Tag Archive > Wladimir Balentien

Guest Post: Two and Two are not Five

» 22 September 2013 » In nichibei, npb » 3 Comments

If you’ve followed Japanese baseball in English for any period of time, chances are you’ve encountered Michael Westbay’s work. Westbay-san is the founder of JapaneseBaseball.com, a columnist for Baseball Magazine, a video podcaster, and a general leader of the English-speaking Pro Yakyu online community. Many of the English language NPB bloggers, including me, started out as members of the JapaneseBaseball.com forums.

Part of the reason I started NPB Tracker was to combat misinformation about Japanese baseball in the American media. The confluence of the “juiced ball” scandal, Wladimir Balentien’s home run record, and the Masahiro Tanaka rumor mill is more than I have time to adequately ponder, much less write about… so when I saw Westbay-san’s lengthy post about the ball issue, I asked him if he’d be willing to turn his commentary into a post here. 


There has been a rash of articles coming out on CNN, ESPN, and other sites which are mashing together several news items coming out of Japan and either putting 2 and 2 together to get 5, or leading their readers to reach such a conclusion. What these mashup articles lack is context.

Let’s take this ESPN article as a prime example. The most insidious thing about this post is that everything mentioned in it, taken by itself, is true.

  • It is true that commissioner Ryozo Kato announced his retirement.
  • It is true that the league kept the switch to a livelier baseball a secret until June.
  • It is true that there has been a dramatic increase in home runs.
  • It is true that Kato is stepping down due to the ball scandal.
  • It is true that Wladimir Balentien broke Sadaharu Oh’s 49 year old home run record.
  • It is true that the commissioner claims to have never been informed of the ball change.
  • It is true that the player’s union called for his resignation when the issue came to light.
  • It is true that a third party is investigating the issue.
  • It is true that Kato will quit after the end of the regular season (although I have seen reports that have his last day potentially just before the start of the Nippon Series toward the end of October rather than October 6).

Now, one of the truths above is not like the others. Can you guess which one?

Here’s a hint, one commenter, Thomas Brennan, wrote, “This just screams of Nationalism. It’s fine. It’s their league and they can do what they want with it.”

In what way, shape, or form does this “scream of Nationalism”?

Oh, he put 2 and 2 together to get 5. The commissioner retires under the scandal of a livelier ball with Oh’s 49 year old record being broken by a foreigner, therefore everybody in Japan must be up in arms and calling for the commissioner’s head for allowing this to happen!

Others put 2 and 2 together to get that an asterisk needs to go next to the record.

Except nobody is calling for Kato’s head over the record. Nobody is suggesting an asterisk is needed. If there is anybody who thinks the record is due to the “livelier ball,” then he’s being shunned by everybody else as an ignorant idiot. And such idiots are not making public spectacles of themselves as it appears their North American counterparts are.

I’m perhaps being too harsh on the commenters, though. Giving a mish-mash of facts taken out of context like this, and a general ignorance of Japanese baseball other than the sensationalist mis-information that’s been floating around North America about Tuffy Rhodes’ and Alex Cabrera’s runs at the home run record, it’s not surprising that so many reach such a conclusion.

Now, let’s look at some context that this and every similar news article is missing.

As stated above, the “livelier baseball” and “dramatic increase in home runs” are both facts. But in the context of compared to the last two years.

In 2010, the year before moving to the Unified Ball, the Yomiuri Giants alone hit over 200 home runs. In 2004 they hit over 250. No single team is even close to projecting anywhere near 200 this season. Yes, the ball is livelier than the past two years. But nobody is claiming that is the reason for Balentien’s success. (There were some posters, such as “daclyde,” on a CNN thread who correctly pointed out how much Balentien has improved as a hitter while in Japan. This shows that there are some intelligent, well informed readers despite the poor execution of North American Journalists.)

The reason Kato-Commissioner is stepping down is not due to the home run record. The player’s union called for Kato’s resignation after his long insistence that the ball had not changed right up to the revelations that it was on June 12. With a livelier ball, players’ contract incentives, especially those for pitchers, were in jeopardy, and they did not have the opportunity to factor in a new ball during their contract negotiations.

What did the home run race look like on June 12?

Yokohama’s Tony Blanco had looked like he was going to run away with the Home Run Crown with 23 home runs in 58 of Yokohama’s 59 games played. But Balentien was closing in with 20 after playing in just 47 games, getting a late start to the season due to an injury during the WBC.

The June 13th, 2013 edition of Nikkan Sports had a table showing how the pace of home runs had changed since the introduction of the unified ball in 2011.  It featured both Japanese and foreign players. Some players not known for hitting home runs, like the Lions’ Takumi Kuriyama quadrupling his home runs per at bat compared to 2012. Balentien, who was the Home Run Title winner the previous two years, showed a steady, linear increase year to year. Hiroshima’s Brad Eldred, at that point, was actually hitting home runs at a lower pace compared to 2012. Tony Blanco, who led both leagues at the time, was not even mentioned in the table.

Kato’s resignation and Balentien’s home run record are not related. It’s poorly written articles like this, that mash together a bunch of facts as though there is some sort of causality, that really do a disservice to the baseball community.

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Changes for 2012: Yakult Swallows

» 11 February 2012 » In npb » 1 Comment

Coming: Lastings Milledge, Orlando Roman, Kenta Abe, Tatsuo Kinoshita, Itsuki Shoda

Going: Norichika Aoki, Aaron Guiel, Hirotoshi Ishii, Osamu Hamanaka, Ryo Kawashima, Josh Whitesell

Staying: Wladimir Balentien, Tony Barnette, Chang Yong Lim

First a admission: whatever I write here won’t be as good as what you’ll find at TokyoSwallows.com. That site’s entirely in English, so click the link without fear. It was tempting to not write this at all and just stop with that link, but onward I shall press.

Yakult’s offseason boils down to this: Norichika Aoki out, Lastings Milledge in.

In fulfilling Norichika Aoki’s long held wish and sending him to MLB via the posting system, Yakult waved good by to one of the statistically best hitters in team history, but a guy who’s OPS fell from .944 to .718 with the introduction of the new ball. Milledge might not take over center, but he’ll step in to an outfield spot left open by Aoki and should bring a bit more power, a bit less contact, and a bit less defensive prowess.

And that’s pretty much it for offseason moves for Yakult. I thought they could have used another starter, but there weren’t too many on the market. Orlando Roman provides some interesting pitching depth, but he’ll have to beat out Tony Barnette for roster time, as foreigners Milledge, Wladimir Balentien and Chang Yong Lim have secure roster spots. Perhaps that other starter is already on the roster, in the from of improvement from sophomore Yuki Shichijyo, a return to health from Yoshinori, or a return to form from Kyohei Muranaka.

Will the Swallows compete in 2012? They finished second in 2011, but it seemed like they got there by getting off to a hot start, and then playing enough games to hang around for the rest of the year. Instinctively an Aoki-less 2012 Yakult feels similar to Hiroshima, though with more power. Like the Carp, Yakult has front-rotation strength (Yakult has Shohei Tateyama and Masanori Ishikawa), a strong foreign closer (Lim), and some mid-rotation and middle relief question marks. Only the presence of Yakult’s power bats of Balentien, Kazuhiro Hatakeyma and probably Milledge seem to differentiate. So, yeah, it’s a cop-out, but this feels like a middle-of-the-pack roster that could compete with regression from the rest of the league or break-out performances, or could suffer from the inverse.

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Game Notes: Yakult vs Chunichi (Aug 3)

» 05 August 2011 » In mlb prospects, npb » 1 Comment

The most interesting game I watched this week was Chunichi and Yakult’s 1-1 tie, played on Wednesday at Nagoya Dome. Here are a few observations from the game.

  • The last time I watched Wei-Yin Chen, he was extremely effective but I wasn’t sure how I felt about him as an MLB prospect. This start was a bit more confidence-inspiring. He showed a broader repertoire, working in his curveball and forkball, but more importantly I saw a little movement on his fastball that I had noticed earlier in the year. It was almost like a shuuto, with a little tailing movement away from righthanded hitters. Chen only tasted trouble in the second inning, when he gave up a series of line drive singles, yielding Yakult’s only run of the game; and in the third, when a series of elevated fastballs to Shingo Kawabata eventually resulted in a triple. On the negative side, he still didn’t have the great 150+ kmph (94+ mph) velocity that he’s shown in previous years, and he did work up in the zone a bit. That will catch up to him against better competition.
  • This was the first time I really watched Yakult rookie Yuki Shinchijyo. He kind of reminds me Lotte starter Yuki Karakawa.
  • Joel Guzman actually looked pretty good at the plate, at least in two of his at bats. His approach seems to have improved: he didn’t wave at bad pitches the way he did early in the season and looked more focused on making contact than trying to hit a home run. He was rewarded for this better approach with a pair of singles. Maybe he was seeing the ball better; Guzman was wearing goggles, which I don’t remember him having early in the year.
  • Wladimir Balentien, on the other hand, is going in the opposite direction. He looked like a complete mess at the plate; just hacking away without any kind of plan and behind everything. Chen struck him out three times, and only the third at bat was remotely competitive.
  • Ryoji Nakata started at first base for the Dragons, in the place of the the injured Tony Blanco. He’s clearly in batter shape than he was last year, though still quite round. It wasn’t a good game for Nakata, as he struck out three times times, including a big spot in the ninth, with runners on second and third and two outs. Nakata looks like he can drive balls thrown over the lower inside part of the strike zone, but pretty clearly struggles with the outside half of the plate.
  • Norichika Aoki’s plate discipline seems to have regressed.
  • Chunichi mascot Doala failed to land his trademark backflip, but a Dragons cheerleader executed one perfectly. In a show of support, visiting Yakult mascot Tsubakuro gave Doala a friendly pat on the back.

 

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NPB Bullet Points: Mulhern, MLB Scouts, Rakuten Fireworks

» 13 July 2011 » In nichibei, npb » 6 Comments

Today’s news and notes from around Japan, with a focus on scouting and player personnel.

  • Daily Sports reports that Seibu is working on signing Ryan Mulhern out of the Mexican League. I had never heard of Mulhern before yesterday, but he’s spent the last two seasons in indy ball and Mexico, and prior to that it looks like he’d mostly been an organizational player. It’s great to see this kind of player get a shot and I wish him the best of luck.
  • Chunichi Sports points out that Ryan Vogelsong is the third non-Japanese player with NPB experience to make an MLB All-Star team. The other two? Cecil Fielder and Alfonso Soriano.
  • Wladimir Balentien’s contract with Yakult includes language that prevents him from moving to another NPB team after the season. Said someone familiar with the situation: “Discussion about foreign players leaving the team or not ended with Chang-Yong Lim last offseason. New players acquired since then have contractual provisions against moving domestically.”
  • Sponichi reports that the Rays, Indians, Astros and Angels had scouts at Hisashi Iwakuma’s most recent rehab start.
  • Hanshin is reportedly looking to acquire Korean slugger Dae-Ho Lee this offseason.
  • The “Big 3″ college pitchers – Tomoyuki Sugano, Takahiro Fujioka and Yusuke Nomura – have all disavowed interest in skipping NPB in favor of MLB. The trio had been attracting attention from MLB scouts.
  • MLB scouts from three un-named teams watched Shoji Yoshimoto, who Nikkan Sports called “the Darvish of Shimomachi Shitamachi.”
  • Rakuten will feature fireworks displays after all 13 of it’s home games in August. As an added promotion, 20 families will get to watch the fireworks from the field.
  • In more Rakuten news, the Eagles ni-gun team has it’s own ustream.tv channel. Unfortunately the angle they shoot the games from is almost unwatchable.
  • And now for something completely different: Lotte has stadium and uniform advertising for Nexon this season. I never know what Nexon does, but I happened to find out from this English-language article on Techcrunch.

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NPB Bullet Points: Posting System, Ikusei Promotions, Darvish’s Scouts

» 21 June 2011 » In mlb prospects, nichibei, npb » 10 Comments

With NPB off until Friday, it’s a good time to refresh the Bullet Points series.

  • NPB has decided not to pursue changes to the Posting System, according to a June 13 Sanspo report. Difficulty in changing the system on the MLB side and the possibility of collecting large posting fees were cited as the reasons behind the support for the current system.
  • Yakult has added Brazilian Rafael Fernandez to its 70-man shihaikai roster, an upgrade from the ikusei roster. Fernandez was selected in the ikusei draft back in 2008, and has a 1.97 ERA in eight games at ni-gun this season.
  • Hanshin did the same with Venezuelan lefty Robert Zarate. Zarate was signed out of the independent Baseball Challenge League last offseason.
  • Norihiro Nakamura is back, this time with the Yokohama BayStars. Nori hit the first home run of his return on the 18th against Softbank.
  • The Chiba Lotte Marines have come to an agreement to acquire infielder Jose Castillo, who was with Yokohama last year. Castillo had been tearing up the Mexican League, and I figure he’ll play LF or DH in Chiba.
  • The Braves and Twins had scouts at Yu Darvish’s June 15 start, where he was shockingly defeated by Hanshin. Atlanta’s always chatty Hiroyuki Ohya had this to say: “It felt like he was pressing with this fastball. He has less break on his slider than he did two years ago. He can do better than this.”
  • Yakult is set to sell a cocktail “produced” by slugger Wladimir Balentien. The drink will be based on Curacao, a liqueur from Coco’s homeland in the Netherlands Antilles.
  • Agent Don Nomura has a new client, pitcher Keisuke Imamura, currently of the Kobe 9 Cruise of the Kansai Independent League. According to the Kobe News, Imamura stands at 190 cm (6’3), reaches 148 kmph (92mph) with his fastball, and has a 14.54 K/9IP ratio this season. The Astros, Giants, and Yankees are said to have shown interest.

 

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NPB Bullet Points: Monthly MVPs, Darvish the Hockey Player

» 06 June 2011 » In nichibei, npb » 4 Comments

First links roundup in a while, as usual all in Japanese today.

  • The monthly MVPs were announced yesterday. In the Pacific League, Yu Darvish and Tadahito Iguchi won, while Wladimir Balentien and Tetsuya Utsumi took home the prizes in the Central League. It’s nice to see Balentien get the award this month as I think he got robbed in April.
  • At an elementary school visit, Darvish was asked “why did you start to play baseball?”, to which he answered “when I was an elementary school student I also played ice hockey but the practices were tough.” I could see Darvish as a defenseman with great reach.
  • Nippon Ham racked up a team scoreless streak of 52 innings last week, tying the NPB record set by Hanshin in 1942. After the streak came to an end Saturday against Yakult, Nippon Ham immediately went out and put up back-to-back shutouts against Yomiuri, so they already have another 18 inning scoreless streak. Nippon Ham has a cool 2.21 team ERA, which amazingly is second to Softbanks 2.15.
  • My re-translation of Alex Cabrera’s comments regarding his 350th NPB home run wound up getting translated to Spanish for a Venezuelan publication. Now that this has gone through a few iterations I’d love to see how close this Spanish translation comes to Cabu’s original remarks.
  • Cleveland minor leaguer Tooru Murata has a blog going. One post that caught my eye was this one, in which he writes about traveling by bus, saying “the air conditioning is too strong so the bus is too cold. I lose the feeling in my fingertips.” Murata seems to be on the DL, but he has a good K:BB ratio so far this year. He very experienced for his level though.
  • Orix is selling “pro model uniforms” jerseys this summer, for JPY 34,500.
  • This photo was taken above Hakkodate Ocean Stadium in Hokkaido back on May 15th.
  • Personal non-news observation #1: I haven’t watched much major league baseball at all this year, but yesterday I watched a bit of the Giants game against Colorado. The Giants started a righthanded #32, who I had never seen before, and I kept thinking “wow, this guy is great, who is he?” It turned out to be former Hanshin and Orix pitcher Ryan Vogelsong.
  • Personal non-news observation #2: I don’t think any pitcher in NPB enjoys what he does as much as Orix’s Yuki Nishi does. I’ve really enjoyed watching him this season.

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Balentien’s Hot Start, Part 2

» 23 May 2011 » In npb » 1 Comment

Michael Westbay left a comment on my Wladimir Balentien post with Balentien’s line against each pitcher he’s faced this season. With Westbay-san’s permission, I’ve republished his content here.

Team Throws AB H 2B 3B HR TB BB HBP K SH SF AVG OBP SLG
vs Kawai, Yudai CHU L 2 1 0 0 1 4 0 0 0 0 0 .500 .500 2.000
vs Asao, Takuya CHU R 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 .000 .000 .000
vs Hirai, Masafumi CHU R 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 0 0 .000 .000 .000
vs Iwata, Shinji CHU R 3 3 1 0 0 4 0 0 0 0 0 1.000 1.000 1.333
vs Nakata, Kenichi CHU R 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000
vs Suzuki, Yoshihiro CHU R 3 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 .333 .333 .333
vs Yamauchi, Souma CHU R 2 2 0 0 1 5 0 0 0 0 0 1.000 1.000 2.500
vs Yoshimi, Kazuki CHU R 5 1 0 0 0 1 1 0 0 0 0 .200 .333 .200
vs Utsumi, Tetsuya YOM L 3 2 0 0 1 5 2 0 0 0 0 .667 .800 1.667
vs Albaladejo, Jonathan YOM R 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 .000 .000 .000
vs Kubo, Yuya YOM R 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000
vs Nishimura, Kentaro YOM R 1 1 0 0 1 4 0 0 0 0 0 1.000 1.000 4.000
vs Ochi, Daisuke YOM R 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 .000 .000 .000
vs Romero, Levi YOM R 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000
vs Sawamura, Hirokazu YOM R 2 1 0 0 1 4 1 0 1 0 1 .500 .500 2.000
vs Tohno, Shun YOM R 6 1 1 0 0 2 0 0 4 0 0 .167 .167 .333
vs Fukuhara, Shinobu HAN R 1 1 0 0 1 4 0 0 0 0 0 1.000 1.000 4.000
vs Kobayashi, Hiroyuki HAN R 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 .000 1.000 .000
vs Kubo, Yasutomo HAN R 2 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 .000 .333 .000
vs Messenger, Randy HAN R 2 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 .000 .333 .000
vs Standridge, Jason HAN R 2 1 0 0 1 4 1 0 0 0 0 .500 .667 2.000
vs Iwami, Yuki HIR L 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 .000 1.000 .000
vs Fukui, Yuya HIR R 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 0 0 0 .000 .667 .000
vs Imamura, Takeru HIR R 4 1 0 0 0 1 1 0 1 0 0 .250 .400 .250
vs Maeda, Kenta HIR R 2 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 1 0 0 .000 .333 .000
vs Nakata, Ren HIR R 3 1 1 0 0 2 0 0 1 0 0 .333 .333 .667
vs Sarfate, Dennis HIR R 2 1 0 0 1 4 0 0 1 0 0 .500 .500 2.000
vs Schultz, Mike HIR R 1 1 0 0 0 1 1 0 0 0 0 1.000 1.000 1.000
vs Toyoda, Kiyoshi HIR R 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000
vs Ueno, Hirofumi HIR R 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 .000 .000 .000
vs Umetsu, Tomohiro HIR R 2 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 1 0 0 .000 .333 .000
vs Makka, Takayuki YOK L 2 2 0 0 1 5 1 0 0 0 0 1.000 1.000 2.500
vs Yamamoto, Shogo YOK L 3 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 1 0 0 .333 .333 .333
vs Ejiri, Shintaro YOK R 2 1 0 0 1 4 0 0 0 0 0 .500 .500 2.000
vs Hamilton, Clayton YOK R 2 1 1 0 0 2 0 0 0 0 0 .500 .500 1.000
vs Miura, Daisuke YOK R 2 2 0 0 0 2 0 0 0 0 0 1.000 1.000 1.000
vs Ohnuma, Koji YOK R 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000
vs Ohta, Atori YOK R 2 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 .500 .500 .500
vs Sanada, Hiroki YOK R 2 1 1 0 0 2 0 0 0 0 0 .500 .500 1.000
vs Suda, Kota YOK R 3 2 0 0 2 8 0 0 0 0 0 .667 .667 2.667
vs Takasaki, Kentaro YOK R 3 2 0 0 1 5 1 0 0 0 0 .667 .750 1.667
vs Takeda, Masaru NIP L 3 2 0 0 0 2 0 0 0 0 0 .667 .667 .667
vs Darvish, Yu NIP R 3 1 1 0 0 2 0 0 0 0 0 .333 .333 .667
vs Takeda, Hisashi NIP R 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000
vs Tanimoto, Keisuke NIP R 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000
vs Shiomi, Takahiro RAK L 2 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 1 0 0 .000 .333 .000
vs Aoyama, Koji RAK R 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000
vs Tanaka, Masahiro RAK R 4 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 2 0 0 .250 .250 .250
vs Right - - 83 28 6 0 10 64 12 1 18 0 1 .337 .423 .771
vs Left - - 15 8 0 0 3 17 5 0 2 0 0 .533 .650 1.133
vs All Above - - 98 36 6 0 13 81 17 1 20 0 1 .367 .462 .827

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Balentien’s Hot Start

» 21 May 2011 » In nichibei, npb » 5 Comments

The best NPB newcomer this season has been, without a doubt. Yakult’s Wladimir Balentien. Through 117 plate appearances, he’s got a slash line of .367/.462/.827 and leads Japan with 13 home runs. It’s not unusual for foreign players to start strong in Japan, but Balentien’s status as a former top prospect, his relatively young age (27 in July) and his massive power numbers make him an interesting case to study.

First I grabbed the opponent and pitch data for the 13 home runs he’s hit so far:

game Pitcher Pitch Type Velocity (kmph)
20110416 Takayuki Makka curve 0
20110421 Yudai Kawai fastball 131
20110423 Dennis Sarfate slider 133
20110427 Kentaro Nishimura shuuto 145
20110427 Tetsuya Utsumi fastball 142
20110428 Hirokazu Sawamura curve 122
20110501 Jason Standridge fastball 0
20110501 Shinobu Fukuhara fastball 138
20110503 Souma Yamauchi fastball 135
20110513 Shintaro Ejiri fastball 145
20110513 Kota Suda slider 129
20110513 Kota Suda curve 105
20110514 Kentaro Takasaki slider 130

Nothing too surprising here — a lot of unimpressive fastballs, and some sliders and curves which I’ll assume were of the hanging variety. Home runs off Yokohama pitchers account for a big chunk of his power production. What I don’t see in this list is a lot of Japan’s top caliber pitchers, with the possible exception of Sawamura. The power is real, but it’s reasonable to expect it to even out as Balentien faces more of Japan’s top competition.

Balentien entered 2011 with a bit of a reputation for struggling against breaking pitches. That hasn’t really been the case so far:

Pitch Result count
changeup strike looking 1
curve strike looking 6
fastball strike looking 39
forkball strike looking 2
shuuto strike looking 2
slider strike looking 10
changeup strike swinging 3
curve strike swinging 1
cut fastball strike swinging 1
fastball strike swinging 19
forkball strike swinging 7
shuuto strike swinging 4
sinker strike swinging 1
slider strike swinging 29

To put this into context, Balentien has seen 471 pitches so far. It does appear that he does have a little bit of issue with sliders. I dug a little further into the data and found that he seems to struggle with Shun Tohno, one of the better slider guys in the Central League.

Lastly, the guys at Tsubamegun made this observation:

Balentien has monster numbers, but he needs to watch [Josh] Whitesell work a count, take notes, and stop getting sucked into first-pitches in the strike zone. The results are bad more often than not.

The Tsubamegun guys have seen far more of Balentien than I ever have, so I’d thought I’d check their assertion against the data. Here’s what Balentien has done on the first pitch of each of his 117 plate appearances, aggregated by result:

result count
ball 51
flyout 6
foul 11
groundout 1
home run 6
linedrive single 3
strike looking 22
strike swinging 17

73 takes; 44 swings, 27 resulting in contact. The six home runs jump out — if you took away his other seven homers and he just had these six, he would still be tied for second in the Central League in bombs. The three line drive hits aren’t too shabby either, so we have a total of nine hits and seven outs.

Balentien is averaging a solid four pitches per plate appearance, so he’s not being unduly aggressive. To the extent that Balentien can identify hittable breaking pitches and weak first-pitch fastballs, I say keep on hacking.

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NPB Bullet Points: Fukui Wins, Hessman Hits, Balentien Hits Way More

» 04 May 2011 » In npb » 1 Comment

Notes to pass along from the last few days of NPB action.

  • Hiroshima pitcher Yuya Fukui posted an emotional win over Yokohama on May 3rd. It was the heralded rookie’s first win since April 20, when his older brother Ryuichi died in a car accident. Ryuichi advised Yuya against signing with Yomiuri when they drafted him in the fourth round out of high school.
  • Takafumi Nakamura, who played last year in the Indians organization, is back in Japan with Shinano of the independent BC League. The lanky righty is hoping to advance to NPB.
  • According to Nikkan Sports, Yomiuri has passed on moving lefty Adam Bright from the ikusei roster to the regular 70-man roster (shihaika).
  • New Orix import Mike Hessman collected his first NPB hit off none other than Yu Darvish, noting that he “had seen him at the Beijing Olympics” and “was glad to get a hit off such a good pitcher.”
  • Hanshin sluggers Takashi Toritani, Takahiro Arai and Craig Brazell hit back-to-back-to-back home runs on May 4th, recalling the fabled 1985 san renpatsu (three consecutive blasts) starring Randy Bass, Masayuki Kakefu, and Akinobu Okada. I couldn’t find video of this week’s renpatsu, so here’s the 1985 version.
  • Wladimir Balentien is off to a hot start in Japan: .387/.487/.885 slash line, nine home runs 61 at bats, and 13 walks against 12 strikeouts.

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Watching Baseball, April 18

» 19 April 2011 » In npb » 3 Comments

Last night, thanks to some justin.tv channel surfing I was able to catch bits and pieces of three NPB games, and I’m catching up on Yu Darvish’s start against Orix as I write this. Here are a few things I noticed.

Seibu vs Lotte

  • Crowds were sparse at all the games I watched. Yokohama appeared to draw the best audience for their game against Hiroshima.
  • Takashi Ogino is a threat to steal every time he reaches first with second base open. I’d like to see him dig in and go after third as well.
  • Hideaki Wakui’s fastball velocity was in the 142 kmph range, which is a little bit sub-optimal for him. Lotte seemed to get better looks at him after the first time through the lineup.
  • Yoshihisa Naruse, on the other hand, was pretty much vintage in shutting out the Lions. He only K’d six, but he made few mistake pitches and induced a large quantity of pop up outs.
  • The defensive play of the game was rookie Shogo Akiyama’s jumping catch at the wall, on Saburo’s long fly ball to right field. I had always perceived Saburo as being vulnerable to hard pitches away, but the pitch he hit was a fastball over the outside corner, and he drove it the other way. Maybe Saburo has refined his approach, or maybe Wakui’s velocity wasn’t enough to make that pitch effective.
  • Akiyama’s bat is still way behind his glove. He struck out in his only two at-bats, the first time on three pitches.
  • Tadahito Iguchi has really filled out. He and Tae Kyun Kim have got to be the portliest right side of any infield in Japan.
  • Seibu infielder Hideto Asamura again looked extremely confident at the plate. He wound up going 1-3 with a double.

Chunichi vs Yakult

  • Yahoo had identified Kazuki Yoshimi as Chunichi’s starter, but it was actually Kenichi Nakata that took the hill.
  • Joel Guzman looked absolutely terrible against Masanori Ishikawa, and finished 0-4 with three strikeouts. NPB pitchers, take note —  Guzman should not see anything other than breaking balls out of the zone until he proves he can lay off them.
  • Kazuhiro Hatakeyama has stepped in to Yakult’s lineup with Josh Whitesell temporarily sidelined. He’s responded by going 5-8 with three home runs in the two games he started.
  • Despite his offspeed woes, Wladimir Balentien made contact with a couple of breaking pitches yesterday. Yes, they were groundouts, but there may be hope for him.
  • As noted by Jason Coskrey, it got darker at Jingu Stadium as the game progressed. Jason tweeted that NPB would consider using stadium lights for safety purposes during the night game ban.

 

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