Tag Archive > Hiroyuki Kobayashi

Changes for 2012: Hanshin Tigers

» 04 February 2012 » In npb » 3 Comments

Coming: Hayata Itoh (1st round draft pick), Shingo Matsuzaki, manager Yutaka Wada

Going: Tsuyoshi Shimoyanagi, Kodai Sakurai, Ikuro Katsuragi, Keiji Uezono, manager Akinobu Mayumi

Staying: Matt Murton, Craig Brazell, Randy Messenger, Jason Standridge, Takashi Toritani, Kyuji Fujikawa

Hanshin’s biggest change this season is in the dugout, where Yutaka Wada replaces Akinobu Mayumi, who failed to lead the Tigers to a Central League crown or a Japan Series appearance in three years at the helm. Wada is a Hanshin lifer, having spent his entire 16 year playing career with the team, followed by another 10 years in various coaching roles in the Tigers organizatoin. Wada also occupies a special place in Hanshin lore, as the last active player from Hanshin’s legendary 1985 championship team at the time of his retirement in 2001.

Wada inherits a roster that is largely unchanged from 2011, a team finished fourth in the Central League despite outscoring its opponents by 39 runs. In a small league though, run differentials are deceiving, and a big chunk of those 39 runs came from blowing out Yokohama a few times. Rookie outfielder Hayata Itoh figures to get a serious look during spring training, as center field is a hole, and left fielder Tomoaki Kanemoto is on his last legs after a venerable career. Retaining Matt Murton was a big win for Hanshin, as they can count on his steady bat in right.

Hanshin made no significant changes to its pitching staff this offseason. Hiroyuki Kobayashi is working on a move to the rotation after a so-so season in middle relief; I wonder if lefty Daiki Enokida could make a few starts as well. Depth is always a plus, and while Hanshin had four starters pitch 150+ innings with 3.00 or lower ERAs, lefties Minoru Iwata and Atsushi Nohmi both struggled with injuries prior to 2011. On the farm, Taiwanese prospects Ikketsu Sho and Kai-Wen Cheng both put up good numbers at ni-gun last year, and righty Takumi Akiyama has shown promise as well.

Hanshin is beginning to age at some positions, but overall still has a talented veteran roster. That coupled with regression from of last year’s top three should see the Tigers back in playoff position this year.

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2011 NPB Trade Review

» 02 August 2011 » In npb » 4 Comments

As usual, the NPB trade/player acquisition deadline passed with a whimper. There were, however, seven trades consummated over the course of the season, with the Seibu Lions and Yomiuri Giants being the most active on the market. Here’s a rundown.

Takuya Takahama to Lotte, from Hanshin as compensation for signing Hiroyuki Kobayashi – There were rumors that Lotte would wind up with a more established player; instead they got infield prospect Takahama. He’s hitting .215 at ni-gun. Verdict: not sure who else was available to Lotte but it appears they wound up with a very ordinary farmhand.

Naotaka Takehara to Orix, cash to Lotte — Orix has, by and large, done a good job at getting useful contributions out of castoffs from other places. Takehara has not been one of those moves, as the Buffaloes gave him just 16 at bats at the top level. Verdict: Lotte wins, cash and a roster spot for a guy they weren’t going to use.

Shinji Takahashi to Yomiuri, cash to Nippon Ham — Takahashi is once-productive contact-hitting catcher/first baseman who fell on hard times in 2010, and apparently found himself without a role in Hokkaido. Yomiuri seems to have acquired him with pinch hitting in mind, but so far that idea hasn’t panned out as Takahashi only has one hit in 13 at bats. He is, however, hitting well at ni-gun, so maybe he has something left. Verdict: nice buy-low opportunity Yomiuri. We’ll see where he fits in next year.

Takanori Hoshi to Seibu, cash to Yomiuri — This one makes some sense. Hoshi’s path to ichi-gun was effectively blocked by the presence of catchers Shinnosuke Abe and Kazunari Tsuruoka, and Yomiuri has pretty good catching depth at ni-gun. Meanwhile, Seibu is down a man, having lost Toru Hosokawa to free agency last offseason. Hoshi still appears to be the low man on Seibu’s catching totem pole, but he’ll have less blockage from the top levels. Perhaps more importantly to the media, it prevents the Hoshi from realizing his “Kyojin no Hoshi” destiny. Verdict: in theory this seems like a good idea for Seibu.

Chikara Onodera to Yakult, Yuji Onizaki to Seibu — Onodera is a righty reliever with a hard fastball who enjoyed several years of success toward the back of Seibu’s bullpen until falling down the depth chart last season, then off the radar completely this year. Perhaps in anticipation of losing shortstop Hiroyuki Nakajima this offseason, Seibu took this opportunity to move him into urban Tokyo in exchange for infield farmhand Onizaki. Onodera got lit up and demoted at Yakult, while Onizaki has taken over as Seibu’s ni-gun starting shortstop. Verdict: instinctively I prefer this deal for Seibu, though Onizaki is 28 and I have to wonder how much upside he has left.

Hirotaka Egusa to Seibu, Haruki Kurose to Hanshin — Lefty reliever Egusa was a key cog in Hanshin’s excellent bullpen from 2005-2009, before seeing his effectiveness (and velocity) fade in 2010. Supplanted by newcomers like Daiki Enokida, Hanshin swapped him for utility infielder Kurose, who himself had been made redundant with Seibu’s acquisition of Onizaki. This trade was essentially the other half of the Onodera deal, which took place one day earlier. Seibu has been struggling all season to find regular bullpen contributors, so it made sense for them to take a chance on a guy like Egusa, but so far it hasn’t worked out. Egusa only got eight innings at ichi-gun, where he walked nine batters, though he’s been better at ni-gun. Verdict: can’t fault Seibu for trying.

Saburo Ohmura to Yomiuri, Takahito Kudo to Lotte — And in the only trade of the year involving at least one player capable of starting, Yomiuri grabbed Saburo in exchange for reserve OF Kudo. This one is a bit of a head-scratcher. Clearly Yomiuri wanted to inject some life into its lineup. Saburo was not a bad pickup, but he’s another outfielder on the wrong side of 35. Meanwhile, Lotte gets a player in Kudo who has never established an ability to play a large chunk of the season. Oddly, Lotte started Kudo several games immediately after acquiring him, indicating that the were interested in him as a starter. Verdict: talent for talent, a win for Yomiuri.

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Game Report: Ogasawara Reaches 2,000 Hits

» 05 May 2011 » In npb » 3 Comments

Summary: Hanshin defeated Yomiuri 2-1, but Michihiro Ogasawara reached his milestone.

This game had quite a few juicy storylines coming in. The Giants’ rookie Hirokazu Sawamura made his Tokyo Dome debut, and “Guts” Ogasawara was one hit away from 2,000 for his career. 45,313 people were on hand at Tokyo Dome to perhaps witness history.

Sawamura, selected out of Chuo University last autumn, seemed to get off to a rocky start. The first two batters he faced made solid contact. Matt Murton lined a ball to third base for an out, and Keiichi Hirano ripped a single into right field.

According to the broadcast I was watching, in the first inning Sawamura basically threw fastballs and what was described a forkball. If their graphic was right, he didn’t throw another one until several innings later. Nevertheless, he hit 150 kmph at least twice that I saw but was wild, especially to third hitter Takashi Toritani. He did manage to reign in his control and strike out Takahiro Arai and Craig Brazell to escape the jam.

If the crowd was hoping to see hit number 2,000 from Ogasawara in the first inning, they were disappointed. He popped up on the infield for the third out.

Sawamura had an easy second frame and it looked like Yomiuri might open the scoring in their half of the inning. Alex Ramirez had the Giants’ first hit of the day, followed by a seeing eye single up the middle from Hisayoshi Chono. But two outs and an intentional pass later Iwata was left facing his counterpart whom he easily struck out.

In the third inning, Hirano collected his second hit of what would become a very good game for him. Nothing came of it for Hanshin, just as nothing came of Ogasawara’s second chance at history in the bottom half. He K’ed on a check swing called strike three.

Yomiuri broke the stalemate on the scoreboard in the 4th when Ramirez absolutely destroyed a pitch from Iwata into the left field stands. The ball was a no-doubter, landing close to the top of the bleachers filled with Tigers fans and very near the aisle that surrounds the seats. It was a solo shot and Rami’s 6th of the season.

Of note, Hanshin again chose to semi-intentionally walk (after 3 balls) the eighth hitter Ken Kato to face Sawamura.

The 5th inning was Sawamura’s hardest working frame of the day. Shunsuke Fujikawa led off with a double, but Iwata was unable to move him over with a failed bunt attempt. When Murton was retired it looked as if Sawamura would escape unscathed, but the pesky Hirano drove in Shunsuke with his 3rd hit of the day. The game was tied at 1-1, with the Tigers threatening for more.

Perhaps he was rattled, after a botched pickoff attempt allowed Shunsuke to move up to second base. Toritani and Arai walked, but Sawamura regained his composure and retired Brazell to end the inning.

The thing that most impressed me about Sawamura in that spot was his fearless approach that he took with the large American, choosing to go right after him. That speaks well for Sawamura’s future.

Ogasawara was stuck on 1,999 hits as he hit into a double play for try number three. Lefties have really baffled him all series long.

In the top of the 6th, Sawamura made a glaring mistake to Kenji Johjima, hanging a breaking pitch right over the plate. Johjima taught the youngster a lesson by promptly slamming it into the seats in left to give Hanshin a 2-1 lead. It was Johjima’s 2nd homer of the year.

Of little consolation, Sawamura retired Hirano for the first time of the day later that inning. Hirano finished with a 4 for 5 day at the plate.

When Toritani singled in the Hanshin 7th, it signaled the end of Sawamura’s day. Sawamura’s final line was 6.1 IP, 111 pitches, 8 H, 5 K, 4 BB, 2 ER. It’s hard to call it a good outing considering the hit and walks number, including a few glaring mistakes (the pickoff throw and Johjima’s HR), but I’d call it a solid game. Especially for someone with such little NPB experience under his belt.

Only a close play at the plate (and perhaps and ill-advised coaching decision at third base) prevented the score from becoming 3-1. Brazell knocked a double into right field off of new pitcher Yasunari Takagi, but Arai missed home plate on a tumbling slide and was tagged out.

At Lucky 7 time, it was still 2-1 Tigers.

Fast forward to the bottom of the 8th, when the moment most of the crowd had been waiting for finally happened. With one out and right-hander Hiroyuki Kobabyashi in the game, Guts smashed a 1-2 pitch past the reliever’s head and into center for hit number 2,000. Flowers, of course, were presented and the game continued on with little delay.

A Chono walk later in the inning provided the Giants with a two out threat, but Rusty Ryal was retired on strikes to end the frame.

There little delay in securing the win for the visitors on this day, as Kyuji Fujikawa slammed the door on the Giants in the 9th with two quick outs, a hit batsman, and a Sakamoto fly out to right caught by a sliding Murton.

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2011 Season Predictions: Pacific League

» 10 April 2011 » In npb » Comments Off

The Pacific League is balanced. In fact, this is probably the first time I can say that I think that every team in the league has a chance to finish first. That makes it difficult to pick winners this year, so I’m going to try something different. I’ve got the teams ranked not by where I think they’ll finish, but by how likely I think they are to finish first.

6. Orix Buffaloes (offseason summary)

High-risk, high-reward rotation; new suketto question marks; counting on lots of guys who had their first success in 2010; thin bullpen; Chihiro Kaneko injured

5. Chiba Lotte Marines (offseason summary)

Absence of Tsuyoshi Nishioka and Hiroyuki Kobayashi; lineup is due for some regression; not quite sold on starters not named Naruse or Karakawa

4. Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles (offseason summary)

Strong front rotation; better lineup with the additions of Kazuo Matsui and Akinori Iwamura; lots of righty bullpen options; new manager

3. Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters (offseason summary)

Yu Darvish; steady rotation; great defense; a few break-out candidates; good 2nd half in 2010; Darvish

2. Fukuoka Softbank Hawks (offseason summary)

Additions of Alex Cabrera and Seiichi Uchikawa; strong lineup 1-9; good 1-2 starters; lights-out bullpen; backed into 2010 title; emerging starters; lots of injury-prone players

1. Saitama Seibu Lions (offseason summary)

Productive lineup; talented core; interesting young pitchers — Yusei Kikuchi, Tatsuya Oishi, Kazuhisa Makita; stalwart ace in Hideaki Wakui

It was tough putting Orix last, since I’m such a big fan of their approach, but everything needs to go right for them to win. Similarly it’s hard having Lotte fifth after a Nippon Series win, but I think their lineup is likely to fall back to earth in 2011. Rakuten in fourth is a bit of a leap of faith for me; last year Chunichi won with four good hitters and a good group of pitchers. Rakuten has the starters (but not the bullpen) and with their additions they might have the offense they need to contend. As for the other three… well, it came down to a toss up between Softbank and Seibu for first. I think I just have a preference for Seibu’s lineup, and more confidence in their ability to remain healthy.

The point is, any one of these teams can win in 2011. It should be a great season.

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Offseason Changes: Chiba Lotte Marines

» 20 February 2011 » In npb » 4 Comments

Coming: Bob McCrory, Kazunori Yamamoto, Takayuki Takaguchi, a player to be named from Hanshin

Going: Tsuyoshi Nishioka, Hiroyuki Kobayashi, Bryan Corey, Juan Muniz, Akira Otsuka, Koichi Hori, Yuta Shimoshikiryo

Staying: Bill Murphy, Hayden Penn, Tae-Kyun Kim

Summary: You gotta have wa. After a decidedly wa-challenged Bobby Valentine farewell campaign in 2009, first-year manager Norifumi Nishimura made that single word his team’s slogan last year. He was a rewarded with a lineup that scored 88 runs more than they did in 2009, leading to a 13 win upward swing in the standings, a playoff berth and a Cinderella Nippon Series win. One good turn deserves another, so Nishimura has brought back the wa slogan for 2011.

The two big changes for Lotte this year were both subtractions: the Twins-bound Tsuyoshi Nishioka; and Hiroyuki Kobayashi, who is headed to Hanshin after failing to attract a suitable MLB offer. Nishioka leaves the bigger gap to fill, and I’ve already written a bit about the candidates Lotte has to take his place. Kobayashi was outstanding in his first year as Lotte’s closer, but his shoes will be easier to fill. Kobayashi’s departure leaves an opening for a guy like Tatsuya Uchi to step up to, and Bob McCrory was signed as well. Lotte is also still owed free agency compensation from Hanshin, which will either take the form of a player, or cash the Marines can use to sign another import.

Losing Nishioka hurts, but should his absence should be offset from a healthy season from Takashi Ogino. Aside from that the lineup is populated with steady performers. The only obvious regression candidate is the hot-and-cold Toshiaki Imae, who seems to be just as capable of hitting .250 as he is .320, and completely lacks the stabilizing presence of walks in his arsenal. On the plus side, Tae-Kyun Kim could improve in his second trip through the Pacific League, and maybe we’ll see Shoitsu Aomatsu find a little more power.

On the defensive side of the ball, Yuki Karakawa is reportedly healthy which will be a big boost for the rotation. Hayden Penn’s peripherals actually weren’t that different from Bryan Corey’s, but he won a Nippon Series game and should be a solid rotation presence. If those two guys are healthy and effective, the rotation should be deeper, though still not as good as Nippon Ham or Rakuten.

So what are the odds of a Lotte repeat? The Pacific League is incredibly balanced this year, so they have a shot but not a guarantee.

And on a final, semi-related note, our old friend Ryo Shinkawa will be working as Nishioka’s translator in Minnesota this season. Congratulations, Ryo and best of luck to both you and Nishioka!

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Offseason Changes: Hanshin Tigers

» 29 January 2011 » In npb » 8 Comments

Coming: Hiroyuki Kobayashi, Akihito Fujii, Ryota Arai, Robert Zarate, Marcos Vechionacci

Going: Casey Fossum, Akihiro Yano, Satoru Kanemura, Daiyu Kanemura, Keisuke Mizuta

Staying: Matt Murton, Craig Brazell, Jason Standridge, Randy Messenger

Summary: Hanshin’s offseason starts with the successful retention of the team’s foreign core — Murton, Brazell, Standridge. Messenger also received a contract for 2011, despite his disappointing results last season. The fact that Hanshin’s foreign roster isn’t overcrowded may mean that incumbent Kai Wen Jeng gets a few innings at the ichi-gun level, or that the Tigers will seek reinforcements if Standridge or Messenger stumble. Beyond that, Hanshin’s only significant acquisitions were scooping up Kobayashi after he failed to land an MLB contract, acquiring catcher depth in Fujii, and trading for Takahiro Arai’s brother Ryota. Reports of a Jeff Williams comeback have unfortunately not yet come to fruition.

With the return of Murton and Brazell, Hanshin will again field a strong offense, though it is a good bet they will see some regression. The Tigers lineup was spectacular in2010, with five regulars who batted .300 or higher (and Brazell right behind at .297) powering the team to a league-top 740 runs. Hanshin’s lineup will be good in 2011, but Keiichi Hirano is not going to hit .350 again, and Kenji Johjima is on the shelf recovering from knee surgery until sometime after the season starts. And as good as Murton and Brazell are, it would be unrealistic to expect them to match their superb 2010 results. That said though, Hanshin still has an offense rivaled only by Yomiuri in the Central League.

Hanshin’s rotation has a lot more question marks than its lineup. Yasutomo Kubo has been a godsend, last year becoming the first Hanshin pitcher to throw 200 innings since Kei Igawa back in 2006. Standridge was something of a godsend in 2010 as well, finished second on the team with 126.1 innings. Then 42 year-old lefty Tsuyoshi Shimoyanagi contributed his brand of six-inning appearances, but only 19 times. The laws of the universe dictate that he’ll have to stop someday, but who knows when that will be? Beyond those three guys, Hanshin’s rotation is filled with a bunch of question marks. Minoru Iwata, Atsushi Nohmi, and Yuya Ando have all had success in the past but are coming off injuries. Touted 2009 draftee Kazuhito Futagami didn’t throw a pitch last year; Takumi Akiyama threw many with considerable success, but he’s still only 20. Naoto Tsuru finished last season well and could be poised for a breakout. Hanshin’s bullpen also remains a strength, anchored by ace closer Kyuji Fujikawa.

Overall I see Hanshin as a team with a lot of talent, but one that is kind of on the edge. Despite their thin rotation, the Tigers finished one game out of first last season. If their stable pitchers hold steady and a couple of the question marks pan out, they could be dominant. If they falter and the injury guys don’t come back, Hanshin’s bullpen will be overworked and we’ll see a lot of high scoring games.

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Coming & Going: Kobayashi, Kudoh, Trade

» 20 January 2011 » In nichibei, npb » Comments Off

Three players find themselves on the transaction wire, while another hopes to.

  • Lotte free agent Hiroyuki Kobayashi has chosen to join the Hanshin Tigers rather than take a minor league deal from an MLB club. Sanspo quoted Kobayashi as saying, “I’ve decided on Hanshin” and “deep inside, I feel that I want to do my best for the Tigers. I was torn in many ways, but as I player I felt to do my best for a team that needs me is the happiest thing. Now I feel refreshed.” According to Jiji.com an official announcement is coming in a few days.
  • Meanwhile, dai-veteran lefty Kimiyasu Kudoh is going to attempt a voyage across the Pacific. Nikkan Sports caught Kudoh on the record as saying “I think I want to go to America. It would be a minor league contract, but they don’t care about age over there. If I can put up results, I want to realize my Major League dream.” Kudoh will be 48 on May 5, and has been playing pro ball since the early years of the Reagen Administration. He gave up seven earned runs in six innings with Seibu last year. Kudoh had an offer from the Rockies way back in 1999, but signed with Yomiuri.
  • And finally, Yokohama and Seibu swapped pitchers Yataro Sakamoto and Koji Ohnuma. This is a low-impact deal, but I think just instinctively I like this trade better for Seibu. Incidentally, just the other day Deanna watched Yataro play soccer with the BayStars.

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Hiroyuki Kobayashi Decision Coming Soon

» 12 January 2011 » In mlb prospects, nichibei, npb » Comments Off

Hiroyuki Kobayashi has made it known that he won’t take a minor league contract, but so far that’s all he’s gotten. Agent Alan Nero told Daily Sports that he has minor league offers from six teams, including some split contracts, which pay different salaries depending if the player is in the minors on on the Major League team. Sports Hochi says Kobayashi has minor league offers from 11 teams.

Meanwhile, Hanshin had been ready to pounce if MLB negotiations weren’t going well, and have done just that. The Tigers have made Kobayashi an offer that would have him setting up for Kyuji Fujikawa. Sports Hochi reports that Hanshin’s offer to Kobayashi is for two years with an option for a third, and will pay him a maximum of JPY 700m. Unless a lot of that salary is tied up in the option year, that would be a raise from the JPY 170m Lotte paid him last year, and certainly more than he’ll command from MLB teams. Hanshin club president Nobuo Minami said on Wednesday, “we’re waiting for a response from the agent. We’re on standby.”

For his part, Kobayashi commented in Daily Sports, “Somehow the flow is toward Hanshin… is how it’s feeling, but my utmost hope is the Majors.” A decision is expected as soon as the 15th.

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The Short Lifespan of a Rumor

» 23 November 2010 » In mlb prospects » 15 Comments

On Friday, I found an article that I liked and “tweeted” it,  which my friends at MLB Trade Rumors then picked up and wrote a post on. Within a half hour of the MLBTR post, journalist Nick Piecoro had refuted the information in the original article with one of the principles of the story.

What was the story? A summary and some speculation about the Diamondbacks interest in Lotte reliever Hiroyuki Kobayashi. The story included a quote from D-Backs GM Kevin Towers, one that he made in late September: “We have strong interest in Japanese pitchers. Once we size up the market, if we decide that Japanese pitchers like Hiro Kobayashi fit our team we’ll move to acquire them.” The article went on to say that the Diamondbacks have “already prepared a contract of around $3m over two years,” and explain the team’s bullpen issues and Towers’ experience acquiring Akinori Otsuka.

It seemed plausible enough, and still does, but got denied pretty quickly. Two things jump out at me here, both related to Twitter. The first is the speed at which this took place — from the time I saw the article it only took a tweet, a blog post, a text message and another tweet to shoot the news down. The second is the limitations of Twitter as a vehicle for information. One of Twitter’s founding fathers, Evan Williams, recently said “we’ve lowered the barriers to publishing almost as far as they can go.” While that’s true, the 140 character format of Twitter messages isn’t conducive to including a lot of qualifying contextual information. Twitter is a great way to build an audience and communicate with readers, but it turns out that it’s not terribly compatible with my style of making information available.

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NPB Bullet Points: While I Was Away

» 07 May 2010 » In mlb, nichibei, npb » 6 Comments

It’s been a while since I’ve written any actual content about Japanese baseball… sometimes real life gets in the way. Let’s see if we can fix that, at least for now.

  • The surprise of the season so far for me has been the performance of the Chiba Lotte Marines, who are neck and neck and neck with the SoftBank Hawks and resurgent Seibu Lions for the Pacific League lead. Lotte is getting it done in style too, leading the Pa-League in team runs scored, runs allowed, batting average and era. Will it continue? You have to figure that Kim Tae-Kyun and Tadahito Iguchi will cool off at some point, but they have a decent lineup 1-9. The pitching is a little bit of a concern too, as new manager Nishimura is letting some of his starters go a bit further into games than Bobby V used to. We’ll see if that turns into a problem down the stretch.
  • Over in the Central League, it’s nice to see the Yokohama BayStars competing with a respectable 16-18 record so far. Yokohama is getting good production from a number of pitchers, including newcomers Naoyuki Shimizu, Shigeru Kaga, and Shintaro Ejiri. The ‘Stars are still struggling in spots offensively, but should be better over the course of the season by virtue of the sheer number of weak bats they took out of the lineup last offseason.
  • Bridging the gap between those first two bullet points is the apparently impending trade of Yuji Yoshimi from Yokohama to Lotte. The big lefty was once a promising starter, but injuries derailed him for a couple of years and recently he’s been more of a middle-of-the-pack long reliever. Lotte seems to want him as a starter.
  • And more on Lotte: reliever Hiroyuki Kobayashi has qualified for international free agency, and is reportedly likely to seek a move to the majors. This has come up before with Kobayashi so it isn’t exactly a surprise at this point. I could see him playing for the San Francisco Giants, if they have an opening for a righthander. Former Lotte man Shun Kakazu scouts Japan for the Giants, and Brian Sabean can be creative in putting together his bullpen.
  • Former Hanshin lefty Jeff Williams wants to return to the Tigers as an active pitcher, but the Tigers want to bring him back as a scout. The idea would be for current scout Andy Sheets to focus on hitters, while Jeff would look for pitchers. Jeff certainly knows what it takes to succeed in Japan, but I would love to see him pitch for the Tigers again and eventually get a proper do-age send-off.
  • Who will be this year’s Junichi Tazawa or Yusei Kikuchi? Maybe it will be Chuo University pitcher Hirokazu Sawamura, who seems to be eclipsing Yuki Saito in terms of media ink. The Giants and Mets each had a scout at Sawamura’s most recent scout, with Mets’ Isao Ojimi saying that it would “be a waste for him to say in Japan”, while the Giants’ Shun Kakazu said that he hit 97 on his gun. Draft Reports has a quote from Sports Hochi from February saying that Sawamura is favoring playing in Japan.
  • Moving along to Kikuchi, the young lefty now known simply as Yusei struggled with both his command and velocity in his first couple ni-gun appearances, but showed signs of improvement on May 4th, when he threw five scoreless innings and hit 147 kmph (92mph) on the gun. Seibu is saying he won’t be promoted before the All-Star break, but could get a look afterward.
  • Casey Fossum bought the PSP version of Pro Yakyu Spirits 2010 for his five year-old son, but was annoyed to learn that Konami made him pretty bad in the game, and vowed to use it as motivation to do well and be a better player in next year’s version of the game. Speaking of Fossum, he’s blogging about his experiences in Japan.
  • Off-topic bullet point: I came across this essay about the state of Japan’s technology and IT sector (link to PDF file), and why it’s in trouble. It makes some good points, but overall I found it disappointing as it covers the usual tired criticisms of over-reliance on manufactured consumer goods and an under-developed services sector.

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