Tag Archive > Tsuyoshi Shinjyo

A Brief Tribute to Norihiro Akahoshi

» 21 December 2009 » In npb » 2 Comments

I didn’t write about this when it happened, but Hanshin OF Norihiro Akahoshi abruptly retired the week before last, citing back and neck problems sustained from an injury diving for a ball last season.

I try not to let my bias as a fan show through too much, and in many ways, I’ve become a much more neutral baseball fan since starting this site. But I lived in and around Osaka for a couple years in the early 00’s, and I have dropped a few hints that my NPB team of choice is Hanshin. The Tigers’ 2003 Central League Championship run was the most exciting baseball season I’ve ever been around as a fan, and also, in a way, the most bittersweet. A doctor friend of mine managed to get me a single ticket to game three of the Japan Series, but it was rained out and I had to return to the US the following day, so I didn’t get to go.

Anyway, back to Akahoshi. I don’t think I have anything particularly poignant to say here, but Akahoshi was one of the guys that keyed Hanshin’s revival this decade. Despite being a mid-round draft pick he started his first season with the ichi-gun team, taking over center field from Tsuyoshi Shinjyo and leading the league in stolen bases. He missed half of 2002 with an injury, but still lead the league in stolen bases. Akahoshi entered his prime in 2003, when he started a run of three consecutive seasons hitting .300 or better with at least 60 steals. Despite not being as prolific on the base paths as he had been earlier in his career, Akahoshi had remained a threat to run and a respectable on-base guy until the end of his career.

Akahoshi contributed the most enduring image of the 2003 season, when he got bear-hugged by Senichi Hoshino after driving in the walk-off winner in the game that clinched the Central League for Hanshin. Of course, he also dressed as “Razor Ramon HG” during the 2005 beer kake

He’s going out early, but Akahoshi had the good fortune to play during a golden age of sorts for Hanshin, and will certainly be closely associated with Hanshin’s success in the 00’s. I’ll leave with this pic of Akahoshi I swiped from Wikimedia Commons, the first image I’ve ever run directly on NPB Tracker.

akahoshi

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Player Profile: Ryota Igarashi

» 29 May 2009 » In mlb prospects, npb » 7 Comments

Note: corrected walks total.

Last winter, Yakult Swallows fireballer Ryota Igarashi declined to file for domestic free agency, instead re-signing for 2009 with the subsequent goal of moving to the majors. Igarashi is a righthanded reliever who has spent his entire career with the Yakult Swallows, and just turned 30 on May 28. If I had to pick the top free agent coming out of Japan after this season today, Igarashi would be my choice.

Stuff, Results & Mechanics
Igarashi is known one of the hardest throwers in Japan, and jointly holds the record for fastest pitch* by a Japanese pitcher in an NPB game with a 158 kmph (98.75mph) fastball. Igarashi hit 158 kmph in 2004, when the average speed of his pitches over the course of the season was 154.5 kmph (96.6mph), which is an NPB record he has to himself.

Although he doesn’t throw quite as hard as he used to, but still runs his heater into the upper 90’s, and augments it with a hard splitter that he throws at around 90mph. He’s also got a slider and a curve that he’ll mix in occasionally, but is primarily a fastball/splitter pitcher.

Igarashi’s weakness has been his control. Over the course of his career through 2008, he’s allowed 221 walks and thrown 42 wild pitches over 517.1 innings. I suspect the number of walks would be higher if hitters could lay off the high fastball a little more. On the plus side, he’s balanced things out strking out 586 guys. Igarashi showed a significant improvement in his walk rate after returning from injury (see below) last season, allowing just six walks in 42.1 innings.  This year he’s come back to earth and allowed seven walks in 19.1 innings so far, which is more in line with his career norms.

When pitching out of the windup, Igarashi has a hitch at the beginning of his delivery, a la Daisuke Matsuzaka, but otherwise has a pretty orthodox approach. This YouTube clip from late April 2009 gives a good look at his mechanics. Here’s another clip of him striking out a Yokohama BayStars side in 2008.

*trivia question: who is he tied with?

Injury History
Igarashi had the worst year of his career in 2006, and bounced between the top club and the farm team during the second half of the season. After the season, it was discovered that he had a ruptured UCL in his throwing arm, and he went in for Tommy John surgery. He spent all of 2007 rehabbing, and didn’t return to game action for good until around July 2008. He has regained his velocity post-injury and has had a normal work load since last summer.

Role
Igarashi has been mostly a middle reliever in his career thus far, setting up for Shingo Takatsu
 early in his career and more recently for Chang-Yong Lim. He did spend 2004 as Yakult’s closer after Takatsu left, and recorded 37 saves. He’s a set-up man again this year.

Future
Igarashi spoke last season of making a “Shinjyo-class” move to MLB, which I took to mean he’d be willing to take less money to try his hand at MLB. Recall that Tsuyoshi Shinjyo
, as he spelled it back then, turned down about $12m from Hanshin to take a minimum-pay deal with the Mets. I don’t think Igarashi will have to take that kind of a cut, because he’s making about $840k this year and I think he’d be able to get at least that much from an MLB team. His best offers may still come from Japan though, as he could probably command an NPB closer’s salary.

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Highlights & Web Gems

» 08 September 2008 » In npb » Comments Off

Well, it was an off-day in Japan today and I don’t have any essay type material ready, so here’s my version of NPB Web Gems.

  • An 18 year-old Daisuke Matsuzaka blows away Atsushi Kataoka with a 97 mph heater in his debut game.
  • The 2001 Kintetsu Buffaloes clinched the 2001 Pacific League title in dramatic fashion. Highly recommended viewing.
  • Tsuyoshi Shinyjo homers to send the game into extra innings, moves from the outfield to 2nd base , and then… watch the clip.
  • Masafumi Yamamori scales the outfield fence to save a home run… twice. The first play is in the Major League Hall of Fame.
  • Koji Akiyama used to back flip on to home plate after going deep for Seibu. Here’s one he did in the 1986 Japan Series. Impressive, yes, but definite beanball fodder if it happened in MLB.
  • Sherman Obando once took out a Seibu Dome camera with a home run.
  • The 7th inning stretch is a little different in Japan — rather than sing Take Me Out to the Ballgame, fans release balloons. The Hanshin Tigers fans put on the best show.

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