Tag Archive > Naoyuki Shimizu

NPB Bullet Points: While I Was Away

» 07 May 2010 » In mlb, nichibei, npb » 6 Comments

It’s been a while since I’ve written any actual content about Japanese baseball… sometimes real life gets in the way. Let’s see if we can fix that, at least for now.

  • The surprise of the season so far for me has been the performance of the Chiba Lotte Marines, who are neck and neck and neck with the SoftBank Hawks and resurgent Seibu Lions for the Pacific League lead. Lotte is getting it done in style too, leading the Pa-League in team runs scored, runs allowed, batting average and era. Will it continue? You have to figure that Kim Tae-Kyun and Tadahito Iguchi will cool off at some point, but they have a decent lineup 1-9. The pitching is a little bit of a concern too, as new manager Nishimura is letting some of his starters go a bit further into games than Bobby V used to. We’ll see if that turns into a problem down the stretch.
  • Over in the Central League, it’s nice to see the Yokohama BayStars competing with a respectable 16-18 record so far. Yokohama is getting good production from a number of pitchers, including newcomers Naoyuki Shimizu, Shigeru Kaga, and Shintaro Ejiri. The ‘Stars are still struggling in spots offensively, but should be better over the course of the season by virtue of the sheer number of weak bats they took out of the lineup last offseason.
  • Bridging the gap between those first two bullet points is the apparently impending trade of Yuji Yoshimi from Yokohama to Lotte. The big lefty was once a promising starter, but injuries derailed him for a couple of years and recently he’s been more of a middle-of-the-pack long reliever. Lotte seems to want him as a starter.
  • And more on Lotte: reliever Hiroyuki Kobayashi has qualified for international free agency, and is reportedly likely to seek a move to the majors. This has come up before with Kobayashi so it isn’t exactly a surprise at this point. I could see him playing for the San Francisco Giants, if they have an opening for a righthander. Former Lotte man Shun Kakazu scouts Japan for the Giants, and Brian Sabean can be creative in putting together his bullpen.
  • Former Hanshin lefty Jeff Williams wants to return to the Tigers as an active pitcher, but the Tigers want to bring him back as a scout. The idea would be for current scout Andy Sheets to focus on hitters, while Jeff would look for pitchers. Jeff certainly knows what it takes to succeed in Japan, but I would love to see him pitch for the Tigers again and eventually get a proper do-age send-off.
  • Who will be this year’s Junichi Tazawa or Yusei Kikuchi? Maybe it will be Chuo University pitcher Hirokazu Sawamura, who seems to be eclipsing Yuki Saito in terms of media ink. The Giants and Mets each had a scout at Sawamura’s most recent scout, with Mets’ Isao Ojimi saying that it would “be a waste for him to say in Japan”, while the Giants’ Shun Kakazu said that he hit 97 on his gun. Draft Reports has a quote from Sports Hochi from February saying that Sawamura is favoring playing in Japan.
  • Moving along to Kikuchi, the young lefty now known simply as Yusei struggled with both his command and velocity in his first couple ni-gun appearances, but showed signs of improvement on May 4th, when he threw five scoreless innings and hit 147 kmph (92mph) on the gun. Seibu is saying he won’t be promoted before the All-Star break, but could get a look afterward.
  • Casey Fossum bought the PSP version of Pro Yakyu Spirits 2010 for his five year-old son, but was annoyed to learn that Konami made him pretty bad in the game, and vowed to use it as motivation to do well and be a better player in next year’s version of the game. Speaking of Fossum, he’s blogging about his experiences in Japan.
  • Off-topic bullet point: I came across this essay about the state of Japan’s technology and IT sector (link to PDF file), and why it’s in trouble. It makes some good points, but overall I found it disappointing as it covers the usual tired criticisms of over-reliance on manufactured consumer goods and an under-developed services sector.

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Chiba Lotte Imports Pitching

» 03 December 2009 » In nichibei, npb » Comments Off

The Chiba Lotte Marines like what they see in Eric Stults. A source with the team quoted in Sponichi said, “he’s got good breaking pitches and can be a shutdown pitcher in Japan. By all means we want him.” Stults is currently on the Dodgers; 40-man roster, so Sponichi speculations that acquiring could take $900k-$1m, but that should be affordable with Bobby Valentine, Naoyuki Shimizu and Tasuku Hashimoto coming off the books.

Meanwhile, the additions of Bryan Corey and Bill Murphy are reportedly looking done deal-ish. The Marines are also looking at Yankees fireballer Romulo Sanchez, though the are prioritizing Stults.

No update on the old story about Lotte bringing in Greg Maddux as a spring training instructor next season.

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Shimizu Trade Finalized

» 08 November 2009 » In Uncategorized » 1 Comment

The previously reported Naoyuki Shimizu deal to Yokohama is now complete. In an obvious salary dump, Lotte sends Shimizu across the Tokyo Bay in return for pitcher Takumi Nasuno and catcher Toshio Saito.

The question now is, will we see Lotte shed any more payroll? Hanshin was interested in Shunsuke Watanabe

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Shimizu Traded to Yokohama?

» 03 November 2009 » In mlb » 8 Comments

The Chiba Lotte Marines have reportedly agreed to trade Naoyuki Shimizu to the Yokohama BayStars for pitcher Takumi Nasuno and catcher Shinji Ninuma.The trade has not yet been officially announced.

Shimizu is entering the second year of a two-year contract, and has an opt-out clause to pursue an MLB this offseason. He recently suggested that he’s still interested in testing the overseas market, and dismissed any possibility of leaving Lotte to sign with another NPB club. It will obviously remain to be seen how his contract will play out with a trade — does the out clause remain valid after a trade? And if so, will his preference for Lotte lead him to exercise it after being traded?

In any case, this trade looks like a salary dump for Lotte. I’m not high on Shimizu’s MLB credentials (think Kirk Saarloos), but he’s a decent NPB innings eater, and Lotte would not be getting equal value back in Nasuno and Ninuma. Lotte’s baseball club lost 2.8bn yen ($28m) in 2008, and had a stated goal of getting that number down to 1bn yen ($10m). Getting Shimizu’s 280m yen ($2.8m) for 2010 off the books along with Bobby’s salary will go quite a ways in reducing expenses, though the team will likely take a hit at the gates.

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The List of Free Agents

» 27 October 2009 » In international baseball, mlb prospects, nichibei » 2 Comments

It’s that time of the year again when each team starts to look forward to the offseason stove league, aside from the Giants and Fighters who are set to do battle for this year’s big prize. The main talks of the off-season will be centering around the movement of the free agents and today the list of qualifying players was released.

Potential candidates that might consider a move overseas are starting to buzz  around the rumor mill and Ryota Igarashi and Naoyuki Shimizu are two of  the bigger names in the news at this point. Toshihisa Nishi is another guy who wants to play in MLB, but he’s 38 and looking at MLB as a swansong. The situation might change once the offseason begins, but there have been no talks about big names being posted and it might be a relatively quiet offseason for new Japanese players coming to the States for a new challenge.

DOMESTIC

  • Fighters: Shugo Fujii (LHP), Hichori Morimoto (OF)
  • Golden Eagles: Yosuke Takasu (INF), Akihito Fujii (CA)
  • Lions: Yoshihito Ishii (INF)
  • Marines: Hiroyuki Kobayashi (RHP), Tadahito Iguchi (INF, under a three-year contract)
  • Buffaloes: Tsuyoshi Kikuchihara (LHP), Osamu Hamanaka (OF), Alex Cabrera (INF)
  • Giants: Shinnosuke Abe (CA)
  • Dragons: Hidenori (OF)
  • Tigers: Atsushi Fujimoto (INF), Norihiro Akahoshi (OF)
  • Carp: Ryuji Yokoyama (RHP), Yoshikazu Kura (CA)
  • Baystars: Atsushi Kizuka (RHP)

INTERNATIONAL

  • Fighters: Tomochika Tsuboi (OF), Yoshinori Tateyama (RHP)
  • Hawks: Hitoshi Tamura (OF, staying put)
  • Marines: Tasuku Hashimoto (CA), Naoyuki Shimizu (RHP), Shingo Ono (RHP),
  • Buffaloes: Hidetaka Kawagoe (RHP, has been released and will move on)
  • Giants: Hisanori Takahashi (LHP), Shigeyuki Furuki (INF), Alex Ramirez (OF), Kiyoshi Toyoda (RHP)
  • Dragons: Masahiko Morino (INF, under a multi-year contract), Motonobu Tanishige (CA)
  • Swallows: Ryota Igarashi (RHP), Kazuki Fukuchi (OF), Masao Kida (RHP, will move on)
  • Baystars: Shigeru Morikasa (OF), Toshihisa Nishi (INF, has been released and is looking to play in the States in ’10)

Note that the player’s status, where known, appears in brackets beside his name. We’ll update this page as the offseason progresses.

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Naoyuki Shimizu Thinking MLB

» 22 October 2009 » In mlb prospects, nichibei » 9 Comments

33-year old right-handed pitcher Naoyuki Shimizu cannot seem to brush off his desire for the challenge of MLB. Even though he’s going into the second year of a two-year contract with the Chiba Lotte Marines, he earned the option of opting out during the regular season.

Shimizu quoted in an interview, “My admiration for the Major Leagues has not changed. If all condition comes to term (I would like to challenge).” He earned international free agency rights in June, during the season. “The situation is completely different from the previous year. When I think about the rest of my playing career, I would like to absorb the different cultures.”

Last off-season other NPB teams showed interest toward the right-handed pitcher if he does opt out couple of the teams might again show interest, but Shimizu stated the only option after free agency will be to the Major Leagues. “If I declare for free agency I will go overseas. I love Lotte and they have served me well. I can guarantee 100 percent that I will not sign with another NPB team.”

In 2009, he appeared in 23 games (22GS) and posted a 4.42ERA. I couldn’t find many clips of him pitching, this one is up-close and you can see his delivery. His pitch chart from his most recent start can be checked here.

Shimizu will not cost a fortune for an MLB team as an international free agent and I can possibly see him latching onto a team as a back-end rotation candidate. We’ll see when he officially announces his intentions.

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The Nature of Pitch Counts

» 10 August 2009 » In international baseball, mlb, nichibei, npb, pitching » 15 Comments

The difference in the philosophy of pitch counts in the MLB and the NPB is an area where pitchers from Japan need to adjust when they make the jump to the big leagues. The nature of pitch counts remains a hot topic around MLB and the topic has been addressed recent in interesting articles such as The countdown to 100 pitches by Tim Kurkjian and Pitch counts an overrated stat by Hal Bodley.

100 pitches is acknowledged as the magic number around the league and younger pitchers are protected by organizations from an early stage at their career. Even though some NPB managers have implemented the 100 pitch count philosophy it is not rare to see pitchers go the distance in an effective outing surpassing the magic number. Recent outings from Yuuki Karakawa throwing 153 pitches (9.0 innings, 9H, ER) and Naoyuki Shimizu (7.2 innings, 11H, 4ER) pitching 144 pitches illustrates how teams and players are not shy about increasing their pitch counts.

The difference in the philosophy of pitch counts between the two countries comes from number of reasons, of which I will only touch on a few. The beauty of finishing the game as a starter is indoctrinated from an earlier stage, especially dramatized in the National High School Tournament at Koshien Stadium. The legendary three days at the Koshien Tournament for current Boston Red Sox Daisuke Matsuzaka has been well publicized here in the United States with his 17 inning, 250-pitch complete game followed by a relief appearance the next day and his no-hitter performance in the final of the tournament. It will be interesting to see how the pitchers in the Koshien Tournament evolve with the number Major League-minded players increasing in the Land of the Rising Sun.

Another difference between pitchers in the two leagues is how much pitchers throw during spring training, before the season starts. MLB pitchers tend to pitch every other day or have a routine schedule throwing from the mound to prepare for the start of the season. However in the NPB, there are pitchers who start the camp in full-mode, throwing 100 to 200 pitches from the mound on a given day and coming back the next with even more. Throwing a large amount of pitches before the season starts results in a routine for the pitchers and that makes it easier to throw over 100 pitches during the season.

The last point to make here is the difference in the schedule and number of games. NPB pitchers will typically make fewer starts over the course of the season than MLB pitchers, who spend the longer season of traveling around a country that is several times bigger than Japan. That requires the teams to schedule stretches with 20 straight games, compared to NPB which has a more flexible schedule with more off days. Then there are times when teams can have extra inning games which last until a winner is decided, as opposed to  NPB, where games end in a tie after 12 innings. These are practical differences that affect the usage of pitchers in each country.

Japanese pitchers coming over to the MLB need to adjust to the philosophy of pitch counts here in the States, but that is obviously not the easiest thing to do as we all know that routine is important for an athlete. Coming to a different country and then adjusting to a new routine is something that only certain players can do, looking at the results from past players. Even for a pitcher such as Yu Darvish, hyped as the next big star if he ever makes the jump, adjusting to the new routine will be the key for him. So far in 2009, he has pitched a total of 153 innings in 19 total starts averaging 8.05 innings per game. He has thrown seven complete games including two shutouts and you rarely see him leave the mound before hitting 100 pitches.

As long as the nature and philosophy of pitch counts differs in the two countries, adjustments will be required for NPB veterans jumping MLB and both sides need to be aware of that reality in order for both sides to succeed.

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2009 NPB Team Payroll Ranking

» 25 April 2009 » In international baseball, npb, sports business » 9 Comments

This ranking is based on calculating information from Daily Sports Online, and converting into US dollars at the April 24 dollar-yen exchange rate from Google Finance. The numbers are based on the start of the 2009 season. I hope this will be interesting and insightful for new NPB fans to learn how much Japanese teams pay their players.

Rank Team Payroll Players Under Contract Highest Paid Player
1 Yomiuri Giants $45.30M 78 Seung-Youp Lee, $6.2M
2 Hanshin Tigers $40.49M 74 Tomoaki Kanemoto, $5.6M
3 Softbank Hawks $34.11M 74 Nobuhiko Matsunaka, $5.1M
4 Chunichi Dragons $30.02M 70 Hitoki Iwase, $4.4M
5 Chiba Lotte Marines $27.67M 78 Naoyuki Shimizu, $2.4M
6 Seibu Lions $26.75M 68 Kazuhisa Ishii, $2.8M
7 Orix Buffaloes $26.04M 69 Tuffy Rhodes, $3.3M
8 Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters $24.97M 66 Atsunori Inaba, $3M
9  Tokyo Yakult Swallows $23.77M 71 Norichika Aoki,$ 2.6M
10 Yokohama Baystars $23.03M 68 Shuichi Murata, $2.6M
11 Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles $20.74M 67 Hisashi Iwakuma, $3M
12 Hiroshima Toyo Carp $17.71M 70 Katsuhiro Nagakawa, $1.6M
  • One note is that teams with more than 70 players on contract are from the existence of ikusei (training) players.

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Offseason Changes: Chiba Lotte Marines

» 07 February 2009 » In npb » Comments Off

Coming: Tadahito Iguchi, Gary Burnham, Chase Lambin, Juan Muniz

Going: Julio Zuleta, Jose Ortiz, Winston Abreu, Szu-Yu Wu

Staying: Brian Sikorski, Benny Agbayani, Saburo Ohmura, Naoyuki Shimizu, Shingo Ono, Tasuku Hashimoto

Trending: upward

Synopsis: Iguchi is an upgrade over Ortiz, and the combination of Lambin/Burnham should be more productive than the injury-prone Julio Zuleta. None of Lotte’s major Japanese free agency-eligible players chose to sign elsewhere for Bobby Valentine’s final season.

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Chiba Lotte’s Free Agents

» 21 October 2008 » In mlb prospects, npb » Comments Off

Alright, looks like I’ll have time to squeeze in a blog entry this morning. This is about the third time that I’ve thought my hiatus would come to an end, only to have something pull my attention away. This time I’m determined to make it stick.

Over the next couple of weeks, I’ll be looking at offseason plans for players and teams, as well as working on some essay-type stuff. There’s also the playoffs and Japan Series, so there’s plenty to write about.

Let’s start with The Chiba Lotte Marines, who today announed that Bobby Valentine’s contract has been renewed, and have a number of guys who qualify for free agency.

Naoyuki Shimizu, SP: Shimizu was set to be a hot commodity among NPB teams this winter, drawing rumored interested from Hanshin, Rakuten, Yakult, Yokohama and the Giants, but has recently revealed that he intends to pass on free agency this year with an eye toward the majors later on.

Shingo Ono, SP: After a little indecision, Ono appears to be leaning towards free agency. “I feel like would like to remain with Lotte, but they’re developing good young pitchers and I have to think about moving. I have confidence that I can play for another team.” Yokohama is rumored to be interested in his services.

Tasuku Hashimoto, C: Hashimoto feels like he can start, but is stuck behind all-star Tomoya Satozaki, so I think he’ll be likely to try his fortunes somewhere else. A number of teams are rumored to be interested after his strong 2008 season (.311, 11hr off the bench), but Hanshin is expected to make the biggest play to sign him. Current Tigers catcher Akihiro Yano won’t last forever, and there’s no internal heir apparent.

Saburo, OF: Saburo’s two-year contract is coming to an end, and he’s considering his options, which include moving to MLB. Saburo is quoted as saying, “I’ve compared myself to the major league rightfielders that I see on TV, and if I’m going to go now is my only chance.” Saburo is coming off a solid offensive season (.289/.359/.416) and has won Gold Gloves in 2005 and 2007, but he still profiles as a 4th outfielder on most teams.

Julio Zuleta, DH/1B: Zuleta has been plagued by injuries and ineffectiveness in his two years with the Marines. Expect him to be replaced this off-season.

I’ll add these guys to my free agent list tonight. 

Coming up next: a look at some other free agents and the playoffs thus far.

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