Tag Archive > Yasuyuki Kataoka

More Evidence That Nakajima Will Fit In With The A’s

» 07 February 2013 » In nichibei » Comments Off

The relevant part starts at about 30 seconds in:

No, that’s not Hiroyuki Nakajima in the Spiderman mask, it’s his Seibu Lions (ex-)teammate Yasuyuki Kataoka.

A’s fans, does this remind you of anything?

reddickspidermanpie081712

(image stolen from Big League Stew, credited to AP Getty Images)

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Spring Training Story Lines

» 03 February 2013 » In npb » 2 Comments

Spring has arrived in Okinawa, and NPB camps are underway. As with every new season, there are a number of stories developing. Here are a few to look out for:

  • How long before Nippon Ham settles on a position for Shohei Ohtani?

Part of Nippon Ham’s pitch to Ohtani was letting him pitch and hit. Ohtani has the physique and high school track record to make this a very interesting idea, but I suspect that reality will eventually settle in and he’ll wind up sticking to his best role. That said, here’s hoping he pulls it off. I’d love to see him come in from right field to close a game.

  • How will top draftee Shintaro Fujinami adapt to life as a pro?

There is no such positional debate about the other high school prize of last year’s draft, Hanshin pitcher Fujinami. The sentiment echoed throughout the Japanese media following the draft was the question of whether Hanshin has the ability to develop a pitcher with the potential of “Mount Fuji”; now we begin to find out.

  • How will Yomiuri draftee Tomoyuki Sugano perform after a year away from competition?

Sugano took a year off in 2012, after his rights were won by the Nippon Ham Fighters in the 2011 draft. Undeterred, the Giants grabbed him uncontested in the first round of the 2012 draft, and he immediately signed. If he’s some approximation of this, the Giants will be quite happy he was insistent on playing for them.

  • Which of the bari bari Major Leaguers will sink and which will swim?

Andruw Jones, Bryan LaHair, Casey McGehee, Jose Lopez, Vincente Padilla and Nyjer Morgan are among this year’s NPB imports. It’s always hard to predict who will do well in Japan, but I’m particularly pessimistic about Padilla and Morgan.

  • Who will step in to Hiroyuki Nakajima’s shoes for Seibu?

History repeats itself. 10 years ago, Nakajima stepped forward as the replacement for star shortstop Kazuo Matsui, who had departed for the Majors. Now Seibu finds itself needing a replacement for Nakajima. It looked like Hideto Asamura could emerge as a successor, but he failed to impress last season. A return to form from speedster Yasuyuki Kataoka would be welcome, and perhaps Esteban German could see time at shortstop.

  • Who is Eddy Rivera?

Billed a “mystery” player, Rivera is in camp with the Chunichi Dragons on a trial basis (“testo sei“). Rivera has Dominican Summer League experience with academy affiliates of the Cardinals and Padres, but hasn’t appeared in a game since 2010.

Rivera stepped off his flight from the Dominican and immediately impressed with his velocity. Chunichi has found Latin American bargains such as Tony Blanco and Enyelbert Soto in recent years, we’ll see if lightning strikes again.

  • Has Orix improved?

Orix recently grabbed headlines for acquiring star outfielder Yoshio Itoi in a trade with Nippon Ham, but has made a couple other interesting moves this offseason. The Buffaloes signed 2B Keiichi Hirano, picked up starter Shun Tono in a trade with Yomiuri, and snagged closer Takahiro Mahara as compensation for losing free agent starter Hayato Terahara. On the negative side of the ledger, the B’s parted ways with talented, but health-challenged starters Terahara Hiroshi Kisanuki, as well as Alfredo Figaro. Orix is still on the outside looking in at a top-3 finish, but if everything goes absolutely right for them, they could make things interesting.

  • Has Yokohama DeNA improved?

DeNA’s offseason largely consisted of poaching Tony Blanco, Jorge Sosa and Enyelbert Soto from Chunichi, getting OF Hitoshi Tamura back from Softbank, and signing Nyjer Morgan. All of these moves, with the probable exception of Morgan, improve the Baystars, but none really addresses the team’s main weaknesses of the starting rotation and middle infield. The real step forward will have to be lead by the ‘Stars young players: 3B Yoshitomo Tsutsugo, C Shuto Takajo, pitchers Yuki Kuniyoshi and Kisho Kagami, and 2012 draftees IF Hiroyuki Shirasaki and pitcher Kazuki Mishima.

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NPB At The Half

» 21 July 2011 » In npb » Comments Off

We’re at the All-Star break, and NPB’s 12 teams have played through just about exactly half of their schedules. I’d like to take a few minutes to share some observations on the season so far.

I want to start with something about the Great Tohoku Earthquake, but I can’t think of anything particularly profound to say about it. The season opened about a month after the quake, but what I’ll always remember about the opening of this season was the persistent presence of it: Rakuten opening its season on the road, the day games in the Tokyo area, things like that. But what sticks out the most is the memory a Yokohama BayStars game I was watching early in the season that was delayed for a few minutes because of an aftershock. That just felt… ominous. I guess I probably perceived the earthquake differently because I live in the US, but it was the only extended period over the last three years that I really didn’t feel like writing about baseball. Just thinking back to it now has dampened my enthusiasm for writing the next few paragraphs…

The other obvious observation is the affect the new ball has had on the game. Numerous pitchers are posting career-best numbers, and only a few batters, notably Okawari-kun Nakamura, seem capable of cranking out the homers at their respective established paces. Nippon Ham has an absurd 2.08 ERA, while Softbank has a 2.31 mark. I didn’t see that coming for Softbank at all, considering that they didn’t actually have a rotation last year. The new ball’s diminishing effects have been felt around the league, but guys with mid-range gap power seem most greatly affected: Eiichi Koyano, Teppei, Yasuyuki Kataoka, Takashi Toritani… perhaps most concerning is Norichika Aoki, who is still getting on base but has seen his slugging percentage drop to .363 this season after hovering around .500 for the last several years.

Another item of note is that Yu Darvish actually had a bad game this year, giving up seven earned runs in seven innings pitched on opening day. He hasn’t had one since though, rattling off a lengthy scoreless streak (mostly) during interleague play, and showing perhaps the best stuff of his career. Maybe it’s the new ball, but Darvish seems to be throwing harder this season, routinely over 150 kmph (94 mph) with his four-seamer, with some movement on it. He’s also shown a little more polish on his cutter, so combining that with his shuuto he has three pitches with 145+ kmph (90+ mph) velocity that move in different directions. Throw in a power slider and a slow curve that is basically an automatic strike when he gets it over the plate, and you have a completely dominant pitcher. This is first season I’ve ever really wanted to see him against more talented competition.

The pennant races are proving interesting through the first half. Yakult has impressively clung to first place in the Central League, somewhat to my surprise. I saw them taking a step forward this year, but I thought the title would come down to Yomiuri or Hanshin. It still might. Hanshin has the only positive run differential in the CL, and Yomiuri leads the league in ERA and home runs, though has scored the fewest runs. The surprise of the season so far is that Yokohama, despite sitting in their typical last place, leads the league in runs scored.

The Pacific is again the more interesting of the two leagues, but it’s race is shaping up differently than I had anticipated: it’s a two-horse race between Nippon Ham and Softbank, the league’s two pitching powerhouses. I had Seibu at the top of my projections, but last year’s runners up are in last place, and digging themselves in. I don’t see anyone catching up with Softbank or Nippon Ham at this point, but the race for third place should be interesting, as Chiba Lotte, Orix, and Rakuten are on fairly even ground. Personally, I’ll be pulling for Rakuten. They have the pitching, and besides, who wouldn’t want to see a Cinderella run in Sendai?

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Slow Starts at the Plate

» 28 April 2011 » In npb » 2 Comments

Nobody wants to start a new season off on the wrong foot, but it happens every year. Even though most teams have only played around twelve or so games, below are some batters who haven’t gotten out of the gate quickly in 2011. Pitchers (especially starters) haven’t had that many appearances yet; we’ll track them in a separate column later on.

(Note: stats current as of April 27 games)

Michihiro Ogasawara (Yomiuri Giants): His early slash line (AVG/OBP/SLG) reads .128/.209/.154, and Guts has struck out 11 times with only five hits in 30 at-bats. He has tallied only a single extra base hit this season (a double), scored only 2 runs, and has 1 RBI on his ledger. Is age (37) catching up to the normally consistent hitter?

Kazuhiro Wada (Chunichi Dragons): Last year’s CL MVP is at .143/.326/.171 so far.  His 5-for-35 is poor, but his 10 walks are keeping his OBP respectable. He has only struck out 3 times, so he still has good pitch recognition. Like Ogasawara, he’s getting up there in years (38), so age may again be a factor. If you want to see someone move slowly in the outfield, he’s your guy. At the plate, however, I’d expect him to break out soon.

Rusty Ryal (Yomiuri Giants): Currently at .161/.188/.194. The newcomer has whiffed 13 times, gone hitless with men in scoring position, and earned a single walk. We’ll soon see if he’s just slow in adjusting to a new league, or is somewhat of a strikeout machine as his past numbers suggest (eight walks and 67 Ks in 222 plate appearances in 2010 at the MLB level).

Joel Guzman (Chunichi Dragons): Not to pick on the Dragons or the Giants, but here’s another new face who is off to a brutal start. .167/.186/.262 is Guzman’s early line. He leads the Central League in strikeouts (19), but is the only one of the players mentioned so far who has hit a home run (1). He’s only 26 years old, so could it be that he’s just not much of a hitter. The Dragons are the 5th franchise (US and Japan) Guzman has played for since 2006.

Yasuyuki Kataoka (Seibu Lions): Kataoka’s team is off to as slow of a start (4-8) as he is. His .146 average (.146/.226/.188) is the lowest in the Pacific League for any regular player. After last year’s .295 batting average with 59 stolen bases, I expected he would duplicate or come close to matching those results. So far, he’s off the pace. Kataoka is hitting .091 with runners in scoring position and has only swiped two bases. Not getting on base very often will have that effect.

Seung-Yeop Lee (ORIX Buffaloes): The once-feared slugger is at .163/.229/.302 over 48 plate appearances, so far. He hit .163 last season in 108 at bats with Yomiuri. Once a productive hitter known for some prodigious blasts, talk of a jump to the major leagues has all but evaporated. His 21 strikeouts are tops in NPB, and his career appears to be in serious decline. ORIX batters haven’t performed well in general to this point in the season, but Lee has been especially poor.

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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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Inside the Industrial Leagues

» 02 September 2009 » In amateur baseball, sports business » 3 Comments

With current Boston Red Sox prospect Junichi Tazawa making the jump from the Japanese Industrial Leagues to the Major Leagues, the attention toward Industrial Leagues is increasing as we speak. Also the 2009 Baseball World Cup is set to begin from September 9th and you may have noticed the Japan national team roster is composed of only Industrial League players.

The Industrial League, operated by the JABA (Japanese Amatuer Baseball Association), is explained as a minor league unaffiliated with the Nippon Professional Baseball in the NY Times article, Japanese Are Irked by U.S. Interest in Pitcher. Teams are fielded by company’s operating in Japan, and the Industrial Leagues are treated as amateur baseball with players not receiving salary as a baseball player, but as an employee with the company.

There are two types of team registered for the Industrial League: Corporate teams and Club teams. Every teams registered is listed on Wikipedia. Teams across the nation participate in tournaments and leagues year around. The one currently in the final stage is the 80th annual Intercity Baseball Tournament (Toshi Taikou Yakyu Taikai) and the finals will be played September 1st from 6pm at the Tokyo Dome (Japan time) between Toyota and Honda. Also the first round of the 36th Industrial League National Tournament  (Shakai-jin Yakyu Nihon Senshuken) has started its regionals. Other notable tournaments include the 34th All-Japan Club Tournament (Zen-nihon Club Yakyu Senshuken). The history among these tournaments are established and there are plenty of games for teams and players to participate in.

Many current stars in the NPB and some MLB players have taken the Industrial League route to professional baseball. Current Chicago Cub Kosuke Fukudome played as a member of the Nihon Semei (Osaka) and won the Rookie of the year title in the 67th Toshi Taikou Yakyuu Taikai tournament. Japanese MLB pioneer, Hideo Nomo, is a former industrial leagues player as well. NPB stars such as Michihiro Ogasawara (Yomiuri Giants), Yasuyuki Kataoka (Seibu Lions), and Hitoki Iwase (Chunichi Dragons) are couple other players with Industrial League experience.

Even though the Industrial Leagues play a role in developing future NPB and possible MLB players, the existence of many teams have become an issue due to current business environment in Japan. If the parent company is struggling to make a profit, the existence of a baseball team for the company would always be a candidate for a budget cut. Industrial League powerhouse teams like Nissan had no choice, but to fold due after this season due to the parent company having financial problems.

In order for Industrial Leagues to survive and to reduce the financial responsibilities for some companies, talks are on-going to merge some of the tournaments and to reform the structure of the league. Sanspo recently published a lengthy article on the topic in Japanese. The recent change in Japanese political leadership could have an effect on the Industrial Leagues and its participating companies and this will be an issue we should all keep an eye on.

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WBC: Murata Injured, Kurihara to Stand In

» 21 March 2009 » In international baseball » 7 Comments

Japan cleanup hitter Shuichi Murata is out of the WBC with a pulled a hamstring, suffered rounding first on a single in Thursday night’s win over Korea. Despite replacing him in the game with scrub Yoshiyuaki Kamei, Japan won the game. Manager Tatsunori Hara has called on Hiroshima Carp infielder Kenta Kurihara to take Murata’s spot. Kurihara bats cleanup for Hiroshima but doesn’t have Murata’s power and hasn’t played much at third recently. 

Maybe Hara will have Kurihara DH and play Munenori Kawasaki or Yasuyuki Kataoka at third.

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Japan-Korea Bullet Points

» 18 March 2009 » In international baseball » Comments Off

It took a while to find a way to actually watch the game here in the States, but I finally did.

About the game…

  • Jung Bong shut Japan down again, indicating that his round one performance was no fluke.
  • Yu Darvish was better than the final line makes him look. He was done in in the first (from what I saw of the highlights) by a couple of a couple of booted infield grounders and a weak throw from Norichika Aoki.
  • After the first inning, Korea didn’t do much of anything until the eighth, when they let Japan’s pitchers beat themselves with walks.
  • Japan got runners on base and generally made contact, but they didn’t get any extra-base hits and didn’t really play the small-ball game. I think that’s what cost them the win more than anything.
  • Akinori Iwamura looked like he had no chance against Chang Yang Lim in the last at-bat of the game.
  • I wasn’t crazy about Korea planting their flag on the mound at the end. They didn’t win the tournament.

Hindsight is 20/20…

  • Tatsunori Hara had the infield positioned for a play at the plate when Korea had the bases loaded in the first. If they had been a double-play depth they would have gotten at least one out on Jin-young Lee’s grounder went for a two-run single.
  • I would rather start Munenori Kawasaki than Yasuyuki Kataoka if Hiroyuki Nakajima can’t play, especially since Kataoka is out of position at shortstop.
  • What was the point of putting Yoshiyuki Ishihara in for Kenji Johjima, just to pinch hit for him with Shinnosuke Abe after an inning? Johjima got ejected — shame on me for watching with the sound off.
  • Minoru Iwata didn’t look sharp — and leaving him in to face the righty looked really bad when Masahiro Tanaka came in and blew the next guy away.

On the live chat…

  • The chat thing was a spur-of-the-moment idea, so I didn’t give much notice. If I try this again, I’ll give more notice and hopefully I’ll get to chat with a few of the regulars.
  • The chat was pretty well-trafficed, mostly because it wound up near the top of the Google rankings for several variations on “wbc japan korea live”. A lot of people found this site for the first time because of that, and I hope some of them will stick around.
  • It took some time to find a good video feed, but I think at least a couple people were able to follow along.
  • Some of the comments I got on the chat tested my patience — though the people causing the problems clearly weren’t frequent visitors to this site. I hope everyone will be cool next time we do this.
  • I think it was insane for ESPN to show the NIT tournament instead of this.

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WBC Roster Set

» 22 February 2009 » In international baseball, mlb, npb » 5 Comments

Japan manager Tatsunori Hara has settled on a WBC roster. Here it is:

Pitchers
Yu Darvish
Takahiro Mahara
Masahiro Tanaka
Hideaki Wakui
Daisuke Matsuzaka
Minoru Iwata
Hisashi Iwakuma
Kyuji Fujikawa
Tetsuya Utsumi
Satoshi Komatsu
Shunsuke Watanabe
Tetsuya Yamaguchi
Toshiya Sugiuchi

Catchers
Kenji Johjima
Shinnosuke Abe
Yoshiyuki Ishihara

Infielders
Hiroyuki Nakajima
Yasuyuki Kataoka
Akinori Iwamura
Michiro Ogasawara
Shuichi Murata
Munenori Kawasaki

Outfielders
Kosuke Fukudome
Norichika Aoki
Seiichi Uchikawa
Yoshiyuki Kamei
Atsunori Inaba
Ichiro

(SI has the AP article as well)

Notable departures are Nobuhiko Matsunaka (achilles problem), Kenta Kurihara (affected by elbow surgery last year), Toru Hosokawa (right shoulder pain), Tsuyoshi Wada, and Takayuki Kishi. Health reasons were not cited for Wada and Kishi.

Overall, the roster looks pretty good to me, though it’s somewhat short on power.The inclusion of Yoshiyuki Kamei makes no obvious sense to me, but I could see him as a defensive replacement/pinch runner. The only other questionable pick I see is Shunsuke Watanabe. He’s been hit or miss in NPB, and as I recall he wasn’t that great in the 2006 WBC.

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