Tag Archive > Tetsuya Utsumi

The NPB Tracker Post Season Awards

» 01 December 2011 » In npb » 1 Comment

Better run this before ALL the awards are announced… several weeks ago, Randy, Ken and I made our selections for the top performers of 2011. And here they are, with minimal analysis.

Sawamura Award: Masahiro Tanaka (Patrick, Ken), Yu Darvish (Randy)

Ken and I liked Tanaka’s crazy 1.27 ERA, while Randy favored Darvish’s higher innings pitched and strikeout totals. Can’t really go wrong either way.

Apologies to: Kazuki Yoshimi, Tetsuya Utsumi

Pacific League MVP: Tanaka (Patrick, Ken), Darvish (Randy)

The new NPB ball made this a pitcher’s year, and there was general consensus that the performance of Darvish and Tanaka put them ahead of everyone else.

The real winner, Seiichi Uchikawa, finished third on Randy’s ballot and fifth on mine. He would have been my winner if he had missed less time.

Apologies to: Takeya Nakamura, Yoshio Itoi, Hiroyuki Nakajima, Uchikawa

Central League MVP: Hisayoshi Chono (unanimous)

The overall lack of offense around the league meant that Chono’s performance stood out enough to win our votes. The lack of a Tanaka or Darvish type starting pitcher in the CL played a role here as well. Yoshimi and Utsumi were extremely good this year, but not scarily dominant.

The real winner, Takuya Asao, finished fourth on my ballot. You can argue that he put up that Tanaka-level performance in the CL this year, and I guess the voters did, but personally I valued a starting position player over a relief pitcher.

Apologies to: Asao, Yoshimi, Utsumi, Kenta Kurihara, Hirokazu Sawamura

Pacific League Rookie of the Year: Kazuhisa Makita (Patrick, Ken), Shota Ishimine (Randy)

While there were a lot of strong rookies in the PL this year, Makita pitched over 100 innings for Seibu out of the rotation and out of the bullpen, solidifying each when his team needed it. Ishimine stuck in the Lotte outfield throughout the season, got on base at a respectable clip, and swiped 32 bases.

The real voters agreed with Ken and I.

Apologies to: Takahiro Shiomi, Yuki Saito

Central League Rookie of the Year: Sawamura (unanimous)

Probably the most obvious award in quite some time, thanks to Sawamura’s 2.03 ERA over 200 innings pitched. The real voters thought so.

Apologies to: Daiki Enokida

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NPB Bullet Points: Monthly MVPs, Darvish the Hockey Player

» 06 June 2011 » In nichibei, npb » 4 Comments

First links roundup in a while, as usual all in Japanese today.

  • The monthly MVPs were announced yesterday. In the Pacific League, Yu Darvish and Tadahito Iguchi won, while Wladimir Balentien and Tetsuya Utsumi took home the prizes in the Central League. It’s nice to see Balentien get the award this month as I think he got robbed in April.
  • At an elementary school visit, Darvish was asked “why did you start to play baseball?”, to which he answered “when I was an elementary school student I also played ice hockey but the practices were tough.” I could see Darvish as a defenseman with great reach.
  • Nippon Ham racked up a team scoreless streak of 52 innings last week, tying the NPB record set by Hanshin in 1942. After the streak came to an end Saturday against Yakult, Nippon Ham immediately went out and put up back-to-back shutouts against Yomiuri, so they already have another 18 inning scoreless streak. Nippon Ham has a cool 2.21 team ERA, which amazingly is second to Softbanks 2.15.
  • My re-translation of Alex Cabrera’s comments regarding his 350th NPB home run wound up getting translated to Spanish for a Venezuelan publication. Now that this has gone through a few iterations I’d love to see how close this Spanish translation comes to Cabu’s original remarks.
  • Cleveland minor leaguer Tooru Murata has a blog going. One post that caught my eye was this one, in which he writes about traveling by bus, saying “the air conditioning is too strong so the bus is too cold. I lose the feeling in my fingertips.” Murata seems to be on the DL, but he has a good K:BB ratio so far this year. He very experienced for his level though.
  • Orix is selling “pro model uniforms” jerseys this summer, for JPY 34,500.
  • This photo was taken above Hakkodate Ocean Stadium in Hokkaido back on May 15th.
  • Personal non-news observation #1: I haven’t watched much major league baseball at all this year, but yesterday I watched a bit of the Giants game against Colorado. The Giants started a righthanded #32, who I had never seen before, and I kept thinking “wow, this guy is great, who is he?” It turned out to be former Hanshin and Orix pitcher Ryan Vogelsong.
  • Personal non-news observation #2: I don’t think any pitcher in NPB enjoys what he does as much as Orix’s Yuki Nishi does. I’ve really enjoyed watching him this season.

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Offseason Changes: Yomiuri Giants

» 27 January 2011 » In npb » 6 Comments

Coming: Brian Bannister, Hideki Sunaga, Toshimasa Konta, Jonathan Albaladejo, Carlos Torres, Rusty Ryal, Adam Bright

Going: Masahide Kobayashi, Seung-Yeop Lee, Wirfin Obispo, Marc Kroon, Edgar Gonzalez, Toru Murata, Noriyoshi Ohmichi, Soichi Fujita, Noel Urena

Staying: Seth Greisinger, Dicky Gonzalez

Summary: The top three teams in the Central League (Chunichi, Hanshin, and Yomiuri) all finished the 2010 season within one game of each other in the standings. While the order of finish might be different, it doesn’t look like any of the three will falter and miss the post-season party in 2011.

While the Giants failed in their quest for a fourth straight pennant last season, there were many positives. Owners of NPB’s most powerful lineup, only the Tigers were able to outpace the Giants’ 711 runs scored. Yomiuri’s stars like Alex Ramirez and Michihiro Ogasawara aren’t getting any younger, but both still put up terrific numbers. Ogasawara defies the laws of nature each season, staying remarkably consistent at the plate. Shinnosuke Abe set career highs with 44 home runs and 303 total bases. Hisayoshi Chono and Hayato Sakamoto have emerged as superb young hitters, offsetting a potential future offensive decline.

Once heralded but now out of favor, management decided that Seung-Yeop Lee’s time as a Giant would end this off-season. Since joining the team five years earlier, both Lee’s numbers and playing time steadily decreased each season. Edgar Gonzalez was not retained; the infielder hit .263 with 12 home runs in 2010.

The plan right now seems to be one of replacing the holes that were created by off-season departures. Rusty Ryal spent 2010 with the Arizona Diamondbacks. He’ll battle with for time at third base, as it looks like Tatsunori Hara will slide Ogasawara over to first base. Taishi Ohta and Yoshiyuki Kamei will undoubtedly be squeezed for playing time at ichi-gun if Ryal sticks; the latter is transitioning to the infield this season.

On the pitching side, closer Marc Kroon and Masahide Kobayahi departed.  I expect former New York Yankee Jonathan Albaladejo to fill Kroon’s spot as the 9th inning man. He might have some competition from Tetsuya Yamaguchi or Daisuke Ochi, but I believe Albaladejo will win the role barring injury or severe early underperformance.

As for the rotation, Shun Tohno and Tetsuya Utsumi are set, then the Giants brass has to figure out how to cobble together a winning rotation from Shugo Fujii and a gaggle of foreigners. New arrival Brian Bannister should be part of the rotation, and Seth Greisinger will also get a look after an abbreviated 2010 campaign. Dicky Gonzalez (5-13, 5.29 ERA), who couldn’t come remotely close to his 2009 performance (15-2, 2.11 ERA), was also invited back and is an option. The odds are longer for hurlers such as Chih-Lung Huang or Carlos Torres to win a regular rotation spot, but hopes are high for 2010 top draft pick Hirokazu Sawamura.

Of note, Hideki Sunaga and Toshimasa Konta arrived in a trade with Nippon Ham, as Wirfin Obispo was sent to Hokkaido in exchange. Toru Murata departed for the American minor leagues, but the aforementioned Greisinger took a harsh pay cut to stay with the Giants.

The positional battles, newcomers, and high-powered offense should be fun to watch this spring. We’ll see if it all goes according to plan for the Kyojin when the games count in a few months.

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New Pitches

» 04 March 2010 » In mlb, npb » Comments Off

It’s spring training, and that means pitchers are refining their arsenals. Here are some of the guys that are working on new pitches this spring:

We’ll have to wait and see what from this list survives to see game action.

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Darvish Returns

» 01 November 2009 » In npb » 3 Comments

Yu Darvish returning this season seemed unlikely couple weeks ago, but as time went on, the possibility of a start in the Japan Series become more evident. Darvish returned to the mound to start game two of the Series, and it was his first appearance in a game in 42 days.  Given his long layoff, it was difficult to predict what type of shape he’d be in.

Although he was clearly not 100 percent, he mixed in his off-speed pitches and went six innings, allowing two earned runs on seven hits with seven strikeouts for a total of 87 pitches. His opponent in Tetsuya Utsumi was not as sharp,  giving the Fighters a decent chance to win.

Even though Darvish had an extreme amount of time to practice, it was his first in-game situation since September, and the biggest stage of the year. Darvish showed why he is considered one of the best pitchers in the game, showing he can control a game without being 100 percent. He explained in an interview that he tried not to put too much strength toward his left foot and expanded his footing grip. His adjustment was to not to use his injured hip, and focus on using his arm to throw the ball.

Darvish quoted that he will be preparing to throw in Game 7 if necessary and that should be an exciting game if it happens.

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Nippon Series Thoughts

» 01 November 2009 » In npb » 2 Comments

The Giants took game one of the Japan Series last night, beating Nippon Ham behind a rather hittable Dicky Gonzales. This is another post I had meant to go to prior to the Series starting, but that’s the way things go some times.

So on to the scattered thoughts and observations…

  • If you would have told me at the beginning of the year that Gonzales would start game one of the Japan Series, I would have laughed pretty hard.
  • Deanna and Gen went to their usual levels of detail in covering game one.
  • Yu Darvish has been out of commission for quite a while now, but he it looks like he’s starting game two for Nippon Ham. Tetsuya Utsumi gets the call for the Giants.
  • Speaking of Darvish, he’s been throwing lefthanded again.
  • I know a game has already been played so it’s too late to say this, but I like Yomiuri’s roster over Nippon Ham’s. I like Yomiuri’s depth in this series.
  • On the other hand, the last time Nippon Ham won the Japan Series (2006), Darvish was partnered at the front of the Figthers’ rotation by Tomoya Yagi, who won the Rookie of the Year award that season. After winning in ’06, Yagi promptly faded into injured-list oblivion, and Darvish became the best pitcher in Japan. This year, Yagi made a comeback, posting a 2.88 ERA in 122 innings, and Ham is back in the Series.
  • It’s interesting to see Nippon Ham playing Yomirui in the Series. Prior to Ham moving to Hokkaido, the Fighters shared the Tokyo Dome with the Giants, and seemed to be operating in Yomiuri’s shadow. It seemed like the Fighters used to frequently sign ex-Giants, but the only notable example I can think of is Hiromitsu Ochiai. Once the Fighters moved to Hokkaido and got out from under the Giants’ shadow, they got competitive.
  • I missed a chance to post on this earlier, but I’ll do so now — when Nippon Ham eliminated Rakuten from the Climax Series, it marked the (latest) end to manager Katsuya Nomura’s career. I wouldn’t call myself a Nomura fan, but he is certainly a character, and as such I suppose this picture of him putting away his uniform for the last time is a little sad. After Nippon Ham’s win, both sides honored Nomura with the traditional celebratory douage (click the link if you don’t know what that is). This is, I think, an important distinction for Japanese baseball from American baseball. Nippon Ham won the game and the series, and it was very much their day, but the winning players and Nippon Ham fans still celebrated Nomura after the game.

I don’t think I’ll be up to watch the game tonight, so if anyone checks it out on justin.tv, please click the ‘watch later’ link, and paste the url into a comment.

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Pitching Data: Tetsuya Utsumi

» 18 July 2009 » In npb » Comments Off

Right after I started doing the velocity charts, I asked who readers wanted to see. It’s taken me a while but I’m finally getting back around to this, so let’s take a look at Tetsuya Utsumi.

Utsumi has been one of the most consistent inning eaters for Yomiuri over the last few years, but got off to kind of a rocky start this season. He has pulled things together of late, though, and now has a respectable 3.23 era to go with his 4-6 record.

Read on to check out some velocity charts…

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WBC Japan vs Korea (again) Live Chat

» 19 March 2009 » In international baseball » 3 Comments

Japan and Korea square off for the fourth time in this year’s WBC, with Korea holding the edge 2-1. Tetsuya Utsumi gets the start for Japan, while Jang Wonsam gets the call for Korea. This game determines the seedings for the semifinal round, but both teams are guaranteed to move on.

US-based fans can see the game on ESPN; Japan and Korea-based fans can certainly watch the game locally, we’ll see if we can find a live feed for others.

The live chat will be moderated and trolls will not be tolerated.

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WBC Roster Set

» 22 February 2009 » In international baseball, mlb, npb » 5 Comments

Japan manager Tatsunori Hara has settled on a WBC roster. Here it is:

Pitchers
Yu Darvish
Takahiro Mahara
Masahiro Tanaka
Hideaki Wakui
Daisuke Matsuzaka
Minoru Iwata
Hisashi Iwakuma
Kyuji Fujikawa
Tetsuya Utsumi
Satoshi Komatsu
Shunsuke Watanabe
Tetsuya Yamaguchi
Toshiya Sugiuchi

Catchers
Kenji Johjima
Shinnosuke Abe
Yoshiyuki Ishihara

Infielders
Hiroyuki Nakajima
Yasuyuki Kataoka
Akinori Iwamura
Michiro Ogasawara
Shuichi Murata
Munenori Kawasaki

Outfielders
Kosuke Fukudome
Norichika Aoki
Seiichi Uchikawa
Yoshiyuki Kamei
Atsunori Inaba
Ichiro

(SI has the AP article as well)

Notable departures are Nobuhiko Matsunaka (achilles problem), Kenta Kurihara (affected by elbow surgery last year), Toru Hosokawa (right shoulder pain), Tsuyoshi Wada, and Takayuki Kishi. Health reasons were not cited for Wada and Kishi.

Overall, the roster looks pretty good to me, though it’s somewhat short on power.The inclusion of Yoshiyuki Kamei makes no obvious sense to me, but I could see him as a defensive replacement/pinch runner. The only other questionable pick I see is Shunsuke Watanabe. He’s been hit or miss in NPB, and as I recall he wasn’t that great in the 2006 WBC.

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Player Profile: Norichika Aoki

» 30 January 2009 » In npb » 4 Comments

From 1994-2000, Ichiro was the undisputed best hitter in Japan. After he left for Seattle, Hideki Matsui took over as Japan’s consensus batting king. After Matsui’s reign, you’d have to go with Nobuhiko Matsunaka, until 2005 when Norichika Aoki emerged. It’s hard to argue who was better in ’05, but in 2006 Aoki took over the title and has held it ever since.

I mainly focus on pitching with this site, just because I think pitching is the more interesting part of the game (baseball is the only game where the defense controls the ball). So this will be my first of comparatively few articles devoted to hitting, and why not start at the top?

Looking Back
Not too long ago, I was thumbing through Shukan Baseball’s 2003 draft guide, and I happened across Aoki’s profile toward the back of the section for college players. Shukan Baseball graded him an ‘A’ overall, noting that he had hit .400 in two consecutive seasons, but compared him to Tatsuya Ozeki
, a servicable contact-hitting outfielder with zero power. Aoki’s Waseda University teammate Takashi Toritani really viewed as the prize of the draft, and got a cover spot on that issue. Back then, the top college and industrial league players could choose which team to sign with, and Toritani chose to sign with Hanshin, while Aoki was selected in the fourth round of the draft by Yakult. By the end of 2005, it was obvious which team had the better draft. I didn’t see Aoki in college so I can’t explain why he was so underrated, but it does speak to the difficulty of drafing top amateurs. Perhaps teams were scared off by his small frame (5’8 or so).

While we’re here, other notables available in the 2003 draft included SoftBank closer Takahiro Mahara,  former-almost Red Sox farmhand Hayato Doue, Yomiuri starter Tetsuya Utsumi, Dodgers farmhand Robert Boothe, and Lotte ace Yoshihisa Naruse. Aoki’s “comparable” Ozeki is currently out of NPB work and looking to catch on with a US minor league team

Hitting
The lefty-hitting, center-fielding Aoki is the closest thing Japan has to another Ichiro
, and WBC viewers will probably get to hear the compared quite a bit. The comparisons aren’t really off-base, as the two have pretty similar games. Comparing Aoki to a Japan-era Ichiro, both players have a long stride in their swings, but Aoki gets into more of a crouch and appears to have a more stable lower body. But judge for yourself with some obligatory YouTube footage: here’s a clip chronicling the evolution of Aoki’s swing from 2005-2007, and a homerun Ichiro hit off of a rookie Daisuke Matsuzaka in 1999. Both clips are in Japanese, but the video should speak for itself.

Aoki is a bit of a free-swinger, but he’s reduced his strikeouts and increased his slugging percentage in each year of his career. He’s also improved on his batting eye, walking about as much as he strikes out (his walk total actually surpassed his strikeouts in 2007). Another telling stat is that in 2008, 31.2% of his hits went for extra bases, up from 16.4% in his historic rookie year. Note also this improvement came while Yakult moved the fences back in their home, Jingu Stadium.

Let’s take a look at how he got his job done in 2008, courtesy of some analysis borrowed from the outstanding Data League site:

PA GB / FB Ratio GB Rate FB Rate Line Drive Rate GB BA FB BA Line Drive BA Hits to Left Hits to Center Hits to Right Hits on GB %
500 1.4 52.40% 37.50% 10.10% 0.288 0.423 0.775 28.50% 35.40% 36.10% 13.60%

So it’s pretty clear that Aoki uses the whole field, and does well when he gets the ball into the air. I’d suggest that he can improve further as his batting eye continues to develop and he can get pitches to drive. 

And More…
Aoki was a bright spot for Japan’s disappointing 2008 Olympic team, and will take to the international stage again in this year’s WBC, where he’ll start in center alongside Ichiro. Along with Yu Darvish, he’ll probably attract the most attention of any non-MLB player on Japan’s team.

Aoki just signed for 2009 with Yakult for 260m yen ($2.86m) after four rounds of negotiations. There had been some rumblings of Yakult wanting to sign him to a 10-year deal, but so far nothing’s come of it. I wish they’d make more than a nominal attempt to do it. Aoki asked to be posted a couple years ago, and Yakult of course said “no way”, so it would be nice to see them back that up with a little commitment. Yakult basically knows they have a guy that they’ll eventually lose to MLB, but they have a nine-year headstart on his services. Let’s see how creative they can be in retaining him and building a competitive team around him.

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