Tag Archive > Sho Nakata

Game Notes: Darvish vs Chen

» 11 June 2011 » In mlb prospects, npb » 1 Comment

Summary: These notes are about a game that took place on Tuesday, June 7. Nippon Ham edged Chunichi 1-0 in a great pitcher’s duel.

What a pitching matchup. Yu Darvish was his usual self, striking out 10 with no walks and three hits in another shutout, running his personal scoreless streak to 44 innings. But Wei-Yin Chen managed to keep up with him and pitched a game that would have earned him a “w” under normal circumstances.

Darvish did everything well — he kept everything down, or unhittably high in the zone; got ahead of nearly ever batter; got into only two three-ball counts; surrendered virtually zero hard contact. Catcher Keiji Koyama managed two of Chunichi’s three hits, a single off an early-count fastball, and another off a slider that got a little too much of the plate. The only other Dragons batter to look remotely competent was Kazuhiro Wada, who hit the hardest ball off Darvish, a sharp line drive that Fighters second baseman Kensuke Tanaka made a great jumping play on. Wada also hit an opposite field single to lead off the seventh inning, which after a sacrifice bunt by Takahiro Saeki turned into the only Dragons threat of the evening. But Darvish subverted that minor threat by dominating Ryosuke Hirata, who could only vaguely defend the strike zone, and Masahiko Morino, who struck out on three pitches.

You couldn’t say that Chen matched Darvish pitch for pitch, but he put up a dominant performance in his own way. Chen scattered four hits in an eight-inning compete game, needing only 88 pitches to work through Nippon Ham’s lineup three and a half times. The difference in the game came in the top of the seventh, when Chen surrendered an uncharacteristic walk to Atsunori Inaba, then hung a slider to Sho Nakata on an 0-2 count. Nakata smacked a double off the left field wall, with the ball bouncing far enough from Wada to allow Inaba to score from first. Chen wasn’t rattled though, and with Nakata still on second, mowed down Tomohiro Nioka, Dai Kan Yoh, and Micah Hoffpauir.

Though the results differed by the slimmest of margins, the two pitchers took differing approaches on the mound. Darvish’s arsenal is such that he can feature a couple of different looks. In this game, he featured at the power end of his range, relying on his four-seam, cutter and tailing two-seam/one-seam/shuuto. When Chunichi’s hitters started fouling the hard stuff off, Darvish would go to his slider or curve for a different look.

Chen, by comparison, kept things a lot simpler. He fed Nippon Ham a strict diet of fastballs and sliders, showing great location and keeping nearly everything on the edges of the strike zone. To make an unfair comparison, he lacked Darvish’s velocity and movement, but he worked quickly, threw strikes, and knew what he wanted to do with each hitter. It definitely felt like he was pitching to contact, but it worked as he mostly limited the Fighters to infield pop ups and lazy fly balls.

I don’t really have anything more to say about this game, so I’ll close with this remarkable fact. Darvish’s opening day: seven innings pitched, seven runs, seven earned. Darvish since then: 69 innings pitched, six runs, five earned.

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2011 Breakout Candidates

» 13 April 2011 » In npb » 3 Comments

Tonight we take a look at eight guys who could take a step forward this season.

Sho Nakata (1B/LF/DH, Nippon Ham Fighters) — Nakata was on my list last year, and had an interesting season: a slow start followed by an injury, then a hot stretch immediately after the injury, and finally a slump to end the season. The important thing is that he showed he can handle ichi-gun pitching, which was a new development. If he can put together a full year he’ll likely be Ham’s best or second best home run hitter.

Shota Ohba (P, Softbank Hawks) — Like Nakata, Ohba was on my list last year, and also like Nakata he’s had stretches of success. Last year he only threw 9.1 innings at the ichi-gun level; if he were to make 20 starts this year it would be a boon to Softbank’s lefty-dominated rotation.

Naomichi Donoue (IF, Chunichi Dragons) — The Arakibata Combi can’t continue forever, and when the Hirokazu Ibata half was down with an injury last year, Doue was there to fill in. He’s been touted as a prospect for some time now, we’ll see if this is the year he breaks through.

Keijiro Matsumoto (OF, Yokohama BayStars) — Developing young talent should be a high priority for a Yokohama team that can’t realistically expect to compete this year. But ‘Hama has started the season with an outfield of Termel Sledge, Hichori Morimoto, and Yuki Yoshimura, and to get playing him he’ll have to take it from one of those guys. Matsumoto hit for average at ni-gun last year, but without many walks or home runs.

Wirfin Obispo (P, Nippon Ham Fighters) — Obispo has always had a good arm, and showed a lot of promise in 2009 with Yomiuri. In Hokkaido he’ll be a part of a deep pitching staff, but won’t have to compete for a roster spot with more established foreign veterans, so he should get a few more innings at the top level.

Takashi Ogino (SS, Chiba Lotte Marines) — Ogino’s not strictly a breakout candidate, given that he performed extremely well prior to his injury last year. But he’s new to shortstop and if he stays healthy, he should be a lot of fun to watch.

Yusei Kikuchi (P, Saitama Seibu Lions) — After a disappointing rookie season, Kikuchi had a strong spring and made Seibu’s opening day roster, in a middle relief role. I only saw him pitch one inning this spring, and while his velocity topped out around 142 kmph, his mechanics were smooth and he kept the ball down in the zone. There’s no doubt about his talent.

Hideto Asamura (IF, Saitama Seibu Lions) — I’m cheating on this one a little bit, as Asamura has started Seibu’s first two games at first base. I first saw Asamura this spring, in an exhibition game against Yomiuri, where the announcers were describing him as a potential successor to Hiroyuki Nakajima. I was impressed at how much confidence he showed at the plate against Brian Bannister. That swagger has apparently carried over to the regular season as he’s 5-9 so far.

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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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NPB Bullet Points: Caraballo Debuts, Kudoh Returns, Chunichi Rolls

» 20 July 2010 » In npb » 7 Comments

A couple of debuts and a new NPB record to share. Today’s articles will require your Japanese language skills, or the Fish.

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2010 Pacific League Opener

» 20 March 2010 » In npb » 4 Comments

It took some time to find a working video feed, and the live chat idea didn’t really work out, but we had baseball yesterday.

Amazingly, my data collecting and parsing programs still work with this year’s sites. I need to do some usability work to make the 2010 data easier to find, but it’s all there. Here are the charts for this year’s opening day starters:

Kaneko had the best outing with his four-hit shutout, but the game I spent the most time watching was Nippon Ham vs SoftBank. Some thoughts on the game:

  • Darvish scrapped that pause at the top of his delivery, and was overall quicker to the plate than last year.
  • Darvish also seemed like he was trying to strike everyone out, and went the distance throwing 147 pitches. He struck out 13.
  • Sugiuchi was not sharp with his command, especially up in the zone.
  • Every year I wonder if Hiroki Kokubo has anything left, but he looked great yesterday. He had a great at-bat against Darvish in the 5th, resulting in an rbi double, and saved a run in the field with a diving play down the 1st base line.
  • Sho Nakata‘s plate discipline was put to the test in the 6th when he came up with runners on 2nd and 3rd. I thought Sugiuchi had a pretty big advantage in that situation, and Nakata did chase a couple of pitches out of the zone, but Nakata worked the count full and then hit a single off a hanging breaking ball.

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11 Players I’m Looking Forward to Following this Year

» 16 February 2010 » In npb » 6 Comments

I didn’t set out to order these guys in any specific way, but looking at the list, there are basically three groups of players: young breakout candidates, veterans coming back from injury problems, and a couple of veteran ni-gun imports.

Sho Nakata (IF/OF, Nippon Ham): Nakata hit 30 home runs in 322 ni-gun at-bats last year, but every time I’ve seen him at the ichi-gun level he’s looked overmatched. Supposedly he’s a butcher at first base, but this spring Ham is giving him a look in left field. If he can stick with the big team he should get enough at-bats to get comfortable.

Romash Tasuku Dass (P, Nippon Ham): I’ll admit that only real reason Dass has caught my eye is that he’s half Indian. I didn’t really follow him at all last year, but apparently he only saw 15 innings of work at ni-gun.

Kohei Hasebe (P, Rakuten): Hasebe was heavily hyped as an amateur but has so far had two lackluster seasons as a pro. Rakuten has a deep rotation, and we’ll see if he can flourish under Marty Brown.

Yoshinori Sato (P, Yakult): Yoshinori has a great arm, but is basically a two-pitch pitcher with command problems. If his command improves I think he’d be as good or better than Wirfin Obispo, who has a similar arsenal.

Shota Ohba (P, SoftBank): Ohba has shown that he can get NPB hitters out, but has yet to put together a complete season. The talent is there.

Yasuhiro Ichiba (P, Yakult): Ichiba was another highly regarded amateur who has failed to make an impact as a pro. I thought a change of scenery would help Ichiba last year, but it didn’t. This year, he’s experimenting with a new, three-quarters delivery.

Makoto Imaoka (IF, Lotte): From 2002-05, Imaoka was one of the most competent, productive hitters in Japan. From 2006-09, he got progressively more horrific until Hanshin finally released him. The Marines are giving him a chance to contribute this year, and hopefully he’ll play like he has something to prove.

Yoshinobu Takahashi (OF/IF, Yomiuri): Takahashi is a guy that Hanshin fans love to hate, but I’ve always thought he was a very good player, perhaps even a little underrated. In my eyes, he should have been the Central League MVP in 2007, instead of Michihiro Ogasawara. He’s been battered an ineffective over the last two years, and even if he’s healthy this year he’ll have to compete for playing time.

Nagisa Arakaki (P, SoftBank): Seven years ago, I thought Arakaki was Japan’s next great pitcher. And he was pretty good for a while, before catching Steve Blass Disease and dealing with shoulder injuries (two problems which are probably not mutually exclusive). Arakaki has been indefinitely relegated to ni-gun, which suggests he has a long way back.

Aarom Baldiris (IF, Orix) & Juan Muniz (IF, Lotte): Baldiris and Muniz have a few things in common — they are both veteran minor leaguers, both started in Japan on ikusei contracts, and both led their respective farm leagues in batting last year. Baldiris is younger and has gotten time at the top level, where he hasn’t hit enough to stick despite strong defense. We’ll see if either break through this year.

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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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NPB Bullet Points: Imaoka Released, Williams Too?

» 02 September 2009 » In amateur baseball, npb » 2 Comments

In Japanese:

  • Amid rumors of his retirement, Hanshin has released infielder Makoto Imaoka. Reportedly no other teams are interested in picking him up. Imaoka was a big time contributor to Hanshin’s Central League championships in 2003 and 2005, so if this is really the end of the road for him it’s a shame for him to go out this way.
  • Jeff Williams has headed back to the States for arm surgery, but wants to return to Hanshin for next season: “the decision was made about a week ago. Of course I want to avoid surgery and it’s not something I want to do, but I think surgery is the direction we’re going in. My goal is take the mound in a Tigers uniform again next season.” Despite Williams’ productive seven-season run with the Tigers, rumors persist that the team will not exercise their option on his services for next season.
  • Sho Nakata set a ni-gun record by hitting his 28th homer of the year for Nippon Ham’s farm team.
  • Bobby Valentine’s replacement in Chiba: Marines head coach Norifumi Nishimura.
  • Honda won this year’s Industrial League Intercity Championship. Hisayoshi Chono was the top batter.

In English:

  • Gen has set up a new blog at yakyubaka.com.
  • Yesterday on my morning commute, I happened to tune to NPR, where Michael Krasny was discussing Japan’s recent elections with a panel of experts. My commute is 30 minutes so I only caught half of the program, but it can be listened to online.
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Swine Flu Infects Nippon Ham

» 20 August 2009 » In international baseball, npb » 2 Comments

Just when we thought the swine flu epidemic was behind us, and NPB teams even resumed the use of jet balloons, the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters caught the bug. Five players and staff were infected with the flu, and as a precaution every player and staff was checked. Six additional players were diagnosed with a slight fever and the team decided to let those players rest until they recover.

Three of the players who are thought to be infected with the flu are Termel Sledge, Shota Ohno, and Naoki Miyanishi. The six additional players diagnosed with fever symptoms were some of the main members of the team including CA Shinya Tsuruoka, INF Eihichi Koyano, INF Tomohiro Nioka, OF Yoshio Itoi, LHP Tomoya Yagi and RHP Kazumasa Kikuchi.

The team is currently in first place in the Pacific League with a seven game lead, but losing the core of the team for an extended period of time could be a problem. Top prospect Sho Nakata will be getting another opportunity with the Fighters due to the absence of these players. If he makes the most out of this opportunity, the Fighters might have an X-Factor going into the playoffs.

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Darvish and Gonzalez to Start Game 1

» 23 July 2009 » In npb » Comments Off

Yu Darvish (Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters) and Dicky Gonzalez (Yomiuri Giants) will get the starts for the Game 1 of the All-Star game hosted at the Sapporo Dome. Darvish will have only one day of rest in between from his outing against the Chiba Lotte Marines throwing a complete game for the league leading 12th win. He is still scheduled to throw two innings at the All-Star game hosted in his home stadium.

Tetsuya Yamaguchi (Tokyo Yomiuri Giants) will be the first player to participate in the All-Star game starting his career from the Ikusei Player System. Tadashi Settsu, a reliever for the Softbank Hawks will be the only rookie in participating in the All-Star game.

The Fresh All-Star game, which is the All-Star game for the Ni-gun was held at the Sapporo Dome. The starters for this game was Kenji Tsuchiya (Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters), a 4th-round draft pick from 2008, and Taiwan-born Sho Iketsu (Xiao Yijie), a 1st round draft pick from the Hanshin Tigers in the 2008 draft.

The game resulted one-sided with the Eastern League defeating the Western League, 7-0. The MVP of the game was another player hoping to call Sapporo Dome his home in the near future, Sho Nakata. The 1st rounder from the 2007 draft went 2-4 with two doubles, 2RBI, RS, BB and a SB. Taishi Ota, first rounder from the Yomiuri Giants in the 2008 draft went 1-5 with a double.

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