saiken heno michi” (オリックス再建への道), which means “the road to rebuilding Orix”. I’d link to it if I could find it again, but I was unable to.The title pretty much explains the content of the blog, and the content of this post as well.

Aside from a somewhat improbable run to a 2nd place finish and playoff birth in 2008, Osaka’s second team has been serially uncompetitive since the 2004 Orix-Kintetsu merger. After last season, the team replaced manager Daijiro Ohishi with former Orix Blue Wave player and Hanshin Tigers manager Akinobu Okada, and kicked off another rebuilding effort.

Orix has had more than its share of tribulations this year, most notably the tragic suicide of Hiroyuki Oze, and the more recent passing of team dormitory master Toshio Hohya. Despite that, the team stands at a competitive 39-39 record as of July 7, thanks largely to a 16-8 run in interleague. Part of the team’s success has been due to the rather large number of acquisitions and roster tweaks Okada and the front office have made.

Offseason and Pre-Season Moves

  • Selected five college/industrial league/independent league pitchers in 09 draft: Okada’s stated strategy was to rebuild the pitching staff with more experienced amateurs. He stayed out of the Yusei Kikuchi race and got his top choice, Shuichi Furukawa, uncontested. Two ’09 draftees, Furukawa and Toru Anan (5th round), have already made their ichi-gun debuts.
  • Let Tuffy Rhodes walk: I’m already on the record as calling this a bad move.
  • Traded Yasunari Takagi to Yomiuri for Hiroshi Kisanuki: I loved this deal for Orix when it happened, and it’s been a home run for them so far. Kisanuki has been a reliable starter, throwing 100 innings of 3.87 ball, and is headed to the All-Star game. Takagi hasn’t made an appearance for the Giants.
  • Signed Aarom Baldiris: Baldiris showed he could play the field from his time with Hanshin, but he never hit enough to keep a regular ichi-gun job with Kansai’s other team. After starting this season on the farm, Baldiris has taken over third base and is hitting .297 with a .766 OPS through 164 PA’s. We’ll see if he can keep it up.
  • Signed So Taguchi: Taguchi spent his NPB career with the old Blue Wave version of Orix, before his eight-year stint in MLB. At 40 years old, he’s basically what he was in the States: a useful, if slightly below-average outfield bat off the bench.
  • Traded Masahiro Abe to Seibu for Shogo Akada: I’ll call this spring training trade a wash as neither player has performed well with his new team.
  • Signed Freddie Bynum: Another spring training move, it looks like Bynum has lost out to Baldiris, and is buried so far down the foreign depth chart that it’s unlikely we’ll see much more of him this year.
  • Committed a regular spot in the lineup to T-Okada: The presence of manager Okada led to the player formerly known as Takahiro Okada adopting the fan-suggested T-Okada moniker. It’s worked out pretty well, as he’s sporting an .857 OPS with 17 HR in his first season of regular duty.

In-Season Moves

  • Traded Takehito Kanazawa to SoftBank for Hisao Arakane and Keisuke Kaneko: Another two-player return for a non-contributor. Kaneko has been a non-factor so far, but Arakane has hit .295 though his first 88 at-bats. I’d be a little surprised if the 32 year-old fringey veteran keeps it up though.
  • Saw Satoshi Komatsu get healthy: He started the season in the bullpen, and overall doesn’t look the same to me as he did in his fantastic 2008 season, but Komatsu has kicked in 56.1 innings of 3.04 ball.
  • Traded Yuichiro Mukae to Hiroshima for Masayuki Hasegawa and Go Kida: it’s hard not to love this trade for Orix — they turned a career .177 hitter into a guy who can at least handle pinch hitting duties, and a once-promising righthander who can still be effective if healthy. Kida’s value as a bench bat is somewhat negated in the DH-using Pacific League, but Orix got a big return on Mukae. Supposedly Hiroshima really wanted Naoyuki Ohmura.
  • Signed Fernando Seguignol: Seguignol comes full-circle, having spent an unproductive season with the Blue Wave way back in 2002. Seguignol was signed to provide injury depth behind Alex Cabrera, but only appeared in six games before being sent down.

So not every move Orix made has worked out, but there are plenty of wins in this list. I still think Orix will settle to the bottom this year and miss the playoffs, as they just don’t have the star power to compete with the rest of the Pacific League. But they’re making it interesting.

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Recent NPB Transactions

» 06 December 2009 » In npb » 3 Comments

I haven’t covered in-NPB transactions much since the Shimizu trade, so let’s catch up. Here’s a summary:

  • Yokohama signed catcher Tasuku Hashimoto away from Lotte
  • Yakult signed infielder Atsushi Fujimoto away from Hanshin
  • Lotte brought pitcher Yasuhiko Yabuta back from the Royals organization
  • Nippon Ham signed pitcher Masao Kida away from Yakult
  • Lotte signed pitcher Hidetaka Kawagoe, released by Orix
  • Lotte signed pitcher Akichika Yamada and catcher Noaki Matoba, both released by SoftBank
  • Lotte extended a spring training invite to infielder Makoto Imaoka
  • Nippon Ham traded pitchers Yataro SakamotoSuguru Matsuyama and infielder Naoto Inada to Yokohama for pitchers Takeharu Katoh, Takahiro Matsuka and outfielder Yuta Sekiguchi
  • Yomiuri signed Masahide Kobayashi, formerly of the Indians
  • Yomiuri traded pitcher Hiroshi Kisanuki to Orix for pitcher Yasunari Takagi
  • Yomiuri is about to sign no longer shaggy pitcher Shugo Fujii

I think that brings us up to date… did I miss anyone?

Clearly Lotte, Yokohama and Yomiuri have been the most active in the last few weeks. Yokohama is clearly retooling, and I think they’re heading in the right direction. Signing Hashimoto is a solid move.

The deal with the most upside is Orix fleecing Yomiuri for Kisanuki. The Buffaloes basically got a guy who’s proven he can start effectively when healthy for a lefty reliever who has two good seasons to his name, most recently 2007. Yomiuri certainly knows more about Kisanuki’s health than I do, but it looks like a great deal for Orix to me.

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