Tag Archive > Tomohiro Nioka

Game Notes: Darvish vs Chen

» 11 June 2011 » In mlb prospects, npb » 1 Comment

Summary: These notes are about a game that took place on Tuesday, June 7. Nippon Ham edged Chunichi 1-0 in a great pitcher’s duel.

What a pitching matchup. Yu Darvish was his usual self, striking out 10 with no walks and three hits in another shutout, running his personal scoreless streak to 44 innings. But Wei-Yin Chen managed to keep up with him and pitched a game that would have earned him a “w” under normal circumstances.

Darvish did everything well — he kept everything down, or unhittably high in the zone; got ahead of nearly ever batter; got into only two three-ball counts; surrendered virtually zero hard contact. Catcher Keiji Koyama managed two of Chunichi’s three hits, a single off an early-count fastball, and another off a slider that got a little too much of the plate. The only other Dragons batter to look remotely competent was Kazuhiro Wada, who hit the hardest ball off Darvish, a sharp line drive that Fighters second baseman Kensuke Tanaka made a great jumping play on. Wada also hit an opposite field single to lead off the seventh inning, which after a sacrifice bunt by Takahiro Saeki turned into the only Dragons threat of the evening. But Darvish subverted that minor threat by dominating Ryosuke Hirata, who could only vaguely defend the strike zone, and Masahiko Morino, who struck out on three pitches.

You couldn’t say that Chen matched Darvish pitch for pitch, but he put up a dominant performance in his own way. Chen scattered four hits in an eight-inning compete game, needing only 88 pitches to work through Nippon Ham’s lineup three and a half times. The difference in the game came in the top of the seventh, when Chen surrendered an uncharacteristic walk to Atsunori Inaba, then hung a slider to Sho Nakata on an 0-2 count. Nakata smacked a double off the left field wall, with the ball bouncing far enough from Wada to allow Inaba to score from first. Chen wasn’t rattled though, and with Nakata still on second, mowed down Tomohiro Nioka, Dai Kan Yoh, and Micah Hoffpauir.

Though the results differed by the slimmest of margins, the two pitchers took differing approaches on the mound. Darvish’s arsenal is such that he can feature a couple of different looks. In this game, he featured at the power end of his range, relying on his four-seam, cutter and tailing two-seam/one-seam/shuuto. When Chunichi’s hitters started fouling the hard stuff off, Darvish would go to his slider or curve for a different look.

Chen, by comparison, kept things a lot simpler. He fed Nippon Ham a strict diet of fastballs and sliders, showing great location and keeping nearly everything on the edges of the strike zone. To make an unfair comparison, he lacked Darvish’s velocity and movement, but he worked quickly, threw strikes, and knew what he wanted to do with each hitter. It definitely felt like he was pitching to contact, but it worked as he mostly limited the Fighters to infield pop ups and lazy fly balls.

I don’t really have anything more to say about this game, so I’ll close with this remarkable fact. Darvish’s opening day: seven innings pitched, seven runs, seven earned. Darvish since then: 69 innings pitched, six runs, five earned.

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Swine Flu Infects Nippon Ham

» 20 August 2009 » In international baseball, npb » 2 Comments

Just when we thought the swine flu epidemic was behind us, and NPB teams even resumed the use of jet balloons, the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters caught the bug. Five players and staff were infected with the flu, and as a precaution every player and staff was checked. Six additional players were diagnosed with a slight fever and the team decided to let those players rest until they recover.

Three of the players who are thought to be infected with the flu are Termel Sledge, Shota Ohno, and Naoki Miyanishi. The six additional players diagnosed with fever symptoms were some of the main members of the team including CA Shinya Tsuruoka, INF Eihichi Koyano, INF Tomohiro Nioka, OF Yoshio Itoi, LHP Tomoya Yagi and RHP Kazumasa Kikuchi.

The team is currently in first place in the Pacific League with a seven game lead, but losing the core of the team for an extended period of time could be a problem. Top prospect Sho Nakata will be getting another opportunity with the Fighters due to the absence of these players. If he makes the most out of this opportunity, the Fighters might have an X-Factor going into the playoffs.

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Offseason Changes: Nippon Ham Fighters

» 05 February 2009 » In npb » 4 Comments

Coming: Ryan Wing, Tomohiro Nioka, Masanori Hayashi, Luis Jimenez (in camp but not signed)

Going: Michael Nakamura, Takahito Kudoh, Ryan Glynn

Staying: Jason Botts, Termel Sledge, Brian Sweeney, Atsunori Inaba

Trending: a bit to the negative side

Synopsis: I think I’d rather have Nakamura than Nioka, but if Nioka bounces back and Hayashi gives the Fighters 75% of what they had with Nakamura, it will be a net gain. Those are two big “ifs” though. Yu Darvish remains the key to this though; as he goes so will the Fighters. Sho Nakata waiting in the wings doesn’t hurt either.

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Offseason Changes: Yomiuri Giants

» 02 February 2009 » In npb » Comments Off

Coming: Micheal Nakamura, Takahito Kudoh, Dicky Gonzales, Edgardo Alfonzo (maybe), Levi Romero (maybe)

Going: Koji Uehara, Makoto Kosaka, Takayuki Shimizu, Tomohiro Nioka, Masanori Hayashi, Ken Kadokura, Shigeki Noguchi

Staying: Marc Kroon, Sung-Yeop Lee, Alex Ramirez, Seth Greisinger

Trending: upward

Synopsis: Uehara is the only guy they will notice is gone, and Nakamura will mostly balance out his loss. Strong group of foreign players will be back in 2009. Of the departures, only Hayashi is under 30.

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Nakamura, Nioka Traded

» 13 November 2008 » In npb » 5 Comments

Update, Nov 13: The Yomiuri Online is reporting that the deal will be officially announced on the 14th

As had been rumored, the Nippon Ham Fighters have agreed to send star closer Micheal Nakamura to the Yomiuri Giants for infielder Tomohiro Nioka in a four player trade. The Fighters also acquired reliever Masanori Hayashi and threw outfielder Takahito Kudoh into the deal.

At first glance, I like this deal a lot better for the Giants. They got an All-Star level closer in exchange for Nioka, who was clearly on his way out after his scandalous affair with newscaster Mona Yamamoto earlier in the season. The Giants reached game 7 of the Japan Series without a significant contribution from Nioka, and he was looking like a spare part for next season, scandal or no scandal.

The move improves an already strong Kyojin bullpen. The Giants have already announced their intent to excercise closer Marc Kroon’s option, so Nakamura will most likely move into a setup role.

The Fighters are hoping to add some much-needed offense in Nioka, and retain some bullpen depth with Hayashi, but both guys are coming of injuries and Nippon Ham is taking a chance that they’ll be able to return to form. I’m surprised they couldn’t get more for Nakamura.

In a minor, unrelated move, the Giants sent slick-fielding utility infielder Makoto Kosaka to Rakuten to for cash.

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Free Agency Updates

» 01 November 2008 » In mlb prospects, npb » 1 Comment

I’ve added some updates to my free agent list. Here is a summary.

International Free Agents

NPB-only Free Agents

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NPB Bullet Points (2008/11/01)

» 01 November 2008 » In npb » 2 Comments

Time for another edition of NPB Bullet Points. Randomness abounds, as usual.

Japanese Articles:

English Articles:

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Impending NPB Free Agents

» 12 August 2008 » In mlb prospects, npb » 4 Comments

I’ve written a lot about the top three free agents coming out of NPB after this season, but there are several other lesser names that have been in the news as well. A thread on JapaneseBaseball.com listing a few has made the rounds to EastWindupChronicle and MLB Trade Rumors, and I’ve done some research and found a couple of other guys that have qualified since that list was published. Some of these players qualify under new rules that shorten the amount of service time required to attain free agency.

Fortunately the Japanese media doesn’t shy away from jumping the gun and speculating so let the hot-stove fun begin.

Tomohiro Nioka (INF, Yomiuri Giants): I’m not sure if Nioka will rack up the service time he needs to move internationally by the end of the season. He’s gotten some negative publicity over his extra-marital flirtation with a TV newscaster this season, so the Giants may be ready to move on from him.

Masahiro Araki (2B, Chunichi Dragons): Araki has hinted at trying the free agent market, but I would be surprised if he signed elsewhere.

Hirokazu Ibata (SS, Chunichi Dragons): Nikkei Sports reports that Ibata will remain with Chunichi and “has no interest in filing for free agency.”

Ryoji Aikawa (C, Yokohama BayStars): I don’t see him leaving Yokohama. Haven’t had much luck in finding media reports on his free agency.

Tatsuhiko Kinjoh (CF, Yokohama BayStars): According to Sponichi, Kinjoh is not planning on declaring free agency and will stay with the BayStars, at least for another year.

Naoyuki Ohmura (CF, Softbank Hawks): Ohmura has stated publicly that he wants to try his hand at MLB. “I want to go,” says Ohmura, “life is short and you only get one chance at it.” Ohmura is a contact hitter with zero power. He can probably start for an NPB team that gets power from other positions, or be possibly be a 4th outfielder type in MLB. Think So Taguchi.

Ryota Igarashi (RP, Yakult Swallows): The hard-throwing reliever will carefully think over his options in the off-season. He’s eligible for domestic free agency, and he’s in his first year back from Tommy John surgery.

Akihiro Higashide (2B, Hiroshima Carp): Higashide made some comments that you don’t typically hear from Japanese players: “I’ve worked hard to reach free agency. This is the result of year after year of fighting to be my best. I have to put good results in this kind of year.” True to his words, Higashide is in the midst of a break-out season, third in the Central League with a .334 BA (career BA: .255). It looks like he’s qualified for domestic free agency; there is speculation that he could draw interest from Hanshin, Yomiuri, and Chunichi. I would hate to see Hiroshima lose yet another star.

Norihiro Nakamura (3B, Chunichi Dragons): “Not interested in other teams were his exact words. Has had two MLB flirtations and drama at Kintetsu/Orix before finally settling into a groove with Chunichi. I can’t see him anywhere else.

Masafumi Hirai (RP, Chunichi Dragons): Qualified for free agency last year, but elected to sign a one year contract with Chunichi. Having a bad season. Kind of an MLB sleeper type.

Atsunori Inaba (OF, Nippon Ham Fighters): Inaba’s contract is up, but he’s unlikely to move.

Daisuke Miura (SP, Yokohama BayStars): Miura is finishing up a six-year contract with Yokohama. Hanshin is already gearing up to make a play for him.

Kim Dong-Ju (3B, Doosan (Korea)): Orix is looking at Kim as their third baseman for next year. EastWindup Chronicle has his numbers and some analysis.

Most of these guys will probably stay put — such is free agency in NPB. But with a the new free agency rules and an uptick in trades, there is certainly more potential for movement than there has been in the past.

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