Tag Archive > Seibu Lions

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.

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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).

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2011 Uniform Roundup, Volume 2

» 05 July 2011 » In npb » 5 Comments

Here is the much-anticipated followup to my earlier uniform roundup post.

 

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Preseason: Sawamura vs Ohishi, Kikuchi

» 02 March 2011 » In npb » 3 Comments

This morning, I got my first extended look at heralded Giants rookie Hirokazu Sawamura; a 55-pitch open sen appearance against Seibu. I liked what I saw. Sawamura was quick the to the plate, showed good spring time velocity, and managed to hit Shinnosuke Abe’s target with his breaking pitches a good chunk of the time.

Seibu countered with its own touted young ‘uns. 2010 top draft pick Tatsuya Ohishi got the start, 2nd year man Yusei Kikuchi followed with an inning of relief work, and 2010 2nd-rounder Kazuhisa Makita put in two innings. I was a little underwhelmed by Ohishi, but it’s still early in the spring. Kikuchi, on the other hand, was something of a pleasant surprise. He only got an inning of work but he showed a smooth delivery, worked quickly and threw right to the catcher’s target on all but one of his pitches. I had never seen Makita before at any level, and submariners are always fun. I like his 95 kmph curveball, but if this guy gets the ball up in the zone, watch out.

And on a somber note, the game opened with a moment of silence for former Yomiuri Giant, Chunichi Dragon and San Francisco 49er Wally Yonamine, who passed away earlier this week.

As you can see below I’ve embedded the video of the game, or if you prefer you can surf on over to justin.tv and watch there.


Watch live video from otintin2 on Justin.tv

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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”.

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World’s First Pro Baseball Team Youtube Site

» 19 July 2009 » In npb, sports business » 5 Comments

The Seibu Lions have started a channel partnership with YouTube, the Lions@YouTube.  The service is provided for fans to view clips which are produced by the Seibu Lions. Many branded YouTube channels exist, including NBA.Com partnering with Youtube, but this is the first professional baseball team to have a channel on Youtube.

On the site, fans will be able to take a look at promotional events conducted by the Lions. What is interesting about the Lions@YouTube is that the website is not about highlight reels and game reviews, but more of a way for the fans to see behind-the-scenes and events conducted by the Lions.

In order to get a better idea, I recommend taking a look at these scenes from promotions done by the Lions:

  • Businessman Night – An opportunity for businessman off from work to live out their childhood dreams. Some of the opportunities include interacting with former players after the game by taking ground balls and challenging to throw runners out from the outfield, and playing catch on the field immediately after the game.
  • Baseball Women Night - An opportunity for female fans to interact with players and the sport. Opportunities include throwing off the mound and participate in toss batting, playing catch in the outfield and opportunities for couples to participate are available as well.

These events are conducted immediately after the game and it’s easy to see the excitement on participants’ faces in the clips. Establishing their own website in partnership with YouTube may inspire fans at home to attend the ball games themselves with their colleagues and friends.

Technology has been a big part of professional teams changing their methods of interacting with fans and the media, ie Twitter becoming the new trend in the United States. It will be interesting to see how NPB teams react to new trends and if other teams will follow with their own YouTube site or attempt for a new opportunity using a new wave of technology.

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Let the Alternates Begin

» 21 May 2009 » In npb » 5 Comments

NPB teams typically use interleague play as an opportunity to bust out the alternative uniforms. Interleague started earlier this week, and this season is no exception.

The SoftBank Hawks introduced their third uniforms yesterday, and Sanspo has pics here and here. I think I prefer this to their normal third jersey, but I hope at some point they bring back the helmet the old Daiei Hawks wore in the late 80’s.

The only other team to have introduced their throwbacks so far this year is the Hanshin Tigers, who have sensibly opted to revive their 1985 Nippon-ichi uniforms. If you’ve been following Japanese baseball over the last few years, you are probably aware that Hanshin has a checked past when it comes to alternate jerseys: last year’s awful fade/airbrush design, 2007’s alternate logo and yellow pinstripes on black, and the earlier 70’s era throwabacks, which I kind of like.

Seibu has plans to wear 80’s-era throwbacks, and Yakult is going to dust off their old Kokutetsu Swallows design, but neither team has introduced the uniforms yet, so don’t bother with the links unless you’re interested in re-reading what I just wrote in Japanese.

My favorite recent throwback was last year’s Lotte Orions revival. I hope they use those again. Lotte has one of the best home uniforms in Japan, the classic black pinstripes on white. But their road and alt uniforms… not so much.

For more on Japanese baseball uniforms, check out the two posts that UniWatch ran last month. UniWatch produces so much content it’s almost a sensory overload, but they don’t miss a thing and it’s worth the read, especially when you can find something like this set of 1981 Chicago White Sox prototype uniforms.

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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 Bullet Points (2008/07/19)

» 19 July 2008 » In npb » 1 Comment

Links in English:

  • Simon at jhockey breaks down Japan’s Olympic team selections. Biggest surprise? Koji Uehara made the cut despite a 6.00+ ERA.
  • Deanna at Marinerds, etc, went to another Nippon Ham Fighters farm team game. More good pics.
  • It seems like at least a small portion of my traffic comes from people looking for current stats of NPB players. I get my NPB stats in Japanese, so I didn’t realize until recently that JapaneseBaseball.com has a leaderboard here. Career stat are available here. In the career section, current season stats are available to registered users for foreign players such as Michael Restovich.
  • Anyone remember Yukinaga Maeda? I found his triple-a stats while looking for info on Kazuo Fukumori. I didn’t even realize he had signed with an MLB organization. He’s doing a bit better than I would have expected; that 4.29 ERA is high for a reliever but the 41/5 K/BB ratio in 35.2 IP is pretty good. Maybe we’ll see him in MLB this year.

Links in Japanese:

  • Orix introduced new import hurler John Koronka. He’ll make his Japan debut pitching 3 innings in a farm game on July 20, then hit the top team around the All-Star break.
  • Seibu pounded Lotte 17-10. Lotte starter Naruse surrendered nine runs in 6 2/3 innings in what might be the worst outing of his career.
  • Former MLB’er Kazuhito Tadano gave up five runs in Nippon Ham’s loss to Orix. According to Ham pitching coach Masato Yoshii, Tadano’s undoing was a balk.
  • Marine.tv is up to date with highlights as of yesterday’s game.
  • This Softbank Hawks fan blog has some good pics of Hitoshi Tamura.

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