Tag Archive > Masa Yamamoto

Offseason Changes: Chunichi Dragons

» 02 February 2011 » In npb » 6 Comments

Coming: Felix Carrasco, Joel Guzman, Takahiro Saeki, Tatsuo Kinoshita, Keisuke Mizuta

Going: Edward Valdez, Dionys Cesar, Ryota Arai

Staying: Wei-Yin Chen, Maximo Nelson, Kazuhiro Wada

Summary: When something works, stick with it. Though they did capture the Central League flag last season, Chunichi had the weakest offense in the league save for the BayStars. Let’s also remember that their margin over the other league contenders was a single game in the standings. But other than making a few cosmetic changes, the Dragons seem content to continue relying on quality pitching, a solid defense, and their mid-lineup hitters to put them on top again.

First, the pitching. The Dragons pitching staff had by far the lowest ERA in the CL last year, recording a 3.29 for the season. They allowed only 521 runs, nearly 100 better than their closest competitors. Japan’s best closer, Hitoki Iwase, will anchor the Nagoya side’s bullpen for a 13th season. Barring injury, numbers similar to last year’s 42 saves and 2.25 ERA are as close to a sure thing that the Dragons have. Working forward, Takuya Asao will again be an important cog in the bullpen, and expect Masafumi Hirai, Akinobu Shimizu, and Akifumi Takahashi to be leaned on for innings and appearances.

With 210 wins and Kimiyasu Kudoh idle, Masa Yamamoto takes the reigns as NPB’s active wins leader. He added 5 more in 2010, and will likely add a similar amount in 2011. But it was Wei-Ying Chen who led the staff in innings pitched, wins, and ERA last season. Expect him to be at the forefront of a very good corps again this season. Of note, the Dragons will need to find a replacement for starter Kazuki Yoshimi early on, as the righty had off-season elbow surgery and won’t be ready by Opening Day.

On the offensive side of the ball, the Dragons brought in Felix Carrasco and Joel Guzman from the American minor leagues to add offensive depth. Dionys Cesar didn’t get the job done and was let go. Make no mistake, though, it’s still Tony Blanco, Masahiko Morino, and Kazuhiro Wada who make up the core of a team that doesn’t get around the bases too quickly. Masahiro Araki is the only real stolen base threat on the squad. It remains to be seen if that core can perform to their 2010 level, and particularly if age will begin to catch up with Wada. He’ll turn 39 in June.

Manager and newly-minted Hall of Famer Hiromitsu Ochiai has reminded his team that they can be the first Dragons teams to ever win back-to-back pennants. With stiff competition from the Giants and Tigers, it should be another season long dogfight. Even if they don’t repeat as league champs, expect the Dragons to remain in the A Class for 2011 at a minimum.

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A Quick Look at Ken Takahashi

» 24 December 2008 » In mlb prospects » 9 Comments

Of this season’s credible Japanese import candidates, I’ve written by far the least about Hiroshima Carp lefty Ken Takahashi. The main reason for that is I’ve seen a lot more of Koji Uehara and Kenshin Kawakami, but I can still share a few observations on Takahashi.

Career thus far
Takahashi made his debut for the Carp in 1995 after being drafted in the 4th round out of Toyota of the Industrial Leagues. He spent the first few seasons of his career primarily as a reliever before moving into more of a starting role in 2001. His career stats aren’t particularly impressive, but note that he’s been a little more effective in the years he’s been able to start consistently. Note also that Takahashi that while Takahashi put up a better era in 2008, he regressed slightly in walks, strikeouts, and ba against. The big thing I noticed about Takahashi last year was that he was among the Central League era leaders until about June, and then faded down the stretch. I don’t have any data on this, but I don’t think it was high pitch counts that wore him out. Marty Brown limits his pitchers pitch counts, and Takahashi only threw about 100 pitches in his single complete game last year.

Mechanics & Stuff
Takahashi has a fairly straightforward delivery with a high kick; here’s a slow-motion YouTube video of it from October 2008. That video might not be quite enough for Driveline Mechanics to really dig into, though. Here’s a longer highlight reel from a 173 pitch, 10-hit shutout he threw back in 2002. Note that back then he used a two stage windup, where he would bring his leading leg up, then down but not quite back to the ground, then back up, then finally down again to complete his delivery. You can see a really good example of this around 2:18, where Takahashi strikes out Hideki Matsui*. The two stage windup was banned a couple of years ago, so Takahashi no longer uses it.

Takahashi throws a fastball, slider, sinker and curve, but I have also have a photo that clearly shows him throwing a circle change. Based on his walk numbers over the years I’d say his control isn’t phenomenal, but he is capable of keeping the ball down.

* He also gets Matsui at 1:17 of the same video.

What’s Next
Takahashi is looking for an MLB job this offseason, and apparently drawing some interest. The Carp have never qualified for the playoffs in his 14-year Hiroshima career, and seeing former teammate Hiroki Kuroda spray the champagne in celebration of the Dodgers’ division title was a motivating factor for him. According to an interview with Shukan Baseball from earlier in the year, seeing pitchers like Tsuyoshi Shimoyanagi
and Masa Yamamoto continue to have success into their 40’s has given Takahashi the courage to attempt the leap to MLB.

Given that Takahashi will be 40 next April and will have adjust to a full-time relief role in the America, I think he’s in for a little bit of an uphill battle. Still, he had a nice string of successful starts at the beginning of last season, is left handed and seems to have a couple of decent breaking pitches, so if he’s in the right role and environment I could see him being a useful pitcher. 

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NPB Bullet Points (2008/08/05)

» 05 August 2008 » In npb » Comments Off

English articles only today, and a fairly random collection.

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