Tag Archive > Wladimir Balentien

NPB Bullet Points: Late Contracts, New Uniforms

» 30 January 2011 » In npb » 4 Comments

We interrupt our series of 2011 offseason reviews to bring you a bullet list of news items from around NPB. All links in Japanese.

  • Beom-Ho Lee has left the Softbank Hawks and will join the Kia Tigers of the Korean Baseball Organization. Lee hit .205 in 132 at-bats last year, and was well-down the Hawks’ depth chart for this season. He had said that he would go back to Korea if he couldn’t stick at third base, so I give him credit for sticking to his words.
  • In other Hawks news, Hitoshi Tamura finally signed for 2011, agreeing to a one-year deal that will pay a JPY 180m salary. Softbank had offered a multi-year deal but he wanted a one-year deal, saying that he can perform better.
  • Hiroyuki Nakajima was another late signing, agreeing to a JPY 280m salary for 2011. He’ll gun for MLB again next offseason.
  • Craig Brazell has arrived in Japan, and from the looks of things he came straight from the golf course.
  • The Nippon Ham Fighters have unveiled their new uniforms
  • Wladimir Balentien brought his PlayStation 3 to camp, with the idea that he could get to know his teammates over a couple of auto racing games during the spring. He impressed the author of the linked Sponichi article by arriving in Okinawa early and working out on consecutive days.
  • Hideaki Wakui had his salary dispute with Seibu settled in a rare NPB arbitration case, reports Naoko Toyakoshi of Nikkan Sports. Wakui will see his salary rise to JPY 253m, a little short of the JPY 270m he had requested.
  • Meanwhile, Hanshin ace Yasutomo Kubo has yet to renew for 2011 and could wind up paying his own way to camp.
  • Rakuten items: Kazuo Matsui and Akinori Iwamura modeled their Eagles uniforms at K-Sta; later new manager Senichi Hoshino led his team to a pre-camp shrine visit on a snowy day in Sendai; Byung-Hyun Kim was also introduced in the snow.

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Offseason Changes: Yakult Swallows

» 25 January 2011 » In npb » 8 Comments

Coming: Wladimir Balentien, Osamu Hamanaka, Ryuji Miyade

Going: Jamie D’Antona, Jun Hagiwara, Hei-Chun Lee, Eulogio De La Cruz, Yuki Tanaka

Staying: Tony Barnette, Aaron Guiel, Josh Whitesell, Chang-Yong Lim

Summary: While many teams spent the winter making splashy signings, the Swallows chose to remain a bit under the radar. Unless you consider Wladimir Balentien a big-name international talent, Yakult was dormant in the foreign player market this offseason. The biggest headlines were reserved for Chang-Yong Lim‘s contract size and learning the fate of Jamie D’Antona.

After a rough season, D’Antona was jettisoned and signed a minor league contract with MLB’s Florida Marlins. The team also decided they didn’t have much use for a second season of Eulogio De La Cruz. The Swallows further determined that 37-year old Hagiwara’s best days are behind him. They did retain starter Tony Barnette, a player who showed some flashes of decency but I felt was an overall flop. I know some writers have a higher opinion of him, but I look at his 5.99 ERA and 1.76 WHIP in 2010 with skepticism going forward.

I am a fan of closer Lim’s and I expect Aaron Guiel to perform better in 2011, though maybe not to his 2009 level. Age (38) and health have to be factored in when calculating his expectations.  With respect to their only major addition, Balentien, I am a bit torn. I’m not sure if this guy is going to be Tuffy Rhodes or a Curaçaoan Rob Deer. He could come to NPB and crush the pitching, but his history to this point shows that he tends to be a strikeout machine. We’ll see how he hits, though I know he features a strong outfield arm. Ryuji Miyade returns to Meiji Jingu after a two year absence, though I don’t expect he nor Osamu Hamanaka will have a major impact on the team’s fortunes.

Last year’s mid-season managerial change and second-half surge is history. What remains to be seen is if the Swallows can avoid another slow start and vault themselves into A Class this year. While I believe the team, which finished 72-68-4 (.514) last year, will be competitive throughout 2011, I’m not sure they’re yet in a position to overtake Chunichi, Hanshin, or Yomiuri. Despite having what should be a good, young team with one of Japan’s best players roaming their outfield, I think they’ll fall short of the playoffs.

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Foreign Player Signing Summary

» 29 November 2010 » In nichibei, npb » 4 Comments

I haven’t done a great job of staying up to date with NPB transactions this offseason. To catch up on things, here’s my tally of who’s signed so far this autumn:

In addition, Hiroshima added Scott McClain as a US-based scout.

This year, I published my list of picks for Japan-bound players over at FanGraphs. So far I’ve gotten two correct, Bullington and Torres. I took a long look at Sarfate and Albaladejo, but I left Sarfate off because of his walk rate, and Albaladejo off because I thought he’d get a job in the Majors. I also asked FanGraphs’ readers to suggest players who could go over, and so far that list has produced one correct prediction, Hoffpauir.

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Q & A: Honkbal Hoofdklasse with Rogier van Zon

» 16 July 2009 » In international baseball » Comments Off on Q & A: Honkbal Hoofdklasse with Rogier van Zon

Back in May, I wrote that I was looking for expertise on baseball in the Netherlands and Brazil for content on the site. An emailer tipped me off to Rogier van Zon, editor-in-chief of the Dutch-language honkbalsite.com. Honkbalsite has been online since 2000, and is the most popular site on Dutch baseball. Rogier took the time to share his knowledge of Dutch baseball with us.

NPB Tracker: I suspect the biggest impression npbtracker.com readers will have of Dutch baseball is from this year’s WBC, which for me was one of the highlights of the tournament. Was the WBC a notable story in the Netherlands? Did the national team’s performance have any impact on the popularity of baseball in the Netherlands?

Rogier van Zon: When the Dutch beat the Dominican Republic in the WBC, it was one of the best days in Dutch baseball. It also proved that Dutch baseball is getting stronger each year. Not many people know that the Dutch team has won the European championship 20 times since 1956. They were number 4 during the last two World Cups and they forced Cuba to extra innings during the final of the last Intercontinental Cup.

Maybe it is hard to believe, but when the Dutch beat the Dominicans and advanced to the second round, there was hardly any newspapers or tv stations in the Netherlands that brought the news. The only media attention was a small article on one of the last pages of the sports section. Except baseball fans, probably the most people in the Netherlands didn’t even know what the Dutch team had done. Baseball isn’t a popular sport in the Netherlands. The game and it’s rules are to hard to understand. People prefer soccer, volleyball, cycling and speedskating. During the last world Port Tournament, just two games were televised (a recap in the evening).

NT: Can you give a brief overview of the Honkbal Hofdklasse?

RvZ: The Dutch Hoofdklasse is a league consisting of eight teams. They are located in and around Haarlem, Amsterdam and Rotterdam. The reigning champion is L&D Amsterdam (the team names are mostly from the sponsors), and DOOR Neptunus (Rotterdam) is one of the strongest teams. They won the championship from 1999-2005. Another strong team is Corendon Kinheim (Haarlem). These teams rely a lot on their veteran players, mostly players from the Dutch national team. For example Raily Legito, Diegomar Markwell (Neptunus), Sidney de Jong (Amsterdam), Danny Rombley, Vince Rooi and David Bergman (Kinheim).

You can compare the level of the competition with SingleA/Double A in the United States. Each team is allowed to have one player without a European passport. One of these players is the Cuban Fausto Álvarez. He is 48 years old, but still one of the best in the league. He hit 24 home runs in his last four seasons. another strong player is Ryan Murphy. He is one of the best pitchers and batters in the Hoofdklase.

The Dutch league is an amateur league. This means that most of the players have a dayjob next to baseball. So they have to work during the daytime and have training in the evening. Baseball is not a very big sport in the Netherlands. Games in the Dutch Hoofdklasse attract a couple of hundred visitors.

NT: Who are some of the top players?

RvZ: The top players are of course well known players like Sidney de Jong (he was part of the Olympic lobby in Lausanne last month), Rob Cordemans (he also played in Taiwan for a couple of months) and Dirk van ‘t Klooster. Van ‘t Klooster has played 164 for the Dutch national team. These players were part of the team during the WBC.

Because Curaçao, Aruba and Sint-Maarten are part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, the players from these islands are allowed to play for the Dutch national team. That’s why the Dutch team can also rely on players like Major Leaguers Wladimir Balentien, Shairon Martis and Jair Jurrjens. There are (at this moment) around forty Antillean players in the Minors. Besides that, there are thirteen in Holland-born player in the Minors. These numbers will definitely will increase in the next years. The Netherlands have also started baseball academies. Former Yankees player Robert Eenhoorn is the progenitor. The academies bring a lot of talent.

Because the Netherlands can use players form Curaçao and Aruba, it is possible to create a very strong team. But this is not the key to the success. During the last World Cup, where the Netherlands reached the semi-finals, just four players of the Dutch team were not born in the Netherlands. The biggest key to success is the movement the Dutch manager Eenhoorn started. He made baseball in the Netherlands “professional”. He created two nationals teams: one for Dutch tournaments with players from the Hoofdklasse and another team for big tournaments with players from the Minors and Majors. This is just like Team USA has different national teams. The things Eenhoorn did are very important for baseball in the Netherlands.

NT: The Netherlands hosts some important international tournaments, notably the World Port Tournament and the Haarlem Baseball Week. Can you describe these tournaments?

RvZ: These two tournaments are events Dutch baseball fans really look forward to. It’s the only time baseball games in the Netherlands are sold out. During these games there are about4500-5000 visitors. For the Netherlands that is a lot. Mostly participants are Asian teams like Taipei and Japan, but also Cuba and American teams. The level of teams isn’t very high. Most of the teams play with college players, but for baseball fans in the Netherlands it is one big party.

NT: The 2009 World Port Tournament just wrapped up with Cuba as the champion. Were there any players on any team in the tournament that you were particularly impressed with?

RvZ: Cuba participated in the tournament with a very strong team. They couldn’t afford to lose another championship. They came to Rotterdam with a handful of players that had participated in the Olympics and World Baseball Classic. Some of the strong players were pitchers Miguel A. González (MVP during the Cuban playoffs) and Maikel Folch (a Cuban All Star). Some other All Stars were in Rotterdam: outfielders Giorvis Duvergel and Leonys Martin, second baseman Yoilán Cerce and catcher Rolando Meriño.

Cuba had the four players with the best batting averages: Adonis García (16-34 / .471), Ariel Borrero (15-34 / .441), Yoelvis Fiss (17-40 / .425) and Eriel Sánchez (14-35 / .400).

The Netherlands started the tournament with 8 players who never played for the Dutch A-team. One of them was the 17 year-old Nick Urbanus. He’s a big talent. His father is Charles Urbanus and is grandfather is Han Urbanus, who both played for the national team. They are some of the best players ever in the Netherlands. Another rookie was Bas de Jong (24 years old). He was 5 for 5 against Cuba in his only second game for the Dutch team. He ended up as the best hitter for the Netherlands (.379).

NT: And finally, since NPB Tracker is primarily about Japanese baseball, I must ask, how did the Japanese team do?

RvZ: The Japanse team did play a couple of good games. They played 11 innings against Taipei in the first game and almost beat the Dutch team. The Dutch team scored two runs in the bottom of the ninth to win 4-3. If Japan would have won these games, it would have been a whole other tournament and they would even have reached the finals.

Japan was the only team this tournament that has beaten Cuba. They won 2-1 because of a great performance by pitcher Syogo Suenaga (Ed. note: Teikyo University senior). He allowed just four hits in nine innings. It was the first time Cuba lost in nineteen games during the World Port Tournament. They had not lost since 2001.

Suenaga pitched and won complete games against both finalists. He also shutout the Netherlands (3 hits in 9 innings) earlier in the tournament.

You can find al of the statistics on http://www.knbsb-stats.nl/knbsb/stats09/wpt09/index.php.

If you are interested in Dutch baseball, you can read more:

NT: Thank you Rogier!

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