Tag Archive > Rakuten Eagles

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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Ganbarou Tohoku, Ganbarou Nihon

» 04 April 2011 » In npb » Comments Off

It’s rare that I’ll include an image in an NPB Tracker post, much less a copyrighted one, but I’ll make an exception for this.

The Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles will be wearing this patch on their uniforms this season, recalling the 1995 Orix Blue Wave Ganbarou Kobe patch. Translated to English, this patch says “ganbarou Tohoku”, meaning “do your best Tohoku.”

The rest of the league will be wearing a “ganbarou Nippon” version on their helmets:

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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.

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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!

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NPB Trade Deadline Action

» 28 July 2008 » In npb » 1 Comment

Well, not really, but a number of foreign player signings were announced today.

The Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles have announced two signings: former Nippon Ham slugger Fernando Seguignol and 3A pitcher Marcus Gwyn.

Seguinol joins his third team in Japan. He stunk in 2002 with Orix; spent 2003 in 3A, then joined Nippon Ham and proceeded to have a dynamite season in ’04. He regressed a little bit each until Nippon Ham finally cut him loose after last season. Marcus Gwyn appeared in three games last year for the Angels, but hasn’t had much success above 2A ball.

The Tokyo Yakult Swallows picked up former Hiroshima Carp pitcher Sean Douglass. Douglass spent 2006 with Hiroshima, and 2007 on the shelf with an injury. Yakult tried him out last fall, but decided to pass. “I have confidence,” Douglass commented, “I want to give the team a chance to win when I pitch.”

And finally, Hiroshima pulled Jim Brower out of the Astros’ system. Brower has spent parts of nine seasons with MLB teams. He was actually pretty good with the Giants in ’04.

Japan’s trading deadline & foreign player acquisition deadline is the 31st, so we’ll find out in the next day or two if any more transactions are coming up.

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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.

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