Tag Archive > Takashi Saito

Rakuten To Sign Saito

» 28 December 2012 » In nichibei, npb » Comments Off

After signing Andruw Jones and Casey McGehee, the word was the that Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles were looking to add a third Major Leaguer. According to multiple reports, that expectation has been nearly fulfilled, as Rakuten has agreed to a one-year contract with Takashi Saito, pending a physical. An official announcement is expected as soon as the 29th (JST). According to Sponichi, the deal is worth JPY 30m (US $350k), but will be worth over JPY 100m (US $1.5m) if Saito reaches all his incentive bonuses.

“We want him to perform well and become a symbol of Tohoku’s recovery, and we expect him to pass his Major League experience on to our young players,” commented Rakuten team president Yozo Tachibana.

Sponichi quotes an associate of Saito’s calling this move “the culmination of his baseball life”. It’s certainly move that carries a more symbolism than most free agent signings, as Saito’s home town is Sendai, where Rakuten plays it’s home games. He returns to Japan after a phenomenal seven-year run as an MLB reliever.

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Yokohama to Post Sanada

» 22 November 2011 » In mlb prospects, nichibei » 2 Comments

Here’s one I didn’t see coming: according to the Jiji Press, Yokohama has agreed to post righthanded reliever Hiroki Sanada. This will be Yokohama’s first usage of the posting system, as previous BayStars alumni Kazuhiro Sasaki and Takashi Saito moved MLB via free agency.

I don’t expect Sanada will be a hot commodity on the posting market this offseason. He’s never been a strikeout machine, but he dipped to just 18 over 49 innings of work in 2011. That may be explained by a drop in velocity. But more importantly, I doubt he drew much scouting attention over the course of the season, as few would have anticipated him being posted. As such, he’s probably headed for a minimal posting fee and a minor league contract.

As a side rant, this is exactly the kind of player the posting system works against. If Sanada were a free agent, he could fly to Arizona and throw a few bullpen seasons for scouts and potentially find a fit for himself. Instead, he’ll have to hope that a team that has already seen him chooses to bid during the four days they are allowed to.

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Post-Quake News

» 16 March 2011 » In npb » 7 Comments

With northern Japan still not out of the woods, baseball has rightfully taken a backseat in the news. But there is already news about the charitable activity of NPB players, as well as discussion about when NPB’s season should begin, and I’d like to share those items tonight. No opinion here, just news.

And finally I and my family have made small contributions to Global Giving and Save The Children, and are researching other organizations. If anyone has any suggestions, I’m all ears.

 

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Re-Run: The Effects of NPB Players Leaving for MLB, part 4

» 27 August 2010 » In mlb, mlb prospects, nichibei, npb » 4 Comments

I’ve spent most of my writing time this week over at FanGraphs, profiling some of Japan’s better players. In researching that set of articles, I came across this post I wrote in early 2009, before Koji Uehara and Kenshin Kawakami had signed with MLB clubs. Looking back at this, I don’t think I’d change the set of conclusions that I originally drew, but I will add the observation that this trend has hurt the overall depth of the league. Another interesting thing to note is that 11 of the 26 players listed here have returned to NPB, several since this article was written: Johjima, Iguchi, Kobayashi, Yabuta, Taguchi, Yabu and Fukumori.


Time to close out this series with some conclusions. I fear that I may be oversimplifying this a bit, but I’m looking for macro trends with this. These are casual observations, I didn’t do any hard research.

Check the three previous installments here: 1, 2, 3.

1. Most of the teams that lost a star to MLB took some kind of a hit in the standings. With the exception of Hiroshima, the teams losing the top 10 players listed below took years to replace the production they lost, and some still haven’t. It’s also important to remember that none of these departures happened in a vacuum; there were other things that affected the performance of each team, but overall the lose of these players has hurt their former teams competitively.

2. The only team that really took a popularity hit after losing a star to MLB was the Giants after losing Matsui. I bought walk-up tickets to a Giants game in 2005, which would have been unthinkable a few years earlier. Of course, while the Giants were down, the Tigers and Dragons were both up and have enjoyed competitive success and popularity since the early part of the decade. SoftBank has been less competitive since losing Johjima, but has not suffered at the gate. The team is actually adding 6000 seats to the Yahoo Dome for next season to help meet demand.

3. Signing foreign talent to replace departed stars doesn’t seem to work. Teams will often sign foreign players to fill the holes left by departed stars, but when the do so, they’re losing the opportunity to add depth at other positions with those roster spots. I can’t think of an example where a foreign star was a long-term replacement for an MLB bound star. Colby Lewis was great as Hiroki Kuroda’s replacement in 2008, but so was Kevin Hodges a few years ago and he flamed out after a single season.

4. Losing talent to MLB has a trickle-down impact on the smaller market teams. As an example, Hanshin may have been content with their outfield had Shinjo stuck around, but two years after he left they signed Tomoaki Kanemoto away from the Carp to play left field. Kanemoto has gone on to become a legend for the Tigers while the Carp have only recently begun to show signs of life. Hanshin and Yomiuri can spend to fill their holes, while smaller market teams like Hiroshima cannot.

5. On the positive side, stars moving to MLB has opened up (or could potentially open) spots for younger players, in a league where there is no rule 5 draft and blocked prospects and depth guys are seldom traded. We haven’t seen too many cases of prospects jumping in and filling the shoes of the top 10 guys I’ve listed below, but others have stepped in for 11-26.

Overall, I don’t think this trend is killing NPB. Attendance is stable, and Japan Series television ratings were up this year (mostly because the Giants played in it). Many of the players who have made the leap to MLB have actually been pretty successful, which has greatly improved the credibility of NPB overseas. On the downside, the loss of star players has hurt the competitive depth of the affected teams, and led many to question the viability of the league. I seeing the loss of these star players as an “Oakland A’s-ing” of the league — the A’s have gotten by with smart management, an ability to exploit market inefficiencies and a willingness to continually reinvent the team on the field. The A’s style doesn’t translate to the Japanese game completely, but the underlying principles of thrift and creativity are important for a group of teams that generally is not going to compete with MLB financially.

Below is a list of all the players I looked at, ranked in order of how much I think their departure affected their previous team and the league. For me, there are really about three or four classes: Matsui and Johjima, Iwamura through Iguchi, and everyone else. You can possibly put Matsui, Kobayashi and Yabuta in their own class as well, as guys who were quickly replaced but did leave a gap in their absences.

Rank Player Team Year Record Before Record After Impact
1 Hideki Matsui Yomiuri 2003 86-52-2 71-66-3 High
2 Kenji Johjima Daiei/SoftBank 2006 89-45-2 75-56-5 High
3 Akinori Iwamura Yakult 2007 70-73-3 60-84-0 High
4 Kosuke Fukudome Chunichi 2008 78-64-2 71-68-5 High
5 Daisuke Matsuzaka Seibu 2007 80-54-2 66-76-2 Medium
6 Ichiro Orix 2001 64-67-4 70-66-4 Medium
7 Hiroki Kuroda Hiroshima 2008 60-82-2 69-70-5 Medium
8 Kei Igawa Hanshin 2007 84-58-4 74-66-4 Medium
9 Kazuhisa Ishii Yakult 2002 78-56-6 72-64-2 Medium
10 Tadahito Iguchi Daiei/Softbank 2005 77-52-4 89-45-2 Medium
11 Kazuo Matsui Seibu 2004 77-61-2 74-58-1 Low
12 Masahide Kobayashi Lotte 2008 76-61-7 73-70-1 Low
13 Yasuhiko Yabuta Lotte 2008 76-61-7 73-70-1 Low
14 Takashi Saito Yokohama 2006 69-70-7 58-84-4 Low
15 Hideki Okajima Nippon Ham 2007 82-54-0 79-60-5 Low
16 Akinori Otsuka Chunichi 2004 73-66-1 79-56-3 Low
17 Shingo Takatsu Yakult 2004 71-66-3 72-62-2 Low
18 Tsuyoshi Shinjyo Hanshin 2001 57-78-1 57-80-3 Low
19 Keiichi Yabu Hanshin 2005 66-70-2 87-54-5 Low
20 So Taguchi Orix 2002 70-66-4 50-87-3 Low
21 Satoru Komiyama Yokohama 2002 69-67-4 49-86-5 Low
22 Kazuo Fukumori Rakuten 2008 67-75-2 65-76-3 Low
23 Norihiro Nakamura Kintetsu 2005 61-70-2 62-70-4 Low
24 Shinji Mori* Seibu 2006 67-69-0 80-54-2 Low
25 Yusaku Iriki* Nippon Ham 2006 62-71-3 82-54-0 Low
26 Masumi Kuwata Yomiuri 2007 65-79-2 80-63-1 Low

* I forgot about both these guys when compiling the original lists. Mori was successfully posted and signed with Tampa Bay, but got hurt in his first spring training and was never heard from again. Iriki played in the Mets and Blue Jays organizations, but got busted for PED usage and never reached the Majors. He resurfaced with Yokohama in 2008, but retired after the season.

** I left out Yukinaga Maeda as well.

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Free Agents: Saito, Nishi, Kobayashi

» 29 November 2009 » In mlb, mlb prospects, npb » 9 Comments

A couple of items from the nichibei free agent market…

  • According to Sponichi, Takashi Saito has eight teams interested, including the White Sox, Cubs, Braves and Mets. The Braves had some interest in Saito way back in 2002 but he wound up remaining with Yokohama.
  • Multiple reports are saying the Yomiuri Giants are going after Masahide Kobayashi. The Giants would use him in a middle relief role.
  • 38 year-old second baseman Toshihisa Nishi has compiled a DVD and sent it Stateside, to no immediate effect. Nishi, released by the BayStars, is looking for a camp invite from a major league club.

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More on Matsui

» 12 November 2009 » In mlb » 6 Comments

It looks like the reports of Boston’s interest in Hideki Matsui drew quite a bit of attention the other day, possibly getting blown just a wee bit out of proportion. All the reports in the Japanese media, which idolizes Matsui, are saying that Godzilla is shaping up to a plan b to Jason Bay.

When asked by the Japanese press, Theo Epstein played down the idea of signing Matsui. Quoted in Sponichi: “Our DH next season is [David] Ortiz. His last four months of this season were good, and I think next year will be a good season for him”; and Daily Sports, commenting more specifically on Matsui: “we aren’t thinking about it that deeply. Right now we have our hands full with our own free agents.” Incidentally, Epstein has been quoted as saying he wants to keep Takashi Saito around.

In other news, Sponichi has a report that the Rays would consider Matsui if they can move Pat Burell, reports persist that the Angels could turn to Matsui if negotiations with Vlad Guererro stall, and the Mets are looking into whether Matsui can play in the field on a regular basis.

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Yokohama Considering Japanese Major Leaguers

» 03 September 2009 » In npb » 15 Comments

The Yokohama BayStars have routinely had the worst pitching staff in Japan the last few years, and word from Sponichi has it that they’ll be looking to re-import some help from the States this off-season. Said an unnamed member of the ‘Hama front office: “we’re two or three starters short, and getting a pitcher who can close is a point to improve on. We’re seeing if we can use any of the Japanese pitchers who are playing in America.” Ironically, this is the team that wouldn’t take Satoru Komiyama back after he returned from the Mets.

Sponichi mentions Tomo Ohka, Yasuhiko Yabuta, and Masahide Kobayashi as guys the BayStars could look at. Ohka spent time with Yokohama early in his career, but requested and was granted his release to pursue a shot at the Majors. Two other names I’ll throw out are Kei Igawa, who would have to take a pay cut to return to Japan (among other things, see comments), and Takashi Saito, who is much more of a wildcard — he’d need to be non-tendered, and he’s also performed much better in the States than he did in Japan.

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Tazawa Promoted

» 08 August 2009 » In mlb prospects » 6 Comments

As Ryo posted on Twitter yesterday, the Red Sox have called Junichi Tazawa up to the MLB team. He promptly took the loss in Boston’s 15-inning defeat to the Yankees, giving up a walk-off homer to Alex Rodriguez.

Boston used three Japanese pitchers in the game — Tazawa, Hideki Okajima and Takashi Saito; and another, Ramon Ramirez, who has NPB experience.

I’ve written about Tazawa extensively on this site, including this early scouting report-ish post, a deeper analysis of reasonable expectations for him, and an interview with Portland sports writer Kevin Thomas on his progress.

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Minor Leaguers Going Overseas This Offseason

» 19 February 2009 » In mlb prospects » 4 Comments

This offseason, we’ve seen a large number of released NPB players announce an intent to pursue contracts with MLB organizations. I’m not sure if this is a record, but it’s the most I can recall. I’m not including Junichi Tazawa and Ken Takahashi in this list, because Takahashi turned down NPB offers, and Tazawa would have been drafted. All of these guys were either released by their NPB teams, or in the case of Yamarin, not drafted.

  • Shigeki Noguchi -> agreed with Blue Jays, failed physical
  • Ken Kadokura -> Cubs
  • Kazuhiro Takeoka -> Unsigned (Braves?)
  • Katsuhiko Maekawa -> Cardinals
  • Takateru Iyono -> Unsigned
  • Tatsuya Ozeki -> trying out with the Rockies in March
  • Ryohei Tanaka -> Orioles
  • Michinao Yamamura -> Unsigned (Golden League?)
  • Koichi Misawa -> Unsigned (played in the Northern League in ’08)
  • Yoshinori Yamarin -> Braves
  • Itsuki Shoda -> Sinon Bulls (Taiwan)

Five Players are still unsigned, which doesn’t surprise me, but I can see Yamamura and Iyono getting a shot as they’re still in their 20’s. Takeoka has worked out twice for the Braves and played AAA ball, so he might a chance too.

Notable MLB returnees:

  • Jeremy Powell -> Pirates
  • Jason Standridge -> Marlins
  • Craig Brazell -> Orioles
  • Winston Abreu -> Rays

Without a doubt, all of the players listed above obvious face big uphill battles to making it to the majors. But the fact that they are getting a chance indicates either a heightened respect for the level of talent in Japan, or a greater need to find low-cost, low-risk players through non-traditional channels. There will be 22 Japanese players in 14 big league camps this spring.

Reasons not to write these guys off just yet: Tomo Ohka, Takashi Saito, Hector Carrasco, Buddy Carlyle, Brian Shouse and  Pedro Feliciano. Saito looked like he was on the downside of his career when he came over, and none of the other guys had lasting success at the top level in Japan. All have been at least useful MLB players.

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Red Sox Notes: Matsuzaka, Saito & Tazawa

» 16 February 2009 » In mlb » Comments Off

The Red Sox have four Japanese pitchers on their 40-man roster, and as such are getting their share of coverage in the Japanese media. 

  • Daisuke Matsuzaka has been training in advance of the WBC with his former team, the newly re-uniformed Saitama Seibu Lions. See if you can spot him in this YouTube footage. The catching drill around 5:55 is worth watching too.
  • Perhaps taking a cue from Ichiro, Matsuzaka also found his way to the batting cage. Matsuzaka took 28 swings off Seibu ace Hideaki Wakui, hitting 13 over the fence. A passing John Wasdin commented, “it’s Japan’s Big Papi”, probably with a tone of sarcasm that didn’t make the trip from English to Japanese and back. Matsuzaka did make at least one pinch-hitting appearance in his Seibu days.
  • Junichi Tazawa is getting a quick start on his Boston career. He’s been in camp for a couple days and is working out with Takashi Saito. Sanspo has pics of his first Red Sox bullpen session: 12. He threw 62 pitches.
  • Tazawa followed that up with a 54-pitch session on the 14th.
  • Takashi Saito celebrated his 39th birthday with a 4km run.
  • And I’ll close with an English-language article, an Alex Speier piece reflecting on Hideo Nomo, with comments from Tazawa and Saito.

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