Tag Archive > Senichi Hoshino

160 Pitches? Let’s Ask Masahiro

» 11 February 2014 » In mlb, nichibei, npb » 8 Comments

Much has been written about Masahiro Tanaka’s famous two-day, 175-pitch Nippon Series pitch-a-thon. If you’re reading this, you know exactly what I’m talking about.

Pretty much all the commentary in the North American media has been that Tanaka throwing 160 pitches in a start (a loss no less), and then 15 in relief the next day is, at best, a bit of a question mark, and, at worst, a sign of abuse or overuse. It seems that few that have provided commentary cite primary sources, or even saw the games.

I was traveling on the days that games 6 and 7 took place, and I didn’t see game 6 live, but I did catch the tail end of game 7, including Tanaka’s relief appearance. He certainly did look worn out, but not quite worryingly so. What was a little odd was that of his 15 pitches, about 10 were splitters, and only two or three were fastballs. His velocity was okay, but didn’t approach his peak. In retrospect, Tanaka and Rakuten were fortunate that he was able to shut down the Giants when he did, as continuing to pitch could have been disastrous.

What’s getting lost in the shuffle a bit is that Tanaka voluntarily kept himself in game six, and made himself available for game seven. There are plenty of times when it’s totally reasonable to criticize Japanese managers for overworking pitchers, but I’m not sure this is one of them. It’s not unreasonable to fault Rakuten manager Senichi Hoshino for risking injuring Tanaka, but in this case I don’t blame him. Put yourself in his shoes: you’ve got a real shot at winning your first Nippon Series, you’ve got the best pitcher in the league, he’s telling you he’s ready to go, and this is your last chance to use him. What would you do?

With that commentary out of the way, let’s take a look at what Hoshino and Tanaka had to say about this at the time it happened.

Hoshino after game 6, on wanting to remove Tanaka after throwing 120 pitches: “He wasn’t in the mood to be replaced, and he himself was planning on going. He felt like he wanted to be on the mound until the end.”

Hoshino after game 6 again: “I think it’s an ace’s will. This could be his last day to pitch in front of the fans, so there’s also that. It’s wonderful. The fans would be very happy to see Tanaka lose. Well, no they wouldn’t.”

Tanaka after game 6: “I want to do what I can.”

Hoshino during game 7 (really this is Sponichi’s reporting with a quote from Hoshino): “Hoshino asked him numerous times ‘are you really okay?’ but his determination was unchanged.”

Tanaka after game 7: “I was feeling depressed because my pitching yesterday was so pathetic. So I prepared myself in the bullpen, with the feeling that I would be ready to go any time, if I was to be put in the game. I want to show my appreciation for my teammates and fans, who set this stage.”

Tanaka, after game 7 again: “I had some fatigue, but since we’ve come this far I couldn’t just say that, so I pitched with the feeling that this would be the end.”

Hoshino, prior to the Asia Series: “Tanaka, Norimoto, and Mima aren’t going (in the Asia Series). You’d call me dumb if I had them pitch here.”

My opinion is that Tanaka’s game 6 and 7 workload was more gutsy than risky. I think Tanaka felt like he could do it, so he went for it, and it was more like a calculated risk than recklessness.

And one last thing: Tanaka was just the sixth pitcher in NPB history to throw over 160 pitches in a Japan Series game. The most recent prior to Tanaka? Ephemeral Pittsburgh Pirate Masumi Kuwata, who threw 167 pitches in game 5 of the 1994 Series.

Continue reading...

Tags: , ,

NPB in English: Royster, Kroon, Yonamine, Darvish, Brazil

» 04 March 2011 » In mlb, nichibei, npb » 12 Comments

Yakyu links from the English side of the ‘net for tonight:

Continue reading...

Tags: , , , ,

Offseason Changes: Rakuten Golden Eagles

» 04 February 2011 » In npb » 4 Comments

Coming: Akinori Iwamura, Kazuo Matsui, Shinjya Okamoto, Kelvin Jimenez, Byung-Hyun Kim, manager Senichi Hoshino

Going: Kazuo Fukumori, Norihiro Nakamura, Makoto Kosaka, Ryuji Miyade, Todd Linden, Andy Phillips, Naoto Watanabe, Keiichi Yabu, manager Marty Brown

Staying: Hisashi Iwakuma, Darrell Rasner, Randy Ruiz, Juan Morillo

Summary: Rakuten’s 2011 offseason was headlined by two big events: the unsuccessful posting of ace Hisashi Iwakuma, and the hiring of accomplished manager Senichi Hoshino. Hoshino inherits a team that finished sixth last year, and is facing with losing its ace again.

I shared a few observations about the Iwakuma posting, and why in retrospect it was destined to fail, over at FanGraphs last month, so I won’t rehash that. From an on-the-field perspective, the Eagles are certainly more competitive with him than without him. He and heir apparent Masahiro Tanaka will lead a rotation that goes four deep; five if Kelvin Jimenez’s KBO success translates to Japan. Coincidentally, Rakuten’s two notable bullpen acquisitions came via Korea last year: Shinya Okamoto spent last season with the LG Twins, and the other is Byung-Hyun Kim. Those two along with the returning Juan Morillo give Hoshino a couple more relief options, which will help as Rakuten’s bullpen wasn’t particularly strong in 2010. But overall pitching was not really Rakuten’s problem last season. The Eagles allowed 635 runs and a 3.98 ERA, which was right in line with the all the Pacific League teams that don’t have Yu Darvish.

Rakuten’s problem in 2010 was an anemic offense. Only Nippon Ham hit fewer home runs than Rakuten’s 95, but the Fighters’ contact-hitting lineup still scored 36 more runs than the Eagles. Rakuten finished last or next to last in the Pacific League in runs scored, batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, steals, and intentional walks. This poor performance can mostly be attributed to four players: imports Todd Linden and Andy Phillips didn’t show up last year, and veteran sluggers Norihiro Nakamura and Takeshi Yamasaki experienced declines. Linden, Phillips and Nakamura are all gone this year, replaced in the lineup by a full season of Randy Ruiz and NPB returnees Akinori Iwamura and Kazuo Matsui. That group should outperform the guys who left, though Kazuo is a bit of a question mark for me. Yamasaki is getting old, but his 28 home runs and .749 OPS in 2010 were a respectable contribution. After that, the Eagles have perhaps Japan’s unheralded offensive star, Teppei, who despite his talent only gets a passing mention in this article. So the offense should be better, but even in the best case scenario it’s hard to see it being more than middle of the road in the Pacific League.

The last factor to discuss is the addition of Hoshino as manager. I see a few parallels with the last team he took over, the 2002 Hanshin Tigers. Hoshino is again inheriting a team coming off a last-place finish, succeeding Katsuya Nomura (though Nomura passed the Rakuten baton to Marty Brown for a season), with some some added veteran talent*. Hoshino got his Tigers off to a fast start in 2002, and though the team cooled off and eventually finished fourth, the improvement was real. The Tigers won the Central League handily in 2003 and have basically been competitive ever since. Hoshino will have less to work with in Sendai, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see his tenure with Rakuten take a similar path. He’ll be eager to exorcise any remaining demons from his stint managing Japan’s 2008 Olympic entry, a performance so disappointing it inspired a fan to set up a site protesting his involvement in the 2009 WBC. Rakuten definitely has the talent to compete for wins in 2011, though they probably won’t be in the mix for the Pacific League title. If they can take a step forward this season and build from there, Hoshino has a shot at wrapping up his distinguished managerial career on a high note.

*The 2002 Tigers brought in Atsushi Kataoka and George Arias. Tomoaki Kanemoto and Hideki Irabu joined in 2003.

Continue reading...

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

A Brief Tribute to Norihiro Akahoshi

» 21 December 2009 » In npb » 2 Comments

I didn’t write about this when it happened, but Hanshin OF Norihiro Akahoshi abruptly retired the week before last, citing back and neck problems sustained from an injury diving for a ball last season.

I try not to let my bias as a fan show through too much, and in many ways, I’ve become a much more neutral baseball fan since starting this site. But I lived in and around Osaka for a couple years in the early 00’s, and I have dropped a few hints that my NPB team of choice is Hanshin. The Tigers’ 2003 Central League Championship run was the most exciting baseball season I’ve ever been around as a fan, and also, in a way, the most bittersweet. A doctor friend of mine managed to get me a single ticket to game three of the Japan Series, but it was rained out and I had to return to the US the following day, so I didn’t get to go.

Anyway, back to Akahoshi. I don’t think I have anything particularly poignant to say here, but Akahoshi was one of the guys that keyed Hanshin’s revival this decade. Despite being a mid-round draft pick he started his first season with the ichi-gun team, taking over center field from Tsuyoshi Shinjyo and leading the league in stolen bases. He missed half of 2002 with an injury, but still lead the league in stolen bases. Akahoshi entered his prime in 2003, when he started a run of three consecutive seasons hitting .300 or better with at least 60 steals. Despite not being as prolific on the base paths as he had been earlier in his career, Akahoshi had remained a threat to run and a respectable on-base guy until the end of his career.

Akahoshi contributed the most enduring image of the 2003 season, when he got bear-hugged by Senichi Hoshino after driving in the walk-off winner in the game that clinched the Central League for Hanshin. Of course, he also dressed as “Razor Ramon HG” during the 2005 beer kake

He’s going out early, but Akahoshi had the good fortune to play during a golden age of sorts for Hanshin, and will certainly be closely associated with Hanshin’s success in the 00’s. I’ll leave with this pic of Akahoshi I swiped from Wikimedia Commons, the first image I’ve ever run directly on NPB Tracker.

akahoshi

Continue reading...

Tags: , ,

NPB Bullet Points (2008/09/09)

» 09 September 2008 » In npb » 2 Comments

Going with all Japanese articles for today’s bullet points, since I haven’t really read anything in English for the last couple of days.

Japanese Articles:

Question for bullet points readers: do you enjoy the Japanese content or the English content more? What topics do you find most interesting?

Continue reading...

Tags: , , , , ,

NPB Bullet Points (2008/08/22)

» 22 August 2008 » In npb » 4 Comments

Japan is getting pounded 8-4 by America as I type this… what a disappointing Olympics for Team Hoshino. Still, Korea and Cuba asserted themselves as winning countries, so I think it’s not a bad result for the game of baseball.

Let’s move on to the bullet points. I’ve got a couple stored up from the last few days.

Japanese Articles:

  • Hitoki Iwase got lit up to the tune of a 13.52 ERA in 4 2/3 innings of Olympic competition, taking 3 losses. On the plus side, his 7:1 K:BB ratio was strong. Nikkan Sports has the stats published for all the Olympic teams (Japanese only).
  • I found a great blog entry about various NPB batters’ stances. Click the 動画 link above each image to see video highlights on YouTube. My recommendations are Sadaharu Oh and Hitoshi Taneda.
  • Colby Lewis made his return to the Hiroshima Carp on August 21, his first start since July 1. He held Hanshin scoreless in 5 2/3 but didn’t pick up the win.
  • Nagisa Arakaki set a new Japan record with five wild pitches in one game, including three in the fourth inning. This guy has great stuff and would dominate if he could do something about his control.
  • Yu Darvish is heading back to Japan and scheduled to start on September 2 against Softbank.
  • Sales of Kazuhiro Kiyohara goods are up 1000% since he announced his retirement.
  • Unlike their male counterparts, the Japan woman’s softball team took home the gold. I’m mentioning it here because Japan starter Yukiko Ueno pitched back-to-back complete games on consecutive days in the knock-out round, and according to this article threw 413 pitches over the two days. I find that number very hard to believe, even though the semi-final was an extra-inning game.

English Articles:

Well, in the time it took me to type this, Team USA sealed it’s victory over Japan and clinched the bronze medal. Well, the WBC is only nine months away…

Continue reading...

Tags: , , , , , ,

Olympic League Play Recap

» 21 August 2008 » In npb » Comments Off

Well, Japan squeaked into the medal round of the Olympics with a 4-3 record in group play. Japan is the 4th seed and draws top-ranked Korea in the opening game of the medal round.

Japan blew out Taiwan, the Netherlands and China, edged Canada, and lost to Cuba, Korea, and the United States. Japan beat the teams it needed to beat, and lost to the stronger competitors. The lose to Cuba was the only game that Japan didn’t have a chance to win, mostly due to Yu Darvish’s disappointing performance (5 earned runs, 12 baserunners in 4 IP).

The losses to Korea and the USA were closer — both games were tied until the late innings. Japan had Korea tied 2-2 going into the 9th, but Chunichi closer Hitoki Iwase gave up 3 runs in 1 1/3 IP to take the loss. Simon from jhockey does a much better job breaking down the game than I could possibly do here.

Japan and the US took a scoreless tie into the 11th, when the lottery tie-breaker rule kicked in. Japan left Iwase on the hill for a second inning and he gave up 4 runs. Japan responded with 2 in the bottom of the inning but that obviously wasn’t enough to win. I’ll have to admit that I didn’t see Iwase pitch in the Olympics, so I don’t know what kind of impression he’ll have made on the many scouts present.

I’m a little disappointed to see Japan and Korea play in the first game of the medal round. I don’t really want to see either of these teams go home without a medal, but one of them will (what was I thinking — the loser will have a shot at the bronze). A Japan-Korea gold medal game would have been phenomenal but that isn’t going to happen.

I’ll close out this post with some random Olympic-related notes and articles I’ve picked up over the last week. These links are all to Japanese articles:

And finally, John Donovan shares his picks for Japan’s “Dream Team” simply by adding Japanese Major Leagurs to the existing Olympic roster.

Continue reading...

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,