Tag Archive > Mike Hessman

2011 Uniform Roundup, Volume 1

» 24 May 2011 » In mlb, npb » 10 Comments

It’s time again for my semi-annual NPB uniform roundup. This year, I’ve decided to break things up into two posts, so look out for another one later in the season, after more alternative unis are introduced.

  • Orix has been wearing these throwback Hankyu Braves uniforms off and on. The most retro-looking guy is probably Mike Hessman.
  • I hope to one day see Orix revive the old Kintetsu Buffaloes uniform and logo. I figure if they can advertise one Osaka-area railway (Hankyu) they can do the same for another (Kintetsu).
  • Rakuten has only been around for seven seasons, so they don’t exactly have throwback uniforms… but that isn’t stopping them from running out these 1980’s Houston Astros knock-offs.
  • I don’t know if I’ll ever get used to Nippon Ham’s gold road uniforms. One thing that’s kind of cool about the new Fighters uniform is the tag on the inside of the collar, which has four stars representing the Japan Series title and three Pacific League titles that Nippon Ham has won in recent years.
  • Hanshin has a spotty record when it comes to alternative uniforms, but this they’re going with these classic Osaka Tigers threads.
  • This one isn’t an NPB uniform, but former Yomiuri and Yokohama closer Marc Kroon suited up in this Homestead Grays throwback for a 3A game a few weeks ago.
  • Here’s last year’s uniform post. And 2009’s. Results may vary with the links on those pages.

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NPB Bullet Points: Fukui Wins, Hessman Hits, Balentien Hits Way More

» 04 May 2011 » In npb » 1 Comment

Notes to pass along from the last few days of NPB action.

  • Hiroshima pitcher Yuya Fukui posted an emotional win over Yokohama on May 3rd. It was the heralded rookie’s first win since April 20, when his older brother Ryuichi died in a car accident. Ryuichi advised Yuya against signing with Yomiuri when they drafted him in the fourth round out of high school.
  • Takafumi Nakamura, who played last year in the Indians organization, is back in Japan with Shinano of the independent BC League. The lanky righty is hoping to advance to NPB.
  • According to Nikkan Sports, Yomiuri has passed on moving lefty Adam Bright from the ikusei roster to the regular 70-man roster (shihaika).
  • New Orix import Mike Hessman collected his first NPB hit off none other than Yu Darvish, noting that he “had seen him at the Beijing Olympics” and “was glad to get a hit off such a good pitcher.”
  • Hanshin sluggers Takashi Toritani, Takahiro Arai and Craig Brazell hit back-to-back-to-back home runs on May 4th, recalling the fabled 1985 san renpatsu (three consecutive blasts) starring Randy Bass, Masayuki Kakefu, and Akinobu Okada. I couldn’t find video of this week’s renpatsu, so here’s the 1985 version.
  • Wladimir Balentien is off to a hot start in Japan: .387/.487/.885 slash line, nine home runs 61 at bats, and 13 walks against 12 strikeouts.

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Game Notes: Baseball Returns to Sendai

» 28 April 2011 » In npb » 2 Comments

Summary: I decided to finish up my lingering notes from a game I watched a couple days ago. Rakuten beat Orix 3-1

Last Friday, pro yakyu returned to the Tohoku region, with the Rakuten Golden Eagles playing their first home game of the season in Sendai. The timing was actually not bad, as the game coincided with the opening of the Golden Week holidays. I guess that probably wasn’t unintentional. Anyway, a pretty good crowd was on hand for the game, and they were treated to a brisk, well-pitched match, and a Rakuten win.

The final score was 3-1, but the game could have gone either way. Rakuten starter Masahiro Tanaka went the distance, and was sharp the whole way through. He didn’t get into any remotely threatening situations until his third trip through the Buffaloes lineup. He didn’t have to look back to see a runner on second base until the 7th inning, and it took a Kazuo Matsui throwing error in the 8th for Orix to get a run in.

As good as Tanaka was, I thought Chan Ho Park was a little better. Park was a groundball machine against the Eagles. I didn’t see him elevate a single pitch in the innings I watched, and only a couple balls hit in the air reached the outfield. The only blemish, for me, was that he didn’t generate many swinging strikes.

Rakuten has a fairly punchless lineup so it’ll be interesting to see how Park fares against some of Japan’s better offenses, after the league has had a look at him.

Here are some other miscellaneous observations from my notes the game:

  • Mike Hessman made his first appearance since April 12, pinch hitting for catcher Fumihito Suzuki in the 7th. He waved at a couple sliders before making contact with a fastball, popping it to short center.
  • This was the first time in a couple weeks that I saw Akinori Iwamura, who’s struggled this year with a sub-.200 batting average. The one noticeable adjustment that he had made was that he’s moved closer to the plate. Earlier in the year, he was way off it.
  • T-Okada is an interesting hitter to watch. It’s hard to see from the normal TV angle, but he’s a front-leg hitter. He’s got a way of compressing his strength on his back leg as the pitch is being delivered, then springing forward with this swing and unloading all that energy. It worked pretty well in the 4th, when there was no one on base and he wasn’t trying to do too much, but in the 7th, when he was trying to hit a home run, he struck out.
  • It looked like most of the seats in the stadium were occupied, but there was one section on the first base side that was weirdly completely empty. I wonder if that section is closed due to post-quake safety issues.
  • One notable attendee was US ambassador to Japan John Roos.

 

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Game Notes: Karakawa Dominates Orix

» 27 April 2011 » In npb » 2 Comments

Last night I caught most of Lotte’s 12-1 drubbing of Orix. Here are my notes.

  • The story of the day was Yuki Karakawa. As his 8 IP, 12 K, 3 H, 1 ER line suggests, Karakawa was masterful. He had command of everything he threw, and great movement on all his breaking stuff, particularly his changeup. I wouldn’t call Karakawa’s fastball an “out pitch”, but he was able to get a couple swinging strikeouts with by setting batters up with his breaking pitches.
  • It was windy in Chiba. The scoreboard consistently showed wind speeds of 12-13m, though I must plead ignorance to exactly what metric they use. Fly balls carried to right field, and high pop ups were nearly unplayable. Orix was collectively charged with three errors on dropped foul pop-ups, and Seung-Yeop Lee missed a fourth. It was pretty harsh to call those drops “errors” as they were all extremely tough plays.
  • Orix starter Hayato Terahara wasn’t quite as bad as his 6.0 IP, 8 ER line would have you believe. All of the damage was done in two innings, the 2nd and the 7th, but he did scatter mistake pitches throughout the game.
  • Terahara’s four run 2nd inning was really the turning point of the game. All of the damage came with two outs, and Lotte’s hitters handled Terahara’s mostly better stuff. Shoitsu Ohmatsu singled on a 147 kmph fastball, Tomoya Satozaki took a walk, Takumi Kohbe singled off a mistake fastball over the plate, Toshiaki Imae hit an opposite field triple off a good forkball over the lower outside corner after being down 0-2, Yoshifumi Okada slapped a fastball the other way for a line drive single. Lotte’s lineup was simply better in that inning.
  • Orix came right back with a threat in the top of the 3rd, but Karakawa K’ed mid-lineup guys Mitsutaka Gotoh and T-Okada with runners on first and third. It turned out not to matter, but Gotoh in particular waved at a bad pitch for a third strike, in a situation where any almost any kind of fair contact would have resulted in a run.
  • Saburo hit an opposite field home run in the 3rd, on a fastball over the outside corner of the plate. The homer was aided by the wind, but Saburo clearly managed to drive a pitch I always thought he struggled with.
  • Lee looked horrible at the plate against Karakawa, and a glance at his stats is revealing: .163 BA, 21 K’s in 43 ABs. I wonder how long it’ll be before we see Mike Hessman.
  • Terahara picked Takashi Ogino off first base in the 5th inning. This is not the first time I’ve seen Ogino picked off this year, I think it was Hisashi Iwakuma that got him before. It seems that every pitcher expects Ogino to run every time he reaches first with second base open, so he’ll have to refine his approach.
  • Ogino does, however, have a pretty good arm at shortstop. I haven’t seen it really tested but he makes good throws on routine plays.
  • The Lotte cheer girls looked pretty cold.
  • Masahide Kobayashi relieved a tired Terahara in the 7th. It looked Terahara strained his hamstring or something before he left, but he should have been removed two batters earlier anyway. Kobayashi looked absolutely horrible; it was almost painful watching him. No command, no velocity, no movement. It really looks like he’s done.

At this point, it was 10-1 in favor of Lotte, so I turned the game off.

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NPB Bullet Points: Nippon Ham No-No, Kaneko Hurting

» 27 February 2011 » In mlb prospects, npb » 8 Comments

With spring camps in full swing, it’s time to get caught back up with

  • Five Nippon Ham pitchers, led by none other than Yu Darvish, combined for a no-hitter in a practice game against Korea’s Samsung Lions on the 25th. Darvish hit 154 kmph on the gun, and threw a curve at 94 kmph. I guess he came to camp in shape.
  • I’m late on this one, but Orix ace Chihiro Kaneko has been injured since essentially the beginning camp. The Nikkan Sports report I’ve linked to indicates that righty complained of elbow on February 6th, and had surgery on the 9th. He’s rehabbing at Orix’s ni-gun camp. Given that Kaneko logged a career-high number of innings last season this is a bad sign.
  • Masahiro Tanaka and Yuki Saito have crossed paths, but have yet to face each other.
  • In more bad news for Orix, Mike Hessman took a Masahide Kobayashi fastball to the head on the in an intrasquad game 17th. Here’s hoping Mike is all right.
  • According to Sanspo, Lotte has narrowed there list of candidates for their compensation player from Hanshin to two pitchers. A resolution is expected on March 1.
  • Carlos Torres looked pretty good in his appearance against Yakult on the 27th. Here’s a link to the game on Justin.tv.
  • I’ve found a bunch of good stuff lately on Twitter: Yakyu Kozo Editor’s photo site, Softbank’s ustream.tv channel, and this Tweet from Data Stadium: “actually the ball probably won’t carry.”

And for something completely different: this collection of Japanese art and graphic design from the 1920’s and 30’s. I like this poster advertising the cancelled 1940 Tokyo Olympics.

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Offseason Changes: Orix Buffaloes

» 05 February 2011 » In npb » 7 Comments

Coming: Hayato Terahara, Chan Ho Park, Seung Yeop Lee, Mike Hessman, Alfredo Figaro, Evan MacLane, Kazuya Takamiya, Shinjiro Koyama, Tomochika Tsuboi, Kentaro Kuwabara, Shingo Nonaka, Masahide Kobayashi, Toshio Saito

Going: Alex Cabrera, Shogo Yamamoto, Go Kida, Jon Leicester, Greg LaRocca, Fernando Seguignol, Freddie Bynum, Tsuyoshi Kikuchihara, Naoyuki Ohmura, Osamu Hamanaka, Masahiro Nagata, Ikki, Mitsuhiro Mitsuhara

Staying: Aarom Baldiris, Mitsutaka Gotoh, Francisco Caraballo, So Taguchi, Freddy Ballestas

Summary: Last season, Orix posted a surprisingly competitive fifth-place, 69-71-4 season. I’ve written plenty about my admiration for Orix’s personnel moves, and nothing has happened this offseason to change my mind. Well, the new uniforms are underwhelming, but I’ll let that slide.

On the mound, Orix has added four rotation candidates, while subtracting Yamamoto, who was ineffective in 2010. Each of the four new starters has blemishes: age (Park), health (Terahara), unproven-ness (Figaro, MacLane). But they all have upside as well, particularly Terahara, and if any one of them does well, Orix will have a very solid front rotation.

At the plate, Orix’s most notable transaction is the loss of slugger Cabrera, who wanted a two-year deal and found one in Fukuoka. Despite his age (39), Cabrera remains an elite NPB slugger when he is in the lineup — he posted a Pacific League-best .997 OPS last year, but missed 32 games. The hope is obviously for some combination of at-bats from Lee and Hessman to make up for Cabrera’s contribution, but I have my doubts. Lee hasn’t had a good year since 2007 and is a shadow of his former self, and Hessman has great power but is also known for piling up strikeouts. I’ve been bullish on Hessman though, and I’m standing by that.

Another key point to make is that last year the Buffaloes got breakthrough performances from Gotoh, T-Okada, Aarom Baldiris and to a lesser extent, Makoto Moriyama. Orix will need them to post strong follow up seasons in order to remain competitive.

Overall I think Orix has done enough to take a step forward in 2011. The rub is that even if they do, the Pacific League is so balanced that they still might not make the playoffs.

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Orix Acquisitions: Figaro, Hessman, Terahara

» 05 December 2010 » In mlb prospects, nichibei, npb » 4 Comments

Orix’s hot stove is heating up. Sponichi reports that the to-be-rebranded Buffaloes have begun negotiating with Detroit pitcher Alfredo Figaro. Figaro seems like he would be a good pick-up for Kansai’s second team, as Marc Hulet of FanGraphs graded him as Detroit’s ninth-best prospect going into the 2010 season, saying that “got more than enough to offer in the back end of the rotation as a fourth starter.” Back in 2009, Harry Pavilidis of the Hardball Times pointed out that he had the second best whiff-rate among that seasons rookie pitchers.

The same Sponichi report also says that Orix is near an agreement with Mike Hessman.

The bigger news is that Orix has agreed to a multi-player trade that would send lefty starter Shogo Yamamoto to Yokohama in return for pitcher Hayato Terahara. We’ll have to wait and see who the other players involved are, but based on what’s been announced so far, this is a big win for Orix. Terahara is injury-prone but has been the most talented pitcher on Yokohama’s staff over the last few seasons. The BayStars made an inspired move to get him from Softbank a few years ago, so it comes as surprise they’d move him along for a guy like Yamamoto. Let’s hope there’s more to this trade than meets the eye.

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Orix Working on Hessman

» 01 December 2010 » In mlb prospects, npb » 5 Comments

If you search this site, you’ll get posts dating as far back as two years ago of me saying that NPB teams should consider Mike Hessman. It looks like that’s happening now, as Daily Sports is reporting Orix has him on their list of replacements for the apparently departing Alex Cabrera. Orix is also close to signing ex-Yomiuri Giant Seung-Yeop Lee, surprisingly for a reported 150m yen. Even with Lee, I think Hessman would be a good addition for Orix. He would give them some pop from the right side of the plate, and offers some depth at third should Aarom Baldiris falter.

Hessman is coming off a good season with 3A Buffalo, one that saw him significantly cut down on his strikeout rate and get called up to Mets in the second half of the season. Unfortunately, he hit a meager .132 at the MLB level, and at 32 looks like a textbook 4A player. Japan is a good option for him.

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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.

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Yakult Looking for Offensive Help

» 10 May 2010 » In nichibei, npb » Comments Off

Yakult has struggled so far this season, and is currently occupying last place in the Central League with a weak 13-23-1 record. With a middle of the pack pitching staff (148 runs allowed, 3.57 era), the front office is reportedly looking to upgrade its offense, which has scored a league-low 125 runs, 15 fewer than the 5th-place Hiroshima Carp.

Sponichi says that Yakult is looking at employing a copycat strategy of re-importing a player who has experience playing in Japan. The names Sponichi gives us are Fernando Seguignol, Hiram Bocachica, and Jose Fernandez.

I’m sure that’s a partial list, but I don’t see any of those guys outperforming Aaron Guiel or Jaime D’Antona over the course of the season. D’Antona and Guiel have ugly batting averages at .202 and .233 respectively, but lead the team with 10 and seven home runs, and have decent ops figures of .832 and .749. Both guys need to bring their averages up and D’Antona in particular needs to cut down on his strikeout number, but they’ve both shown to be capable of

If they’re going to go after a guy that the league already knows, why not give Tuffy Rhodes a call? Okay, he’ll have to play the field and he will want more money than they’ll be willing to pay, but he’s been better more recently than any of the guys Sponichi mentions. And he wouldn’t count against the foreign player limit. Or how about Tyrone Woods? Money was an issue for him after his last contract with Chunichi expired, and he hasn’t played since 2008, but he was a fearsome slugger in Japan, and knows the Central League.

If Yakult wanted to give someone new a chance, Mike Hessman is off to a good start with the Mets’ 3A affiliate.

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