Tag Archive > Jeff Williams

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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Injury Updates: Saito, Otsuka, Ishii, Williams

» 31 January 2010 » In npb » 3 Comments

A few updates on the guys who have been rehabbing for years, plus Williams.

  • Kazumi Saito is headed for the operating table yet again, this time to have his rotator cuff repaired. Saito last saw game action in 2007, and we can probably rule him out for this season too. In Saito’s three healthy seasons, he is a combined 54-9.
  • Like Saito, Akinori Otsuka hasn’t pitched since 2007, but he isn’t hanging up his cleats either. Otsuka had his third elbow surgery on January 20th, with the intent of  returning as an active pitcher. Like Saito, if he’s just had surgery, he’s probably looking at a 2011 return at best, at which time he’ll be 39.
  • Hirotoshi Ishii has been on the shelf since 2006, following a shoulder injury suffered during the ’06 WBC. Unlike Saito an Otsuka, Ishii actually pitched in games in 2008 and 2009, though for Yakult’s farm team. Ishii was one of the hardest throwing lefthanders ever in Japan, and he and former teammate Ryota Igarashi were known as the “Rocket Boys”. Ishii said early in the winter that he didn’t want to “lose to Igarashi”.
  • I don’t have much news on Jeff Williams, but according to Sanspo, Hanshin’s management is considering the situation a “blank page” and willing to give him a look when he’s ready. Jeff is not under contract with Hanshin, but has made it known that he wants to return to the team.

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2009 Foreign Player Rundown

» 11 November 2009 » In npb » 7 Comments

By my count, there were 78 foreign players (including ikusei players) under contract to NPB teams in 2009. Some of them will be back for 2010, others will not. So far, I’ve counted 18 players that will remain with their teams for next year, 36 that are leaving, and 24 that we’re still waiting to hear on.

Despite my best efforts, there is a reasonable probability that I left someone out or have an out-of-date detail. If you spot something of that nature, please leave a comment. On with the show…

Yomiuri

  • Staying: Dicky Gonzales, Wirfin Obispo, Levi Romero, Alex Ramirez, Seung-Yeop Lee, Marc Kroon
  • Gone: Adrian Burnside, Edgardo Alfonzo
  • Unknown: Seth Greisinger, Yi-Hao Lin, Yi-Fan Lee

Ramirez no longer counts against the foreign player limit, which gives the Giants a little extra flexibility. He’s already re-signed on a two-year deal. You have to figure that Obispo and Gonzales will be back, which would only leave two ichi-gun rosters spots available. I would guess that Kroon is more likely to return than Greisinger, and Lee is on his way out. Kroon will have his option picked up, while Lee’s contract doesn’t expire until next season. Greisinger didn’t appear in the Japan Series and it’s possible that he won’t be back. The Giants don’t need much this off season, though we’ll probably see them go after some depth guys.

Chunichi

  • Staying: Wei-Yin Chen, Tony Blanco, Nelson Payano, Maximo Nelson
  • Gone: Tomas de la Rosa, Byung-Gyu Lee
  • Unknown:

Chunichi got outstanding production out Chen and Blanco, and Blanco has already received a new two-year deal. Lee will likely head back to Korea, while de la Rosa will remain with the team in a scouting/advisory capacitiy. Chunichi has been scouting the Dominican and will probably sign some interesting Latin American prospects this winter.

Yakult

  • Staying: Chang Yong Lim
  • Gone: Ricky Barrett
  • Unknown: Hei Chun Lee, Jaime D’Antona, Aaron Guiel

Hanshin

  • Staying: Kai-Wang Cheng
  • Gone: Scott Atchison, Jeff Williams, Kevin Mench, Chris Resop, Aarom Baldiris
  • Unknown: Craig Brazell

Out of this group, only Brazell really contributed anything, and he wants to come back. Hanshin’s search for pitching has already been well-documented, with the Tigers looking to import a starter and two relievers. Hanshin may also try to bring a power-hitting rightfielder to Kansai as well, even if Brazell sticks around.

Hiroshima

  • Staying: Dioni Soriano
  • Gone: Scott Dohmann, Ben Kozlowski, Scott Seabol
  • Unknown: Scott McClain, Colby Lewis, Mike Schultz, Andy Phillips

Hiroshima would like to keep Lewis and Schultz around, but may not be able to, and if the Carp don’t keep Phillips they will have to find a bat to replace him. Hiroshima desperately needs lefthanded pitching, as well. I’m assuming Soriano, who is an ikusei player from the Carp’s Dominican Academy, will get a full year to prove himself.

Yokohama

  • Staying: Stephen Randolph
  • Gone: Tom Mastny, Les Walrond, Dan Johnson, Ryan Glynn
  • Unknown: Wei Chen, Jin Chao Wang

Yokohama is again going to need pitching help, though Randolph’s late-season performance was encouraging. The ‘Stars wave goodbye the rest of this group, though Johnson actually had a decent year aside from a poor batting average, and Walrond looked like he had good enough stuff to last in Japan to me.

Nippon Ham

  • Staying:
  • Gone: Ryan Wing, Luis Jimenez, Jason Botts, Brian Sweeney, Termel Sledge
  • Unknown:

This year’s Pacific League champion didn’t get much production from its foreign lineup outside of Sledge, so it’s no surprise to see this group go. Nippon Ham apparently wanted to keep Sledge, but were too far apart in negotations. They’ll have to find a way to replace his bat in the lineup, and I would expect them to look for pitching depth as well.

Rakuten

  • Staying:
  • Gone: Matt Childers
  • Unknown: Darrell Rasner, Marcus Gwyn, Fernando Seguignol, Todd Linden, Rick Short, On-Yu Lin

Rasner is already under contract for next year, so he’ll be on the payroll but possibly not the roster. Childers is gone after just three appearances with Rakuten’s top team. The rest of the foreign staff had performance issues — Gwyn’s era was pedestrian, Shorts average fell off after years of solid performance, Seguignol looked more like the Orix Seguignol than the Nippon Ham Seguignol, and Linden struck out about one out of every three times to the plate(!). So I could see new manager Marty Brown turning over this whole group. Rakuten could use bullpen help and a big bat to play an infield or outfield corner.

SoftBank

  • Staying: Jose Ortiz, DJ Houlton, Brian Falkenborg, Justin Germano
  • Gone: Kameron Loe, Chris Aguila
  • Unknown: Andrew Touisant

SoftBank got strong contributions from Ortiz, Houlton and Falkenborg, and can reasonably expect more of the same next season. Sadaharu Oh is said to be looking for one more power hitter, to complement Ortiz and supplant aging sluggers Hiroki Kokubo and Nobuhiko Matsunaka. I would expect them to grab a couple of ptichers for depth as well.

Seibu

  • Staying: Min-Che Hsu
  • Gone: Jonah Bayliss, John Wasdin, Hiram Bocachica
  • Unknown: Alex Graman

I’m just taking for granted that Hsu will hang around. He should be shedding his foreign player status one of these years anyway. Graman is probably gone, though he was lights-out in the bullpen when healthy, and I could see him getting another shot. Bayliss was okay for Seibu, so I was a little surprised to see him let go. Seibu will be looking for bullpen help and perhaps a first baseman this offseason. Pete LaForest had been in Seibu’s autumn camp but went home with an injury.

Chiba Lotte

  • Staying
  • Gone: Benny Agbayani, Chase Lambin, Gary Burnham
  • Unknown: Brian Sikorski, Juan Muniz

Agbayani departs after six years in Japan, and I would guess that he’ll retire to a life of scouting. I’ve read that Lotte might offer Sikorski a big pay cut, and thus risk losing him. I don’t expect Lambin or Burnham to be back, though I haven’t seen anything official. Lambin and Burnham won’t be back. Lotte will need a corner infield and outfield bats, and a pitcher or two to round things out.

Orix

  • Staying: Tuffy Rhodes
  • Gone:
  • Unknown: Jon Leicester, Alex Cabrera, Jose Fernandez, Greg LaRocca, Ryan Vogelsong

Rhodes and Cabrera both qualify as native players, so Orix could potentially carry up to six ‘foreign’ players on its active roster. Rhodes will be back, and the Buffaloes are supposedly adding a coaching title to his resume. I think Cabrera will make it back as well. There was speculation on Fernandez when he got hurt was that Orix probably wouldn’t bring him back, but that remains to be seen. I’m guessing Leicester and Vogelsong will be out as well. SoftBank has indicated an interest in LaRocca should he not get another year with Orix.

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Johjima Scouts for Tigers

» 06 November 2009 » In npb » 6 Comments

Update: Looks like this caught at least one of the players mentioned by surprise. Keep in mind, the story is about a list of guys the Tigers are looking at and not necessarily in active negotiations with.

One of the fringe benefits Hanshin trying to get out of bringing in Kenji Johima is some additional scouting intelligence on pitchers in MLB organizations. Aside from Jeff Williams, Hanshin’s only sustained import success over the last several years has been righty Scott Atchison, who is leaving the team this offseason. After Atchison, Jerrod Riggan was good while he lasted and Darwin Cubillan had his moments, but that’s pretty much where it ends.

Sports Hochi Osaka has a list of candidates Hanshin is looking at, compiled presumably with Joh’s input:

  • Ryan Rowland-Smith
  • Chris Jakubauskas
  • Bobby Keppel
  • DJ Carrasco

I can’t believe that the Mariners would move Rowland-Smith, but Hanshin has the right idea with him. Carrasco spent a year in Japan with SoftBank and didn’t have a favorable experience, so I’d be surprised if he came back. Jakubauskas and Keppel sound about right.

Sanspo adds a few more names to the list, most of which we’ve seen before:

  • Brad Thomas
  • Juan Morillo
  • Jo Jo Reyes
  • Wil Ledezma
  • Charlie Haeger

The only new name on this list is Haeger, who is an interesting candidate. We don’t see a lot of knuckleballers in NPB.

In related news, Hanshin has announced that they are cutting ties with Jeff Williams, Scott Atchison, Kevin Mench and Aarom Baldiris, while moving to retain Craig Brazell and Kai-Wen Cheng. None of this is really news either, except that Williams has come out and said that he wants to return to the team after rehabbing for the next year. He’ll be about 40 if he can return in 2011, but here’s hoping he can come back and end his career properly.

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Hanshin to Import Pitchers

» 03 November 2009 » In nichibei, npb » 2 Comments

Sanspo is reporting on Hanshin’s import pitching shopping list, and is naming names. Tigers manager Akinobu Mayumi says that Hanshin is after two middle relievers and one starter, to fill in for the departing Scott Atchison and Jeff Williams.

The names we have are:

  • Adrian Burnside (recently released by Yomiuri)
  • Brad Thomas (two-year Japan veteran, had been in Korea)
  • Jo Jo Reyes (Atlanta Braves)
  • Wil Ledezma (Washington Nationals)
  • Juan Morillo (Minnesota Twins)
  • Bob Keppel (Minnesota Twins)

Burnside didn’t appear at all with Yomiuri’s top team this year, so you’d have to figure he’d be a low-risk, low-investment type of signing. Thomas probably fits into the same category.

Reyes is an interesting name. He’s still pretty young, and I had the impression that he was a decent prospect for the Braves at one point. Morillo, as I recall from his time with the Rockies, is a hard thrower with bad command. I don’t know much about the other guys.

Two guys I’d like to see get a shot in Japan, with Hanshin or elsewhere, are Lenny DiNardo and Bobby Korecky. I couldn’t understand why DiNardo didn’t get more of a look in Oakland, when I saw him I thought he could contribute in the bigs (though I didn’t realize he had such a troubling k/bb rate). And Korecky is a guy who I haven’t seen, but has performed consistently well in the minors but never gotten a real shot to last in MLB.

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NPB Bullet Points: Imaoka Released, Williams Too?

» 02 September 2009 » In amateur baseball, npb » 2 Comments

In Japanese:

  • Amid rumors of his retirement, Hanshin has released infielder Makoto Imaoka. Reportedly no other teams are interested in picking him up. Imaoka was a big time contributor to Hanshin’s Central League championships in 2003 and 2005, so if this is really the end of the road for him it’s a shame for him to go out this way.
  • Jeff Williams has headed back to the States for arm surgery, but wants to return to Hanshin for next season: “the decision was made about a week ago. Of course I want to avoid surgery and it’s not something I want to do, but I think surgery is the direction we’re going in. My goal is take the mound in a Tigers uniform again next season.” Despite Williams’ productive seven-season run with the Tigers, rumors persist that the team will not exercise their option on his services for next season.
  • Sho Nakata set a ni-gun record by hitting his 28th homer of the year for Nippon Ham’s farm team.
  • Bobby Valentine’s replacement in Chiba: Marines head coach Norifumi Nishimura.
  • Honda won this year’s Industrial League Intercity Championship. Hisayoshi Chono was the top batter.

In English:

  • Gen has set up a new blog at yakyubaka.com.
  • Yesterday on my morning commute, I happened to tune to NPR, where Michael Krasny was discussing Japan’s recent elections with a panel of experts. My commute is 30 minutes so I only caught half of the program, but it can be listened to online.
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A Vote of Confidence for Mench

» 25 April 2009 » In npb » 2 Comments

Kevin Mench’s physical returned “no irregularities” and the outfielder is on his way home to rest for a few days before joining Hanshin’s minor league team

In a vote of confidence for Mench, Hanshin owner Shinya Sakai said, “we’re not at all thinking of adding reinforcemts (signing another foreign player)”, before adding “I want Mench to get a good rest and then do his best”.

Patience with foreign players is notoriously short in Japan, but in this case Hanshin’s management appears to be saying the right things. The Tigers brass notably stood behind Jeff Williams when he was named in the Mitchell Report a few years ago as well.

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Offseason Changes: Hanshin Tigers

» 04 February 2009 » In npb » 3 Comments

Coming: Kevin Mench, manager Akinobu Mayumi

Going: Lew Ford, Ryan Vogelsong, Toshihiro Noguchi

Staying: Jeff Williams, Aarom Baldiris, Scott Achison, Chris Resop

Trending: about the same

Synopsis: Mench should be better than Ford, but aside from that Hanshin will go into 2009 with the same team that squandered a big lead down the stretch last season. The Tigers failed to land their offseason prize in Daisuke Miura, and in their nominal efforts to sign Kenshin Kawakami, so they still lack a guy who can eat 200+ innings. Resop could be an assett if he gets over his control issues.

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NPB Bullet Points (2008/09/14)

» 14 September 2008 » In npb » Comments Off

After a short break from writing, I’m back with a few highlights from my weekend reading. I’ve been enjoying Sanspo’s Baseball Photo Ranking lately.

The next big piece of content I have on tap for NPB Tracker is (surprise) an essay on the Junichi Tazawa situation. Look out for that in the next day or two.

Japanese Articles:

English Articles:

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NPB Bullet Points (2008/09/02)

» 02 September 2008 » In npb » Comments Off

Back on to current events… here’s today’s collection from around the ‘net.

Japanese Articles

English Articles

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