Tag Archive > Matt Murton

NPB Bullet Points: Ouen-dan, Wakui, Darvish, Orix Uniforms

» 08 January 2011 » In mlb prospects, nichibei, npb, npb draft, NPB Tracker » 10 Comments

Before I get caught up on my more analytical pieces, here’s about a week’s worth of news items:

  • The Yomiuri Giants have broken up the Tokyo Yomiuri Kyojin-gun Ouen-dan (Tokyo Yomiuri Giants Cheering Club) over “improper re-sale of game tickets”.
  • Seibu ace Hideaki Wakui is having a hard time reaching an agreement with the Lions on his 2011 salary. It’s reportedly possible that he won’t have a contract signed by the time camp opens, and thus have to pay his way there.
  • Chiba Marine Stadium has been rechristened QVC Marine Field. Yes, that’s QVC, the television shopping network.
  • Sponichi points out that, in addition to being the son of former Chunichi Dragon Mark Ryal, Rusty Ryal was also the guy that hit a line drive off Hiroki Kuroda’s head back in 2009.
  • The Yukan Fuji paper published an article about Bill James projections found at my other haunt, Fangraphs.com. The headline was James’ projection that Koji Uehara would save 31 games with a 2.81 ERA for the Orioles this upcoming season.
  • According to Sankei News, the Chiba Lotte Marines took in 8bn yen in revenue in 2010, the highest figure in team history. While the club finished 2bn yen in the red, they lost 1.3bn yen less than the previous year, and the 8bn yen represents a quadrupling in revenue since 2004. Winning the Nippon Series and posting Tsuyoshi Nishioka helped boost Lotte’s income.
  • Despite being in great shape, former Yokohama and Orix player Katsuaki Furuki got his face bashed in his fighting debut.
  • Yu Darvish’s New Year’s Resolutions are to read two books per month, and watch movies that he doesn’t typically like. His intent is to “refine his sensitivity” (“感性を磨けるかなって理由です(^^)”).
  • Darvish’s Nippon Ham teammate, incoming rookie Yuki Saito, wants to play until he’s 50.
  • Here’s a great pic of Hiroshima ace Kenta Maeda working out with a medicine ball.
  • Lotte managed to sign their 6th-round draft pick, USC right Shuhei Fujiya. Fujiya gets Johnny Kuroki’s number 54.
  • Orix has unveiled their new uniforms. I’m a little disappointed, I thought they would change them more. I think they should have brought back the old Kintetsu Buffaloes logo, at least on an arm patch or something.
  • And finally, one in English: speaking to ESPN, Matt Murton called going to Japan “100 percent the best decision I made.”

Continue reading...

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

NPB Bullet Points: Year End Blowout

» 26 December 2010 » In npb » 20 Comments

Alright, it has been a while since I’ve done one of these posts, but I have been reading. Here’s a list of stories I’ve gathered up over the last month, in roughly chronological order. Most of the source content is Japanese but there are a few English items in there.

  • Back in early December, Osamu Yamamoto of the Chugoku Shimbun shed some light on the Hiroshima Carp’s US scouting practices, and shared some evaluations of players that the Carp signed over the last few years. Among this year’s signings, Dennis Sarfate graded at the top of the team’s five point scale with an A, while Chad Tracy and Bryan Bullington punched in a notch below at the AB level. Hiroshima has also added former Carp player Scott McClain as a second US-based scout.
  • Yakult lefty Masato Nakazawa has gotten married.
  • Speaking of weddings, Yankees lefty farmhand Naoya Okamoto attended one in Kyoto, where he bumped into several former teammates. Judging by the pictures, I’m concerned Okamoto may have joined a gang (笑).
  • A personal favorite of mine, Nagisa Arakaki has signed for 25% pay cut next season. Once upon a time I thought Arakaki was Japan’s next great pitcher, but he’s been done in by injuries. Hopefully he’s able to come back, but I fear his days as a power pitcher are over.
  • Kengo Kubo of Nikkan Sports fills us in on Yomiuri Giants representative Hidetoshi Kiyotake’s ideas for increasing Japanese participation abroad, including establishing a “Team Japan” to play in overseas winter leagues. This year, six players including Yoshiyuki Kamei played in Australia. Hopefully I’ll find some time to write more about this subject because there are some interesting ideas out there.
  • Sanpo reports that Yusei Kikuchi has signed a management contract with talent agency HoriPro, the first active baseball player to do so.
  • Norichika Aoki’s 2011 goal is to surpass Ichiro’s record of 210 hits within the first 130 games of the season. Incidentally, Ichiro’s 1994 pace translates to 232 hits over the current 144-game schedule.
  • Hiroshima’s Kenta Maeda was quoted in Sanspo as saying he’d like to “try going to the Majors”, in response to a question from pro golfer Mika Miyazato. However, a couple days after he said this, Gen over at Yakyubaka.com found him contradicting himself.
  • Former Yakult Swallow Jaime D’Antona was on the field when Matt Murton broke Ichiro’s hits record, and shared his thoughts on the official Swallows blog. Here’s an excerpt: “It was great also, since it was at Jingu,to see our fans appreciate his achievement and cheer for him with the Tigers fans. That showed a lot of class for our fans and proves we have great baseball fans, not just all or nothing Swallows fans. I think that is important in sports and you don’t see that too often.” I caught this one via the Tokyo Swallows Twitter feed, and recommend following them if you happen to use Twitter.
  • Yoshiaki Kanemura looks back on Hideo Nomo’s historic move to the Dodgers.
  • Like Aoki, Softbank’s Munenori Kawasaki is taking aim at the single-season hits record next year. As part of his offseason training, he’s working on hitting bad pitches. Last year, Kawasaki finished just behind Murton, Aoki and Tsuyoshi Nishioka with a Hawks-record 190 hits.
  • The great Mister-Baseball.com has covered the Australian Baseball League this season, which Kamei and Shuhei Fukuda participated in.
  • Deanna attended some bounenkai (year-end) parties and found this cool glass.
  • Nikkan Sports reports that Rusty Ryal will by paid 100m yen (lazy conversion: $1.2m) and play third base for Yomiuri. Rusty’s dad Mark played for Chunichi.
  • Yomiuri’s Kiyotake commented again on Winter Leagues on the 24th in Sanspo, saying that he had a “request for players from Puerto Rico”, and that he wants to get players “opportunities in competitive games overseas.”

Continue reading...

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Foreign Player Hits & Misses: Central League

» 19 November 2010 » In npb » 6 Comments

Every year sees a new crop of foreign players in Japan. 2010 was no different, and several newcomers to NPB were smashing successes, while others completely missed the mark this past season. Let’s take a look at some in the Central League:

Hits

Matt Murton, outfielder, Hanshin Tigers.

Easily the foreign-born player of the year (and perhaps the story of the year), Murton’s season was a record setter. A career .286 hitter over five seasons in Major League Baseball, Murton put up a stunning .349/.395/.499 batting line in his rookie season with Hanshin. He set a new Japanese single season hits record with 214, while leading his team with 105 runs scored. He also knocked in 91 runs while helping the Tigers to a second place finish. As an example of Murton’s batting prowess, he had seven games with four or more hits, and only went hitless in 28 (he played in all 144). Murton will undoubtedly be back playing for the Tigers in 2011, perhaps as their everyday right fielder, as they have already picked up his option for next season.

Brett Harper, infielder, Yokohama Bay Stars.

Harper was a pretty good mid-season find for a team that crashed to a 95 loss season.

Harper’s final line over his partial 2010 season read .316/.395/.596. That slugging percentage would have easily led the team if Harper had gotten enough playing time to qualify for leader boards. He hit 19 home runs in only 261 plate appearances. Harper looks like a keeper for 2011.

Josh Whitesell, infielder, Yakult Swallows.

Another mid-season pickup, Whitesell was a pretty good find for Yakult. The 28 year-old left handed hitter poked 15 home runs on his way to a .309/.399/.591 line. While he only saw action in 68 games he provides the Swallows with a pretty good first base option going forward. Like many first basemen he struck out at a high clip (71 times), but hit .359 with runners in scoring position. It looks as if Yakult will invite him back to Japan in 2011, though the sample size for his numbers is limited by his late start.

Giancarlo Alvarado, pitcher, Hiroshima Carp.

Alvarado seemed to be the only foreigner on Hiroshima’s staff whose season wasn’t a disappointment. The Puerto Rican right-hander provided a poor Hiroshima club with an 8-8, 4.07 ERA in 119 1/3 innings. The eight wins were good for second-highest on the team (Kenta Maeda earned 15) and his ERA was a full run lower than fellow newcomer Eric Stults’. Slightly concerning were Alvarado’s 4 wild pitches and team high 5 balks.

Misses

Justin Huber, infielder, Hiroshima Carp.

The Carp didn’t have any foreign hitters with pop in their bat like they have had in previous seasons (Alex Ochoa, Scott McClain, Scott Seabol, and Andy Phillips come to mind). Huber certainly didn’t hit the ball out of the park very often, and didn’t hit it much elsewhere either. In his 80 games Huber batted .220 for a team that didn’t improve their win total very much under new manager Kenjiro Nomura. Huber (like most of the rest of the 2010 Carp foreigners) was a washout.

Casey Fossum, pitcher, Hanshin Tigers.

2010 was not a productive season for the left-handed Fossum. Originally signed to be used as a starter, management changed course with him and tried him out of the bullpen. In 12 games at the ichi-gun level Fossum allowed 36 earned runs over 56 2/3 innings for an unsightly 5.72 ERA and 2-5 record. A demotion to ni-gun helped his numbers, as he posted a 3.10 ERA in 18 games at that level with a single win (1-0). Signed for only one year, the Tigers officially cut ties with Fossum in October.

Dionys Cesar, infielder/outfielder, Chunichi Dragons.

Cesar, a utility infielder who played in the Mexican League prior to coming to Japan, was a disappointment in 2010. Converted to the outfield, the switch-hitter batted a paltry .215 with a single home run (.215/244/.269). He struck out 45 times and walked only 7 times in 194 plate appearances. Chunichi cut ties with the Dominican at the end of the 2010 season.

Tony Barnette, pitcher, Yakult Swallows.

Barnette will not be offered a contract for 2011 after a rather poor 2010 performance. He posted a lackluster 5.99 ERA era at the ichi-gun level over 16 games (79 2/3 IP, 4-5 record). With Yakult’s ni-gun team the results were equally sub-par: 1 win, 3 losses, a 5.03 ERA over 34 innings.

One for debate

Jose Castillo, infielder, Yokohama Bay Stars.

In his first year in Japan, Castillo provided a .273/.309./446 year as Yokohama’s primary second baseman. He led the team with 16 errors and drew only 22 walks, which kept his OBP low. On the plus side, his 19 home runs were good for a third place tie on the team. It appears that despite his power, Yokohama will look for a player to replace Castillo in 2011.

Continue reading...

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

NPB Bullet Points: The Month That Was

» 02 October 2010 » In mlb prospects, nichibei, npb » 4 Comments

Okay, time to hit the “play” button again. Here’s a recap of many of the notable events that happened while I was away.

  • SoftBank took the Pacific League title despite ultimately winning two fewer games than Seibu. Ties to the rescue! SoftBank tied five games to Seibu’s one, which was enough to put them a few win percentage points ahead.
  • Chunichi has also clinched the Central League crown. It was a come-from-behind year for the Dragons, as they trailed Yomiuri and Hanshin for most of the season before getting hot at the right time in September while their rivals slumped. Hanshin and Yomiuri are not finished with their schedules, and could both still catch up on wins, but not eclipse Chunichi’s winning percentage.
  • Prior to 2010, only three NPB players had reached 200 hits in a season: Ichiro (210 in 1994), Norichika Aoki (202 in 2005) and Alex Ramirez (204 in 2007). This year, we can add three more to the list: Lotte’s Tsuyoshi Nishioka with 204, Hanshin’s Matt Murton with 209, and Yakult’s Aoki with 204. Both Murton and Aoki both have games remaining and are poised to surpass Ichiro’s mark, although Ichiro got his 210 hits in 130 games while Murton and Aoki get 144. Media coverage of the record chase has been predictably biased towards Aoki, kind of like “Aoki has five games to get six hits to match Ichiro! Oh by the way, Murton only needs one hit and has more games to play.” Oh well, at least Murton’s not getting walked.
  • Nishioka beat Ichiro’s record for more modasho (three hits or more) games, with 27. Ichiro’s mark of 26 came in that magical 1994 season.
  • Another record this season is Chunichi middle reliver Takuya Asao’s astonishing 59 hold points (hold points = holds + relief wins). Asao figured in 59 of Chunichi’s 79 wins.
  • This just in — Murton has tied Ichiro’s record with a single against Hiroshima.
  • Rakuten manager Marty Brown attempted and failed to dig up second base in an argument with an umpire on September 23. Later in the week, Rakuten sent him packing, a year before his contract expired. The Eagles struggled to a last place, 62-79-3 finish this year, mostly due to an anemic offense.
  • The Yokohama BayStars are for sale. Hama’s current parent company, TBS Holdings, is in negotiations with a couple of potential buyers and the current leading candidate appears to be the Juseikatsu Group, a holdings company that owns numerous suppliers of household goods. There was some speculation that the team could move or be contract, but the current TBS management has come out and said that won’t happen. Once upon a time, Bobby Valentine was linked to a group that tried to purchase the BayStars. I wouldn’t mind seeing that idea revisited.
  • The “Yu Darvish to be posted” have spun out of control over the last couple weeks. I haven’t seen anything other than speculation and quotes from anonymous sources though. I’m still skeptical on him being posted this offseason, though as it makes no sense for Nippon Ham competitively and little sense economically. Very much in wait and see mode here.
  • On the other hand, I think Hisashi Iwakuma will be posted this offseason. He’s a free agent after 2011, so Rakuten is going to lose him anyway.
  • Yomiuri signed that “mystery Domican player” on September 27. His name turns out to be Noel Urena, he’s 21 and plays catcher and infield, though Yomiuri is having him work at third base.
  • The Yankees signed former Yokohama BayStar Naoya Okamoto to a minor league contract. Okamoto had spent the 2010 season in Mexico.

Continue reading...

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

2010 At The Half

» 27 July 2010 » In npb » 5 Comments

This post is a little late — we’re officially in the second half of the season as the first post-All-Star games were played on Monday. The All-Star game is only a symbolic marker anyway though, as all the NPB teams have played at least 87 games out of the 144-game schedule. Still it’s a good time to take stock of the season that’s been played so far. Here are some thoughts conveniently split up into three categories.

A few general observations:

  • The Central League is again a three-team race between Yomiuri, Hanshin, and Chunichi. This makes the playoff race somewhat uninteresting but the playoffs themselves should be good.
  • The Pacific League is much more balanced, with SoftBank, Seibu, and Lotte nine or more games over .500, Orix even and Nippon Ham one game under. Rakuten is in the cellar at 40-49, but they have the second best pitching results in the league and could get into contention for a playoff spot if they start to hit.
  • We’re seeing a strong performances from a number of starting pitchers.

Follow up from previous posts:

  • The answers to my six storylines so far: no, yes, unfortunately not, maybe, yes/not yet, probably none.
  • Yokohama is again a doormat. I thought they’d be a little more competitive this year.
  • My rookies to watch are either injured (Yusei, Kazuhito Futagami, Takashi Ogino), fat (Ryoji Nakata) or Hisayoshi Chono (Chono).
  • A couple of the imports I put on my watch list, Matt Murton and Kim Tae-Gyun, have taken off in Japan. Gio Alvarado is getting it together as well.
  • The veterans I picked to watch have mostly been duds, which isn’t a surprise as I deliberately listed a bunch of guys with question marks. That said, Yoshinobu Takahashi is having a nice bounce back season, Aarom Baldiris has contributed some a performance to Orix, and Sho Nakata is showing some signs of life.

NPB Tracker mid-season awards:

  • My first half MVPs: Central League – Kazuhiro Wada (Chunichi), Pacific League - Hiroyuki Nakajima (Seibu)
  • First half Sawamura Award winner: Kenta Maeda (Hiroshima)
  • First half RoYs: Central League – Chono (Yomiuri), Pacific League – Ogino (Lotte) despite missing significant time on the injured list
  • Breakout players: Central League – Shun Tohno (Yomiuri), Pacific League – T-Okada (Orix)

Continue reading...

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Deadline Talent

» 19 July 2010 » In nichibei, npb » 3 Comments

Last autumn, I compiled a list of guys who I thought would be good candidates to play in NPB this season. A couple of them made it over, most did not.

I didn’t rank my selections, but there were four guys that I liked better than the rest. One of them was Matt Murton (easy for me to say now, yes); let’s take a look at how the others have done Stateside this season:

  • Mike Hessman – having a 3A career year with a .985 OPS, but missed time with a stress fracture in his right hand, and is just beginning to rehab.
  • Lenny DiNardo – was having a typical DiNardo 3A campaign with a 3.52 ERA and plenty of groundball outs, but has been on the shelf since late May, I believe with a hamstring injury.
  • Kevin Frandsen -bounced from San Francisco to Boston to Anaheim, and is currently on the Angels’ 25-man roster. My FanGraphs colleague Marc Hulet gave his work with the Angels a moderate thumbs up a couple weeks ago. For what it’s worth, I kind of saw Frandsen as a spiritual successor to Bobby Rose in Yokohama.

Suffice to say, none of these guys will be playing in Japan this season. The July 31 player acquisition deadline is looming, and more than half the NPB teams have looked outside of Japan for reinforcements, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Hayden Penn turned out to be the last.

Continue reading...

Tags: , , , , ,

NPB Bullet Points: Foreign Players

» 13 July 2010 » In npb » 4 Comments

A few notes on NPB’s sukketo-tachi, all in Japanese.

  • Retired Cuban slugger Omar Linares, who spent the last few years of his career in Japan with Chunichi, is returning to Japan as a coach for Cuba’s entry in this year’s World University Baseball Championship.
  • Hanshin is saying they’re going to keep both Craig Brazell (30 HR) and Matt Murton (.351 AVG) for 2011. Brazell will be a free agent and figures to get a hefty raise from the $800k he’s earning, while Murton, according to the linked article, has a second year on his contract which is structured as a buyout. I’ve seen this referred to in other articles as an option, which I guess is functionally similar. Either way, the team gets to choose whether to keep him in 2011, though a buyout suggests there is a payment attached if they don’t. That would seem to make it even more of a no-brainer.
  • Speaking of Murton, he and Kenji Johjima visited the Osaka University Children’s Hospital on their off-day Monday.
  • Brett Harper is off to a torrid start in Japan — 10 for his first 21 with 3 HR. Here’s a pic of him connecting off Kenta Maeda on the 13th.
  • Orix has placed new signee Francisco Caraballo on it’s regular roster, and passed on signing Hyang-Nam Choi.

Continue reading...

Tags: , , , , ,

NPB Bullet Points: The Season Thus Far

» 11 April 2010 » In mlb, nichibei, npb » 10 Comments

News and notes on the season so far

…In Japanese:

  • Juan Morillo has been demoted to ni-gun. Unfortunately, his lack of command has translated to NPB. His velocity has been as advertised though.
  • On the flipside, Matt Murton is off to a hot start in Japan, having reached base safely in all 13 games so far this season. His slash line is a robust .407/.484/.556.
  • Takayuki Kishi took a no-hitter into the 7th against Orix on the 6th, and finished with a one-hit shutout. Bonus points to those of you who can recall Japan’s last no-hitter.
  • Tsuyoshi Wada set a new career best with 15 strikeouts against Lotte on April 8.
  • The Hanshin Tigers picked up lefty Yusuke Kawasaki for cash from the Chiba Lotte Marines. The last trade that Hanshin made with Lotte worked out pretty well for the Tigers, netting them Yasuyuki Kubo.
  • The Japanese baseball media has an uncanny ability find and point out obscure streaks. Examples? Last week, Nippon Ham’s Kensuke Tanaka’s streak at-bats without hitting into a double play ended at 862. On the 11th, Hiroshima’s Tomonori Maeda went yard for the first time in 686 days.
  • In a rather forward-thinking move, Nippon Ham is limiting Yu Darvish’s pitch counts to 120 per start. Darvish surpassed 140 pitches in two of his first three starts, and Ham is concerned about keeping him healthy for the whole season.
  • Belated congratulations to Shingo Takatsu, who has now saved games in Japan, the US, Korea and Taiwan. I hope he plays Winter League ball somewhere this year.

…and in English:

Continue reading...

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Opening Weekend Notes

» 30 March 2010 » In npb » 2 Comments

Alright, so NPB is officially in season… here are some observations from the games this weekend:

  • Yu Darvish looked better this weekend against the Marines than he did last weekend, at least in the parts of the game I was able to see. He definitely had his good slider. Darvish also came up with a new pitch called the “one-seam”, but I have no idea if he used it in the Marines game.
  • Shunsuke Watanabe’s pitching seems to have gotten slower, unbelievably.
  • The game I spent the most time with was Sunday’s matchup of Rakuten vs Seibu. Seibu’s Kazuyuki Hoashi doesn’t have great velocity, but was sharp with all his pitches, and commanded the strike zone well. Of course, it didn’t hurt that he got to face Todd Linden three times. Masahiro Tanaka went home with the win, though he was a little less impressive than usual. It was freezing cold (it started snowing at one point) and the ball wasn’t carrying, so a couple of long fly balls he gave up turned into outs and not home runs. Dee Brown has looked terrible every time I’ve seen him this year.
  • Hanshin’s two import bats are off to hot starts. Through Tuesday’s action, Matt Murton is hitting .500 (8/16) and Kenji Johjima is at .389 with 5 rbi.
  • Orix is a surprising 6-1 so far this season.
  • Hayato Doue made his ichi-gun debut last weekend (thanks to Yakyu Baka; I wouldn’t have noticed this otherwise). You might remember Doue as the catcher the Red Sox signed but couldn’t get a visa for. After his Red Sox flirtation, he played another year in Indy ball, got drafted as an ikusei player, spent a year in the minors, and finally earned a promotion to the NPB show.

Continue reading...

Tags: , , , , , ,

Six 2010 Season Storylines

» 18 March 2010 » In npb » 2 Comments

The Pacific League opener is nearly upon us. Here are a couple of storylines I’ll have my eye on this year:

  • Have the Yokohama BayStars done enough to contend for a playoff spot this year? — Yokohama added 12 new players this offseason, most of whom are veterans intended to help the 2010 club. Will it be enough to compete for a third place finish? My gut feeling is that Yokohama’s pitching is still a little lacking, but if they get a bunch of career years… you never know.
  • Shane Spencer… Lew Ford… Kevin Mench… Matt Murton? Have the Hanshin Tigers gotten it right this year?
  • Are the Rakuten Golden Eagles Pacific League title contenders this year? The Eagles finished second last year despite predictable regression from Hisashi Iwakuma, a mediocre bullpen and some major lineup gaps. Have they plugged enough holes to win the Pacific this year?
  • Can either Hanshin or Chunichi unseat Yomiuri as the Central League champion? The Kyojin-gun has a three-year stranglehold on the Se-League. Is this a new dynasty or do the Tigers or Dragons have enough to knock ‘em back? Or even Yakult?
  • What will Yu Darvish do this year? Will he mundanely post a fourth straight sub-2.00 era, sub-1.00 whip season? Will he throw a no-hitter?
  • How much of Yusei Kikuchi will we see at the top level this year? He’s already been penciled in to the ni-gun rotation to start the season.

The Pacific League opens on March 20. I’ll try to do some kind of live chat, so stay tuned for details.

Continue reading...

Tags: , ,