Tag Archive > Tony Blanco

Central League Predictions: How’d I Do?

» 17 October 2009 » In npb » Comments Off

Okay, so now that the regular season is in the books, let’s take a look and see how my Central League and Pacific League predictions played out. We’ll take a look at the Central first and do the Pacific in the next post.

(listed in order of actual results, my predictions are in parentheses)

1. Yomiuri Giants (2) — I picked the Giants to finish second. In 2008 Hanshin led for most of the year, before choking down the stretch, and I thought they’d make it this year. I was dead wrong about that, and the Giants wound up dominating from wire to wire. I thought someone from the secondary group of pitchers would have to step up, but the guys who did weren’t among my three breakout candidates (Kentaro Nishimura, Shun Tohno, and Takahiko Nomaguchi) — they were Yakult castoff Dicky Gonzales and Dominican prospect Wirfin Obispo.

2. Chunichi Dragons (5) — I was way off here. Chunichi put up a mediocre year in 2008, and lost three key contributors (Kenshin Kawakami, Nori Nakamura, Tyrone Woods) and I thought we’d see them slip further this year. Turns out I didn’t respect the Dragons’ depth highly enough. I did, however, correctly identify two of the key players for the Dragons this season, choosing Tony Blanco and Kazuki Yoshimi along with rookie Kei Nomoto. Nomoto was a bit of a disappointment, but Blanco and Yoshimi were outstanding.

3. Yakult Swallows (4) — Yakult took a step forward in 2009, sneaking in to the playoffs despite finishing one game under .500. Norichika Aoki overcame a horrific first half to finish at .303, and Aaron Guiel bounced back from a sub-par 2008 to hit 27 home runs. Two of my key players — Jaime D’Antona (.276, 21 hr) and Yoshinori (121 IP, 3.50 ERA)– were solid, while the other Tatsunori Masubuchi (one game, 12.60 era) was not. Yakult did get outscored by their opponents by 48 runs this year.

4. Hanshin Tigers (1) — My key players, Takahiro Arai and Kevin Mench, failed to meet expectations, and so did the Tigers. Mench’s time in Japan was particularly disastrous, flaming out after only 15 games. Hanshin’s trio of veterans Tomoaki Kanemoto, Akihiro Yano and Tsuyoshi Shimoyanagi started to show some signs of aging as well.

5. Hiroshima Carp (3) –The step forward I envisioned after a solid 2008 season didn’t materialize for the Carp, despite the good vibes from the beautiful new Mazda Stadium. The rotation was solid 1-3 and the Carp added American sluggers Scott McClain and Andy Phillips mid-season, but it wasn’t enough to win consistently. My key player, Kenta Maeda, was better than his 8-14 record would indicate.

6. Yokohama BayStars (6) — The one prediction I nailed, except that I thought they’d be a little more competitive this year. Wrong. Yokohama was again a doormat, suffering to the tune of a .354 winning percentage, getting outscored by 188 runs and losing it’s manager in the process. My key man, Hayato Terahara, was limited to 83 innings of work.

Synopsis: I guess I was close enough on everything except Chunichi and Hanshin.I thought the league would be a little more competitive, but the way things played out Yomiuri and Chunichi were way ahead of everyone else.

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Regular Season Ends for NPB

» 13 October 2009 » In npb » Comments Off

The NPB regular season concluded in both leagues and the championship series will get under way Friday, October 16th JST. The Tokyo Yomiuri Giants, the winner of the Central League and the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters, the winner of the Pacific League will get a bye during the first round.

The Chunichi Dragons and the Tokyo Yakult Swallows will square off in the first round of the Central League Championship series, and the Rakuten Golden Eagles versus the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks will match up in the Pacific League.

With the regular season in the books, the awards for each batting and pitching categories have been determined (Central League and Pacific League winners listed respectively):

Batting Average: Alex Ramirez, .322 (Giants) & Teppei (Golden Eagles), .327

Home Runs/RBI: Tony Blanco (Dragons), 39/110 & Takeya Nakamura (Lions), 48/122

Stolen Base: Kazuki Fukuchi (Swallows), 42 & Yasuyuki Kataoka (Lions), 51

ERA: Wei-Yin Chen (Dragons), 1.54 & Yu Darvish (Fighters), 1.73

Wins: Kazuki Yoshimi (Dragons)/ Shohei Tateyama (Swallows), 16 & Hideaki Wakui (Lions), 16

Strikeouts: Colby Lewis (Carp), 186 & Toshiya Sugiuchi (Hawks), 204

Saves: Hitoki Iwase (Dragons), 41 & Hisashi Takeda (Fighters), 34

Another season of baseball in the books and now the fight for the Championship will begin. It was another exciting year of regular season baseball in Japan as the attendance rose five percent compared to the previous season and the Hanshin Tigers continued their winning ways at the gate, earning the top attendance record for five straight seasons.

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Hanshin to Look to the Dominican

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

The Hanshin Tigers will be looking to expand their player search to the Dominican Republic, where opponents such as the Chunichi Dragons and Tokyo Yomiuri Giants have had recent success finding sukketo. The Tigers have had trouble with their recent sukketo acquisitions and will revamp their international scouting in hopes of finding the next Tony Blanco (Chunichi) or Wirfin Obispo (Yomiuri).

Adding younger players from the Dominican will be a cost effective strategy in the long-run, as Wirfin Obispo was signed as an ikusei player earning close to the league minimum. Developing ikusei players could allow the Tigers to avoid spending hundreds of thousands to millions to a risky veteran players, only to have them fail to meet expectations. Kevin Mench is a recent example of this.

The Tigers have already researched the strategy of their rival teams and they have been sending scouts to the United States for next season. If they decide to go the Chunichi way of developing players, the Tigers might be sending players to the Domican Winter League. In recent years, the Tigers have been sending their young players to the Hawaii Winter League, but since the league dissolving the Dominican Winter League would make sense as an alternative.

Another strategy for investment is developing a Tigers Academy similar to the one Hiroshima has developed, or  strengthen an existing relationship with by investing in its facilities and operations. The Tigers had attempted to build a path in Dominican Republic with their acquisition of Esteban Yan in the 2006 off-season. The Tigers should be in search of new ways to compete and not fall into the vicious circle that kept them in a ten year drought of lower-division finishes in Central League between 1993 and 2002.

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NPB Bullet Points: In Pictures

» 27 May 2009 » In npb » 2 Comments

NPB Bullet Points returns with an all-photographic collection of non-sequiturs. Let’s begin.

In Japanese…

And In English…

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Predictions: How am I doing?

» 16 May 2009 » In npb » 2 Comments

Before the season, I predicted the standings for both the Pacific and Central Leagues. Let’s see how I’m doing through six weeks of the season.

Pacific League (as of May 16)

  1. Nippon Ham Fighters (prediction: 2nd)
  2. Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles (prediction: 4th)
  3. Seibu Lions (prediction: 1st)
  4. SoftBank Hawks (prediction: 6th)
  5. Chiba Lotte Marines (prediction: 3rd)
  6. Orix Buffaloes (prediction: 5th)

Nippon Ham has hit more than I expected and has a +66 run differential… Rakuten’s pitching has kept them in games, but veterans just aren’t hitting… Seibu leads the league in home runs by a good margin and should be competitive all year… SoftBank leads the league in ERA and could be a dark horse… Chiba Lotte’s starting pitching needs to improve if they’re going to meet my prediction… Orix’s foreign sluggers, aside from Greg LaRocca, have been injured or ineffective, and their pitching has imploded.

Central League (as of May 16)

  1. Yomiuri Giants (prediction: 2nd)
  2. Yakult Swallows (prediction: 4th)
  3. Chunichi Dragons (prediction: 5th)
  4. Hanshin Tigers (prediction: 1st)
  5. Hiroshima Carp (prediction: 3rd)
  6. Yokohama BayStars (prediction: 6th)

Yomiuri has gotten good pitching across the board and leads the leage in runs; they’re currently on pace to win 100 games… Yakult has been a surprise at 20-13, especially given Norichika Aoki’s slow start (.226)… Chunichi slotted Tony Blanco in for Tyrone Woods but has otherwise regressed… Hanshin hasn’t gotten anything out of Kevin Mench or Takahiro Arai, but still has a +18 run differential… Hiroshima leads the Central in ERA (2.98) but simply isn’t hitting… Yokohama again is last in team pitching but is closer to the pack this season.

Of course, we’re only six weeks into the season so anything can happen, but we pretty much know what all the teams have at this point.

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Prediction: Central League

» 27 March 2009 » In npb » 4 Comments

1. Hanshin Tigers: This could be the year for Hanshin. Colonel Sanders has been exhumed from his resting place at the bottom of the Dotombori River, which should be enough to put the team over the top. Hanshin led the Central League for most of the season last year, despite a serious lack of home run power. If Takahiro Arai and Kevin Mench can combine for 45 home runs or so they should be tough to beat.
Key Players: Arai, Mench

2. Yomiuri Giants: Yomiuri slipped past Hanshin for the Central League crown at the end of the season in 2008, then took the Japan Series down to the wire before losing to Seibu. Look for a bounce-back year from Sun-Yeop Lee. The departure of Koji Uehara creates an opportunity for someone like Kentaro Nishimura, Shun Tohno, or Takahiko Nomaguchi to step up.
Key Players: Nishimura, Tohno, Nomaguchi

3. Hiroshima Carp: The Carp took a big step forward last season despite the loss of ace Hiroki Kuroda to the Dodgers. The lineup is respectable 1-5 and they have three good starters in Colby Lewis, Kan Ohtake, and Kenta Maeda. Look for a breakout year from Maeda.
Key Player: K Maeda

4. Yakult Swallows: Yakult has a number of good arms in its bullpen, some young starters that could develop, and Japan’s top hitter in Norichika Aoki. The big concern with the Swallows is a lack of team power, so their ability to compete for a playoff spot will depend on whether or not some of the non-Aoki batters can hit for average.
Key Players: Jaime D’Antona, Yoshinori, Tatsunori Masubuchi

5. Chunichi Dragons: The Dragons finished third last year despite being outscored by 21 by opponents on the season. This year they’ve subtracted Kenshin Kawakami, Norihiro Nakamura, and Tyrone Woods and have replaced them with untested players. I expect a fall in the standings.
Key Players: Tony Blanco, Kei Nomoto, Kazuki Yoshimi

6. Yokohama BayStars: Yokohama had by far the worst pitching in the Central last season, and despite moving Hayato Terahara back into the rotation, retaining Daisuke Miura, and adding Ryan Glynn, I don’t think they have enough depth to get out of the cellar. I think they’ll be more competitive than last year though.
Key Players: Terahara

Any thoughts? Pacific League is coming up next.

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Spring Training YouTube Highlights

» 15 February 2009 » In npb » Comments Off

By the time MLB pitchers and catchers hit camps this week, NPB teams will have had their full squads in camp for two full weeks. Here are some highlights, courtesy of fans on YouTube.
  • The first practice game of the spring training season, Hanshin vs Nippon Ham. Yu Darvish started for the Fighters, while Kyuji Fujikawa pitched the first few innings for the Tigers. Note that Kyuji surrenders a walk to Jason Botts after being called for stalling on his third pitch. I’m no fan of that rule, but Kyuji should be the last guy breaking it as he only throws two pitches.
  • New Chunichi Dragons import Tony Blanco has been getting good reviews in the Japanese media, but I could see him having a great camp and then not doing much during the season. Here’s a fan-shot video of him taking batting practice.
  • Here’s another fan-shot Dragons video, this one of Maximo Nelson pitching in an intrasquad game. Very high video quality on this one.

You can find more using this YouTube search link.

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Offseason Changes: Chunichi Dragons

» 06 February 2009 » In npb » Comments Off

Coming: Nelson Payano, Tony Blanco, Junichi Kawahara

Going: Kenshin Kawakami, Norihiro Nakamura, Tyrone Woods, Rafael Cruz, Ryosuke Morioka

Staying: Hitoki Iwase, Byung-Gyu Lee, Maximo Nelson, Wei-Yin Chen, Tomas de la Rosa

Trending: downward

Synopsis: Chunichi lost three major contributors from it’s 2008 team, and so far hasn’t replaced any of them with a veteran signing. They still have a deep team, but will play 2009 without a veteran ace or middle-lineup slugger. Chunichi’s foreign additions for 2009 are of the discount bin variety, rather than established performers.

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NPB Bullet Points: Spring Training Edition

» 02 February 2009 » In npb » 2 Comments

NPB spring training camps broke on February 1, so it’s time to dust off the old bullet points series.

Japanese Articles

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Chunichi Acquires Minor Leaguers

» 16 December 2008 » In npb » 2 Comments

Sanspo has reported that Chunichi signed two minor leaguers: infielder Tony Blanco and lefty pitcher Nelson Payano. Blanco, who has MLB experience with the Nationals, will earn $300k, while Payano will make $150k. Both players were in 2a last year, which is a little bit of a departure for Japan as NPB teams usually sign fringey MLB players. Chunichi had scouted the Domican Winter League with the intent of signing instructional players, but these guys appear to be headed for the regular roster.

This isn’t the first time the Dragons are making this type of low-risk on foreign born prospects. Maximo Nelson, who played in Nagoya in 2008, is an interesting case. He’d never pitched above rookie ball in America and spent 2007 playing in Israel, but did make a couple of appearances for the top team in ’08. I’m not sure if he’ll be back with the Dragons next year or not.

Another development case is Aarom Baldiris, whom Hanshin acquired out of 2a before last season. Baldiris got quite a few at-bats with the Tigers and they seemed to really like him. He’ll be back for ’09.

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