Tag Archive > Yoshinori

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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The Way of the Gun

» 28 August 2010 » In npb » 4 Comments

A couple days ago, Yakult fireballer Yoshinori (Sato) hit 161 km/h on the gun, blowing by the previous high water mark of 158 for Japanese NPB pitchers, which had been reached three times. Yakult lost the game 9-3 to Yokohama, but Yoshinori left with his team down 3-2. He’s been pitching well recently.

There’s a little discrepancy here — the data I collect and aggregate shows that Yoshinori’s top velocity in that game was 156 km/h. But the stadium gun showed 161, so we’ll give it to him. Also, Yoshinori deserves credit for learning how to pitch this year. And he seemingly has his head in the right place, commenting on his blog: “With modesty, I’m happy to record Japan’s fastest pitch, it gives me confidence. However, yesterday I wanted to win by any means.” Yakult is fighting for a playoff spot, after a terrible start to the season.

While we’re on the subject of velocity, Jingu has a reputation for having a hot gun, but I think Rakuten’s gun at K-Sta has been worse at times this year. I offer up the following evidence, presented in miles per hour:

  • Yu Darvish recorded the fastest pitch of his NPB career last month at K-Sta, and then promptly bettered that mark in his next appearance there.
  • Last week when I saw a headline that Toshiya Sugiuchi showed great velocity against Rakuten, I immediately wondered if it was in a game played at K-Sta. Yep. The gun readings from that game had Sugiuchi’s slowest fastball at 90 mph, which is where is usually where he maxes out.
  • The Sugiuchi observation prompted me to look at SoftBank’s other finesse lefty, Tsuyoshi Wada. His hardest throwing game of the year was June 26 at K-Sta.
  • Looking at a Rakuten pitcher, Kouhei Hasebe shows a big home/road split on velocity. Some recent examples of his average fastball velocity: July 28 at SoftBank – 86.05, August 4 at home vs Lotte – 90.05, August 14 at Chiba Lotte – 84.10, August 21 at home vs SoftBank: 89.84.

The moral of the story: velocity charts are to be taken with a grain of salt.

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Velocity Charts of the Week

» 17 June 2010 » In npb » 5 Comments

A couple of velocity charts this week jumped out at me:

  • Eulogio de la Cruz made his Yakult debut on June 15, and showed great velocity but bad command. Case in point: he hit 158 kmph on the gun, but it was on a fastball in that dirt.
  • Another Yakult pitcher, Yoshinori, hit Rakuten with a barrage of fastballs last Sunday. He too showed strong velocity, but had very few strikeouts to show for it.

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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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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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NPB Bullet Points (2008/09/07)

» 07 September 2008 » In mlb prospects, npb » 4 Comments

First bullet points collection in a couple of days… favoring English articles for this round.

English Articles:

Japanese Articles:

  • Junichi Tazawa continues to impress both Japanese and American scouts, this time with 2 2/3 innings of perfect relief in Eneos’s 1-0 win over JFE in the Industrial League Tokyo Intercity Baseball Tournament. Scouts from the Yokohama BayStars, Yankees, and Pirates as well as Braves GM Frank Wren were in attendance. When asked about Tazawa, Yankees scout Kida commented, “please ask Cashman”.
  • Orix has gone on a tear and gotten themselves all the way into 2nd place in the Pacific League. This has pleased team owner Miyauchi, who commented: “the team is clicking” (note: that’s a very loose translation).
  • However, assuming Orix makes the playoffs they’ll have to compete without retiring slugger Kazuhiro Kiyohara, who intends to stop playing after his October 1 retirement ceremony. I’ve never been a Kiyohara fan, but I’d like to see him go out on a high note.
  • Chunichi super-sub Tomas De La Rosa is making a play to stick with the team for next season. He’s considered a key man in the team’s run up to a playoff spot.

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