Tag Archive > Ken Takahashi

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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Offseason Changes: Hiroshima Carp

» 24 January 2011 » In npb » 2 Comments

Coming: Chad Tracy, Dennis Sarfate, Bryan Bullington, Kiyoshi Toyoda, Tsuyoshi Kikuchihara

Going: Jeff Fiorentino, Justin Huber, Vinnie Chulk, Eric Stults, John Bale, Ken Takahashi, Shinjiro Kojima, Hayato Aoki

Staying: Gio Alvarado, Mike Schultz, Dioni Soriano

Summary: Perhaps the biggest story of Hiroshima’s offseason was the players they didn’t land. The Carp tried unsuccessfully to lure Hiroki Kuroda back in the mix, and lost out to Softbank for prized free agent Seiichi Uchikawa, despite his wife being a Koi fan.

Having lost out on the two Japanese stars, most of Hiroshima’s reinforcements for 2011 are of the suketto variety. Out goes the ineffective group of Fiorentino, Huber, Stults, Bale and Chulk; in come newcomers Tracy, Bullington and Sarfate joing holdovers Alvarado, Schultz and Soriano. The headliner of this year’s import class is Tracy,  the Carp’s highest paid and most accomplished first year import. The other five members of Hiroshima’s foreign roster are all pitchers, and will have to compete amongst themselves for the three remaining ichi-gun spots.

The fact that Soriano is lefthanded may give him a little bit of an edge on the somewhat lefty-thin Carp, but what the team really needs is quality innings. Last season, only Yokohama’s dreadful performance saved Hiroshima from having the least effective staff in Japan. Despite the presence of Sawamura Award winner Kenta Maeda, the Carp surrendered 737 runs in 2010; the next worst was Seibu with 642. Losing Colby Lewis hurt, but so did the fact that eight of the 13 pitchers who threw at least 30 innings for the Carp had an ERA of 5.00 or higher. Getting 150 or so innings of 4.00 ball out of Bullington or Alvarado would go along way for the Carp. So would healthy returns from Kan Ohtake and Katsuhiro Nagakawa. The Carp also spent their first four draft picks on hard-throwing, older prospects last year, so one of them may pay early dividends.

At the plate, Hiroshima managed to finish fourth in the Central League in run production in 2010, despite hitting the fewest home runs. What they lacked in power, they made up for by leading the league in steals with 119, and striking out less than any team other than Yakult. Since Tracy is the only significant lineup change for 2011, expect to see more of the same this season.

Overall I like the group that Hiroshima will field this year better than last year’s, but I don’t see how they make the playoffs without one of the other teams faltering significantly.

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Moving On: Barrett, Sisco, Okamoto, Bale

» 22 February 2010 » In nichibei, npb » 2 Comments

A brief update, to show you all that I have a pulse…

  • Ricky Barrett and Andy Sisco both failed their in-camp auditions with Yokohama. “They couldn’t exceed our expectations in the intrasquad games,” said a team representative.
  • Another former BayStars lefty, Naoya Okamoto, will be in camp with the Mexico City Reds this spring. Okamoto, along with Shigetoshi Yamakita, was headed toward an invite to the Phillies’ minor league camp, but negotiations reportedly took a turn for the worse and eventually concluded with no deal. Yamakita’s plans are unknown.
  • Hiroshima brought John Bale back on a budget deal. Bale should provide some lefty pitching depth, along with fellow returnee Ken Takahashi.

Also congratulations to NPB Tracker reader Chris Gissell, who recently signed a minor league deal with Colorado.

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Top 10 Events of 2009

» 28 December 2009 » In mlb, nichibei, npb, npb draft » 2 Comments

2009 went by super fast. Here are my top ten events in Japanese baseball for the year that was.

10. Koji Uehara, Kenshin Kawakami sign with MLB teams; Yomiuri, Chunichi don’t notice. Uehara and Kawakami both signed with MLB clubs early in 2009, meanwhile, their former teams finished 1-2 in the Central League, with Yomiuri taking the Japan Series Championship.

9. Tuffy Rhodes hits 450th NPB home run. Tuffy continued his remarkable comeback in 2009, reaching 450 homers early in the season. A healthy 2010 will see him reach 500.

8. Rakuten makes first ever post season appearance as Katsuya Nomura retires. Rakuten to reached the second round of the playoffs in their fifth year of existence and appears to have a bright near-term future. Nomura restored his legacy with Rakuten after arguably failing to revive Hanshin and his wife’s ugly tax fraud problems.

7. Mazda Zoom-Zoom Stadium opens. Japan’s first new stadium in years opens to rave reviews, and while the Carp look competitive at times, they ultimately slump to a fifth-place finish.

6. Yusei Kikuchi stays in Japan; gets selected by only six teams in draft. After a lengthy cross-Pacific courting process, Kikuchi gave into social pressures and choose to stay in Japan and enter the NPB draft. After speculation that he could get picked by 10 or 11 teams,he winds up getting taken by six, with the remaining six teams grabbing other players uncontested. He eventually signs a max contract with Seibu.

5. Hideki Matsui wins World Series MVP. Matsui leaves NY in style with a dominant World Series performance, despite not starting any of the games played in Philadelphia.

4. Bobby Valentine leaves Marines. Bobby V goes back to Connecticut after a successful six-year run with Chiba Lotte, in which he turned around a moribund franchise and became one of the finest advocates for Japanese baseball in the West.

3. Yomiuri wins first title since 2002. It took seven years for Yomiuri to win a Japan Series post-Matsui. The Giants won three times in his ten-year Giants career (1994, 2000, 2002).

2. Ichiro collects 200 hits for ninth straight year. ’nuff said.

1. Japan wins second straight WBC title. Japan is now 2-2 in WBC appearances, avenging its embarrassing 2008 Olypmic loss.

Honorable mentions: Junichi Tazawa reaches MLB in first pro season; great Koshien finale; Yu Darvish/Alex Ramirez win MVPs; Hanshin re-imports Kenji Johjima

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Hisanori Takahashi From 30,000 Feet

» 22 November 2009 » In mlb prospects » 1 Comment

Despite the fact that we’ve known for some time that Hisanori Takahashi would a candidate to jump to MLB this offseason, the Yomiuri lefty hasn’t gotten much virtual ink on this site. I’ve actually had a draft profile on him sitting un-started since June, but time has been an issue this year and I’ve prioritized other content.

Instead of an in-depth profile, I’ll give a quick bird’s eye view of Takahashi and his MLB credentials:

  • Turns 35 on April 2, 2010
  • Is coming off a solid 2009 campaign: 10-6, 2.94 ERA, 121/36 K/BB in 144 IP
  • Made 135m yen ($1.3m) in 2009
  • Started pro career in 2000 at age 26, after playing both college and industrial league ball
  • Isn’t going to overwhelm anyone with an 85-90 mph fastball
  • Has an excellent screwball, which he induces grounders and misses bats with; should be a plus pitch at the MLB level as well
  • Also has a two-seam fastball, slider and curve; the two-seamer is a pretty good pitch
  • No shortage of velocity info on him at our data site (note: screwball shows up as a “sinker” on in our data; two-seam as  “shuuto”)
  • Has never been a huge innings eater in Japan: career high is 186.2 IP (2007), has twice thrown 163 (2002, 2005), next highest total is 144 (2009)
  • Was not a lefty killer in 2009: lefties hit .300 against him (48/160), while holding righties to .250 (99/396)
  • Did keep lefties in the park in 2009: only three of his 16 home runs allowed came against lefties
  • Is represented by Peter Greenberg, who got another Takahashi (Ken) a deal with the Blue Jays and later the Mets last year, and recently lost Hideki Okajima. Had he kept Okajima, Greenberg could have really cornered the market on Japanese lefties

Takahashi has said he wants to continue in a starting role after he crosses the Pacific, but putting everything together he seems better suited for the bullpen. That said, assuming his screwball doesn’t get lost in translation, I don’t see why he can’t be an effective reliever in the Okajima mold.

So far the Giants and Rangers have been noted in the Japanese media as interested, though I suspect the Rangers will come up for everyone because of Jim Colborn’s presence. Takahashi himself has said that he would like to wind up on the same team as former Yomiuri teammate Hideki Matsui, but the NL West would likely be the most amenable destination for him.

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Potential NPB Returnees

» 22 October 2009 » In nichibei, npb » 8 Comments

It looks like we could to see a wave of Japanese major leaguers make their respective ways back to Japan this offseason. I don’t expect all these guys to go back to Japan, but some of them will, and I’ve listed in order of probability of actually returning.

  • Kenji Johjima – appears to be headed to Hanshin, perhaps as early as the 25th.
  • Masahide Kobayashi – Hanshin, Orix, Yokohama and Lotte have all be mentioned as suitors for KobaMasa.
  • Yasuhiko Yabuta – Yabuta’s contract with the Royals quietly expired earlier in the month, and he hasn’t been in the news lately but I’ve seen both Yokohama and Lotte mentioned as interested.
  • Ken Takahashi – is weighing a return to Japan against taking another shot at MLB. Hiroshima seems to be the obvious destination.
  • So Taguchi — Orix wants to bring Taguchi back to where he spent the first part of his career.
  • Tomo Ohka — I think he’d rather stay in 3A than go back to Japan, but there has been speculation that Yokohama would have him back. Ohka started his career by the bay.
  • Hideki Matsui – For a while during the summer, it looked like both Hanshin and Yomiuri were going to go after Matsui, but his MLB stock has risen and that talk has mostly died down.
  • Akinori Iwamura – Aki has stated that his first preference is to remain in Tampa Bay, but Hanshin is reportedly interested in bringing him in. Since Yakult posted him they should still own his NPB rights, so I’m not sure if that move is feasible.

And as a special bonus:

  • Eric Hinske — Hinske wouldn’t be an NPB returnee, but the Hawks are reportedly interested in signing him this year. They had him on their list last offseason as well.

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Will Kudoh Get a Shot?

» 11 October 2009 » In mlb prospects, nichibei, npb » 2 Comments

If 46-year old lefthander Kimiyasu Kudoh looks to MLB, will there be any takers?

In recent years we have seen veteran pitchers from Japan sign minor league deals and then contribute to the big league team. 39 year-old Masumi Kuwata made his major league debut with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2007, and 40 year-old Ken Takahashi enjoyed his first season in the majors with the New York Mets this year.

Although neither pitcher left eye-popping numbers with their teams, they both brought intangibles to the table with experience and character. Needless to say, the Japanese media were all over stories, which in turn fueled stories in the US media (see Kuwata attracts crowd and The Mets’ 40-Year-Old Rookie).

Kudoh was released from the Yokohama Baystars and will be looking for a suitor this off-season. He stated his desire to continue playing and in a recent interview mentioned that NPB is his first option. However if negotiations stall and an offer from overseas arrives would he decline? It will be interesting how the situation plays out and if any MLB teams will look to follow the trend of signing Japanese veterans as roster depth.

To give you a sense of what Kudoh brings, check out pitching clip from September 16 versus Yakult, and this velocity chart from the same game..

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Ken-san Demoted

» 23 June 2009 » In mlb » Comments Off

Among a number of other moves, the Mets demoted 40 year-old lefty Ken Takahashi on June 22. Said Takahashi: “I was called in by the manager and GM, and I thought it might be this. In the minors I’ll probably start, and I’ll probably be able to throw a lot”. Takahashi had posted a 3.00 era with 16 strikeouts in 18 innings for the Mets.

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Ken Takahashi Debuts for Mets

» 02 May 2009 » In mlb » 17 Comments

Ken Takahashi put up a good line in his MLB debut:

  IP  H  R ER BB SO HR PC-ST ERA
K Takahashi 2.2 1 0 0 1 1 0 38-26 0.00

Mets fans — how’d he look?

My profile on Takahashi can be found here.

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Ken Takahashi Released, on His Way to The Mets

» 30 March 2009 » In mlb prospects » 1 Comment

As we first learned from commenter Nelson, the Blue Jays have released lefty Ken Takahashi. Baseball sources have confirmed his release from the Jays, and mlb.com also has a blurb about him signing with the Mets.

So it looks like the prediction that I made in the offseason has turned out to be correct.

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