Tag Archive > Ryoji Nakata

Game Notes: Yakult vs Chunichi (Aug 3)

» 05 August 2011 » In mlb prospects, npb » 1 Comment

The most interesting game I watched this week was Chunichi and Yakult’s 1-1 tie, played on Wednesday at Nagoya Dome. Here are a few observations from the game.

  • The last time I watched Wei-Yin Chen, he was extremely effective but I wasn’t sure how I felt about him as an MLB prospect. This start was a bit more confidence-inspiring. He showed a broader repertoire, working in his curveball and forkball, but more importantly I saw a little movement on his fastball that I had noticed earlier in the year. It was almost like a shuuto, with a little tailing movement away from righthanded hitters. Chen only tasted trouble in the second inning, when he gave up a series of line drive singles, yielding Yakult’s only run of the game; and in the third, when a series of elevated fastballs to Shingo Kawabata eventually resulted in a triple. On the negative side, he still didn’t have the great 150+ kmph (94+ mph) velocity that he’s shown in previous years, and he did work up in the zone a bit. That will catch up to him against better competition.
  • This was the first time I really watched Yakult rookie Yuki Shinchijyo. He kind of reminds me Lotte starter Yuki Karakawa.
  • Joel Guzman actually looked pretty good at the plate, at least in two of his at bats. His approach seems to have improved: he didn’t wave at bad pitches the way he did early in the season and looked more focused on making contact than trying to hit a home run. He was rewarded for this better approach with a pair of singles. Maybe he was seeing the ball better; Guzman was wearing goggles, which I don’t remember him having early in the year.
  • Wladimir Balentien, on the other hand, is going in the opposite direction. He looked like a complete mess at the plate; just hacking away without any kind of plan and behind everything. Chen struck him out three times, and only the third at bat was remotely competitive.
  • Ryoji Nakata started at first base for the Dragons, in the place of the the injured Tony Blanco. He’s clearly in batter shape than he was last year, though still quite round. It wasn’t a good game for Nakata, as he struck out three times times, including a big spot in the ninth, with runners on second and third and two outs. Nakata looks like he can drive balls thrown over the lower inside part of the strike zone, but pretty clearly struggles with the outside half of the plate.
  • Norichika Aoki’s plate discipline seems to have regressed.
  • Chunichi mascot Doala failed to land his trademark backflip, but a Dragons cheerleader executed one perfectly. In a show of support, visiting Yakult mascot Tsubakuro gave Doala a friendly pat on the back.

 

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NPB Bullet Points: Sawa, Nakata, Other Randomness

» 20 July 2011 » In mlb, npb » 2 Comments

Let me start with a belated congratulations to Japan’s inspiring and incredibly classy women’s soccer team on it’s recent World Cup win. Alas, I only saw highlights of the final and a bit of last week’s game against Sweden. Anyway, here are a few things I’ve read over the past day or two:

  • Hanshin is trying to get Women’s World Cup heroine Homare Sawa to throw out the first pitch at a Tigers game.
  • In this week’s Central League roster moves, Chunichi promoted first baseman Ryoji Nakata and Yomiuri swapped Levi Romero in for Jonathan Albaladejo on the active roster.
  • Yakult’s July 19th game was postponed due to rain… here’s why.
  • Hanshin shortstop Takashi Toritani can throw a ball 110 meters (that’s about 380 feet for the metric-impaired), but it doesn’t look like something he’ll want to do all the time.
  • Something a little different: Curtis Granderson laments the lack of African American fans at MLB games. I am with him all the way — part of my frustration with MLB’s recent drive for huge revenues is that ticket prices have gone up, which has made the game less accessible to families, particularly in lower income groups. It irks me that Oakland tends to take some flack from the American media for their inability to get new stadium or sign expensive veterans. Fine, glass half empty. But the A’s play typically competitive ball at reasonable prices, and do attract a more diverse crowd than their neighbors across the Bay.
  • Something completely different: The Economist’s recent article on Japan’s subtly growing software industry caught my eye; coincidentally I recently learned about the Tofu Project, which addresses some of the gaps the Economist brings up.

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2010 At The Half

» 27 July 2010 » In npb » 5 Comments

This post is a little late — we’re officially in the second half of the season as the first post-All-Star games were played on Monday. The All-Star game is only a symbolic marker anyway though, as all the NPB teams have played at least 87 games out of the 144-game schedule. Still it’s a good time to take stock of the season that’s been played so far. Here are some thoughts conveniently split up into three categories.

A few general observations:

  • The Central League is again a three-team race between Yomiuri, Hanshin, and Chunichi. This makes the playoff race somewhat uninteresting but the playoffs themselves should be good.
  • The Pacific League is much more balanced, with SoftBank, Seibu, and Lotte nine or more games over .500, Orix even and Nippon Ham one game under. Rakuten is in the cellar at 40-49, but they have the second best pitching results in the league and could get into contention for a playoff spot if they start to hit.
  • We’re seeing a strong performances from a number of starting pitchers.

Follow up from previous posts:

  • The answers to my six storylines so far: no, yes, unfortunately not, maybe, yes/not yet, probably none.
  • Yokohama is again a doormat. I thought they’d be a little more competitive this year.
  • My rookies to watch are either injured (Yusei, Kazuhito Futagami, Takashi Ogino), fat (Ryoji Nakata) or Hisayoshi Chono (Chono).
  • A couple of the imports I put on my watch list, Matt Murton and Kim Tae-Gyun, have taken off in Japan. Gio Alvarado is getting it together as well.
  • The veterans I picked to watch have mostly been duds, which isn’t a surprise as I deliberately listed a bunch of guys with question marks. That said, Yoshinobu Takahashi is having a nice bounce back season, Aarom Baldiris has contributed some a performance to Orix, and Sho Nakata is showing some signs of life.

NPB Tracker mid-season awards:

  • My first half MVPs: Central League – Kazuhiro Wada (Chunichi), Pacific League - Hiroyuki Nakajima (Seibu)
  • First half Sawamura Award winner: Kenta Maeda (Hiroshima)
  • First half RoYs: Central League – Chono (Yomiuri), Pacific League – Ogino (Lotte) despite missing significant time on the injured list
  • Breakout players: Central League – Shun Tohno (Yomiuri), Pacific League – T-Okada (Orix)

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Rookies to Watch in 2010

» 23 March 2010 » In npb » 6 Comments

In the last of my “things to watch” in 2010 series, today will look at this year’s crop of rookies.

  • Yusei (P, Seibu Lions): The Pitcher Formerly Known as Yusei Kikuchi is kind of a no-brainer for this list. Yusei starts the year at ni-gun but if all goes well I would expect him to spend some time with the top team this year.
  • Ryoji Nakata (1B, Chunichi Dragons): Nakata is fat to the tune of 118kg. He insists his weight is an asset, but I think it’s reasonable to question how it will play over the course of a season.
  • Hisayoshi Chono (OF, Yomiuri Giants): Chono’s old school insistence of playing for the Giants finally paid off when they drafted him last year. I’ve been skeptical of Chono since seeing video of him struggle with Industrial League breaking pitches, but he’s had a good spring. The Giants’ aging outfield could use an injection of youth, so he’ll get his at bats.
  • Kazuhito Futagami (P, Hanshin Tigers): Hanshin’s rotation woes should open up some innings for Futagami, if he were not injured himself
  • Takashi Ogino (OF, Chiba Lotte Marines): Ogino has started Lotte’s first three games and is a robust 5/11 so far. At 24 and with Industrial League experience, like Chono he’s a little more ready to contribute at the top level than some of the younger players.

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NPB Bullet Points: Spring is in the Air

» 04 February 2010 » In npb » 1 Comment

It’s the first week of February and pouring rain in the Bay Area, but NPB spring training camps are kicking into full gear. Here are some news and notes from around the league. All of the below articles are in Japanese.

  • Let the wear and tear begin: new Chiba Lotte Marine Takumi Nasuno threw a 300 pitch bullpen session the other day, bringing his total for the four days he’s spent in camp to 646. In what Sponichi referred to as “Bobby-free” Lotte had six pitchers throw over 200 pitches on Feb 5. The article explains that this was in contrast to Bobby Valentine’s practice of limited bullpen sessions to 20 minutes at a time. I have to question the wisdom of working pitchers like that this early in camp, after several years of getting more rest under Valentine.
  • Chiba Lotte also signed former Hanshin infielder Makoto Imaoka after a brief trial in camp. Imaoka gets a 15m yen salary for 2010.
  • Having so far failed to attract any offers, 38 year-old infielder Toshihisa Nishi is planning on working out in front of MLB scouts in the near future.
  • Chunichi rookie Ryoji Nakata, who was already chunky at 115 kg, has put on 3 kg since getting into camp.
  • Here’s a video interview with Yusei Kikuchi, who is now professionally known simply as Yusei.
  • Kyuji Fujikawa has finally signed for 2010, getting a 400m yen salary. Kyuji paid his own way through camp up to this point.

And finally, Brandon Siefken of Japan Baseball News is kicking off a monthly newsletter in April. Each month’s issue will include a spreadsheet of statistical data. You can get the full details here and subscribe here.

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NPB Draft Notes

» 30 October 2009 » In npb draft » 3 Comments

Here are some unorganized, rapid-fire notes about yesterday’s draft. Some of these are my own observations, others are from the media.

  • In the end, ‘only’ six teams went after Yusei Kikuchi in the first round. Still impressive, but not exactly an unprecedented number. It seemed that the other teams used the distraction of Kikuchi to nab the guy they wanted.
  • Despite this being considered a thin draft, the only player that was selected by more than one team in the first round was Kikuchi.
  • Kikuchi’s parents are happy with the outcome of the draft.
  • The one team that should have been in on Kikuchi, but wasn’t, was Yokohama, who took slugger Yoshitomo Tsutsugo with their first pick. This looks like a case where the team allowed the appeal of taking the local kid outweigh the choice that really best fit their needs (pitching).
  • I think Hiroshima made a great first round pick in Takeru Imamura, and then followed it up with strong picks with Shota Dobayashi, Hisashi Takeuchi, and Hayato Shoji. I could just be biased towards fame though; Takeuchi is a well-known college pitchers and the other guys were noted Koshien performers. Shoji put a lot of mileage on his arm at this year’s Koshien.
  • Hisayoshi Chono finally wound up with the Giants.
  • Fat, short first baseman Ryoji Nakata got taken in the third round by Chunichi. He’ll need to get into shape as a pro, and even then I still think he looks more like a pinch hitter than a starter.
  • Honda hurler Takao Suwabe was annoyed at not being picked until the sixth round, and might not sign because of that.
  • In another bittersweet result, high school righty Takumi Akiyama cried at lasting until Hanshin drafted him in the fourth round, but vowed to do his best at Koshien.
  • In more tear news, Kenta Imamiya wept for joy at being selected by his local SoftBank Hawks in the first round.
  • I’m looking forward to seeing how Shuichi Furukawa, Yutaka Ohtsuka, and Yosuke Okamoto do as pros.
  • I was wondering why Akihiro Hakumura wasn’t drafted, but it turns out he’s going to college rather than the pros.
  • Former Braves farmhand Masayoshi Tokuda was not taken by the Carp, despite ‘passing’ their tryout.
  • A couple other non-picks I was slightly disappointed with were Michiya Minato and Shogo Akiyama. Admittedly I haven’t seen much of either of these guys, but they both seem to have good pitchers’ frames, decent velocity and command issues (particularly Akiyama on the last point). I was hoping to see if they’d develop as pros.

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Looking Ahead to the Draft

» 05 September 2009 » In npb draft » 7 Comments

One of my favorite sites, Draft Reports, has published a rundown of what’s known about each NPB team’s draft plans for this year.

Obviously Yusei Kikuchi is the consensus favorite this year, but there are a couple other names to watch as well. The popularity of Kikuchi as a pick could lead to some interesting strategies for other teams — will teams use the popularity of Kikuchi as a pick to swoop in a grab other top candidates uncontested? To get a sense of how the the NPB draft works, please see our overview of the topic.

On to the projections.

Orix

1st pick candidates: Yusei Kikuchi (Hanamaki Higashi HS), Kazuhito Futagami (Hosei University), Masato Nakazawa (Toyota), Masanori Fujiwara (Ritsumeikan University), Yoshitomo Tsutsugo (Yokohama HS), Shota Dobayashi (Chukyo HS)

Other high-round candidates: Takashi Ogino (Toyota), Masato Kiyashiki (Kinki-Dai HS)

Orix appears to be undecided among the 1st-round candidates listed above.

Yokohama

1st pick candidates: Tsutsugo,  Kikuchi, Nakazawa, Fujiwara

Other high-round candidates: Dobayashi, Kiyashiki

The latest reports suggest that Yokohama has narrowed its first pick choices down to Kikuchi and Tsutsugo. I would expect them to default towards local boy Tsutsugo, but he’s a slugging first baseman, and the organizational need is pitching.

Chiba Lotte

1st pick candidates: Kikuchi, Futagami, Toshiya Okada (Chiben Wakayama HS), Ikuhiro Kiyota (NTT East), Takayuki Makka (Tokai Boyo HS)

Other high-round candidates: Ogino, Kenta Imamiya (Meiho HS), Masato Mashiro (Nissan), Shota Ohmine (Yae Sho HS)

Latest word is that Lotte is set on Kikuchi with Okada and Imamiya to fall back on.

Hanshin

1st pick candidates: Kikuchi, Nakazawa, Futagami, Fujiwara, Ogino, Makka, Okada, Nobuaki Nakabayashi (Keio University), Hisayoshi Chono (Honda), Hisashi Takeuchi (Hosei University),Tetsu Anan (Nittsu), Hiroyuki Kawahara (Fukuoka University Ohori HS),

Other high-round candidates: Dobayashi, Kiyota, Kiyashiki, Takahiro Araki (Kinki University), Yutaka Ohtsuka (Soka University), Yusuke Matsui (Tokyo University of Agriculture), Masato Matsui (Jobu University)

Now it gets interesting. Hanshin has Kikuchi in their sights as well, but is actively planning a contingency in case they don’t get him. Hanshin has been floating the idea of Chono with their first pick if they miss out on Kikuchi. My guess is that this is a bluff to get the Giants to spend they’re first pick on a guy who isn’t really first round talent.

Rakuten

1st pick candidates: Kikuchi, Tsutsugo

Other high-round candidates: Ogino, Dobayashi, Imamiya

Things have been quiet on the Rakuten draft front. On the surface Tsutsugo would appear to better address the organization’s main need, which is offense.

Hiroshima

1st pick candidates: Kikuchi, Dobayashi, Imamiya, Futagami

Other high-round candidates: Takeuchi, Kenta Matsushita (Waseda University), Nobuyoshi Yamada (Tsuruga Kehi HS), Yutaro Sakurada (Hachinohe University)

Pretty familiar looking names on Hiroshima’s first pick list; but some new ones on their secondary list.

Seibu

1st pick candidates: Kikuchi, Tsutsugo, Futagami

Other high-round candidates: Ryoji Nakata (Asia University)

First mention of Nakata, the short, round college first baseman. On paper, I have my doubts about that guy’s ability to succeed at the pro level, but to see him bookended in the infield with the pudgy Okawari-kun would be interesting to say the least. Reportedly looking at Futagami as their top pick, and they could probably get him easily in the first round.

Yakult

1st pick candidates: Kikuchi, Tsutsugo, Nakazawa

Other high-round candidates: Imamiya, Makka, Katsu Nakamura (Kasukabe Kyoei HS)

Pretty vanilla list, with the exception of Nakamura, who draws comparisons to Yu Darvish. His delivery is clearly Darvish-inspired. Yakult is currently between Tsutsugo and Kikuchi for their top pick.

SoftBank

1st pick candidates: Kikuchi, Kawahara, Takeru Imamura (Seiho HS)

Other high-round candidates: Imamiya

Another unexciting pool, SoftBank is looking at Kikuchi or Imamura with their top pick according to the latest issue of Shukan Baseball.

Chunichi

1st pick candidates: Kikuchi, Imamiya, Fujiwara, Makka

Other high-round candidates: Futagami,Takahiro Suwabe (Honda), Yohei Oshima (Nihon Seimei)

Same players, different team for Chunichi. Chunichi has quietly drafted consistently well over the last few years, so we’ll see how they do with this group.

Nippon Ham

1st pick candidates: Kikuchi, Makka, Tsutsugo, Imamura, Futagami, Okada, Fujiwara

Other high-round candidates: Imamiya, Masayoshi Kato (Kyushu International University)

Kikuchi would give Ham a golden boy to go with Darvish; while Tsutsugo would be a contemporary for Sho Nakata.

Yomiuri

1st pick candidates: Chono

Other high-round candidates: unknown

The Kyojin-gun hasn’t deviated publicly from their intent to select Chono, but there has been some speculation that they’re interested in Kikuchi like everyone else. Not too long ago, however, I read an article that quoted a member of the Giants’ front office as saying to the other Central League teams “go ahead and pick Kikuchi”.

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