Tag Archive > Tetsuya Yamaguchi

My Team Japan

» 08 May 2011 » In npb » 27 Comments

Last week, I got a pretty good question Twitter — who would my Japanese national team be today?

It’s a good question, and a nice change of pace from the Darvish questions I frequently get, so I decided to write up a post about it. Coincidentally back when I was teaching English at the now-defuct NOVA, I used to do a lesson like this with my baseball fan students, and it was always a fun one.

I’m picking my team as if they would have to compete at the highest level, so as cool as I think the World Port Tournament is, I’m following the WBC roster rules. In summary, I get a maximum of 28 players, with a minimum of two catchers and 13 pitchers.

Outfield

No reason to deviate from the 2009 WBC starting outfield of Ichiro, Kosuke Fukudome, and Norichika Aoki. For my fourth outfielder I’ll go with the gap power, strike zone judgement, and defensive prowess of Nippon Ham CF Yoshio Itoi.

Infield

There’s one easy call for me in the infield: Hiroyuki Nakajima at shortstop. At second base, I’ll start Tsuyoshi Nishioka, without regard to his current injury.

The corners are a little trickier. At third base, I like Takeya “Okawari-kun” Nakamura’s bat and Eiichi Koyano’s glove, with Takahiro Arai striking a balance between the two. Choices are a bit limited on other side of the diamond, and Sho Nakata might be the best choice by the end of the year, but for now I prefer the contact bat of Seiichi Uchikawa.

This group of four gives me some flexibility. I can play the stronger defensive group with Koyano at third, Arai at first, and Okawari-kun DH’ing, or I can for the better offensive lineup and have Arai at third, Okawari-kun at first, and one of my other candidates batting DH. The presence of Uchikawa gives me the option of playing the hot hand as well.

On the bench, I’ll stash Yasuyuki Kataoka and Munenori Kawasaki, both of whom can pinch run, steal bases, get bunts down and play good defense all over the infield.

Designated Hitters

Nakamura would DH for my team when he’s not playing in the field. Hideki Matsui never participates in these things, but dammit,this is my dream team, so he’s in.

Catchers

Catcher is an easy call. Kenji Johjima starts, Shinnosuke Abe backs up.

Starting Pitchers

The first three starters are easy choices: Yu Darvish, Hisashi Iwakuma and Hiroki Kuroda. The next three are pretty easy too: Masahiro Tanaka, Hideaki Wakui, Kenta Maeda. Hang on, no lefties in there, so I’ll call on Tsuyoshi Wada, Toshiya Sugiuchi, and Masaru Takeda.

That’s nine starters, so some of these guys are are going to relieve. In particular, I like Tanaka as a power arm out of the bullpen, and Takeda as a lefty specialist.

Relief Pitchers

I’m rounding out my 13-man pitching staff with four full-time relievers for my squad: Kyuji Fujikawa, Takuya Asao, Hitoki Iwase and Tetsuya Yamaguchi.

Those last two are kind of risky picks, given Iwase’s struggles in the 2008 Olympics, and the fact that Yamaguchi got lit up for 10 home runs last year. But Iwase is a good pitcher, and I like Yamaguchi’s ability to get lefthanded batters out.

Notable absences

The last name I deleted off my list of candidates was Chihiro Kaneko (ignoring the fact that he’s been out injured all season). It was either him or Koyano, and I went with Koyano for his third base defense and gap bat. Kaneko’s righty starter skillset is already well-represented.

I would love to have another power bat on this team, but the only other guy I really thought about was Shuichi Murata. A few years ago, his inclusion would have been a no-brainer, but I prioritized defense, and his down numbers last season concern me. Nobuhiko Matsunaka would have been a great inclusion, but he is a shadow of his former self.

I gave some consideration to Koji Uehara and Takashi Saito, but they are too injury-prone to displace either Fujikawa or Asao, and too righthanded to bump Iwase or Yamaguchi.

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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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Awards Announced

» 18 November 2009 » In npb » 1 Comment

The 2009 season is in the books, and the MVPs go to Yu Darvish in the Pacific League, with Alex Ramirez receiving the honor for the Central League. Darvish earns the award for the second time in his career and Ramirez obtains the award for the second straight season.

The Rookie of the Year award is received by Tokyo Yomiuri Giants outfielder Testuya Matsumoto, the first time in 51 years that two players from the same team received the RoY in consecutive years (Giants reliever Tetsuya Yamaguchi took the prize last year). The Pacific League award goes to reliever Tadashi Settsu of the Softbank Hawks.

The Best Nine Awards have also been announced and the winners are as follows:

Central Pacific
P Dicky Gonzalez Yu Darvish
CA Shinnosuke Abe Hidenori Tanoue
1B Tony Blanco Shinji Takahashi
2B Akihiro Higashide Kensuke Tanaka
3B Michihiro Ogasawara Takeya Nakamura
SS Hayato Sakamoto Hiroyuki Nakajima
OF Seiichi Uchikawa Teppei
OF Norichika Aoki Yoshio Itoi
OF Alex Ramirez Atsunori Inaba
DH Takeshi Yamazaki

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Ikusei (Training) Player System

» 13 May 2009 » In international baseball, npb, sports business » 3 Comments

I touched on the ikusei (training) system at the end of my 2009 NPB Team Payroll Ranking piece, but how exactly does that system work?

The number of contracted players each NPB team is allowed to carry on its roster is 70. Previously, if teams wanted to carry more than 70 players, they invited players as practice players (players who could not participate in regular season games, but were allowed to practice with the team). However the system came to an end when teams were using the system to their benefit and inviting as many promising players as possible.

After the the system was discontinued, NPB teams were in need of another development system, with the number of amateur teams and industrial league teams diminishing and players losing opportunities to play.  That is how the ikusei player system was born. So let me touch on how the ikusei player system works…

  • Teams with more than 65 players on the books are allowed to utilize the system
  • Ikusei players are only allowed to participate in a Ni-gun(Minor League) game and only five players per team are allowed to play
  • Ikusei players may change status to a contracted player by end of July, but foreign players over the age of 26 are only allowed to transfer by the end of March
  • Ikusei players will wear a three-digit number and if the status changes, the player also needs to change its number to a one or two-digit number
  • Ikusei players may be included in trades until the end of July

Since the establishment of the ikusei system there have been couple success stories…

  • The first ikusei player to play in a NPB game was Michitaka Nishiyama of the Softbank Hawks
  • Tetsuya Yamaguchi (Pitched for Japan in WBC 2009) of the Yomiuri Giants earned the first victory as a player coming from the ikusei player system
  • Former Major Leaguer Norihiro Nakamura signed with the Chunichi Dragons as a ikusei player in 2007 and finished the season as the MVP of the Japan Championship Series
  • 29 year-old Yuuki Tanaka, who signed as an ikusei player with the Tokyo Yakult Swallows was promoted on May 11. The winner of 23 career NPB games will be attempting his comeback after being released by the Orix Buffaloes in 2008
  • Hayato Doue, who had signed with the Red Sox prior to 2008 but couldn’t get a work visa, is currently with the SoftBank Hawks after being promoted from an ikusei player at the start of the 2009 season. Doue was taken with the last pick of 2008 ikusei draft

Currently there are 49 total ikusei players on the 12 NPB teams, with the Tokyo Yomiuri Giants having 12 under contract (As of May 12, 2009).

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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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NPB Bullet Points (2009/01/04)

» 04 January 2009 » In mlb, nichibei, npb » Comments Off

First bullet points of the new year… let’s get started.

Japanese Articles

  • The Tadahito Iguchi rumor mill is heating up a little. According to Nikkan Sports by way of Sports Nifty, the Chiba Lotte Marines are prepared to start the negotiations at 2 years, 400m yen ($4.4m at the current exchange rate).  The article speculates that they could go a little higher as they have the diasppointing Julio Zuleta’s 260m yen ($2.86m) annual salary coming off the books.
  • Nikkan Sports reports that Daisuke Matsuzaka will be training with his former team, the Seibu Lions in preparation for the World Baseball Classic. Matsuzaka will train with Seibut at his own request.
  • Nippon Ham manager Masataka Nashida has announced that Yu Darvish will be his opening day starter. Not really news, but it’ll be a tight schedule with the WBC wrapping up shortly beforehand. In the same breathe, Nashida said that he wants to face Hanshin in the Japan Series this year.
  • Yomiuri Giants reliever and 2008 R0Y Tetsuya Yamaguchi will be doing his pre-camp training in Arizona at the Fischer Sports Gym, where Randy Johnson works out in the offseason. In other training news, Yakult reliever Ryota Igarashi is also heading to Arizona to train at the same gym Nomar Garciaparra uses.
  • The Hiroshima Carp have been flooded with a deluge of orders for their new uniform.

English Articles

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Oh, The Irony

» 10 December 2008 » In npb » 1 Comment

The other day, I read in Sanspo that 2008 Central League Rookie of the Year Tetsuya Yamaguchi played in the American minor leagues. I knew that he was the first former instructional player to win an RoY, but I figured he was from the independant leagues or something and didn’t bother to research it further. But it turns out that Yamaguchi played three seasons in the Arizona system, never rising above rookie ball.

The irony is that he won the award for the Yomiuri Giants, so they directly benefited from having a returning Japanese player on their team. Maybe they’ll re-think the returnee rule later on.

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