Tag Archive > Kenji Johjima

Hanshin Close on Messenger

» 06 December 2009 » In nichibei, npb » 1 Comment

Hanshin appears to be making progress in their search for pitching.

Daily Sports is reporting that the Hanshin is  sending a representative to the States next week to finalize a deal with big righty Randy Messenger. He will, of course, be billed in the Japanese media as a former teammate of Kenji Johjima’s. But given that Messenger nearly joined the Carp in mid-2009, Joh’s influence in this signing may wind up getting just a tiny bit overstated.

Daily also mentions that the Tigers are still looking at Jason Bulger as well, and if he comes off the Angels’ 40-man roster they could make a play for him.

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Johjima at it Again

» 28 November 2009 » In nichibei, npb » 1 Comment

Holiday and business activity kept me away from blogging this week, but after a relaxing Black Friday spent mostly away from the computer and the shops, I’m ready to get going again.

Kenji Johjima is reportedly making more scouting recommendations to his new employer. This time, though, the Hanshin Tigers have their sights set a little more realistically. Randy Messenger was the main guy mentioned in Sanspo’s latest report. Messenger nearly joined the Carp in mid-season 2009 but Hiroshima and Seattle couldn’t come to an agreement on a transfer fee.

Eric Hull and Jason Bulger were the other two guys mentioned on Hanshin’s list; Hull makes sense, while they’re probably a year too late on Bulger.

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Foreign Player Updates: Laforest, SoftBank, Lotte

» 30 October 2009 » In npb » 1 Comment

Some notes about foreign player movement this offseason, mostly featuring the Chiba Lotte Marines:

  • Pete Laforest had a tryout with the Seibu Lions, the results of which will be announced in a few days. Laforest has spent the last few years in the Mexican League. It’s rare for NPB teams to go after import catchers, so I’m wondering how Laforest would fit on to the Lions’ roster.
  • The SoftBank Hawks are retaining DJ Houlton and Jose Ortiz for next season. You’d have to think they’ll bring Brian Falkenborg back as well.
  • Hanshin is looking for Kenji Johjima to provide input on next year’s foreign roster.
  • Chiba Lotte is looking at bringing in Marlins lefty minor leaguer Carlos Vasquez to pitch relief. Vasquez played for Venezuela in last year’s WBC. At the same time, the Marines want reliable bullpen arm Brian Sikorski to take a 33% pay cut, and may lose him this offseason.
  • More from Lotte: the team is looking at bringing former Marine and Hawk Julio Zuleta back to Japan. He’ll have a tryout in early November, and if he passes, the team will look at him as a low-budget option ($300k) for next year. Zuleta struggled in the Mexican League in 2009.
  • Yeet more from Lotte: the Marines are again looking at Korean slugger Kim Dong Ju this offseason. Kim has been trying to sign with an NPB club for years, and Bobby wanted to bring him to Chiba last season, but got denied by the front office.

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Johjima Agrees With Hanshin

» 27 October 2009 » In npb » 6 Comments

Multiple reports out of Japan are confirming that Kenji Johjima’s NPB return will indeed be with the Hanshin Tigers. It took two rounds of negotiations for the Tigers and Johjima to work out a deal.

Sports Hochi Osaka is saying its a four-year deal, with an estimated value of 2.5 bn JPY ($27.25m at today’s exchange rate). No one else has reported that figure so we’ll see if it winds up being accurate. If it’s true, it’s a pretty nice deal for Joh. An official press conference will be scheduled shortly.

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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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Johjima Opts out

» 21 October 2009 » In international baseball, nichibei » Comments Off on Johjima Opts out

As previously reported in Japanese, Kenji Johjima has decided to opt out of the final two years of his contract with the Seattle Mariners. Johjima was the first Japanese catcher in the big leagues, playing in total of 462 games in the span of four seasons.

His NPB power bat did not translate well for him in the big leagues and it became a struggle to earn regular playing time last season with the Mariners, as he appeared in only 71 games. A pair of injuries limited his playing time as well.

Earlier this week, there was speculation that an opt out move was in the works, citing Johjima’s cancelled off-season Mariners PR work. Johjima is known to be quoted in saying, “I do not feel strongly to live and die in the majors for the rest of my career. I would like to take back to Japan what I learned from the States, and want to go back while I can still contribute to a team.”

There have been reports already that the Hanshin Tigers are interested and his former team, Softbank Hawks, should be another possibility. Johjima should still be one of the best catchers in Japan, once landing with a team and Japanese fans should be happy to get him back.

Now the question is when will we see another Japanese catcher be to challenge for an opportunity in the majors, and who will it be? Motonobu Tanishige and Ryoji Aikawa both failed to garner offers in their attempts to move over as free agents.

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Hanshin’s Shopping List

» 16 October 2009 » In mlb, nichibei, npb » 9 Comments

The news about Hanshin’s list of offseason acquisition targets is flying fast and furious. It kind of reminds me of this old Onion article. Here’s what I’ve seen so far.

Via NPB Free Agency…

  • Shugo Fujii (Nippon Ham) — this probably makes the most sense of any of these acquisitions. Fujii wouldn’t make the Tigers a championship club on his own though
  • Hiroyuki Kobayashi (Lotte) — another rather low risk, medium reward type

Via Trade…

  • GG Sato (Seibu) — coming off a career year
  • Shunsuke Watanabe (Lotte) — can’t see Lotte moving him, but would be interesting to see how he adjusts to the Central League
  • Nagisa Arakaki (SoftBank) — one of my favorite pitchers, but has been hurt for the last two years

From Korea…

  • Brad Thomas (Korea, Hanwha Eagles) — former Nippon Ham Fighter
  • Rick Guttoromson (Korea, Kia Tigers) — Sports Hochi reported on him and Thomas
  • Kim Tae-Gyun (Korea, Hanwha Eagles) — Matt tipped me off to this info on Kim
  • Lee Bum-Ho (Korea, Hanwha Eagles) — Matt also pointed out that if the already last-place Hanwha loses all these guys, they might as well field a him of himself, me and Shinsano

Possible MLB Returnees…

  • Hideki Matsui (NY Yankees) has been speculated over since the summer, seems like Matsui will get chances to stay in MLB
  • Masahide Kobayashi (ex Cleveland Indians) — makes sense, I wonder if they went after him during the season
  • Kenji Johjima (Seattle Mariners) — reports in the Japanese media say that he has an escape clause in his contract allowing him to return to Japan. Cot’s knows nothing about this. Hanshin is said to be prepared to offer 500m yen annually (about $5m), so for this to work Joh would have to take a pay cut, and the Mariners would have to not convince him to stay
  • Akinori Iwamura (Tampa Bay Rays) — saw some speculation about this a week or two ago, Iwamura didn’t say much other than that he would go where he was evaluated the most highly

There are also reports that Hanshin is going to be looking to the US market as usual, but I haven’t seen any legitimate names published yet. Hanshin sent team president Nobuo Minami to the States this season in an effort to learn how to evaluate US-based players. In the process, he had his picture taken with Bobby Cox, and met with the GMs of the Braves, Yankees, Mets, as well as front office personnel from the Red Sox.

What do NPB fans think? Would any of these moves make Hanshin the team to beat next year?

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Japan-Korea Bullet Points

» 18 March 2009 » In international baseball » Comments Off on Japan-Korea Bullet Points

It took a while to find a way to actually watch the game here in the States, but I finally did.

About the game…

  • Jung Bong shut Japan down again, indicating that his round one performance was no fluke.
  • Yu Darvish was better than the final line makes him look. He was done in in the first (from what I saw of the highlights) by a couple of a couple of booted infield grounders and a weak throw from Norichika Aoki.
  • After the first inning, Korea didn’t do much of anything until the eighth, when they let Japan’s pitchers beat themselves with walks.
  • Japan got runners on base and generally made contact, but they didn’t get any extra-base hits and didn’t really play the small-ball game. I think that’s what cost them the win more than anything.
  • Akinori Iwamura looked like he had no chance against Chang Yang Lim in the last at-bat of the game.
  • I wasn’t crazy about Korea planting their flag on the mound at the end. They didn’t win the tournament.

Hindsight is 20/20…

  • Tatsunori Hara had the infield positioned for a play at the plate when Korea had the bases loaded in the first. If they had been a double-play depth they would have gotten at least one out on Jin-young Lee’s grounder went for a two-run single.
  • I would rather start Munenori Kawasaki than Yasuyuki Kataoka if Hiroyuki Nakajima can’t play, especially since Kataoka is out of position at shortstop.
  • What was the point of putting Yoshiyuki Ishihara in for Kenji Johjima, just to pinch hit for him with Shinnosuke Abe after an inning? Johjima got ejected — shame on me for watching with the sound off.
  • Minoru Iwata didn’t look sharp — and leaving him in to face the righty looked really bad when Masahiro Tanaka came in and blew the next guy away.

On the live chat…

  • The chat thing was a spur-of-the-moment idea, so I didn’t give much notice. If I try this again, I’ll give more notice and hopefully I’ll get to chat with a few of the regulars.
  • The chat was pretty well-trafficed, mostly because it wound up near the top of the Google rankings for several variations on “wbc japan korea live”. A lot of people found this site for the first time because of that, and I hope some of them will stick around.
  • It took some time to find a good video feed, but I think at least a couple people were able to follow along.
  • Some of the comments I got on the chat tested my patience — though the people causing the problems clearly weren’t frequent visitors to this site. I hope everyone will be cool next time we do this.
  • I think it was insane for ESPN to show the NIT tournament instead of this.

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WBC Roster Set

» 22 February 2009 » In international baseball, mlb, npb » 5 Comments

Japan manager Tatsunori Hara has settled on a WBC roster. Here it is:

Pitchers
Yu Darvish
Takahiro Mahara
Masahiro Tanaka
Hideaki Wakui
Daisuke Matsuzaka
Minoru Iwata
Hisashi Iwakuma
Kyuji Fujikawa
Tetsuya Utsumi
Satoshi Komatsu
Shunsuke Watanabe
Tetsuya Yamaguchi
Toshiya Sugiuchi

Catchers
Kenji Johjima
Shinnosuke Abe
Yoshiyuki Ishihara

Infielders
Hiroyuki Nakajima
Yasuyuki Kataoka
Akinori Iwamura
Michiro Ogasawara
Shuichi Murata
Munenori Kawasaki

Outfielders
Kosuke Fukudome
Norichika Aoki
Seiichi Uchikawa
Yoshiyuki Kamei
Atsunori Inaba
Ichiro

(SI has the AP article as well)

Notable departures are Nobuhiko Matsunaka (achilles problem), Kenta Kurihara (affected by elbow surgery last year), Toru Hosokawa (right shoulder pain), Tsuyoshi Wada, and Takayuki Kishi. Health reasons were not cited for Wada and Kishi.

Overall, the roster looks pretty good to me, though it’s somewhat short on power.The inclusion of Yoshiyuki Kamei makes no obvious sense to me, but I could see him as a defensive replacement/pinch runner. The only other questionable pick I see is Shunsuke Watanabe. He’s been hit or miss in NPB, and as I recall he wasn’t that great in the 2006 WBC.

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The Effects of NPB Players Leaving for MLB, part 4

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

Time to close out this series with some conclusions. I fear that I may be oversimplifying this a bit, but I’m looking for macro trends with this. These are casual observations, I didn’t do any hard research. 

Check the three previous installments here: 1, 2, 3

1. Most of the teams that lost a star to MLB took some kind of a hit in the standings. With the exception of Hiroshima, the teams losing the top 10 players listed below took years to replace the production they lost. Some of the teams still haven’t replaced the production they lost. It’s also important to remember that none of these departures happened in a vacuum; there were other things that affected the performance of each team, but overall the lose of these players has hurt their former teams competitively.

2. The only team that really took a popularity hit after losing a star to MLB was the Giants after losing Matsui. I bought walk-up tickets to a Giants game in 2005, which would have been unthinkable a few years earlier. Of course, while the Giants were down, the Tigers and Dragons were both up and have enjoyed competitive success and popularity since the early part of the decade. SoftBank has been less competitive since losing Johjima, but has not suffered at the gate. The team is actually adding 6000 seats to the Yahoo Dome for next season to help meet demand. 

3. Signing foreign talent to replace departed stars doesn’t seem to work. Teams will often sign foreign players to fill the holes left by departed stars, but when the do so, they’re losing the opportunity to add depth at other positions with those roster spots. I can’t think of an example where a foreign star was a long-term replacement for an MLB bound star. Colby Lewis was great as Hiroki Kuroda’s replacement in 2008, but so was Kevin Hodges a few years ago and he flamed out after a single season.

4. Losing talent to MLB has a trickle-down impact on the smaller market teams. As an example, Hanshin may have been content with their outfield had Shinjo stuck around, but two years after he left they signed Tomoaki Kanemoto away from the Carp to play left field. Kanemoto has gone on to become a legend for the Tigers while the Carp have only recently begun to show signs of life. Hanshin and Yomiuri can spend to fill their holes, while smaller market teams like Hiroshima cannot.

5. On the positive side, stars moving to MLB has opened up (or could potentially open) spots for younger players, in a league where there is no rule 5 draft and blocked prospects and depth guys are seldom traded. We haven’t seen too many cases of prospects jumping in and filling the shoes of the top 10 guys I’ve listed below, but others have stepped in for 11-26.

Overall, I don’t think this trend is killing NPB. Attendance is stable, and Japan Series television ratings were up this year (mostly because the Giants played in it). Many of the players who have made the leap to MLB have actually been pretty successful, which has greatly improved the credibility of NPB overseas. On the downside, the loss of star players has hurt the competitive depth of the affected teams, and led many to question the viability of the league. I seeing the loss of these star players as an “Oakland A’s-ing” of the league — the A’s have gotten by with smart management, an ability to exploit market inefficiencies and a willingness to continually reinvent the team on the field. The A’s style doesn’t translate to the Japanese game completely, but the underlying principles of thrift and creativity are important for a group of teams that generally is not going to compete with MLB financially.

Below is a list of all the players I looked at, ranked in order of how much I think their departure affected their previous team and the league. For me, there are really about three or four classes: Matsui and Johjima, Iwamura through Iguchi, and everyone else. You can possibly put Matsui, Kobayashi and Yabuta in their own class as well, as guys who were quickly replaced but did leave a gap in their absences. 

Rank Player  Team Year Record Before Record After Impact
1 Hideki Matsui Yomiuri 2003 86-52-2 71-66-3 High
2 Kenji Johjima Daiei/SoftBank 2006 89-45-2 75-56-5 High
3 Akinori Iwamura Yakult 2007 70-73-3 60-84-0 High
4 Kosuke Fukudome Chunichi 2008 78-64-2 71-68-5 High
5 Daisuke Matsuzaka Seibu 2007 80-54-2 66-76-2 Medium
6 Ichiro Orix 2001 64-67-4 70-66-4 Medium
7 Hiroki Kuroda Hiroshima 2008 60-82-2 69-70-5 Medium
8 Kei Igawa Hanshin 2007 84-58-4 74-66-4 Medium
9 Kazuhisa Ishii Yakult 2002 78-56-6 72-64-2 Medium
10 Tadahito Iguchi Daiei/Softbank 2005 77-52-4 89-45-2 Medium
11 Kazuo Matsui Seibu 2004 77-61-2 74-58-1 Low
12 Masahide Kobayashi Lotte 2008 76-61-7 73-70-1 Low
13 Yasuhiko Yabuta Lotte 2008 76-61-7 73-70-1 Low
14 Takashi Saito Yokohama 2006 69-70-7 58-84-4 Low
15 Hideki Okajima Nippon Ham 2007 82-54-0 79-60-5 Low
16 Akinori Otsuka Chunichi 2004 73-66-1 79-56-3 Low
17 Shingo Takatsu Yakult 2004 71-66-3 72-62-2 Low
18 Tsuyoshi Shinjyo Hanshin 2001 57-78-1 57-80-3 Low
19 Keiichi Yabu Hanshin 2005 66-70-2 87-54-5 Low
20 So Taguchi Orix 2002 70-66-4 50-87-3 Low
21 Satoru Komiyama Yokohama 2002 69-67-4 49-86-5 Low
22 Kazuo Fukumori Rakuten 2008 67-75-2 65-76-3 Low
23 Norihiro Nakamura Kintetsu 2005 61-70-2 62-70-4 Low
24 Shinji Mori* Seibu 2006 67-69-0 80-54-2 Low
25 Yusaku Iriki* Nippon Ham 2006 62-71-3 82-54-0 Low
26 Masumi Kuwata Yomiuri 2007 65-79-2 80-63-1 Low

* I forgot about both these guys when compiling the original lists. Mori was successfully posted and signed with Tampa Bay, but got hurt in his first spring training and was never heard from again. Iriki played in the Mets and Blue Jays organizations, but got busted for PED usage and never reached the Majors. He resurfaced with Yokohama in 2008, but retired after the season.

** I left out Yukinaga Maeda as well.

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