Tag Archive > Todd Linden

Offseason Changes: Rakuten Golden Eagles

» 04 February 2011 » In npb » 4 Comments

Coming: Akinori Iwamura, Kazuo Matsui, Shinjya Okamoto, Kelvin Jimenez, Byung-Hyun Kim, manager Senichi Hoshino

Going: Kazuo Fukumori, Norihiro Nakamura, Makoto Kosaka, Ryuji Miyade, Todd Linden, Andy Phillips, Naoto Watanabe, Keiichi Yabu, manager Marty Brown

Staying: Hisashi Iwakuma, Darrell Rasner, Randy Ruiz, Juan Morillo

Summary: Rakuten’s 2011 offseason was headlined by two big events: the unsuccessful posting of ace Hisashi Iwakuma, and the hiring of accomplished manager Senichi Hoshino. Hoshino inherits a team that finished sixth last year, and is facing with losing its ace again.

I shared a few observations about the Iwakuma posting, and why in retrospect it was destined to fail, over at FanGraphs last month, so I won’t rehash that. From an on-the-field perspective, the Eagles are certainly more competitive with him than without him. He and heir apparent Masahiro Tanaka will lead a rotation that goes four deep; five if Kelvin Jimenez’s KBO success translates to Japan. Coincidentally, Rakuten’s two notable bullpen acquisitions came via Korea last year: Shinya Okamoto spent last season with the LG Twins, and the other is Byung-Hyun Kim. Those two along with the returning Juan Morillo give Hoshino a couple more relief options, which will help as Rakuten’s bullpen wasn’t particularly strong in 2010. But overall pitching was not really Rakuten’s problem last season. The Eagles allowed 635 runs and a 3.98 ERA, which was right in line with the all the Pacific League teams that don’t have Yu Darvish.

Rakuten’s problem in 2010 was an anemic offense. Only Nippon Ham hit fewer home runs than Rakuten’s 95, but the Fighters’ contact-hitting lineup still scored 36 more runs than the Eagles. Rakuten finished last or next to last in the Pacific League in runs scored, batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, steals, and intentional walks. This poor performance can mostly be attributed to four players: imports Todd Linden and Andy Phillips didn’t show up last year, and veteran sluggers Norihiro Nakamura and Takeshi Yamasaki experienced declines. Linden, Phillips and Nakamura are all gone this year, replaced in the lineup by a full season of Randy Ruiz and NPB returnees Akinori Iwamura and Kazuo Matsui. That group should outperform the guys who left, though Kazuo is a bit of a question mark for me. Yamasaki is getting old, but his 28 home runs and .749 OPS in 2010 were a respectable contribution. After that, the Eagles have perhaps Japan’s unheralded offensive star, Teppei, who despite his talent only gets a passing mention in this article. So the offense should be better, but even in the best case scenario it’s hard to see it being more than middle of the road in the Pacific League.

The last factor to discuss is the addition of Hoshino as manager. I see a few parallels with the last team he took over, the 2002 Hanshin Tigers. Hoshino is again inheriting a team coming off a last-place finish, succeeding Katsuya Nomura (though Nomura passed the Rakuten baton to Marty Brown for a season), with some some added veteran talent*. Hoshino got his Tigers off to a fast start in 2002, and though the team cooled off and eventually finished fourth, the improvement was real. The Tigers won the Central League handily in 2003 and have basically been competitive ever since. Hoshino will have less to work with in Sendai, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see his tenure with Rakuten take a similar path. He’ll be eager to exorcise any remaining demons from his stint managing Japan’s 2008 Olympic entry, a performance so disappointing it inspired a fan to set up a site protesting his involvement in the 2009 WBC. Rakuten definitely has the talent to compete for wins in 2011, though they probably won’t be in the mix for the Pacific League title. If they can take a step forward this season and build from there, Hoshino has a shot at wrapping up his distinguished managerial career on a high note.

*The 2002 Tigers brought in Atsushi Kataoka and George Arias. Tomoaki Kanemoto and Hideki Irabu joined in 2003.

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Orix Pursuing Segi

» 31 May 2010 » In nichibei, npb » 2 Comments

Over the weekend, I caught a number of articles on Orix’s pursuit of 1B/DH Fernando Seguignol. The news ranged from Orix “looking into acquiring Seguignol” (Daily Sports) to “have a basic agreement and working on an official contract” (Nikkan Sports). Orix’s two import sluggers Alex Cabrera and Greg LaRocca are both injury-prone and Seguignol is in the Atlantic League, so a deal seems to make sense for both sides. I can think of an option I prefer for Orix, though.

Seguignol is perhaps the poster boy of the recent trend of “recycling” sukketo players, having previously been called in by Nippon Ham and Rakuten. After last season Rakuten replaced him with former Carp Andy Phillips, who played pretty well in Hiroshima but still had his pricey option declined in favor of Justin Huber and Jeff Fiorentino. With Phillips (and Todd Linden) struggling, Rakuten has added a new name in Randy Ruiz. And the beat goes on. Mabye all the teams have been better off if Rakuten had kept Segi, Hiroshima kept Phillips and Orix held on to Jose Fernandez or Tuffy Rhodes.

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Opening Weekend Notes

» 30 March 2010 » In npb » 2 Comments

Alright, so NPB is officially in season… here are some observations from the games this weekend:

  • Yu Darvish looked better this weekend against the Marines than he did last weekend, at least in the parts of the game I was able to see. He definitely had his good slider. Darvish also came up with a new pitch called the “one-seam”, but I have no idea if he used it in the Marines game.
  • Shunsuke Watanabe’s pitching seems to have gotten slower, unbelievably.
  • The game I spent the most time with was Sunday’s matchup of Rakuten vs Seibu. Seibu’s Kazuyuki Hoashi doesn’t have great velocity, but was sharp with all his pitches, and commanded the strike zone well. Of course, it didn’t hurt that he got to face Todd Linden three times. Masahiro Tanaka went home with the win, though he was a little less impressive than usual. It was freezing cold (it started snowing at one point) and the ball wasn’t carrying, so a couple of long fly balls he gave up turned into outs and not home runs. Dee Brown has looked terrible every time I’ve seen him this year.
  • Hanshin’s two import bats are off to hot starts. Through Tuesday’s action, Matt Murton is hitting .500 (8/16) and Kenji Johjima is at .389 with 5 rbi.
  • Orix is a surprising 6-1 so far this season.
  • Hayato Doue made his ichi-gun debut last weekend (thanks to Yakyu Baka; I wouldn’t have noticed this otherwise). You might remember Doue as the catcher the Red Sox signed but couldn’t get a visa for. After his Red Sox flirtation, he played another year in Indy ball, got drafted as an ikusei player, spent a year in the minors, and finally earned a promotion to the NPB show.

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Source: Rasner, Linden to Return to Rakuten

» 12 December 2009 » In npb » 1 Comment

According to a reliable source, Darrell Rasner has re-signed with the Rakuten Golden Eagles. I heard about this earlier in the offseason, but apparently now the deal has been signed. Rasner gets a one-year deal with an option.

The Eagles are also set to re-sign Todd Linden.

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2009 Foreign Player Rundown

» 11 November 2009 » In npb » 7 Comments

By my count, there were 78 foreign players (including ikusei players) under contract to NPB teams in 2009. Some of them will be back for 2010, others will not. So far, I’ve counted 18 players that will remain with their teams for next year, 36 that are leaving, and 24 that we’re still waiting to hear on.

Despite my best efforts, there is a reasonable probability that I left someone out or have an out-of-date detail. If you spot something of that nature, please leave a comment. On with the show…

Yomiuri

  • Staying: Dicky Gonzales, Wirfin Obispo, Levi Romero, Alex Ramirez, Seung-Yeop Lee, Marc Kroon
  • Gone: Adrian Burnside, Edgardo Alfonzo
  • Unknown: Seth Greisinger, Yi-Hao Lin, Yi-Fan Lee

Ramirez no longer counts against the foreign player limit, which gives the Giants a little extra flexibility. He’s already re-signed on a two-year deal. You have to figure that Obispo and Gonzales will be back, which would only leave two ichi-gun rosters spots available. I would guess that Kroon is more likely to return than Greisinger, and Lee is on his way out. Kroon will have his option picked up, while Lee’s contract doesn’t expire until next season. Greisinger didn’t appear in the Japan Series and it’s possible that he won’t be back. The Giants don’t need much this off season, though we’ll probably see them go after some depth guys.

Chunichi

  • Staying: Wei-Yin Chen, Tony Blanco, Nelson Payano, Maximo Nelson
  • Gone: Tomas de la Rosa, Byung-Gyu Lee
  • Unknown:

Chunichi got outstanding production out Chen and Blanco, and Blanco has already received a new two-year deal. Lee will likely head back to Korea, while de la Rosa will remain with the team in a scouting/advisory capacitiy. Chunichi has been scouting the Dominican and will probably sign some interesting Latin American prospects this winter.

Yakult

  • Staying: Chang Yong Lim
  • Gone: Ricky Barrett
  • Unknown: Hei Chun Lee, Jaime D’Antona, Aaron Guiel

Hanshin

  • Staying: Kai-Wang Cheng
  • Gone: Scott Atchison, Jeff Williams, Kevin Mench, Chris Resop, Aarom Baldiris
  • Unknown: Craig Brazell

Out of this group, only Brazell really contributed anything, and he wants to come back. Hanshin’s search for pitching has already been well-documented, with the Tigers looking to import a starter and two relievers. Hanshin may also try to bring a power-hitting rightfielder to Kansai as well, even if Brazell sticks around.

Hiroshima

  • Staying: Dioni Soriano
  • Gone: Scott Dohmann, Ben Kozlowski, Scott Seabol
  • Unknown: Scott McClain, Colby Lewis, Mike Schultz, Andy Phillips

Hiroshima would like to keep Lewis and Schultz around, but may not be able to, and if the Carp don’t keep Phillips they will have to find a bat to replace him. Hiroshima desperately needs lefthanded pitching, as well. I’m assuming Soriano, who is an ikusei player from the Carp’s Dominican Academy, will get a full year to prove himself.

Yokohama

  • Staying: Stephen Randolph
  • Gone: Tom Mastny, Les Walrond, Dan Johnson, Ryan Glynn
  • Unknown: Wei Chen, Jin Chao Wang

Yokohama is again going to need pitching help, though Randolph’s late-season performance was encouraging. The ‘Stars wave goodbye the rest of this group, though Johnson actually had a decent year aside from a poor batting average, and Walrond looked like he had good enough stuff to last in Japan to me.

Nippon Ham

  • Staying:
  • Gone: Ryan Wing, Luis Jimenez, Jason Botts, Brian Sweeney, Termel Sledge
  • Unknown:

This year’s Pacific League champion didn’t get much production from its foreign lineup outside of Sledge, so it’s no surprise to see this group go. Nippon Ham apparently wanted to keep Sledge, but were too far apart in negotations. They’ll have to find a way to replace his bat in the lineup, and I would expect them to look for pitching depth as well.

Rakuten

  • Staying:
  • Gone: Matt Childers
  • Unknown: Darrell Rasner, Marcus Gwyn, Fernando Seguignol, Todd Linden, Rick Short, On-Yu Lin

Rasner is already under contract for next year, so he’ll be on the payroll but possibly not the roster. Childers is gone after just three appearances with Rakuten’s top team. The rest of the foreign staff had performance issues — Gwyn’s era was pedestrian, Shorts average fell off after years of solid performance, Seguignol looked more like the Orix Seguignol than the Nippon Ham Seguignol, and Linden struck out about one out of every three times to the plate(!). So I could see new manager Marty Brown turning over this whole group. Rakuten could use bullpen help and a big bat to play an infield or outfield corner.

SoftBank

  • Staying: Jose Ortiz, DJ Houlton, Brian Falkenborg, Justin Germano
  • Gone: Kameron Loe, Chris Aguila
  • Unknown: Andrew Touisant

SoftBank got strong contributions from Ortiz, Houlton and Falkenborg, and can reasonably expect more of the same next season. Sadaharu Oh is said to be looking for one more power hitter, to complement Ortiz and supplant aging sluggers Hiroki Kokubo and Nobuhiko Matsunaka. I would expect them to grab a couple of ptichers for depth as well.

Seibu

  • Staying: Min-Che Hsu
  • Gone: Jonah Bayliss, John Wasdin, Hiram Bocachica
  • Unknown: Alex Graman

I’m just taking for granted that Hsu will hang around. He should be shedding his foreign player status one of these years anyway. Graman is probably gone, though he was lights-out in the bullpen when healthy, and I could see him getting another shot. Bayliss was okay for Seibu, so I was a little surprised to see him let go. Seibu will be looking for bullpen help and perhaps a first baseman this offseason. Pete LaForest had been in Seibu’s autumn camp but went home with an injury.

Chiba Lotte

  • Staying
  • Gone: Benny Agbayani, Chase Lambin, Gary Burnham
  • Unknown: Brian Sikorski, Juan Muniz

Agbayani departs after six years in Japan, and I would guess that he’ll retire to a life of scouting. I’ve read that Lotte might offer Sikorski a big pay cut, and thus risk losing him. I don’t expect Lambin or Burnham to be back, though I haven’t seen anything official. Lambin and Burnham won’t be back. Lotte will need a corner infield and outfield bats, and a pitcher or two to round things out.

Orix

  • Staying: Tuffy Rhodes
  • Gone:
  • Unknown: Jon Leicester, Alex Cabrera, Jose Fernandez, Greg LaRocca, Ryan Vogelsong

Rhodes and Cabrera both qualify as native players, so Orix could potentially carry up to six ‘foreign’ players on its active roster. Rhodes will be back, and the Buffaloes are supposedly adding a coaching title to his resume. I think Cabrera will make it back as well. There was speculation on Fernandez when he got hurt was that Orix probably wouldn’t bring him back, but that remains to be seen. I’m guessing Leicester and Vogelsong will be out as well. SoftBank has indicated an interest in LaRocca should he not get another year with Orix.

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East Meets West

» 21 October 2009 » In international baseball, nichibei, npb » 1 Comment

Manager Katsuya Nomura finally accepted an apology from Todd Linden. Linden was taken off the Golden Eagles’ roster for the first round of the Climax Series versus the Softbank Hawks for criticizing the coaching staff over being benched in a regular season game. At first, the situation seemed to be unresolvable as Nomura went to the extreme as telling Linden to pack his bags and go back to the States through the media.

The Golden Eagles were able to advance even without the service of the .292 hitter Linden. However both sides felt a reconciliation would benefit the team in order to beat the Fighters. Linden showed the respect to the coaching staff after the suspension was in order. Linden continued to practice at the ni-gun facility and attempted to apologize for his comments.

The situation turned the corner when Linden came to apologize with a suit and tie in front of Nomura. He also showed respect to the media and reflected on his comments. Linden’s behavior after the incident changed Nomura’s mind and the decision of adding him to the second rounds roster has been made.

Respecting the game of baseball and the coaching staff is a must in the Japanese baseball world and criticizing that can jeopardizeyour position as a player. The adjustments that Japanese players needs to make in the MLB are often publicized, but the same goes for foreign players attempting to make a name for themselves in Japan. It’s not just about the strikeouts and home runs in Japanese baseball, but how much you play the game with honor that will determine the success of a player. Linden learned the lesson in a hard way, but hopefully both sides will enjoy a happy ending at seasons end.

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Trade Deadline Passes

» 01 August 2009 » In nichibei, npb, sports business » 7 Comments

Compared to the many moves and much rumbling near the MLB trade deadline, the deadline in NPB ended quietly. There was a total of one trade during the 2009 season which was Taiyo Fujita being traded from Hanshin to Seibu for Keisuke Mizuta, a minor move where both teams filled supporting roles.

The numbers after the trade…

  • Taiyo Fujita (Seibu Lions) – 2.0 innings, ER, K (two games): 4.50ERA
  • Keisuke Mizuta (Hanshin Tigers)- Strikeout in one-at-bat

As you can see from the numbers both players have made minimal impact with their new teams. Rather than teams looking to add the last piece for a championship run near the deadline in the MLB, it’s more of two teams allowing their player to join a team with more possibilities. More teams look to add a suketto as seven foreign players were added by teams since the 2009 season started. However they tend to give chances to players that have already experienced the NPB culture as they feel comfortable adding an experienced player during mid-season where time for adjustment is limited.

Some players added during in-season…

The number of teams might limit the number of trades in the NPB (12 compared to MLB’s 30), but a culture of trading players are relatively new and there has been limited number of “blockbuster” trades in the league. The one that comes up to mind is a swap between Hayato Terahara for Hitoshi Tamura, a trade between a former first-round draft pick and a home run king.

The trade deadline is a big event for everybody involved in the MLB and headlines evolve daily with rumors and potential deals. It creates stories and news that people talk about around the water coolers and peoples’ interest  increases during the period of time. It should not be a bad thing for the NPB if people start engaging talks about the game and trades becoming more of a common business. However the difference in the culture of the games allows the transactions after the season starts to be limited and with only 12 teams and six of them facing each other about 20 times a season, it’s extremely difficult for teams deal players that might hurt them in the future.

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Hiroshima Notes: Dohmann Out, Phillips In?

» 23 June 2009 » In npb » 1 Comment

According to links found on Yahoo Japan, Hiroshima is making some moves with its foreign roster. Righthanded reliever Scott Dohmann has been released. Dohmann had posted a 17.28 in 16 games with the Carp.

Word from the Kyodo grapevine is that the Carp are also looking to import Andy Phillips, who spent time in the White Sox system this season but is currently a free agent. Phillips would be the Carp’s third foreign corner infielder, joining Scott McClain and Scott Seabol. The two Scotts are struggling with identical .216 averages, but then again no one on the Carp is hitting. One of them figures to lose roster time if Phillips joins the team. The Carp have had bad luck with guys named Scott this year.

Like Todd Linden, Phillips is a 4A guy who I always thought would end up in Japan. But Wily Mo Pena was released by the Mets yesterday, and I’d like to see what he could do in Japan. Certainly he’s shown more power at the MLB level than Phillips.

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Rakuten Introduces Linden, Re-introduces Fukumori

» 22 June 2009 » In npb » Comments Off

Todd Linden and Kazuo Fukumori are officially in the fold for Rakuten, and Sanspo has the pics to prove it. There are no guarantees for Fukumori, he’ll have to prove himself with the farm team before getting a chance with the top club.

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Rakuten Adds Linden, Close on Fukumori

» 13 June 2009 » In npb » 2 Comments

Hat tip to commenter John Brooks, who left a response on another post pointing out that the Rakuten Eagles have acquired Yankees AAA outfielder Todd Linden. I saw Linden play some when he was with the Giants and to me he always kind of looked the part, but for whatever reason he couldn’t perform well enough to stick with the MLB team. Jason Ellison was another guy who was around at the same time who I’d put in the same category.

In other Rakuten news, Kazuo Fukumori’s release from the Rangers is official enough for him to have headed back to Japan for a tryout with the Eagles. Manager Katsuya Nomura has given his blessing to signing Fukumori, should he pass the audition. Nomura originally expressed some resentment toward Fukumori for leaving the Eagles to join the Rangers in the first place, but has apparently backed down. While we’re here, I’ll share this scouting report on Fukumori from 2007, which anticipated his failure to impress in American ball.

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