Tag Archive > Nippon Ham Fighters

A Midsummer Night’s Blog Post

» 18 August 2012 » In mlb, nichibei, npb » 2 Comments

While my baseball consumption has not returned to it’s previous levels, my itch to write has returned, so tonight I’m taking a hiatus from my hiatus to share a few thoughts on the season so far.

  • After years of anticipation, Yu Darvish, has made his Major League debut. The results have been mixed — lots of strikeouts, lots of walks. The walks are a surprise to me; the mid-season struggles are not. I must admit that fate has conspired against me, and I haven’t seen a single Darvish start all the way through this year.
  • Nippon Ham has carried on without Darvish, currently leading the Pacific League by a game over Seibu. 24 year-old lefty Mitsuo Yoshikawa took advantage of the hole left by Darvish, and is enjoyed a breakout season. While he lacks Darvish’s eye-popping dominance, a 10-4 record with a 1.91 ERA isn’t too shabby.
  • I never thought I’d see Ichiro traded, but last month it happened. It felt more like Ichiro was on the path to retirement this season, but his bat has woken up a bit with the Yankees. Perhaps playing for a winning time will revive his career.
  • The Japanese Players Association is threatening to sit out next year’s World Baseball Classic if WBC Inc doesn’t give them a bigger share of the revenue. So far neither side is willing to budge. I hope they can work out some sort of agreement because a Japanese boycott would be bad for both sides.
  • I didn’t get to finish my predictions this spring, but every year I think that Chunichi is going to stumble and that Seibu is going to be good. And, every year I’m wrong, at least about the Chunichi side of the prediction. This year was no exception. I thought Chunichi was set for a big step backwards, but they’re comfortably in second place in the Central, and had been in the hunt for first until Yomiuri started to pull away. Seibu got off to a rough start and appeared to be headed for a disappointing season, but has righted the ship and is now in the hunt for a league title.
  • I was going to write something about Brad Penny here but I don’t think I’ll bother.
  • Softbank veteran Hiroki Kokubo announced his retirement last week. Otsukare-sama.
  • Yomiuri veteran and personal favorite Yoshinobu Takahashi slugged his 300th career home run last week. Jason Coskrey has more.
  • The two young players I’ve enjoyed watching the most this year? Hiroshima’s Yusuke Nomura and Yokohama DeNA’s Sho Aranami.
  • While it doesn’t stack up to MLB’s three perfect games this season, NPB has seen a pair of no-hitters this year: Toshiya Sugiuchi’s against Rakuten on May 30, and Kenta Maeda’s against DeNA on April 6. Although, I did not witness either of these games, I did catch a pair of near no-hitters. Another personal favorite, Daisuke Miura, took a no-no into the 9th against Hanshin on May 12, but pinch-hitter Shinjiro Hiyama put up a veteran at-bat, working a full count before finally hitting a long single. Hanshin eventually scored and Miura lost his shutout, but won the game. The other was another Sugiuchi gem, thrown on May 4 against Hanshin. The only solid contact I recall Sugiuchi surrendering happened to be the only hit Hanshin managed, a sharp single, hit mid-game by Takashi Toritani. The game lacked the drama of a late-innings no-hit bid, but was a dominant performance nonetheless.

Continue reading...

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

Playoff Picks

» 28 October 2011 » In npb » 8 Comments

While the MLB postseason is ready to come to what will certainly be a dramatic end, the NPB playoffs are just about to begin. The Climax Series opens for both leagues on Saturday, October 29 (JST), with the third place and second place finishers squaring off in the opening round. As a refresher, here is the format of the NPB postseason:

  • Climax Series, First Stage: best of three series between the second place and third place finishers.
  • Climax Series, Second Stage: best of seven series between the league champion (first place finisher) and the First Stage winner. The league champion is automatically credited with a one-win advantage.
  • Japan Series: best of seven series between the Central League Climax Series winner and Pacific League Climax Series winner.
And on to my picks…

Pacific League First Stage: Seibu vs Nippon Ham

I’m going to credit Nippon Ham with with an immediate win because of the presence of Yu Darvish, and then a second one because of their superior pitching and defense. Pick: Nippon Ham, 2-0. Key player: Yu Darvish.

Central League First Stage: Yomiuri vs Yakult

Though the Swallows and Giants finished a game apart in the standings, they went in opposite directions this season. Yakult got off to a hot start and faded down the stretch, while Yomiuri had to claw their way into contention after a sub-par start. Yakult won the season series 12-8-4, but Yomiuri has stronger pitching and most offensive threats overall. Pick Yomiuri, 2-1. Key player: Hisayoshi Chono.

Pacific League Second Stage: Nippon Ham vs Softbank

Softbank has every edge here: a deeper rotation, a better lineup, a 16-7-1 regular season record against Nippon Ham, more rest, and a one-game advantage for finishing first. Softbank has also been on their game recently against Nippon Ham, with an 8-1-1 record against the Fighters in September and October. Pick: Softbank 4-1. Key player: Seiichi Uchikawa.

Central League Second Stage: Yomiuri vs Chunichi

This is a close call. Yomiuri has a narrow regular season 12-10-2 edge over Chunichi, and both teams prevented runs this season at about the same pace. Chunichi lineup is weak, the worst in the CL this year, but they have been bullpen options than Yomiuri. So a series of close games probably favors Chunichi, and of course they have the rest and automatic wins advantages, plus the Ochiai destiny. My gut is saying Chunichi, but my brain is saying Yomiuri. Pick Chunichi 4-3. Key player: Takuya Asao.

Japan Series: Chunichi vs Softbank

Maybe it’s bland to predict a Japan Series between the two league champions, but that’s what I see. It’s probably equally bland to pick the more statistically dominant team to win as well… but it’s hard to pick against Softbank. They allowed 59 fewer runs than anyone else in Japan, with a 2.30 team ERA. Offensively they finished second overall to Seibu’s Okawari-kun-fueled lineup, but their 550 runs was 66 better than third place Yakult. Chunichi has enough pitching to keep the games close, but ultimately suffers with a big disadvantage at the plate.

Pick: Softbank 4-2. Key player: Tsuyoshi Wada (with wins in games two and six).

Continue reading...

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

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.

Continue reading...

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

NPB Bullet Points: Late Contracts, New Uniforms

» 30 January 2011 » In npb » 4 Comments

We interrupt our series of 2011 offseason reviews to bring you a bullet list of news items from around NPB. All links in Japanese.

  • Beom-Ho Lee has left the Softbank Hawks and will join the Kia Tigers of the Korean Baseball Organization. Lee hit .205 in 132 at-bats last year, and was well-down the Hawks’ depth chart for this season. He had said that he would go back to Korea if he couldn’t stick at third base, so I give him credit for sticking to his words.
  • In other Hawks news, Hitoshi Tamura finally signed for 2011, agreeing to a one-year deal that will pay a JPY 180m salary. Softbank had offered a multi-year deal but he wanted a one-year deal, saying that he can perform better.
  • Hiroyuki Nakajima was another late signing, agreeing to a JPY 280m salary for 2011. He’ll gun for MLB again next offseason.
  • Craig Brazell has arrived in Japan, and from the looks of things he came straight from the golf course.
  • The Nippon Ham Fighters have unveiled their new uniforms
  • Wladimir Balentien brought his PlayStation 3 to camp, with the idea that he could get to know his teammates over a couple of auto racing games during the spring. He impressed the author of the linked Sponichi article by arriving in Okinawa early and working out on consecutive days.
  • Hideaki Wakui had his salary dispute with Seibu settled in a rare NPB arbitration case, reports Naoko Toyakoshi of Nikkan Sports. Wakui will see his salary rise to JPY 253m, a little short of the JPY 270m he had requested.
  • Meanwhile, Hanshin ace Yasutomo Kubo has yet to renew for 2011 and could wind up paying his own way to camp.
  • Rakuten items: Kazuo Matsui and Akinori Iwamura modeled their Eagles uniforms at K-Sta; later new manager Senichi Hoshino led his team to a pre-camp shrine visit on a snowy day in Sendai; Byung-Hyun Kim was also introduced in the snow.

Continue reading...

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

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.

Continue reading...

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

2010: A Uniform Odyssey

» 30 June 2010 » In npb » 6 Comments

Update, July 2: Completely forgot about this year’s SoftBank Hawks alternates.

It’s time again for my annual alternative uniforms roundup (last year’s is here). Here’s what we have this year:

  • Yomiuri will sport these cartoonish threads July 19-21 against Yakult. The uniforms were designed by middle school student Hikaru Nomoto, who’s design was selected from out of more than 13,000 entries.
  • This season Seibu is wearing 70’s era throwback uniforms, from when the team was known as the Taiheiyo-Club Lions, prior to Seibu ownership.
  • Nippon Ham chose a garish gold color for this season’s We Love Hokkaido uniforms.
  • The differences between Yokohama’s normal uniforms and this season’s summer alternates are subtle, but pitcher Shun Yamaguchi still called them “unusually stylish”. I wouldn’t mind seeing them keep it simple and re-use these from a couple years ago.
  • Orix’s summer uniforms are red this year, which elicits memories the old red Kintetsu uniforms. Orix also recalled the old Blue Wave team by wearing 1995 throwback uniforms in a game at Skymark Stadium last month. 1995, of course, was the year that Orix lifted the city of Kobe by reaching the Japan Series after the horrific Hanshin Earthquake.

Today’s Japanese vocabulary is 復刻版ユニホーム, (fukkokuban uniform), meaning “re-issue uniform”, though in English we would translate that to “throwback uniform” or “retro uniform”.

Continue reading...

Tags: , , , ,

The Konkatsu Seats Actually Worked

» 17 July 2009 » In npb » 1 Comment

Nippon Ham’s Konkatsu Seat event, which Ryo wrote about in May, happened last weekend, and the results are in. 28 couples got together on the first day, and 34 for the second for a total of 62. The team is already looking into organizing another event.

Continue reading...

Tags:

Down the Stretch – The Pacific League

» 07 August 2008 » In npb » 2 Comments

For the first time since the current 3-team playoff system was introduced, all six Pacific League teams have a reasonable shot at qualifying for the post-season. Here are the current standings:

GAMES WINS LOSSES TIES WIN % GB
1 Seibu 98 55 42 1 0.567 -
2 Nippon Ham 101 52 47 2 0.525 4
3 Softbank 101 52 49 0 0.515 5
4 Lotte 102 49 53 0 0.48 9
5 Orix 101 48 52 1 0.48 9
6 Rakuten 99 43 54 2 0.443 13

The six teams’ performance has actually been a little closer than their won-loss records might indicate. Let’s take a look at the Pacific League Pythagorean standings:

RUNS SCORED RUNS ALLOWED RUN DIFF EXP WIN % EXP WINS EXP LOSSES
1 Seibu 499 419 80 0.586 57 41
2 Nippon Ham 365 377 -12 0.484 49 52
3 Softbank 423 429 -6 0.493 50 51
4 Lotte 471 485 -14 0.485 49 53
5 Orix 430 427 3 0.504 51 50
6 Rakuten 415 404 11 0.513 51 48
*Apologies for the somewhat crappy quality of the formatting on these charts — I made them in Excel and didn’t test on a wide variety of browsers.

I was surprised to see that Orix has a positive run differential, but aside from that this is about what I expected. Only Seibu has really separated themselves from the pack, mostly due to a powerful offense. The teams are mostly even with each other; home/road splits and interleague performance might explain the differences in won/lost records.

Now for some thoughts on how things will play out for the rest of the season…

Seibu
The Lions would have to really slump to miss the playoffs, but if someone else is going to take a run at them, now would be the time. Ace Hideaki Wakui, slugger GG Sato, and PL batting avg Hiroyuki Nakajima are all representing Japan in the Olympics and will miss most of August. I think they’re a lock at this point.

Nippon Ham
The Fighters get it done with pitching and defense, outplaying their expected won-lost record by 3 games. The absence of Yu Darvish for the Olympics will be felt in Sapporo, as will that of leading batter Atsunori Inaba. Still I think they’re in good shape for a playoff berth.

Softbank
Masayoshi Son’s team wasn’t able to acquire the big bat they were looking for, and now they’re faced with losing twin lefty aces Toshiya Sugiuchi and Tsuyoshi Wada to Olympics, as well as table-setter Munenori Kawasaki. They’ll have to rely on rehabbing Nagisa Arakaki and their foreign starters throughout August to stay competitive.

Lotte
After a slow start, Lotte has played back into contention. Lotte is losing three key guys to the Olympics — lefty starter Yoshihisa Naruse, infielder Tsuyoshi Nishioka, and catcher Tomoya Satozaki, but has Julio Zuleta and Shingo Ono returning from the injured list. Those guys don’t quite balance out the stars that will be gone, but Bobby Valentine is confident. I’d love to see these guys make it the playoffs; Bobby has done a ton for Japanese baseball, they have great fans and a good group of guys.

Orix
New manager Daijiro Ohishi seems to have energized the Buffaloes back to competitiveness, along with the resurgence of veteran import sluggers Tuffy Rhodes and Alex Cabrera. The presence of Kazuhiro Kiyohara could serve as motivational factor as well. Orix isn’t sending anyone to the Olympics, so now is their time to strike. I’d love to see these guys make the playoffs; Ohishi turning the team around mid-season is a great story and I’d like to Tuffy in the playoffs again.

Rakuten
The Golden Eagles are sitting in last place despite their +11 run differential, which is 2nd best in the league. They’d have to go on a tear to come back from 11 games under .500, but it’s possible. Young righthander Masahiro Tanaka is Rakuten’s only Olympic representative. I’d love to see these guys make the playoffs; manager Nomura has done a great job making the team competitive and they have some great pitchers that would really be tough in a short series.

So the Olympics will loom large in the already tight Pacific League playoff race. Should be a great pennant race!

Continue reading...

Tags: , , , , , ,

Yu Darvish Highlights

» 24 July 2008 » In npb » 1 Comment

You won’t catch me doing this very often, but I thought I’d post some YouTube highlights of Yu Darvish’s last two games. I get the feeling that there are a lot of people who have read about him, but only a smaller percentage of those have actually seen him pitch. Here’s an opportunity to see some recent action. I’ve also included links to English-language box scores from JapaneseBaseball.com.

July 24: Chiba Lotte Marines 5, Nippon Ham Fighters 2 (box score)

Darvish goes 8 innings, but gives up 5 runs on 11 hits and 5 walks while taking the loss. The big blow was a 4th inning grand slam off the bat of DH Tasuku Hashimoto. Give Hashimoto credit; Darvish made a good pitch and he turned on it.

Lotte rookie Yuta Ohmine picked up his first career win in the game, striking out 6 over 6 innings of work.

Here’s a link to the content on YouTube.

July 17: Nippon Ham Fighters 3, Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles 1 (box score)

Vintage Darvish; a 4-hit complete game on 89 pitches. 10 strikeouts, no walks. This video has some good highlights of Darvish’s variety of stuff.

Here’s a link to the content on YouTube.

Continue reading...

Tags: , , ,

NPB Bullet Points (2008/07/24)

» 24 July 2008 » In npb » Comments Off

Headlines from the Japanese side of the web tonight:

  • I caught a blurb on Softbank negotiating with a foreign power hitter in Sports Hochi. Says team COO Takeuchi, “when we reach the final stages we’ll make an announcement. Currently we’re negotiating”. This report is a little old and doesn’t hint at who it might be. Maybe negotiations didn’t go anywhere.
  • Yu Darvish threw 165 pitches in Nippon Ham’s July 23 loss to Lotte. Darvish hung around until the 8th inning, allowing 5 earned runs on 11 hits and 5 walks while striking out 10. Sanspo quotes Nippon Ham manager Nashida: “I thought we’d go until 140. He himself said that’d go. His love for the team is intense. I thought he’s dependable”. Ham pitching coach Masato Yoshii commented that Darvish didn’t have his good stuff.
  • Chris Resop hit 98 MPH on the gun in a practice with Hanshin. The coaches seem impressed. Tomoyuki Kubota holds the Hanshin record for fastest pitch in a game at 157 KM/H (98.125 MPH).
  • Hiroshima made two minor trades recently that totally slipped by me. They picked up Rui Makino from Rakuten for Kenta Satake, and Akira Tanaka from Orix for Koji Yamazaki. There seem to be more trades happening in NPB recently.

As an addendum, I also posted some highlights from the Darvish game I mentioned.

Continue reading...

Tags: , , , , , ,