Tag Archive > Nippon Series

Game Notes: Nippon Series Games 1 & 2

» 14 November 2011 » In npb » 9 Comments

Lots of text today, so no intro here, just a few observations I’ve made about the Nippon Series so far. The ordering might be a little out of whack but so be it.

Game 1 — Chunichi wins 2-1 in ten innings:

  • Tsuyoshi Wada took a no-hitter into 7th, when he surrendered a home run to Kazuhiro Wada. Wada nibbled a bit and Chunichi had better at-bats the third time through the lineup, but he had his command and only gave up one hard hit ball aside from Kazuhiro’s home run.
  • Wei Yin Chen looked different than every other time I’ve seen him, including the two games I watched this year. The Chen that I’m used to throws a fastball in the 145-150 kmph range, a slider, a two-seam/shuuto with some late horizontal movement, and a forkball with inconsistent command, and works up and down the inside and outside parts of the zone. The Chen I saw on Saturday gave up a lot of fastball velocity, maxing out at 145 kmph but frequently working below 140 kmph, but with better command than usual. Yahoo’s data called Chen’s primary breaking pitch a slider, but it moved more like a changeup and worked extremely well.
  • Wada’s line: 8 IP, 29 BF, 119 pitches, 2 hits, 1 HR, 8 K, 2 BB, 1 R, 1 ER.
  • Chen’s line: 8 IP, 29 BF, 124 pitches, 4 hits, 0 HR, 11 K, 2 BB, 1 R, 1 ER.
  • Softbank’s lineup was disappointing. I thought they would start to recognize Chen’s good breaking stuff and wait for his average fastballs as the game progressed, but they actually got worse after their first time through the lineup. Hitoshi Tamura and Munenori Kawasaki were particularly bad in the later innings.
  • Yahoo Dome’s artificial turf looked like a pretty bad playing surface. Kawasaki took an error on a hard line drive that seemed to take an odd bounce, and then made a nice play on a softer hit up the middle that took an unpredictable bounce.
  • Chunichi won this game with home runs: the aforementioned Wada’s no-hitter breaker-upper, and Masaaki Koike’s winning shot in the 10th off an errant Takahiro Mahara forkball. Koike’s home run immediately followed some stats on the television broadcast about the lack of homers in NPB this season.
  • Mini-rant: Kawasaki led off the bottom of the first with a single, and what’s manager Koji Akiyama do? Immediately bunt him over, with a good on-base guy. I get that these are tight games, but why take the bat of your guy’s hands in the first?
Game 2 — Chunichi again wins 2-1 in ten innings:

  • Started by two of my favorite pitchers to watch: Toshiya Sugiuchi and Kazuki Yoshimi.
  • Sugiuchi didn’t quite have his best swing-and-miss stuff, like the last couple of times I’ve seen him. He had his pop-out stuff.
  • Sugiuchi’s one big mistake pitch was a positively fat 136 kmph fastball up in the zone in the 7th inning, which Ryosuke Hirata smacked off the left field fence for a double. Another meter or so and that ball would have been gone and the Dragons wouldn’t have needed Mahara to choke again.
  • Yoshimi wasn’t really at his best, but he generated a ton of groundballs and quieted each of Softbank’s threats until leaving with the bases loaded in the 7th. Takuya Asao mostly bailed him out, allowing only one run on a Kawasaki single, but the damage might have been worse if Softbank’s third base coach had sent Tamura instead of holding him at third. It looked like he had a chance to score.
  • Softbank again played a conservative game — lots of sacrifice bunting, holding Tamura.
  • Chunichi Motonobu Tanishige still has a good arm at age 40.
  • Hiromitsu Ochiai had the umpires check the tape on Seiichi Uchikawa’s bat in the third inning. Uchi changed bats, then lined to center on Yoshimi’s first pitch.
  • Softbank’s lineup isn’t executing. In game two they had runners in on base in each of the first five innings, including runners in scoring position in the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th, and failed to score each time.
  • Mahara wasn’t that bad in game 2. He lost, but his only really poor at-bat was when he walked Kazuhiro Ibata without really challenging him.
  • Highlights from 1999 Daiei-Chunichi Nippon Series — Akiyama was awesome as a player. Rodney Pedraza showed up in the highlights too.
  • For some reason I kept expecting to see Norihiro Nakamura emerge from Chunichi’s bench during game 2.
  • Another mini-rant: After Hiroki Kokubo lead off the 2nd with a double, Akiyama had Yuya Hasegawa, another good contact hitter, bunt him to third. Kokubo was stranded there after another listless strikeout by Tamura and ground out from Shuhei Fukuda. Akiyama bunted Kokubo over after his leadoff single in the 4th as well, with equivalent futility. Ironically the bunt attempt I agreed with was with Tamura in the 7th, but he couldn’t get it down and wound up singling with two strikes.
Overall, I’d say that Ochiai is out-managing Akiyama so far. The Dragons are clearly making better adjustments at the plate throughout the game, and though Akiyama can’t really be faulted for Mahara choking, Ochiai has created better matchups with his bullpen.

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Late Nippon Series Preview: Chunichi vs Lotte

» 29 October 2010 » In npb » 4 Comments

Edit: The game was in Nagoya. I must have been worn out when I wrote this.

In my grand tradition of starting a post and then taking forever to finish it, I’m wrapping this up in just the nick of time.

So this year’s Nippon Series opens later today (JST) in Nagoya Chiba, weather permitting. I’ve given the matchup a good look and I’m ready to share my pick.

Starting Rotation

Lotte’s ace, Yoshihisa Naruse, is good but home run prone. Number two starter Yuki Karakawa is supposed to come back for the Series, but after two long disruptions this season it’s hard to know what to expect from him. The next three starters, Shunsuke Watanabe, Bill Murphy and Hayden Penn are all capable of having good games,

Chunichi leads off with lefty ace Wei-Yin Chen, who is a contract in styles to Naruse. Kazuki Yoshimi (a personal favorite of mine) and Kenichi Nakata are both solid pitchers who struggled to absorb innings this year, though that shouldn’t come into play in a short series. No 4 man Daisuke Yamai has eight innings of Chunichi’s 2007 Nippon Series perfect game to his name. A fifth option, Maximo Nelson, was effective in the nine starts he got this season, but he could be used in the bullpen.

Edge: I prefer Chunichi’s starters, but it’s a bit closer than I originally perceived.


Hiroyuki Kobayashi made a successful transition to the ‘pen in 2010 for Lotte, and leads a solid bullpen that features four pitchers who appeared in at least 57 games in 2010. Yasuhiko Yabuta posted solid numbers in his return to Japan, though nine home runs in 65.2 innings of work is problematic for a reliever. Yoshihiro Itoh (64.2 IP, 3.58 ERA) and lefty Takuya Furuya (55.2, 2.91) round out the group.

Chunichi’s bullpen is led by longtime closer Hitoki Iwase, but the real relief ace in 2010 was Takuya Asao. The hard-throwing Asao appeared in 72 games, threw 80.1 innings, posted a 12-3 record and 1.68 ERA, and set an NPB record with an astonishing 59 “hold points” (holds + relief wins). Masafumi Hirai had one of his good years in 2010, and Akifumi Takahashi posted perhaps the best numbers of any lefty reliever in the Central League this season. Nelson will provide extra depth if he doesn’t start.

Edge: Chunichi has a big advantage here.


Lotte’s run production was tops in the Pacific League, with 708 Marines crossing the plate in 2010. They did it with a remarkably balanced lineup. While Lotte only had one player top 20 home runs (Kim Tae-Gyun at 21), they had eight players who hit at least 10. Lotte scored by keeping runners on base: Tsuyoshi Nishioka (.423) and Tadahito Iguchi (.412) finished 2nd and 3rd in the Pacific League in OBP. Among their regulars, Shoitsu Ohmatsu had the worst OBP at .339, and even that was good enough for 21st in the Pacific League.

Chunichi has more of a “three-run home run” kind of lineup, with a menacing mid-order presence in Kazuhiro Wada, the steady bat of Masahiko Morino, and a proven power threat in Tony Blanco. After that, they’ve got slap-hitting top-order man Masahiro Araki and not much else.

Edge: Lotte. They are simpler better one through nine.

The Verdict

I’m saying Chunichi in six games. I think they have enough hitting to hang around, and the pitching to ice leads when they get them.

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