Tag Archive > Hisashi Iwakuma

Rakuten’s Championship Roster

» 21 January 2014 » In npb » 3 Comments

In 2004, the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles didn’t exist. The Kintetsu Buffaloes did, and after years in the red, the Kintetsu corporation decided to divest itself of it’s baseball operation. When no buyer could be found, Kintetsu’s management opted to merge with the neighboring Orix Blue Wave franchise, resulting in the contraction of the Kintetsu organization. Both the Osaka-based Kintetsu and the Kobe-based Orix were minnows in terms of fan base compared to the region’s beloved Hanshin Tigers, so some market contraction actually made sense.

But no one liked the idea of league contraction. The Orix-Kintetsu merger would leave an 11-team NPB, and there were talks of contracting another team and doing away with the two-league format. Fans held protests, Livedoor.com founder Takafumi Horie stepped in with an offer to buy the Buffaloes, and late in the season the players union held the first, and so far, only, strike in its history, refusing to play weekend games. It worked, and the owners agreed to allow an expansion franchise. By this time, Rakuten founder Hiroshi Mikitani had gotten involved, and a hearing was held to decide whether Livedoor or Rakuten would be awarded the new franchise. The hearing panel chose Rakuten, citing its more stable business and ownership of the Vissel Kobe J-League soccer team. The Orix-Kintetsu merger proceeded as planned, with the resulting team to be known as the Orix Buffaloes.

And so the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles were born, to begin play in 2005, based in Sendai in Japan’s Tohoku region (northern Honshu). The team would play in Miyagi Stadium, the 1970’s home of the Lotte Orions (now the Chiba Lotte Marines).

Eight years later, in 2013, the Eagles won their first NPB championship. So how’d they get there?

Rakuten started out with a roster of zero, and there was to be a surplus of players from the Orix-Kintetsu merger, so NPB held a dispersal draft of sorts. All of the players from the previous Orix and Kintetsu teams were placed into a pool, then the new Orix team was allowed to select 25 players all at once, in the first “round”. Then Rakuten could choose 20 players from the remainder of the pool. The Orix could choose another 20, and so on until all the players were assigned to a new team.

While the initial draft process was stacked in favor of Orix, it did yield two players who played in game 7 of the 2013 Japan Series for Rakuten: outfielders Toshiya Nakashima (from Orix) and Akihisa Makita (from Kintetsu). More notably, Kintetsu ace Hisashi Iwakuma refused to play for the merged team, and demanded a trade to Rakuten. The Eagles started off as kind of a literal embodiment of the common sports radio topic “if you had one player to start a franchise with, who would it be?”

From there, Rakuten set about building their team the traditional way, mostly building through the draft. There are enough words in this already, so let’s fast forward to 2013 and look at where the Eagles’ primary contributors came from (2013 acquisitions bolded):

Position Player Acquired
C Motohiro Shima 2006 draft, 3rd round
1B Ginji 2005 draft (high school), 3rd round
2B Kazuya Fujita 2012 mid-season trade from Baystars (Kensuke Uchimura)
3B Casey McGehee* 2012-2013 offseason MLB free agent
SS Kazuo Matsui 2010-2011 offseason MLB free agent
IF Tatsuro Iwasaki 2012-2013 offseason trade with Dragons (cash)
OF/C Takero Okajima 2011 draft, 4th round
OF/DH Andruw Jones 2012-2013 offseason MLB free agent
OF Ryo Hijirsawa 2007 draft, 4th round
OF Shintaro Masuda 2005 draft (high school), 3rd round
OF Teppei** 2005-2006 offseason trade with Dragons (cash)
SP Masahiro Tanaka*** 2006 draft (high school), 1st round
SP Takahiro Norimoto 2012 draft, 2nd round
SP Manabu Mima 2010 draft, 2nd round
SP Brandon Duckworth 2012 midseason acquisition from Red Sox
SP Kenji Tomura 2009 draft, 1st round
SP Wataru Karashima 2008 draft, 6th round
SP Satoshi Nagai 2006 draft, 1st round
RP Koji Aoyama 2005 draft, 3rd round
RP Darrell Rasner 2008-2009 offseason acquisition from Yankees (cash)
RP Takashi Saito 2012-2013 offseason MLB free agent
RP Kohei Hasebe 2007 draft, 1st round
RP Kenny Ray 2013 midseason acquisition from Mexican League
RP Norihito Kaneto 2012-2013 offseason trade from Yomiuri (cash)
RP Hiroshi Katayama 2005 draft (high school), 1st round
* Signed with the Marlins for 2014
** Traded to Orix for 2014
*** Has been posted to MLB for 2014 but not yet signed with a new team

The first thing that jumps out is the obvious divide between position players and pitchers Rakuten’s drafts. Rakuten has never used a first round pick on a position player, and has never developed a home-grown offensive star. 65 of the Eagles’ 97 home runs were provided by MLB free agent signees McGehee, Jones, and Matsui. The home-grown players are on-base types, at best.

Rakuten’s pitching staff was primarily acquired through the draft as well, mostly with earlier round picks. The Eagles mostly hit singles and doubles with their picks, but connected for a home run with Norimoto, and launched an epic grand slam with Tanaka. Beyond those two picks, the pitchers in this list are a bunch of singles and doubles. Hasebe finally broke out a bit in 2013, but still only provided 34.1 innings of relief work, and that’s the first sign he’s shown of coming anywhere close to his 1st round billing.

So does Rakuten have another championship-caliber roster in 2014? Maybe. Signing Kevin Youklis to replace the departing McGehee was a gutsy move, but Youk’ll have to be healthy to fill Casey’s shoes. And key offensive cogs Jones and Matsui are another year older.

The bigger departure, obviously, is Tanaka. Filling his shoes is obviously going to be impossible, but the Eagles might be able to claw back some of his competitive value with improved depth. Rakuten’s three and four starters were pretty mediocre (Mima, 4.12 ERA in 98.1 IP; Duckworth, 4.31 in 87.2). Maybe Travis Blackley shows up and pitches 150 innings of 3.50 ball. Maybe Satoshi Nagai bounces back toward his 2010 form (182.2 IP, 3.74). Perhaps lefty Takahiro Shiomi, who missed all of 2013, recovers and provides 100 IP. Or maybe wakawashi like Yoshinao Kamata and Yudai Mori chip in some value.

Or, even if none of that happens in 2014, at least the Eagles get to play the season as defending NPB champions. In their 55 years of existence, the Kintetsu Buffaloes never did.

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A Brief Commercial Break

» 09 March 2012 » In mlb prospects » Comments Off

For the third consecutive year, my friends at Rotowire invited me to contribute to their annual Fantasy Baseball Guide. Given my schedule constraints over the offseason, my Rotowire article wound up being the most complete analysis of all the Japanese MLB newcomers for this season.

Of the three articles I’ve contributed to Rotowire, I think this one is the best, so I hope you’ll check it out. Rotowire’s 2012 Fantasy Baseball guide is on newsstands across the US now, or can be purchased online.

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“Japanese baseball is not an American minor league”

» 10 January 2012 » In npb » 22 Comments

Last week, speaking to Sponichi, NPB commissioner Ryozo Kato made a few interesting comments.

On players like Yu Darvish and Hisashi Iwakuma moving on to MLB…

“It’s a natural thing for talented players.”

「才能ある選手なら自然なこと」

“It’s important that Japanese baseball has some appeal, so we can develop new talent.”

「新たな才能の開拓のためには日本の野球が魅力的であることが大事」

I find this to be a sensible response to the situation. Kato seems to recognize that top players are going to want to test themselves against MLB competition much less grudgingly than some of the NPB old guard. I’ve long desired that NPB places more of an emphasis on developing young players, and it’s started to happen over the last few years.

On the potential of an international MLB draft…

“Japanese baseball is not an American minor league. We have to be tough about things to be tough about.”

「日本の野球は米国のマイナーじゃない。突っ張るところは突っ張らないと」

I’m right with Kato on this one too. MLB may be superior in many ways, but NPB’s objective is not to develop talent for other leagues. NPB teams want to win games and cultivate fan bases just like any other competitive sports league.

More relevant to the international draft context of this quote, veteran NPB players have a well-established tradition of being recognized as veterans in MLB negotiations (notably free agency) and there’s no reason to change that.

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Changing of the Guard

» 22 December 2011 » In npb » 18 Comments

This is a big year for NPB imports into MLB, with as many as seven front-line players poised to be wearing MLB uniforms in 2012. While all of the these players will be missed, their departures do collectively open spots for younger talent to fill. Here’s a look at who we might see stepping up in the next year and beyond.

  • Hisashi Iwakuma (Rakuten) – Masahiro Tanaka took over as Rakuten’s ace in 2011, and the presence of Satoshi Nagai and Takahiro Shiomi softens the blow of losing Iwakuma. For me, the question of who inherits the title of Japan’s best groundball pitcher remains open.
  • Wei-Yin Chen (Chunichi) – I’m not sure I see an immediate successor on Chunichi’s roster, though they do have young lefties Toshiya Okada and Yudai Ohno. And although he might be a year or two away, I’m looking to Yusei Kikuchi to emerge as Japan’s next top hard-throwing lefty starter.
  • Hiroyuki Nakajima (Seibu) – Hideto Asamura played his way on to the Lions’ opening day roster in 2011, and was a tough out all season. He should move to shortstop in 2012, though he’ll have to fend off competition from Esteban German.
  • Munenori Kawasaki (Softbank) – Softbank has young infielders Kenta Imamiya and Tu-Hsuan Lee waiting in the wings. It’s probably unrealistic to expect either to have the same kind of impact that Kawasaki did though. And it seems like the Kawasaki will be back at some point.
  • Tsuyoshi Wada (Softbank) – Tadashi Settsu established himself as Softbank’s ace in waiting with a strong 2011. The losses of Wada and Toshiya Sugiuchi mean that there will be more pressure on guys like Kenji Ohtonari, Sho Iwasaki, Shota Ohba and Shingo Tatsumi to pitch quality innings at the ichi-gun level. We’ll see who steps up in 2012.
  • Norichika Aoki (Yakult) – So far, Lastings Milledge is set to replace Aoki on Yakult’s roster. Softbank’s Seiichi Uchikawa would currently get my vote as Japan’s top contact hitter, though he lacks Aoki’s plate discipline. I’m not sure I see any Aoki-type prospects on the horizon… I’ve read some good things about Orix’s Shunta, but he needs some time to put it together.
  • Yu Darvish (Nippon Ham) – In terms of public stature and marketability, Yuki Saito is certainly Darvish’s heir as the face of the Fighters. Saito is no replacement for Darvish on the mound, and I don’t think Nippon Ham will really have a true successor for him for a long time. Rakuten’s Tanaka seems poised to begin his tenure as Japan’s ace.

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Grains of Salt

» 03 December 2011 » In mlb prospects, nichibei » 11 Comments

So unsurprisingly, I’m getting questions this offseason about how guys like Tsuyoshi Wada, Hiroyuki Nakajima and Wei Yin Chen project as MLB prospects. Truth be told, trying project established guys from NPB to MLB always makes me a little nervous. I don’t feel like I’m that great at it, so I decided to go back and look at my public track record, to give you the chance to decide if I’m worth listening to.

Here’s what I found:

  • Koji Uehara — I was bullish on him when he moved across the Pacific; injury history had me questioning whether he could start; he was one of my favorite guys to watch in Japan and I’m glad he’s done well.
  • Kenshin Kawakami – My synopsis was “mid-rotation guy you can win with“. In retrospect that was a little aggressive; he was more like a competent #4 guy before the Braves decided to bury him.
  • Hitoki Iwase – I thought his stuff would translate to MLB, particularly after watching Scott Downs pitch; he obviously never moved to MLB.
  • Junichi Tazawa — I really liked his stuff, but also expected him to hit a wall somewhere. He reached the majors before hitting a wall, which really impressed me.
  • Ken Takahashi – I predicted “a little bit of an uphill battle” for Tak1, but also thought he could be a useful pitcher. He basically was for his year in the Mets organization, though his career ended immediately after returning to Hiroshima.
  • Ken Kadokura – Remember when he signed with the Cubs? I felt like he had something left in the tank, but he wound up getting dropped by the Cubs at the end of spring training and went on to have a few good years in Korea.
  • Hisanori Takahashi – I liked Tak2 a lot better as a reliever than a starter; that one turned out to be true.
  • Ryota Igarashi — I don’t think I made an explicit prediction for Igarashi, but I thought he would do okay. He didn’t seem to trust his stuff in his first year, and though he did better in year two, he went from “effectively wild” in NPB to just “wild” with the Mets.
  • Chang-Yong Lim – Like Igarashi I don’t know that I really made an explicit prediction for him, though I really liked his stuff. I still do. Lim is still with Yakult and not a free agent, and I doubt we’ll ever see him in MLB.
  • Colby Lewis – I found reasons to be optimistic about Lewis in his return to the Rangers, but he certainly has exceeded my expectations.
  • Tsuyoshi Nishioka – Over at Fangraphs, I called Nishioka a “Chone Figgins/Ryan Theriot type”. What I meant by that was that he could be an infielder who would get on base but have minimal power, and play decent defense. I didn’t see him flaming out in year one the way he did.
  • Hisashi Iwakuma — Also at Fangraphs, I put Iwakuma’s upside at mid-rotation, noting he has to keep his forkball and he will probably regress some in innings pitched. I still mostly think this is the case, assuming he’s healthy. We’ll find out next year.
  • Yoshinori Tateyama – I never published much of anything about Tateyama, though I have an unfinished draft still sitting on Fangraphs, where I intended to make the case that he could be an MLB ROOGY/righty specialist. There was little original thought there, as he was dominant against righties in 2010 for Nippon Ham. In 2011 he exhibited a similar split for the Rangers, with a 2.04 against righties, versus 7.71 against lefties.

I kind of set out to prove that I’m not that great at these predictions, so I was surprised that the results here actually weren’t too bad. I seemed to do all right with Uehara, Tak1 and Tak2, while I probably underestimated Lewis and over-predicted Nishioka. The Nishioka flop makes me worry that I don’t know how to project position players. I think overall though, it’s pretty clear that I tend to see the glass as half-full with these guys as prospects. I also noticed here was that I seem to look at specific skills and how they might translate, rather than trying to project specific stats. Maybe I’m more of a scout than a numbers guy at heart.

That said, there are plenty of things I’ve been wrong about, I just haven’t always had a platform like this to assert my wrongness. If NPB Tracker had been around, however, I would have told you that…

  • …of the two Matsuis, Kazuo was the far better MLB prospect. I was a huge fan of Kazuo’s; I saw him as a five-tool player.
  • Kei Igawa’s changeup was going to be a good MLB pitch.
  • Nagisa Arakaki was Japan’s next great pitcher.
  • So Taguchi wouldn’t have anything to offer to and MLB club.

…and so on.

So you might see me make a few statements on how I think the 2012 NPB imports may perform after they cross the Pacific. I’ll let you decide the appropriate measure of salt to take them with.

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NPB Bullet Points: Iwakuma Confirms Plans

» 30 October 2011 » In mlb prospects, nichibei, npb » 19 Comments

A few notes on the meja chosen (メジャー挑戦, “challenging the majors”) situations for some of NPB’s top players.

  • Hisashi Iwakuma has confirmed his widely-anticipated plans to move to the Majors. He was quoted in Sponichi as saying, “For several years, I’ve been thinking that I want to play in the Majors. In order to realize that dream, I’m going to exercise international free agency after the conclusion of the Japan Series.” Iwakuma will spend two weeks in November training in Arizona.
  • Norichika Aoki’s name as re-emerged in the posting rumor mill, courtesy of Nikkan Sports. I had kind of written him off as an MLB prospect, partly because Yakult has seemed so unwilling to post him, but mostly because his numbers fell off so badly this year (.292/.358/.360 this year, after .358/.435/.509 last season). Aoki refused to comment on the situation for Sponichi, saying “the season isn’t over year, I’m only focusing on the games.” Yakult team president Tsuyoshi Kinugasa, on the other hand, has been chatty about: “If he asks for some time, we’ll give him time, but we haven’t had that talk yet. The general idea is to support talented players who what to challenge the world, but as the president my first mission is a Yakult championship. I can’t support the general perception.”
  • Yu Darvish’s season ended with Nippon Ham’s first round playoff loss, but that hasn’t changed anything. Darvish reiterated his position on the Majors in the Sankei Shimbun: “I wrote this on my blog, but I haven’t decided on a direction so I don’t have any comment.” Read my notes on Darvish’s last appearance of 2011 here.

 

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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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Hot Stove Preview, Part Two: 2012 Posting Candidates

» 26 July 2011 » In mlb prospects, nichibei, npb » 8 Comments

As promised in part one, here are my guesses at what will happen with the posting market this offseason. Remember, unlike free agency, posting is not a scheduled event. Players must request to be posted, and their teams must consent for the posting process to actually take place. As such

Posting Candidates

Hiroyuki Nakajima (SS, Seibu Lions) — Nakaji made multiple requests to be posted last offseason, all of which were denied by Seibu’s management, citing a desire to compete this season. It hasn’t really worked out, as the Lions are currently in last place in the Pacific League (despite my preseason optimism). Like most of NPB, Nakajima’s numbers have been suppressed by the new ball, but he still sports a .279/.339/.431 line. Sadly that .430 slugging percentage is good for sixth in the Pacific League. I don’t really see Nakaji as an MLB shortstop, but if he can come close his current .770 OPS at the MLB level, he’d be a useful second baseman. (Hiroyuki Nakajima tag archive)

Norichika Aoki (OF, Yakult Swallows) — Posting rumors involving Aoki were once common but have really died down over the last few years. There was some reporting that he was going to ask to be posted last offseason, but nothing came of it. It seems pretty clear that Yakult wants to hang on to him, so my take is that it’s highly unlikely that Aoki will be posted this offseason. If he was, his MLB value would be questionable. In this year’s depressed offensive environment, Aoki has largely held on to his on-base skills, but seen his power decline significantly. After regularly slugging around .500 over the last several years, Aoki has just 12 extra base hits (no home runs) in 292 at bats this season, for a .363 rate. (Norichika Aoki tag archive)

Yu Darvish (SP, Nippon Ham Fighters) — I need to be careful what I write about Darvish, because it tends to get repeated, frequently without much context. Darvish is not a free agent until after the 2014 season. There’s also no concrete evidence that Darvish is going to be posted this offseason, and I have my doubts about the journalistic integrity of those who claim otherwise. It is heavily rumored that this is the year, but that’s been the case since before I started this blog in 2008, and here we are. The only on-the-record quote I’ve seen recently from anyone who’s involved are these, from Nippon Ham GM Masao Yamada, last month in Sponichi: “posting is done at the request of the individual, and he hasn’t said anything to us, so we can’t ask ‘what shall we do’ from our side” and “when the time comes, we’ll take the circumstances of the team and the player’s performance into consideration”.

Having said all that, Darvish has done nothing to discourage the rumors with his performance. After a rough opening day start, Darvish has been flat-out dominant this season. I would go as far as to say this is the best work I’ve ever seen from him. Part of that is because of the new, offensive-choking ball, but Darvish has done his part, leading Japan in wins, innings pitched, and strikeouts. I don’t have any doubt that he could perform well against better competition. (Yu Darvish tag archive)

My best guess is what of the three players profiled above, only Nakajima is posted. We may see a player I haven’t discussed posted as well; last year I didn’t think Hisashi Iwakuma or Tsuyoshi Nishioka would be posted, and they both were.

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Hot Stove Preview, Part One: 2012 Free Agent Class

» 17 July 2011 » In mlb prospects, nichibei » Comments Off

It’s time once again for my mid-season look at the crop of NPB players who will be available on the MLB hot stove market this upcoming offseason. I do these in the middle of the season so we have a list of guys to keep an eye on for the remainder of the season.

Part One will cover the top free agents in this year’s class. All these guys are scheduled to have met the service time requirements for international free agency by the end of the season.

Hisashi Iwakuma (SP, Rakuten Golden Eagles) — After last offseason’s well-documented posting misfire, Iwakuma will give it another go this year, this time as a free agent. The bad news is that Iwakuma is currently (July 18) rehabbing a shoulder problem that has kept him sidelined since May. We’ll see how he does when he comes back, but I fully expect him to command an MLB deal. (tag archive)

Wei-Yin Chen (SP, Chunichi Dragons) — Chunichi’s Taiwanese lefty ace negotiated a free agency clause into his agreement last offseason, and intends to move to the Bigs for 2012. I’ve only watched Chen once this year, and it looked like he traded some velocity for pitchability. It’s unusual to have an established lefty with a good arm freely available on the market at age 26, so it’ll be interesting to see where he winds up. Expect more on Chen in a later post. (tag archive)

Matt Murton (Outfielder, Hanshin Tigers) — Spare a thought for Hansin and their fans here for a moment: after years of importing duds like Shane Spencer and Kevin Mench to man rightfield, Hanshin scores a hit with Murton and almost immediately has to worry about losing him to MLB. Hanshin’s brass would love to keep him around, but the assumption is that he’d like to make an MLB comeback. Japan’s single-season hits record holder is again among the Central League’s batting average leaders, but like most of NPB’s batters his power and patience numbers have seen a decline in this offense-starved season. (tag archive)

Munenori Kawasaki (SS/2B, Softbank Hawks) — Profiling Kawasaki has been on my now-basically-defuct to-do list since I started the site back in 2008. I’ve long thought of Mune-rin as an MLB prospect, and though I’ve tempered my expectations for him I still think he could provide value to an MLB club in the right role. Kawasaki trains with Ichiro in the offseason, and the Japanese media would love to him wind up with Seattle. Mariners scout Yasushi Yamamoto had nice things to say about him in June: “I’m grading him higher than (Tsuyoshi) Nishioka and (Hiroyuki) Nakajima in baserunning and defense. If he can hit .250 in the Majors that will be enough (to play regularly).” Softbank will try to keep him. (tag archive)

Tsuyoshi Wada (SP, Softbank Hawks) — Lefty Wada stepped into the Hawks’ rotation straight out of Waseda University back in 2003, and has been pretty consistently effective even since, culminating with an MVP Award last season (over an arguably more-deserving Tsuyoshi Nishioka). Wada isn’t going to blow anyone away with his fastball, but he mixes a slider and a changeup and has solid command. My concern about Wada is whether he’ll be able to handle a full complement of innings in an MLB rotation. Japanese starters have had a tendency to regress on innings pitched after migrating to MLB; Wada has topped 180 innings only three times, the most recent being 2007 (though he’s on pace for about 185 this year). (tag archive)

Coming up in volume 2: posting candidates.

The Japanese site My Favorite Giants maintains a page on free agency status, which was a huge help in pulling this content together.

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NPB Bullet Points: Mulhern, MLB Scouts, Rakuten Fireworks

» 13 July 2011 » In nichibei, npb » 6 Comments

Today’s news and notes from around Japan, with a focus on scouting and player personnel.

  • Daily Sports reports that Seibu is working on signing Ryan Mulhern out of the Mexican League. I had never heard of Mulhern before yesterday, but he’s spent the last two seasons in indy ball and Mexico, and prior to that it looks like he’d mostly been an organizational player. It’s great to see this kind of player get a shot and I wish him the best of luck.
  • Chunichi Sports points out that Ryan Vogelsong is the third non-Japanese player with NPB experience to make an MLB All-Star team. The other two? Cecil Fielder and Alfonso Soriano.
  • Wladimir Balentien’s contract with Yakult includes language that prevents him from moving to another NPB team after the season. Said someone familiar with the situation: “Discussion about foreign players leaving the team or not ended with Chang-Yong Lim last offseason. New players acquired since then have contractual provisions against moving domestically.”
  • Sponichi reports that the Rays, Indians, Astros and Angels had scouts at Hisashi Iwakuma’s most recent rehab start.
  • Hanshin is reportedly looking to acquire Korean slugger Dae-Ho Lee this offseason.
  • The “Big 3″ college pitchers – Tomoyuki Sugano, Takahiro Fujioka and Yusuke Nomura – have all disavowed interest in skipping NPB in favor of MLB. The trio had been attracting attention from MLB scouts.
  • MLB scouts from three un-named teams watched Shoji Yoshimoto, who Nikkan Sports called “the Darvish of Shimomachi Shitamachi.”
  • Rakuten will feature fireworks displays after all 13 of it’s home games in August. As an added promotion, 20 families will get to watch the fireworks from the field.
  • In more Rakuten news, the Eagles ni-gun team has it’s own ustream.tv channel. Unfortunately the angle they shoot the games from is almost unwatchable.
  • And now for something completely different: Lotte has stadium and uniform advertising for Nexon this season. I never know what Nexon does, but I happened to find out from this English-language article on Techcrunch.

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