Tag Archive > Softbank Hawks

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:

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:

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…

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 (2008/08/05)

» 05 August 2008 » In npb » Comments Off on NPB Bullet Points (2008/08/05)

English articles only today, and a fairly random collection.

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Softbank Fails to Add a Bat

» 02 August 2008 » In npb » Comments Off on Softbank Fails to Add a Bat

The trade/foreign player acquisition deadline came and went without Sadaharu Oh’s Fukuoka Softbank Hawks adding the power bat they were looking for. According to Nishi Nippon Sports, the Hawks were looking for a player who could hit and field, and had someone in mind when they sent team COO Takeuchi to America on July 28 for last minute negotiations. Said team representative Tsunoda, “in the end we narrowed it down to one player and made an offer, but he didn’t accept”. Tsunoda adds that they were looking for someone that they could hang on to for next season. I guess we’ll never know who they were targeting.

This leaves Softbank with Michael Restovich as the only foreign batter on the team’s roster. Restovich has so far been a disappointment with only three home runs and a .231 batting average, and is currently working on his game with the farm team. Softbank’s failure to add a bat may give him a chance to re-establish himself.

Softbank is losing two players to the Olympics; lefy starters Tsuyoshi Wada and Toshiya Sugiuchi. The Hawks are only two games over .500, and is only 2.5 games ahead of Orix for 3rd place in Pacific League. 5th and 6th place Lotte and Rakuten are 3 and 6 games back respectively, so it looks like it’ll be a tight race for the third and final playoff spot in the Pacific League.

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NPB Bullet Points (2008/07/30)

» 30 July 2008 » In npb » Comments Off on NPB Bullet Points (2008/07/30)

NPB’s All-Star break has finally arrived, but there’s still plenty to read about. Here are today’s selections.

English links:

Japanese Links:

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NPB Bullet Points (2008/07/24)

» 24 July 2008 » In npb » Comments Off on NPB Bullet Points (2008/07/24)

Headlines from the Japanese side of the web tonight:

  • I caught a blurb on Softbank negotiating with a foreign power hitter in Sports Hochi. Says team COO Takeuchi, “when we reach the final stages we’ll make an announcement. Currently we’re negotiating”. This report is a little old and doesn’t hint at who it might be. Maybe negotiations didn’t go anywhere.
  • Yu Darvish threw 165 pitches in Nippon Ham’s July 23 loss to Lotte. Darvish hung around until the 8th inning, allowing 5 earned runs on 11 hits and 5 walks while striking out 10. Sanspo quotes Nippon Ham manager Nashida: “I thought we’d go until 140. He himself said that’d go. His love for the team is intense. I thought he’s dependable”. Ham pitching coach Masato Yoshii commented that Darvish didn’t have his good stuff.
  • Chris Resop hit 98 MPH on the gun in a practice with Hanshin. The coaches seem impressed. Tomoyuki Kubota holds the Hanshin record for fastest pitch in a game at 157 KM/H (98.125 MPH).
  • Hiroshima made two minor trades recently that totally slipped by me. They picked up Rui Makino from Rakuten for Kenta Satake, and Akira Tanaka from Orix for Koji Yamazaki. There seem to be more trades happening in NPB recently.

As an addendum, I also posted some highlights from the Darvish game I mentioned.

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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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Softbank is Looking for a Slugger…

» 16 July 2008 » In nichibei, npb » 8 Comments

…and there’s an accomplished one available, Barry Lamar Bonds.

I had been thinking of Bonds since I read that the Hawks are looking for a new foreign power hitter a couple of days ago, but kind of dismissed it as being unrealistic. But after thinking about it for a while, it makes a certain degree of sense. There would be some drawbacks, too. Let’s run down the pros and cons:

The Case For:

  • The Hawks are 4th in the Pacific League with 70 home runs, and tied with Rakuten (who have played fewer games) for 3rd with 370 runs. Bonds in the middle of the lineup would change that.
  • The Hawks only have one foreign batter on their roster currently, Michael Restovich, who has mostly played first base. Softbank has used five foreign pitchers this year, and would still have to do some roster juggling to come in under the foreign player limit.
  • Restovich has underperformed this year with only three HR’s. The Hawks can put him on the bench and create a rotation of Bonds, Nobuhiko Matsunaka and Hiroki Kokubo between LF, DH, and 1B.
  • The Hawks are managed by Sadaharu Oh. Oh holds the world record for professional home runs with 868 and has been under the microscope. He seems to sympathize with Bonds as well, probably for these reasons.
  • The Hawks’ parent company, Softbank, is owned by Japan’s richest man, Masayoshi Son. Son has made several statements that he wants to build a world-class baseball team and even once offered to host a “true” World Series, with $100M of his own money going to the winner. Signing Bonds would make a splash.
  • It would be a chance for Bonds to compete again. The Hawks will certainly make the playoffs and with a healthy Bonds could be the favorite for the Pacific League title. He hasn’t won a championship in MLB. A Japan title wouldn’t replace that but it would be a great achievement in it’s own right.
  • I’ve actually seen Bonds do interviews with the Japanese media, including one where they followed him around a spring training. Maybe he gets along better with the Japanese press.

The Case Against:

  • Bonds’ popularity in Japan has plummeted since all the BALCO stuff came out. He was once a star there; not so much any more.
  • He would probably be immediately subjected to a drug test.
  • There would still be intense media scrutiny over there; if anything it may be more intense than what it would be in the US.
  • It’s possible that Bonds’ tarnished reputation could backfire with fans.
  • Bonds’ presence could create a distraction for the other players.
  • It would probably be a month before we see him in action.

It would certainly be a gamble for Softbank to sign Bonds, but it makes sense for baseball reasons. I think it makes sense for both sides. As a fan of Japanese baseball, I was a little conflicted about writing this — in some ways I’d kind of like to see NPB prove itself on it’s own terms, without a guy like Bonds around. But then again, it would be great to see Bonds face off against pitchers like Yu Darvish, Hisashi Iwakuma, and Yoshihisa Naruse. And maybe it would draw a little more attention to NPB internationally, which I think would be great.

Bonds’ agent issued a “no comment” when asked about Japan (SFGate via mlbtraderumors.com), which suggests to me that it’s not out of the question. Unlikely, yes, but not out of the question.

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NPB Bullet Points (2008/07/12)

» 12 July 2008 » In nichibei, npb » 2 Comments

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