Tag Archive > Marty Brown

Offseason Changes: Rakuten Golden Eagles

» 04 February 2011 » In npb » 4 Comments

Coming: Akinori Iwamura, Kazuo Matsui, Shinjya Okamoto, Kelvin Jimenez, Byung-Hyun Kim, manager Senichi Hoshino

Going: Kazuo Fukumori, Norihiro Nakamura, Makoto Kosaka, Ryuji Miyade, Todd Linden, Andy Phillips, Naoto Watanabe, Keiichi Yabu, manager Marty Brown

Staying: Hisashi Iwakuma, Darrell Rasner, Randy Ruiz, Juan Morillo

Summary: Rakuten’s 2011 offseason was headlined by two big events: the unsuccessful posting of ace Hisashi Iwakuma, and the hiring of accomplished manager Senichi Hoshino. Hoshino inherits a team that finished sixth last year, and is facing with losing its ace again.

I shared a few observations about the Iwakuma posting, and why in retrospect it was destined to fail, over at FanGraphs last month, so I won’t rehash that. From an on-the-field perspective, the Eagles are certainly more competitive with him than without him. He and heir apparent Masahiro Tanaka will lead a rotation that goes four deep; five if Kelvin Jimenez’s KBO success translates to Japan. Coincidentally, Rakuten’s two notable bullpen acquisitions came via Korea last year: Shinya Okamoto spent last season with the LG Twins, and the other is Byung-Hyun Kim. Those two along with the returning Juan Morillo give Hoshino a couple more relief options, which will help as Rakuten’s bullpen wasn’t particularly strong in 2010. But overall pitching was not really Rakuten’s problem last season. The Eagles allowed 635 runs and a 3.98 ERA, which was right in line with the all the Pacific League teams that don’t have Yu Darvish.

Rakuten’s problem in 2010 was an anemic offense. Only Nippon Ham hit fewer home runs than Rakuten’s 95, but the Fighters’ contact-hitting lineup still scored 36 more runs than the Eagles. Rakuten finished last or next to last in the Pacific League in runs scored, batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, steals, and intentional walks. This poor performance can mostly be attributed to four players: imports Todd Linden and Andy Phillips didn’t show up last year, and veteran sluggers Norihiro Nakamura and Takeshi Yamasaki experienced declines. Linden, Phillips and Nakamura are all gone this year, replaced in the lineup by a full season of Randy Ruiz and NPB returnees Akinori Iwamura and Kazuo Matsui. That group should outperform the guys who left, though Kazuo is a bit of a question mark for me. Yamasaki is getting old, but his 28 home runs and .749 OPS in 2010 were a respectable contribution. After that, the Eagles have perhaps Japan’s unheralded offensive star, Teppei, who despite his talent only gets a passing mention in this article. So the offense should be better, but even in the best case scenario it’s hard to see it being more than middle of the road in the Pacific League.

The last factor to discuss is the addition of Hoshino as manager. I see a few parallels with the last team he took over, the 2002 Hanshin Tigers. Hoshino is again inheriting a team coming off a last-place finish, succeeding Katsuya Nomura (though Nomura passed the Rakuten baton to Marty Brown for a season), with some some added veteran talent*. Hoshino got his Tigers off to a fast start in 2002, and though the team cooled off and eventually finished fourth, the improvement was real. The Tigers won the Central League handily in 2003 and have basically been competitive ever since. Hoshino will have less to work with in Sendai, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see his tenure with Rakuten take a similar path. He’ll be eager to exorcise any remaining demons from his stint managing Japan’s 2008 Olympic entry, a performance so disappointing it inspired a fan to set up a site protesting his involvement in the 2009 WBC. Rakuten definitely has the talent to compete for wins in 2011, though they probably won’t be in the mix for the Pacific League title. If they can take a step forward this season and build from there, Hoshino has a shot at wrapping up his distinguished managerial career on a high note.

*The 2002 Tigers brought in Atsushi Kataoka and George Arias. Tomoaki Kanemoto and Hideki Irabu joined in 2003.

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Looking back at 2010

» 13 January 2011 » In npb » 5 Comments

2010 was an eventful year for Nippon Pro Yakyu. Today we look back at some of the notable stories from the year that was.

Murton Hits

The story of individual accomplishment in 2010 easily went to Matt Murton. Murton, a 28-year-old journeyman toiling in America’s minor and major leagues, found sustained success with the Hanshin Tigers. Initially reluctant to play in Japan, he embraced Japanese baseball culture, all the while surpassing expectations and breaking a hitting record. In his first year in Japan, Murton batted .349/.395/.499 while driving in 91 runs. The powerful righty smashed 17 home runs and tattooed left-handed pitchers at a .408 clip. Most notably though, his 214 hits broke Ichiro’s NPB record for the most hits in a season. The total was only 58 fewer than he had recorded over a Major League Baseball career that spanned five seasons.

Lotte Wins

Finishing with a record of 75-67-2 (.528), the Chiba Lotte Marines just managed to edge out the Nippon Ham Fighters for third place in the Pacific League. While the Fighters missed the playoffs by ½ a game in the standings, the Marines took the postseason opportunity and ran with it.  Lotte won a pair of 1-run games against the Seibu Lions in the first stage of the Climax Series, setting them up for a showdown in Fukuoka. Against the favored Pacific League champion Hawks, Marines pitching held their opponent to 9 runs over the six game series. More surprisingly, Lotte didn’t allow a home run the entire series, while getting enough timely hitting to win four road games.

In the Japan Series, Lotte and the Chunichi Dragons traded wins and losses for the first four games, with Games 2 and 3 becoming lopsided affairs. Lotte won Game by by a 10-4 margin to take a 3 to 2 series lead. Things then got really crazy as the teams played 15 innings in the Nagoya Dome to a 2-2 Game 6 tie. Game 7 was a seesaw battle, as the Marines rallied from a 6-2 deficit and eventually took a 7-6 into the 9th inning. Chunichi sent the game to extra innings with a triple and ensuing sacrifice fly. In the 12th inning Lotte got a big triple of their own to win the game 8-7 and the Japan Series title. Toshiaki Imae batted .444 and was named the Series MVP. As a team the Marines hit .281 and won their 4th crown in team history.

Posting Hits & Misses

One year shy of international free agency, the Rakuten Eagles decided that the time was right to allow veteran starter (and 2008 Sawamura Award winner) Hisashi Iwakuma to pursue a career in MLB. While the posting system has worked well for others, Iwakuma’s case exposed the flaws in it. It was revealed that the Oakland Athletics had won the bidding, but the team and Iwakuma’s agent Don Nomura were unable to reach an agreement on a contract. Negotiations became contentious at times, and the 30 day negotiating window was allowed to expire. So the right-hander will find himself back in Sendai for the 2011. He will be free to determine his own career path without the use of the posting system after the season.

The other off-season posting went well. Tsuyoshi Nishioka, coming off a career year (.346/.423/.482) year and a championship, had his posting request granted by the Chiba Lotte Marines. The Minnesota Twins’ posting fee of around $5 million US was accepted, and Nishioka agreed to a 3-year/$9.25 million contract in December. The contract has an option for a 4th year at $4 million.

It seems as if every off-season fans on both sides of the Pacific go through a round of Yu Darvish posting speculation. This winter was no different, even though the result was the same. Though he remained unsigned into December, Darvish used social media to assure his fans that he would pitch for the Fighters in 2011. Though his marital life and divorce proceedings became fodder for the tabloids, Darvish’s career is in fine shape, as he rightfully became Japan’s highest paid player (500 million yen) for 2011.

Brown Departs

Replacing a legend is one of the hardest things to do in sports. In 2010 Marty Brown learned that lesson the hard way.

Tagged to replace aging legend and previous manager Katsuya Nomura, Brown didn’t exactly come to Sendai with stellar career numbers. His stint in Hiroshima had been unimpressive at 256-306-16 and three 5th place finishes. He was nevertheless tagged to replace an unhappy Nomura who had led Rakuten to a 2nd place finish the year before. Unfortunately for Brown and Rakuten fans, the team crashed out of the pennant race early and wound up in last place at 62-79-3. Motohiro Shima’s superb season couldn’t save Brown’s job, though, as he was dumped and replaced with Senichi Hoshino for 2011.

The Saito Generation Begins

Though the season had ended for 10 of 12 NPB teams, the 2010 draft gave fans a reason to stay in touch with baseball in late October. Yuki Saito, coined “The Handkerchief Prince” after his captivating performance during 2006 Summer Koshien, was draft eligible. He and teammate Tatsuya Ohishi had been part of a formidable pitching staff for Waseda University in the ensuing years, capping off a stellar college career with a final game championship in Tokyo Big6 play.

When it came to draft day, both pitchers were highly sought after, with four teams submitting Saito’s name in the draft lottery. Somewhat surprisingly, Nippon Ham came away the winner, setting off ‘Saito-mania’ in Hokkaido.

In Memoriam

Sadly, 2010 didn’t pass without tragedy. In early February, 24-year old outfielder Hiroyuki Oze was found dead outside his Miyakojima spring training hotel. The cause of death was ruled a suicide. Various tributes to the young Orix player were held early in the season in his memory.

Equally shocking came the sudden death of Giants coach Takuya Kimura in April. Kimura-coach was hitting ground balls to his team in Hiroshima when he suddenly collapsed from what was later diagnosed as a brain hemmorage. On April 7th, five days after the initial incident, the 37-year old Kimura passed away.

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Marty Brown Done in Hiroshima

» 04 October 2009 » In nichibei, npb » 3 Comments

Hiroshima’s most recent loss eliminated the team from playoff convention, thus preventing manager Marty Brown’s automatic one-year extension clause for making the playoffs from kicking in. So Marty is done after the season, and next year the Carp will be managed by former shortstop Kenjiro Nomura.

Marty spent four seasons running Hiroshima, a time that saw the Carp generally more competitive than Yakult and Yokohama but still unable to crack the A-class. I thought the Carp were on their way up after finishing 69-70-5and missing the playoffs by two games last year, but they were not able to sustain that performance this year.

This is purely speculation on my part, but I could see Marty returning to the Cleveland organization, where he managed at 3A prior to joining the Carp.

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NPB Bullet Points (2009/08/04)

» 04 August 2009 » In npb » 2 Comments

It feels like it’s been a while since I’ve actually written about baseball. Let’s get up to speed with a few bullet points.

Japanese Stories:

English Stories:

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NPB Bullet Points: Records and Oddities

» 17 June 2009 » In npb » 4 Comments

It’s been an interesting week in Pro Yakyu, and here are the links to prove it. All of the articles below are either pictures or in English.
  • The Chiba Lotte Marines’ dedicated fans presented team management with a petition signed by 112,493 to keep Bobby Valentine in Makuhari next year. The bald guys is the one who collected the signatures.
  • Marty Brown went with a five-man infield in the 12th inning of the Carp’s saturday game with the Lions, and it actually worked. With the bases loaded and one out, Brown brought Tetsuya Okubo in from left and put him in between short and third. The Lions pitch hitter Haruki Kurose grounded one right at him, and Okubo threw home for a rare 7-2-3 double play.
  • Yu Darvish won his eighth game of the season on Friday and also high-fived these TV personalities.
  • Craig Brazell fouled three straight pitches off himself Friday against Lotte, then hit a home run. (thanks to reader bloodsmurf for the video)
  • Yakult set an NPB record by getting hits in 11 straight at bats, which they did in the fifth inning of their 14-10 win over Orix on June 14. Tsubamegun has a nice write-up of Yakult’s big inning.
  • Just a few days before Yakult offensive explosion, Lotte cranked out 10 straight hits as part of a 15-run inning. Steve Novosel caught it in hi-res. Also from Steve is this pic of a couple maiko (geisha) at a Marines game.
  • Naoya Washiya has signed his first professional contract with Washington. He’ll start his career in rookie ball.
  • We’ll wrap this one up with a couple of photoposts from Deanna and Matt.

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NPB Bullet Points (2008/10/28)

» 28 October 2008 » In npb » Comments Off

A few links to pass along this morning…

Japanese Articles:

English Articles:

 

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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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NPB Bullet Points

» 25 June 2008 » In npb » Comments Off

This feature is inspired by mlbtraderumors.com‘s Odds and Ends piece.

  • Marty Brown wants to continue managing Hiroshama beyond this season. Brown is in the last year of a three year contract, and the ownership is looking for a top three finish. Hiroshima is in fourth now, just behind the Giants. Here’s hoping Brown gets to manage in Hiroshima’s new stadium.
  • Orix is looking into signing former major leaguer Jon Koronka. Koronka has appeared in the bigs with the Rangers and Cubs but currently isn’t under contract with an MLB affilated team.
  • Hanshin is scouting infielder Lee Dae-Ho of the Lotte Giants of the Korean League as an acquisition target. The ’06 KBO triple crown winner doesn’t reach free agency until after the ’09 season, so if the Tigers are going to get him it’ll have to be some other way.

Note: all links are to Japanese language sources.

Edit: Corrected spelling of Lee Dae-Ho. Thanks East Windup Chroricle.

Edit again: See also Marinerds, etc’s NPB Roundup.

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