Tag Archive > Kazuhiro Kiyohara

Really Good Stuff

» 27 January 2014 » In npb, something else » 5 Comments

Japanese TV never fails to entertain. During my most recent trip to Japan, I saw things like a girl dressed in a French maid’s outfit, water skiing down a river to deliver an omelette to a guy on a boat; and a guy ride a horse through a false wall in an office building in on some unsuspecting business men in a meeting.

But the thing I’d like to share with you is this short clip from the New Year’s Eve Kyokugen program, from a segment where former Seibu and Yomiuri slugger Kazuhiro Kiyohara was attempting to hit a final home run to honor his aging mother. Kiyohara was to face off against four all-time great NPB pitchers, getting three at-bats against each one.

Kiyohara’s first opponent was former Lotte ace, Choji Murata. When I saw Murata, I thought to myself “ahh, I hope he doesn’t just go up there and throw batting practice.”

I wasn’t disappointed. Murata is 64 years old, but still hits 135 kmph (83 mph) on the gun. He attacked Kiyohara with a series of fastballs, and the only solid contact Kiyohara managed was a foul ball. Then, with Kiyohara down 1-2 on his last at-bat, Murata dropped this splitter on him:

murata

(helpfully gif’ed by one of the netizens on 2ch.net)

Sick. Murata is 64 years old. Oh, I already said that. Well, he’s also a Tommy John survivor; in 1983 he became the first notably Japanese pitcher to undergo the procedure. And Murata must be in great shape to repeat those mechanics at age 64.

It was a little disappointing that Kiyohara couldn’t handle Murata’s best stuff, but that just showed it was a competition; he was going to have to earn that home run. We changed to the typical New Year’s Eve boxing matches after Murata, but I found out later that Kiyohara got his home run off lefty Hideyuki Awano. Happily ever after.

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“Douage”

» 15 July 2010 » In npb » 4 Comments

I’ve always meant to write about the culture of Japanese baseball, I figure two years in to blog I might as start. More importantly, Orix’s recent signing of Francisco Caraballo gives me an excuse to start one of my favorite things about Japanese baseball, the douage.

Ideally, this is more of a late-season post than a mid-season post, but what the heck.

The word douage (pronounced “doh-ah-gay”) doesn’t have an easy English translation. The most succinct translation I can come up with is something like “honoring an individual by tossing up and down in celebration”. The Japanese word itself, 胴上げ, comes from dou (胴), “torso” and age (上げ), “raise” or “lift”. Every year, Japanese baseball teams douage their retiring players, and championship teams douage their managers after clinching a pennant, playoff series, or Nippon Series.

But douages aren’t just for big wins and retirements. Caraballo’s BC League teammates and opponents sent him off with a douage. Keisuke Mizuta’s Seibu teammates did the same when he was traded to Hanshin last year (note, I didn’t actually watch the video in that link). And Deanna caught an on-field wedding on her trip to Niigata, in which the BC League players feted the groom with a douage.

Looking at more typical douages, the most significant one of last year was for Katsuya Nomura, who retired as the manager of Rakuten after a life-long career in baseball. Both Rakuten and the opposing Nippon Ham Fighters took part in the celebration. Masaaki Mori’s 1987 Nippon Series douage is a famous one, but it’s mostly remembered for Kazuhiro Kiyohara breaking down and crying with one out left in the game. And finally, here’s one for my Brewers-blogging FanGraphs bud, Jack Moore: when Ken Macha retired from the Chunichi Dragons in 1985, he was presented with a bouquet and douage’d (farewell ceremony starts at 5:10), a real rarity for foreign players.

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NPB Bullet Points: Kiyohara Makes an Appearance, Hanshin Looks to Korea

» 22 August 2009 » In kbo, Koshien, npb, npb draft » 4 Comments

Japanese:

  • Kazuhiro Kiyohara made his first appearance in a Seibu uniform in a while, swinging through the ceremonial first pitch on August 22.I’m not sure what Kiyohara’s been up to since retiring, but it looks like it involves getting a tan.
  • Hanshin is scouting Korea, reportedly looking at Kim Tae-Gyun of Hanwha and Lee Taek-Keun of the Heroes as potential acquisition targets for this offseason. Lee Bum-Ho and Kim Dong-Ju are also drawing interest from NPB teams. Someone who knows better should check my Romanization of these names.
  • Yakult’s Norichika Aoki, in the midst of his worst season as a pro, had his first four-hit game of the year, bringing his average up to .278. Yakult lost the game 7-3 to the Giants.
  • Draft Reports has a list of the hardest-throwing pitchers in this year’s Koshien Tournament.Yusei Kikuchi, Takumi Akiyama, and Kenta Imamiya.

English:

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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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Top 10 Stories of 2008

» 02 January 2009 » In mlb, nichibei, npb » 4 Comments

Every new year begins with a list about the old one. Here’s my 2008 list of notable events in Japanese baseball.

10. Ichiro Reaches 3000 total NPB/MLB hits; has 8th consecutive 200-hit season
Ichiro has started his MLB career with eight straight 200-hit seasons, tieing Willie Keeler’s century-old mark for most consecutive 200 hit seasons. Ichiro has also surpassed 3000 hits in his NPB/MLB career and needs three more to surpass Isao Harimoto’s record for Japanese players (3085).

9. Daijiro Ohishi keys surprising Orix turnaround
Orix was 21-28 when manager Terry Collins quit on May 21. Ohishi took over and led the team to a 2nd place finish with a 75-68-1, including a 55-40-1 mark while he was at the helm.

8. Kazuhiro Kiyohara Retires
Kiyohara finally succombed to injuries after being in the national baseball spotlight since the early 80’s, first as a high school star, then as a 22-year NPB veteran.

7. Hideo Nomo Retires
MLB pioneer retired in June after being released from the KC Royals and failing to hook on with another team. He was last seen coaching for the Orix Buffaloes in the team’s fall camp. 

6. Junichi Tazawa signs with Boston
Tazawa became the first consensus first-round draft pick to forgo professional baseball in Japan for a career in America.

5. Bobby Valentine and Chiba Lotte agree to part ways after the 2009 season
After a series of disagreements, Bobby V and Chiba Lotte agreed not to renew the manager’s contract beyond 2009.  Bobby took the Marines from being a perennial doormat to being a perennial contender, while also serving as one of the top advocates for Japanese baseball.

4. Hisashi Iwakuma edges Yu Darvish for the Sawamura
Iwakuma won 21 games  for the also-ran Rakuten Eagles to take his first Sawamura Award & Pacific League MVP. Darvish was more dominant by some measures but had to settle for second best in ’08.

3. Seibu beats Yomiuri for Japan Series Title
 In a return to form for both teams, the Lions beat out the Giants in a closely fought, 7-game Japan Series. Seibu remarkably won the Series just two years after losing ace Daisuke Matsuzaka to the Red Sox.

2. Team Japan Disappoints in the Olympics
Japan’s NPB star-studded team couldn’t beat Korea, Cuba, or the USA and finished out of the medals for the first time since the 2000 games in Sydney. The performance led to Senichi Hoshino’s departure as the Japan National Team manager. 

1. Sadaharu Oh Retires from Field Duties
 Oh retired as field manager of the Fukuoka Daiei/SoftBank Hawks after 14 years on the job. Oh led the Hawks to Japan Series titles in 1999 and 2003, and a Japan Series appearance in 2000. Oh will remain with the Hawks in a front office capacity.

Honorable mentions: So Taguchi becomes the latest NPB vet to win a World Series Ring; 2008 crop of Japanese MLB imports mostly disappoint; Hiroki Kuroda thows a gem against the Braves; Hisayoshi Chono refuses to sign with the Chiba Lotte Marines in the hopes of being drafted by the Giants

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The Effects of NPB Players Leaving for MLB, part 3

» 14 December 2008 » In nichibei » Comments Off

Here’s the last piece of the player-by-player analysis portion of the series. Please check out parts 1 and 2 as well.

Part four will draw some conclusions from a big picture level.

2003

Hideki Matsui (OF, Giants -> Yankees): Turned down what would have been the largest contract in NPB history in 2000 (8 years,  6bn yen($60M)) to take a one-year contract, citing his goal of eventually playing in MLB. He eventually did after the 2002 season, and the Giants went from sweeping the Japan Series to finishing in 3rd place (71-66-3). Yomiuri had another 3rd place finish in 2004, then unthinkable consecutive sub-.500 finishes in ’05 and ’06 before finally recovering in 2007. The Giants made it back to the Japan Series in 2008, six years after Matsui’s departure. They had played in four Japan Series’ in the 10 years Matsui spent with the team (’94, ’96, ’00, ’02), winning three times. The team’s popularity took a hit as well.

So what went wrong? Yomiuri had a pretty weak strategy in replacing Matsui: they signed former Yakult 1st baseman Roberto Petagine and played him in right field, moving Yoshinobu Takahashi to center. Petagine played decent defense at first but was never mobile enough for right field, nor did he have the arm for it. Takahashi said he never felt comfortable in center, and obviously didn’t trust Petagine in right.

Things got worse when manager Tatsunori Hara left and was replaced with grouch Tsuneo Horiuchi. The Giants core offensive threats of Kazuhiro Kiyohara, Akira Etoh, Toshihisa Nishi, and Takayuki Shimizu and pitchers Kimiyasu Kudoh, Masumi Kuwata, Yusaku Iriki, and Koji Uehara all became old and/or ineffective at the same time. The team cycled through replacements like Gabe Kapler, Hiroki Kokubo, Tuffy Rhodes, and Jeremy Powell before finally assembling a team that worked in 2007.

Impact:Huge. No single player’s departure has had a greater effect on his former team than Matsui has had on the Giants. Yomiuri was probably headed for a downturn anyway, but the loss of Matsui certainly prolonged the team’s lean years.

2002

Kazuhisa Ishii (SP, Swallows -> Dodgers): Yakult posted Ishii after winning the Japan Series in 2001, and got about $11m from the Dodgers. Kevin Hodges took Ishii’s place at the top of the Swallows’ rotation and the team went from a 78-56-6 record in ’01 to a 74-62-4 record and 2nd place finish in ’02, 11 games behind the Giants. Had Ishii been around, the race might have been tighter but Yakult was still probably would have been a 2nd place team. Hodges posted a 5.90 era in 2004, and Yakult fell further.

Ishii returned to Yakult in 2006, but the team had faded into an also-ran by then. He left after 2007 for Seibu.

Impact: Medium. $11m was a good return for Ishii. Yakult may have been able to remain competitive for a little longer if he had stuck around, but that was an aging team.

So Taguchi (OF, Blue Wave -> Cardinals): Surprisingly, Orix mananged to maintain a solid record the year after Ichiro was posted, but fell from 70-66-4 to 50-87-3 after Taguchi left. Taguchi’s presence was never worth 20 games in the standings; the team’s offense tanked completely in 2002.

Impact: Low. Taguchi was actually a pretty average player in japan. He really improved his game in his time in America.

Satoru Komiyama (SP/RP, BayStars -> Mets): Yokohama dropped from 69-67-4 to 49-86-5 after Komiyama left. While the ‘Stars missed Komiyama’s 12-9 record and 3.03 era, I would say that Yokohama’s weak offense was more responsible for the team’s meteoric drop.

Komiyama didn’t perform at the MLB level, and returned to Japan after one season. Yokohama still owned his NPB rights, but refused to sign him to a contract for the 2003 season. After a “ronin” year, the BayStars finally released him and he re-joined the Chiba Lotte Marines, his original team. He’s been there ever since.

Impact: Low. Given the way Yokohama treated him, it didn’t seem that they wanted him back. They could have traded him to another NPB team and gotten some value back, so to me it was a case of the team cutting off it’s nose to spite it’s face. In general I’m a fan of Komiyama’s and I think he could have added some stability to Yokohama’s staff and mentored the team’s young pitchers. In that sense, it’s a big loss for Yokohama, but not one that I attribute to his MLB trial.

2001

Ichiro (OF, Blue Wave -> Mariners): This one needs no introduction. Orix posted Ichiro after the 2000 and Seattle won his rights with a $14m bid. I was living in Japan at the time, and it was such big, exciting news. It seemed like just announcing his move to MLB made him a bigger star than he already was.

Orix appeared in Japan Series’ in 1995 and 1996, but were a .500 team for the last few years of his tenure. The Blue Wave maintained it’s .500 record the year after Ichiro was posted, but fell apart in 2002. The team stunk again in 2003, and mid-way through 2004 announced that it would merge with the Kintetsu Buffaloes. The new Orix Buffaloes took the field in 2005 with a group of guys taken in the in the Orix/Kintetsu dispersal draft, and ranged from doormat to also-ran until their surpring 2008 campaign.

Orix’s popularity at the gate was flagging even with Ichiro, and his departure didn’t make things any better. The team suffered from the inconveniently located Green Stadium Kobe, and the proximity of the popular Hanshin Tigers. The post-merger team plays most of it’s home games in Osaka Kyocera Dome, which is a shame because Green Stadium is much nicer and was easily my favorite place to watch a game in Japan. For me, the old Blue Wave had a level of charm that the post-merger team lacks completely.

Impact: Medium. Everyone knew Ichiro was going to America at some point, and Orix did the right thing in posting him. I would argue that Ichiro’s MLB success is better for Japanese baseball than if he stayed and broken every NPB record. Orix’s competitiveness and popularity took a dive without Ichiro, but this was inevitable.

Tsuyoshi Shinjo (OF, Tigers -> Mets): Shinjo turned down a four-year offer from Hanshin to take a one-year minor league deal from the Mets. The Tigers felt no impact in the win column, going from a 57-78-1 record to 57-80-3. Hanshin backfilled Shinjo by drafting Norihiro Akahoshi, who has been the team’s center fielder ever since. Akahoshi has never had any power, but he has better on-base skills than Shinjo ever did and has won multiple Gold Gloves.

As a side note, Shinjo announced his move around the same time as Ichiro did. Though his move was viewed with some skepticism, he proved he could play at the MLB level, which helped inspire a wider range of players to make the jump across the Pacific.

Impact: Low. Hanshin built a balanced team after Shinjo left and has been competitve since 2002. Shinjo held his own at the MLB level, played in the 2002 World Series, and then returned to Japan to help build Nippon Ham into a competitive, popular franchise. I’d say this one worked out well for all parties.

That’s it for the player-by-player analysis. Anyone I missed? Anyone disagree with my assessments?

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NPB Bullet Points (2008/10/25)

» 25 October 2008 » In nichibei, npb » 1 Comment

I’ve been piling up random bullet points for over a month now, so rather than sift threw ‘em I thought I’d throw them all out there and let you decide what’s interesting. 

Japanese Articles

English Articles

Wow — lots of the links I had saved up here are no longer valid, making this a pretty underwhelming collection. Not much to show for the reading I did over the last month.
*dou-age: ceremonially tossing someone up and down, traditionally done at the end of the season to retiring players, and the pitcher who gets the last out in a championship-clinching game.

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NPB Bullet Points (2008/09/07)

» 07 September 2008 » In mlb prospects, npb » 4 Comments

First bullet points collection in a couple of days… favoring English articles for this round.

English Articles:

Japanese Articles:

  • Junichi Tazawa continues to impress both Japanese and American scouts, this time with 2 2/3 innings of perfect relief in Eneos’s 1-0 win over JFE in the Industrial League Tokyo Intercity Baseball Tournament. Scouts from the Yokohama BayStars, Yankees, and Pirates as well as Braves GM Frank Wren were in attendance. When asked about Tazawa, Yankees scout Kida commented, “please ask Cashman”.
  • Orix has gone on a tear and gotten themselves all the way into 2nd place in the Pacific League. This has pleased team owner Miyauchi, who commented: “the team is clicking” (note: that’s a very loose translation).
  • However, assuming Orix makes the playoffs they’ll have to compete without retiring slugger Kazuhiro Kiyohara, who intends to stop playing after his October 1 retirement ceremony. I’ve never been a Kiyohara fan, but I’d like to see him go out on a high note.
  • Chunichi super-sub Tomas De La Rosa is making a play to stick with the team for next season. He’s considered a key man in the team’s run up to a playoff spot.

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NPB Bullet Points (2008/08/22)

» 22 August 2008 » In npb » 4 Comments

Japan is getting pounded 8-4 by America as I type this… what a disappointing Olympics for Team Hoshino. Still, Korea and Cuba asserted themselves as winning countries, so I think it’s not a bad result for the game of baseball.

Let’s move on to the bullet points. I’ve got a couple stored up from the last few days.

Japanese Articles:

  • Hitoki Iwase got lit up to the tune of a 13.52 ERA in 4 2/3 innings of Olympic competition, taking 3 losses. On the plus side, his 7:1 K:BB ratio was strong. Nikkan Sports has the stats published for all the Olympic teams (Japanese only).
  • I found a great blog entry about various NPB batters’ stances. Click the 動画 link above each image to see video highlights on YouTube. My recommendations are Sadaharu Oh and Hitoshi Taneda.
  • Colby Lewis made his return to the Hiroshima Carp on August 21, his first start since July 1. He held Hanshin scoreless in 5 2/3 but didn’t pick up the win.
  • Nagisa Arakaki set a new Japan record with five wild pitches in one game, including three in the fourth inning. This guy has great stuff and would dominate if he could do something about his control.
  • Yu Darvish is heading back to Japan and scheduled to start on September 2 against Softbank.
  • Sales of Kazuhiro Kiyohara goods are up 1000% since he announced his retirement.
  • Unlike their male counterparts, the Japan woman’s softball team took home the gold. I’m mentioning it here because Japan starter Yukiko Ueno pitched back-to-back complete games on consecutive days in the knock-out round, and according to this article threw 413 pitches over the two days. I find that number very hard to believe, even though the semi-final was an extra-inning game.

English Articles:

Well, in the time it took me to type this, Team USA sealed it’s victory over Japan and clinched the bronze medal. Well, the WBC is only nine months away…

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NPB Bullet Points (2008/08/18)

» 18 August 2008 » In npb » 1 Comment

Only a few articles I’d like to share today, and all of them are in Japanese:

  • Found a new Marines blog this evening. I didn’t even read the entry, I just like the pictures of Shunsuke Watanabe ptiching: particularly this one and this one.
  • Orix Slugger Kazuhiro Kiyohara formally announced his retirement, on his 41st birthday before an away game against his first team, Seibu. “I really appreciate being able to celebrate my birthday in my last season at Seibu Dome,” said Kiyohara.
  • Chunichi Dragons relief ace Kazuki Yoshimi is doing a rehab stint in the minors and gearing up for a return to the top team. He went down with arm pain on July 21, and his return would be a boost the the Dragons.
  • Yakult pitcher Dicky Gonzales made his first appearance in nearly two years on August 17, giving up 4 runs in 5 innings pitched. I’m actually a bit surprised that Yakult stuck with Gonzales, who is coming off elbow surgery. It’s a rarity for a Japanese team to show that kind of commitment to a foreign player.
  • Yomiuri Giants outfielder Alex Ramirez has met the service time requirements for free agency. He’s under contract with the Giants for next year, so he won’t be a free agent, but he will no longer count against the foreign player limit. Ramirez becomes the third player, after Taigen Kaku and Tuffy Rhodes to shred his foreign player status under the service time exception.
  • Hiroshima Carp Manager Marty Brown has returned to America temporarily due to the sudden death of his mother. My condolences go out to Marty and his family.

Up next for NPB Tracker: an Olympics summary, a look at high pitch counts in Japan, and English-language blogs of NPB players.

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