Tag Archive > Jose Fernandez

Games Notes: PL Climax Series First Stage Game 1

» 29 October 2011 » In npb » 2 Comments

Preamble: These observations are a companion to Kaz Nagatsuka’s Japan Times writeup.

Well, add this one to my list of failed predictions. After suggesting that Yu Darvish’s presence alone was enough for a Nippon Ham game one win, the Seibu Lions took a cue from the World Series champions with a come-from-behind extra inning win.

My pick was looking pretty good into the fifth inning, as Darvish retired the first 13 Lions he faced. He was clearly amped up, working off a barrage of fastballs early in the game and topping out at 154-155 kmph (96 mph). But despite that, this was an oddly unfulfilling Darvish game to watch. He didn’t really settle into a groove with any of his breaking pitches, and his command seemed to deteriorate a little after Jose Fernandez broke up the no-hitter in the fifth. He also lost a few kmph off his fastball as the game wore on, from 154 to a still-excellent 149-150 kmph (93 mph). These are trite criticisms; Darvish struck out seven, walked none, allowed only one run, and left the game with the lead. He just didn’t quite perform at his amazingly high peak, and I find myself hoping that this won’t be his last start this season.

In the bottom halves of the innings, Seibu starter Hideaki Wakui kept his Lions in the game, but was unimpressive overall. Nippon Ham only managed a two runs and a couple of strings of singles; I put that down to the Fighters’ slap-hitting lineup and the limited-flight ball more than anything Wakui did. He featured his fastball and slider and generally worked low in the zone, but allowed frequent contact and left his bullpen with a jam in the sixth inning. That he was lifted with no outs in the fifth, after throwing 85 pitches, is indicative of how Wakui has fallen from acedom. A few years ago, Wakui was an bullpen-saving workhorse, frequently working into the late innings and occasionally throwing 150 pitches or more. He’s a good pitcher and it doesn’t look like anything’s physically wrong with him, he’s just looked uninspired this season. This was another one of those games.

Screwball managerial move of the game: Nippon Ham’s Masataka Nashida pulling star centerfielder Yoshio Itoi in the seventh inning for young Kenshi Sugiya. That was a head-scratcher.

And one final observation from this game is that I significantly overlooked Seibu’s lineup. They clearly have many more threats than Nippon Ham. I particularly enjoyed Fernandez’s approach against Darvish, which resulted in two opposite-field singles (along with two more later against Nippon Ham’s relievers).

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NPB Bullet Points: Shoda, Kikuchi’s Velocity, Darvish’s One-Seam

» 10 April 2011 » In npb, NPB Tracker » 4 Comments

It’s been a while. Here is a random collection of news articles I’ve read recently and found interesting enough to share.

  • Fresh off his release from the Red Sox, Itsuki Shoda is headed to Niigata of the independent BC League.
  • Yusei Kikuchi has made Seibu’s opening day roster, and will start the year in middle relief. He’s also working on a two-seam fastball and a changeup, and hit 155 km/h on the gun in a bullpen session.
  • Hanshin’s opening day starter? Hasn’t been announced, but lefty Atsushi Nohmi is reportedly in the mix. I can’t see why it wouldn’t be Yasutomo Kubo.
  • Osamu Hamanaka is surprisingly a candidate to hit third for Yakult. Hamanka was a good hitter early in his career with Hanshin, but he’s been badly derailed by injuries. Perhaps he’ll experience a Ken Suzuki-style resurgence with Yakult; it is the time of year for optimism.
  • Yu Darvish has been experimenting again with a one-seam fastball, and broke Seiichi Uchikawa’s bat with one in a full count on the 6th. I had thought the one-seam was something new that Darvish invented, but the Nikkan Sports article I linked to says that Tim Hudson and Joel Pineiro throw it. Daigo Fujiwara posted a great summary of the pitch last August.
  • As of the 8th, the parking lot at Chiba’s newly-renamed QVC Marine Field had not been cleared for usage.
  • Seibu has announced that closer Brian Sikorski has returned to Japan after a temporary post-quake visit to the US. All five of Seibu’s players are now back in Japan. Jose Fernandezadmitted to taking it easy while he was away, and since it took a long time to get Sikorski back, the Lions had been looking at using rookie Tatsuya Oishi as their closer.
  • Yokohama’s Brent Leach has decided not to return to Japan, and the BayStars have classified him as a “restricted player” (seigen senshu). According to Nikkan Sports, the restricted player designation was established in 1998, and is intended for players who are taking a personal break from baseball activities. Leach is the first player classified as restricted since the rule’s inception.
  • Former Chiba Lotte Marines pitchers Tomohiro “Johnny” Kuroki and Satoru Komiyama will be raising a rice field with fans in Sodegaura, Chiba this year.
  • iPhone users: magazine Yakyu Kozo has released an app called Makyu Kozo, a cartoon-ish pitching simulation. It looks like it is available in the US app store as well.

And in a site announcement, I’d like to officially welcome our newest writer to NPB Tracker, Adam Burton. Adam is a translator based in the Kansai region of Japan, and has kicked off his NPB Tracker career with a couple MLB updates. Needless to say, we’re happy to have him on board.

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Offseason Changes: Saitama Seibu Lions

» 21 February 2011 » In npb » 2 Comments

Coming: Yataro Sakamoto

Going: Toru Hosokawa, Koji Ohnuma, Kimiyasu Kudoh, Kenta Matsuzaka, Yoshihiro Doi, Shinji Taninaka

Staying: Hiroyuki Nakajima, Jose Fernandez, Dee Brown, Brian Sikorski, Alex Graman

Summary: This series is titled “Offseason Chages”, but the Lions haven’t given me much to write about. Seibu let defensively-minded catcher Toru Hosokawa take his .191 batting average south to Fukuoka, and will let Ginjiro Sumitani and Tatsuyuki Uemoto carry the load. They also swapped righty relievers with Yokohama, picking up Yataro Sakamoto. Beyond that, the Lions replaced some bit players with 2010 draftees.

The real keys Seibu’s offseason are in the players who will be returning. Denying Hiroyuki Nakajima’s repeated posting requests is addition by not subtracting. The rest is mostly addition by health. Slugger Takeya “Okawari-kun” Nakamura was never really healthy last year, but still popped 25 home runs. #2 starter Takayuki Kishi missed all of July and August last year. The low-profile but highly-productive bat of mid-season signing Jose Fernandez will be available from opening day. 2011 Sophomore Yusei Kikuchi lost a year of development, making only two ni-gun appearances . And even Alex Graman, who was lights-out as a reliever but has been shelved for two years, is back. Obviously some of those guys are going to contribute more than others, but healthy seasons from Kishi and Okawari-kun alone would add a couple wins to the bottom line.

The underlying fact is that this is a talented group that didn’t need much tweaking to remain competitive in 2011. The Lions took a magic number of four into the last week of the 2010 season, and won more games than anyone else in the Pacific League; if they had managed just one more tie, they would have taken first place. Just three games separated the first and fourth teams in the PL last year, and I expect things to be similarly tight this season.

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Orix Pursuing Segi

» 31 May 2010 » In nichibei, npb » 2 Comments

Over the weekend, I caught a number of articles on Orix’s pursuit of 1B/DH Fernando Seguignol. The news ranged from Orix “looking into acquiring Seguignol” (Daily Sports) to “have a basic agreement and working on an official contract” (Nikkan Sports). Orix’s two import sluggers Alex Cabrera and Greg LaRocca are both injury-prone and Seguignol is in the Atlantic League, so a deal seems to make sense for both sides. I can think of an option I prefer for Orix, though.

Seguignol is perhaps the poster boy of the recent trend of “recycling” sukketo players, having previously been called in by Nippon Ham and Rakuten. After last season Rakuten replaced him with former Carp Andy Phillips, who played pretty well in Hiroshima but still had his pricey option declined in favor of Justin Huber and Jeff Fiorentino. With Phillips (and Todd Linden) struggling, Rakuten has added a new name in Randy Ruiz. And the beat goes on. Mabye all the teams have been better off if Rakuten had kept Segi, Hiroshima kept Phillips and Orix held on to Jose Fernandez or Tuffy Rhodes.

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Yakult Looking for Offensive Help

» 10 May 2010 » In nichibei, npb » Comments Off

Yakult has struggled so far this season, and is currently occupying last place in the Central League with a weak 13-23-1 record. With a middle of the pack pitching staff (148 runs allowed, 3.57 era), the front office is reportedly looking to upgrade its offense, which has scored a league-low 125 runs, 15 fewer than the 5th-place Hiroshima Carp.

Sponichi says that Yakult is looking at employing a copycat strategy of re-importing a player who has experience playing in Japan. The names Sponichi gives us are Fernando Seguignol, Hiram Bocachica, and Jose Fernandez.

I’m sure that’s a partial list, but I don’t see any of those guys outperforming Aaron Guiel or Jaime D’Antona over the course of the season. D’Antona and Guiel have ugly batting averages at .202 and .233 respectively, but lead the team with 10 and seven home runs, and have decent ops figures of .832 and .749. Both guys need to bring their averages up and D’Antona in particular needs to cut down on his strikeout number, but they’ve both shown to be capable of

If they’re going to go after a guy that the league already knows, why not give Tuffy Rhodes a call? Okay, he’ll have to play the field and he will want more money than they’ll be willing to pay, but he’s been better more recently than any of the guys Sponichi mentions. And he wouldn’t count against the foreign player limit. Or how about Tyrone Woods? Money was an issue for him after his last contract with Chunichi expired, and he hasn’t played since 2008, but he was a fearsome slugger in Japan, and knows the Central League.

If Yakult wanted to give someone new a chance, Mike Hessman is off to a good start with the Mets’ 3A affiliate.

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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…


  • 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.


  • 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.


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


  • 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.


  • 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.


  • 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.


  • 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.


  • 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.


  • 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.


  • 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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NPB Bullet Points: Sugiuchi v Darvish, Irabu Done in Kochi

» 14 September 2009 » In npb » Comments Off

As the end of the season approaches, we learn who will be released and who is in contention for postseason awards. Japanese links only today.

Japanese Articles:

  • Jose Fernandez left Orix’s 10-8 loss to Seibu in the 7th inning after taking a batted ball to the face. He’s out for the remainder of the season, and may be done with Orix. Literally adding insult to injury, the Orix front office commented that “his results don’t match his salary.” Fernandez hit .261 with 15 HR and 61 RBI, and is getting paid 100m yen ($1m) this year.
  • Toshiya Sugiuchi is making a play for some Sawamura Award consideration. He K’ed 11 Rakuten Eagles on the 13th, his fourth straight game with double-digit punchouts, becoming the first lefty to ever accomplish the feat in the Pacific League. He now is tied for the lead league with 15 wins and has the lead in strikeouts all to himself.
  • But then Yu Darvish said “not so fast” as he returned from injured reserve and shut down the Marines, allowing one run on six hits over eight innings. According to Nikkan Sports, however, the hardest he threw was 148 km/h (91 mph). Not his hardest fastball, but then again he never really needed to extend himself.
  • SoftBank has passed the 2,000,000 mark for attendance again this season, reaching the milestone in their 65 home game.
  • Hideki Irabu has been granted his release from the independent Kochi Fighting Dogs. He has tendinitis in his right thumb, and won’t be able to return in time to play again this season, so he bit the bullet and is heading home to America to recover. He intends to continue his comeback.
  • In place of the loss-making Asia Series, this autumn the Japan and Korea league champions will face off in the Nikan Club Championship. The game will be held on November 14 in Nagasaki.
  • Veteran infielder Toshihisa Nishi is done with Yokohama at the end of the year, but wants to continue playing and will search for a new team this offseason.
  • Hiroshima is looking to import pitching next year, notably of the lefthanded variety, and has mobilized US scout Eric Schullstrom to find some.
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Prediction: Pacific League

» 29 March 2009 » In npb » 3 Comments

It’s much harder to predict the standings for the Pacific League as the teams are so evenly matched. But I’ll give it a shot.

1. Seibu Lions: I think we’ll see a little regression from Okawari Nakamura and Kazuyuki Hoashi, but a better performance from Hideaki Wakui. Overall it looks like the Lions have enough to repeat.
Key Players: Wakui, Hoashi, whoever gets the most at-bats at 1st base

2. Nippon Ham Fighters: Nippon Ham was actually outscored by their opponents last year. I’m putting them here because I believe that they have the pitching and defense to win close games, and that Sho Nakata will turn up at some point during the season and provide a little offense.The new additions to the bullpen have the task of replacing Michael Nakamura as well.
Key Players: Nakata, Ryan Wing, Masanori Hayashi

3. Chiba Lotte Marines: I didn’t think I’d have the Marines making the playoffs, but I’m putting them in third because they have a solid front four in their rotation, and no real holes in their lineup. Hopefully Bobby V can find a way to keep Tadahito Iguchi and Shunichi Nemoto both in the lineup, as Nemoto broke out last year with a .296/.369/.430 line.
Key Players: Bobby V, Yoshihisa Naruse, Yuuki Karakawa

4. Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles: The Eagles have two WBC heroes at the top of their rotation (Hisashi Iwakuma, Masahiro Tanaka), a couple of solid mid-rotation guys (Darrell Rasner, Hideaki Asai), and some power in the middle of their lineup (Norihiro Nakamura, Fernando Seguignol, Takeshi Yamasaki). But on the other hand they have some holes in their lineup and bullpen.
Key Players: the bullpen

5. Orix Buffaloes: Manager Daijiro Ohishi took over in May of last year and lead the Buffaloes to a seemingly improbable playoff run. Looking back, the Buffaloes pitched better than I realized, with a 3.93 team era and four starters with sub-4:00 eras and at least 10 wins. If the pitching staff can repeat that performance, and the aging lineup of foreign sluggers holds up, they’ll be competitive. If not, look for a B-class finish.
Key Players: Tuffy Rhodes, Alex Cabrera, Jose Fernandez, Greg LaRocca

6. Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks: It’s hard to pick the Hawks to finish this low with the amazing rotation depth they have — Tsuyoshi Wada, Toshiya Sugiuchi, Nagisa Arakaki, Shota Ohba, Kenji Ohtonari, Kameron Loe, Kazumi Saito (if he can come back from his injuries) and rookie Shingo Tatsumi. But on the flipside, their lineup just isn’t what it used to be. The Hawks hit just 99 home runs last year and haven’t added any significant bats. They’re hoping for a return to form from aging sluggers Hiroki Kokubo and Hitoshi Tamura, who have been shells of their former selves in recent years.
Key Players: Kokubo, Tamura

It was tough to pick any of these teams to finish last, because the league is so balanced and all the teams have strengths. It seems likely that Seibu will finish in the top 3 and SoftBank will finish in the bottom 3, but everything else is up for grabs. What are your thoughts?

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Offseason Changes: Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles

» 09 February 2009 » In npb » Comments Off

Coming: Darrell Rasner, Matt Childers, Norihiro Nakamura, Makoto Kosaka

Going: Jose Fernandez, Domingo Guzman, In-Che

Staying: Rick Short, Marcus Gwyn, Fernando Seguignol, Lin Yu-En

Trending: upward

Synopsis: The Eagles added a no. 3 starter (Rasner) to go with Hisashi Iwakuma and Masahiro Tanaka, a corner infield bat (Nakamura), depth to their bullpen (Childers), and depth to their bench (Kosaka) while retaining two strong foreign hitters. On paper, they go into 2009 with the best roster in their short history.

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Offseason Changes: Orix Buffaloes

» 03 February 2009 » In npb » Comments Off

Coming: Ryan Vogelsong, Jon Leicester, Jose Fernandez, Naoyuki Ohmura, Fumikazu Takanami, Kento Kanazawa

Going: Tom Davey, Ramon Ortiz, John Koronka, Eric Jung, Arihito Muramatsu, Kazuhiro Kiyohara (retirement)

Staying: Tuffy Rhodes, Alex Cabrera, Greg LaRocca

Trending: marginally upward

Synopsis: Orix added two foreign players with NPB experience in Vogelsong and Fernandez, and got the better of the Ohmura – Muramatsu trade with SoftBank. On the downside, they didn’t add anyone significant to the pitching staff. Word is they’re not done adding to their foreign roster.

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