Tag Archive > Yoshio Itoi

Time To Start Writing Again

» 02 April 2013 » In npb draft » 7 Comments

Well, it’s been a while. Life has kept me hectically busy, but every once in a while I get the urge to express myself creatively by way of printed word again, so I’ve decided to attempt to begin again.

The change this time around is that what I post will probably be less straight translation of news events, and more commentary and writing writing. I hope I turn out to be good at it.

Here’s what I have in mind for the next couple months:

  • The influx of rookies into NPB and the true changing the guard it signifies.
  • Tomohiro Anraku and the cautionary tales of Koshiens passed.
  • How Nippon Ham persuaded Shohei Ohtani to remain in Japan and whether it will work or not.
  • How to become a consumer of Japanese baseball without speaking a word of Japanese.
  • The pending internationalization of NPB.
  • The Major League futures of Masahiro Tanaka and Yoshio Itoi.
  • More Yakyu Nihongo lessons.
  • Finally follow up on this post from 2009.
  • Some reflection on my baseball “expertise”.
  • Some reflection on my experience writing and developing a following.
  • (Baseball) stuff I find on various 2ch/matome sites, which I have become fascinated by.
  • How not to suck at programming. Or, at least, sucking less at programming.

We’ll see how it goes.

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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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The NPB Tracker Post Season Awards

» 01 December 2011 » In npb » 1 Comment

Better run this before ALL the awards are announced… several weeks ago, Randy, Ken and I made our selections for the top performers of 2011. And here they are, with minimal analysis.

Sawamura Award: Masahiro Tanaka (Patrick, Ken), Yu Darvish (Randy)

Ken and I liked Tanaka’s crazy 1.27 ERA, while Randy favored Darvish’s higher innings pitched and strikeout totals. Can’t really go wrong either way.

Apologies to: Kazuki Yoshimi, Tetsuya Utsumi

Pacific League MVP: Tanaka (Patrick, Ken), Darvish (Randy)

The new NPB ball made this a pitcher’s year, and there was general consensus that the performance of Darvish and Tanaka put them ahead of everyone else.

The real winner, Seiichi Uchikawa, finished third on Randy’s ballot and fifth on mine. He would have been my winner if he had missed less time.

Apologies to: Takeya Nakamura, Yoshio Itoi, Hiroyuki Nakajima, Uchikawa

Central League MVP: Hisayoshi Chono (unanimous)

The overall lack of offense around the league meant that Chono’s performance stood out enough to win our votes. The lack of a Tanaka or Darvish type starting pitcher in the CL played a role here as well. Yoshimi and Utsumi were extremely good this year, but not scarily dominant.

The real winner, Takuya Asao, finished fourth on my ballot. You can argue that he put up that Tanaka-level performance in the CL this year, and I guess the voters did, but personally I valued a starting position player over a relief pitcher.

Apologies to: Asao, Yoshimi, Utsumi, Kenta Kurihara, Hirokazu Sawamura

Pacific League Rookie of the Year: Kazuhisa Makita (Patrick, Ken), Shota Ishimine (Randy)

While there were a lot of strong rookies in the PL this year, Makita pitched over 100 innings for Seibu out of the rotation and out of the bullpen, solidifying each when his team needed it. Ishimine stuck in the Lotte outfield throughout the season, got on base at a respectable clip, and swiped 32 bases.

The real voters agreed with Ken and I.

Apologies to: Takahiro Shiomi, Yuki Saito

Central League Rookie of the Year: Sawamura (unanimous)

Probably the most obvious award in quite some time, thanks to Sawamura’s 2.03 ERA over 200 innings pitched. The real voters thought so.

Apologies to: Daiki Enokida

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Games Notes: PL Climax Series First Stage Game 1

» 29 October 2011 » In npb » 2 Comments

Preamble: These observations are a companion to Kaz Nagatsuka’s Japan Times writeup.

Well, add this one to my list of failed predictions. After suggesting that Yu Darvish’s presence alone was enough for a Nippon Ham game one win, the Seibu Lions took a cue from the World Series champions with a come-from-behind extra inning win.

My pick was looking pretty good into the fifth inning, as Darvish retired the first 13 Lions he faced. He was clearly amped up, working off a barrage of fastballs early in the game and topping out at 154-155 kmph (96 mph). But despite that, this was an oddly unfulfilling Darvish game to watch. He didn’t really settle into a groove with any of his breaking pitches, and his command seemed to deteriorate a little after Jose Fernandez broke up the no-hitter in the fifth. He also lost a few kmph off his fastball as the game wore on, from 154 to a still-excellent 149-150 kmph (93 mph). These are trite criticisms; Darvish struck out seven, walked none, allowed only one run, and left the game with the lead. He just didn’t quite perform at his amazingly high peak, and I find myself hoping that this won’t be his last start this season.

In the bottom halves of the innings, Seibu starter Hideaki Wakui kept his Lions in the game, but was unimpressive overall. Nippon Ham only managed a two runs and a couple of strings of singles; I put that down to the Fighters’ slap-hitting lineup and the limited-flight ball more than anything Wakui did. He featured his fastball and slider and generally worked low in the zone, but allowed frequent contact and left his bullpen with a jam in the sixth inning. That he was lifted with no outs in the fifth, after throwing 85 pitches, is indicative of how Wakui has fallen from acedom. A few years ago, Wakui was an bullpen-saving workhorse, frequently working into the late innings and occasionally throwing 150 pitches or more. He’s a good pitcher and it doesn’t look like anything’s physically wrong with him, he’s just looked uninspired this season. This was another one of those games.

Screwball managerial move of the game: Nippon Ham’s Masataka Nashida pulling star centerfielder Yoshio Itoi in the seventh inning for young Kenshi Sugiya. That was a head-scratcher.

And one final observation from this game is that I significantly overlooked Seibu’s lineup. They clearly have many more threats than Nippon Ham. I particularly enjoyed Fernandez’s approach against Darvish, which resulted in two opposite-field singles (along with two more later against Nippon Ham’s relievers).

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My Team Japan

» 08 May 2011 » In npb » 27 Comments

Last week, I got a pretty good question Twitter — who would my Japanese national team be today?

It’s a good question, and a nice change of pace from the Darvish questions I frequently get, so I decided to write up a post about it. Coincidentally back when I was teaching English at the now-defuct NOVA, I used to do a lesson like this with my baseball fan students, and it was always a fun one.

I’m picking my team as if they would have to compete at the highest level, so as cool as I think the World Port Tournament is, I’m following the WBC roster rules. In summary, I get a maximum of 28 players, with a minimum of two catchers and 13 pitchers.


No reason to deviate from the 2009 WBC starting outfield of Ichiro, Kosuke Fukudome, and Norichika Aoki. For my fourth outfielder I’ll go with the gap power, strike zone judgement, and defensive prowess of Nippon Ham CF Yoshio Itoi.


There’s one easy call for me in the infield: Hiroyuki Nakajima at shortstop. At second base, I’ll start Tsuyoshi Nishioka, without regard to his current injury.

The corners are a little trickier. At third base, I like Takeya “Okawari-kun” Nakamura’s bat and Eiichi Koyano’s glove, with Takahiro Arai striking a balance between the two. Choices are a bit limited on other side of the diamond, and Sho Nakata might be the best choice by the end of the year, but for now I prefer the contact bat of Seiichi Uchikawa.

This group of four gives me some flexibility. I can play the stronger defensive group with Koyano at third, Arai at first, and Okawari-kun DH’ing, or I can for the better offensive lineup and have Arai at third, Okawari-kun at first, and one of my other candidates batting DH. The presence of Uchikawa gives me the option of playing the hot hand as well.

On the bench, I’ll stash Yasuyuki Kataoka and Munenori Kawasaki, both of whom can pinch run, steal bases, get bunts down and play good defense all over the infield.

Designated Hitters

Nakamura would DH for my team when he’s not playing in the field. Hideki Matsui never participates in these things, but dammit,this is my dream team, so he’s in.


Catcher is an easy call. Kenji Johjima starts, Shinnosuke Abe backs up.

Starting Pitchers

The first three starters are easy choices: Yu Darvish, Hisashi Iwakuma and Hiroki Kuroda. The next three are pretty easy too: Masahiro Tanaka, Hideaki Wakui, Kenta Maeda. Hang on, no lefties in there, so I’ll call on Tsuyoshi Wada, Toshiya Sugiuchi, and Masaru Takeda.

That’s nine starters, so some of these guys are are going to relieve. In particular, I like Tanaka as a power arm out of the bullpen, and Takeda as a lefty specialist.

Relief Pitchers

I’m rounding out my 13-man pitching staff with four full-time relievers for my squad: Kyuji Fujikawa, Takuya Asao, Hitoki Iwase and Tetsuya Yamaguchi.

Those last two are kind of risky picks, given Iwase’s struggles in the 2008 Olympics, and the fact that Yamaguchi got lit up for 10 home runs last year. But Iwase is a good pitcher, and I like Yamaguchi’s ability to get lefthanded batters out.

Notable absences

The last name I deleted off my list of candidates was Chihiro Kaneko (ignoring the fact that he’s been out injured all season). It was either him or Koyano, and I went with Koyano for his third base defense and gap bat. Kaneko’s righty starter skillset is already well-represented.

I would love to have another power bat on this team, but the only other guy I really thought about was Shuichi Murata. A few years ago, his inclusion would have been a no-brainer, but I prioritized defense, and his down numbers last season concern me. Nobuhiko Matsunaka would have been a great inclusion, but he is a shadow of his former self.

I gave some consideration to Koji Uehara and Takashi Saito, but they are too injury-prone to displace either Fujikawa or Asao, and too righthanded to bump Iwase or Yamaguchi.

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I Disagree About a Few Things

» 19 November 2010 » In npb » 6 Comments

The other day, NPB held its awards ceremony and announced the winners of this year’s MVP, Rookie of the Year, and Best Nine awards. Gen over at Yakyu Baka has transcribed all the winners (MVP/RoY, Best Nines), which saves me the trouble of doing it here. I don’t plug Gen often enough, so here’s another link — go and look at his site.

I published my picks about a month ago, and amazingly, the NPB voters mostly agreed with me. But there were a few differences.

Pacific League MVP — my pick: Tsuyoshi Nishioka (Lotte SS), winner: Tsuyoshi Wada (Softbank SP)

Wow. I don’t think I can disagree with this more strongly. NPB MVP voters have an annoying habit of favoring players from the league winner. That, combined with Wada’s one win more than Softbank teammate Toshiya Sugiuchi, was enough to propel him to the award. Nishioka had a historic year in which he drove Lotte’s league-leading offense with 206 hits and 121 runs (17% of Lotte’s total). Penalizing him because his team finished 2.5 games out of first is both archaic and illogical. Then again, maybe the voters were punishing him because he is a bit of a prima donna, or because he’s bolting for MLB.

Pacific Leage RoY — my pick: Keisuke Kattoh (Softbank RP), winner Ryo Sakakibara (Nippon Ham RP)

I didn’t realize Sakakibara was eligible; I guess that’s why I’m not an official voter. Kattoh finished second, no complaints.

Pacific League Best Nine P — my pick Yu Darvish (Nippon Ham), winner Tsuyoshi Wada (Softbank)

Not much to say here — Darvish was superior to Wada in every category except wins. I would have put Sugiuchi and Chihiro Kaneko ahead of Wada as well, so he would have been my fourth choice for this award.

Pacific League Best Nine 2B — my pick Tadahito Iguchi (Lotte), winner Kensuke Tanaka (Nippon Ham)

I was actually kind of on the fence about this one. In the end I took Iguchi’s glove, power and walks over Tanaka’s batting average. The voters didn’t agree though, and Iguchi finished in third. In second was Softbank’s Yuichi Honda who hit .296 and led the PL with 59 steals.  Yasuyuki Kataoka would have been my third choice, but he finished a distant fourth despite better overall numbers than Honda.

Pacific League Best Nine OF — my picks Teppei (Rakuten), Yoshio Itoi (Nippon Ham), winners Takumi Kuriyama (Seibu), T-Okada (Orix)

I picked T-Okada as the DH on my Best Nine, so I can live with him winning as an outfielder. I just don’t see how Kuriyama beats either Teppei or Itoi though, particularly Itoi, who was superior in slugging, on-base percentage, and base stealing.

Pacific League Best Nine DH — my pick Okada, winner Kazuya Fukuura (Lotte)

Fukuura put up a respectable .295/.354/.475 line, but didn’t get enough at-bats to qualify for the batting title.

Remarkably, the voters and I only disagreed on one Central League award:

Central League Best Nine SS — my pick Hayato Sakamoto (Yomiuri), winner Takashi Toritani (Hanshin)

I succumbed to the shiny allure of Sakamoto’s 31 home runs on this one. Toritani had a better batting average and on-base percentage, and made fewer errors.

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Swine Flu Infects Nippon Ham

» 20 August 2009 » In international baseball, npb » 2 Comments

Just when we thought the swine flu epidemic was behind us, and NPB teams even resumed the use of jet balloons, the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters caught the bug. Five players and staff were infected with the flu, and as a precaution every player and staff was checked. Six additional players were diagnosed with a slight fever and the team decided to let those players rest until they recover.

Three of the players who are thought to be infected with the flu are Termel Sledge, Shota Ohno, and Naoki Miyanishi. The six additional players diagnosed with fever symptoms were some of the main members of the team including CA Shinya Tsuruoka, INF Eihichi Koyano, INF Tomohiro Nioka, OF Yoshio Itoi, LHP Tomoya Yagi and RHP Kazumasa Kikuchi.

The team is currently in first place in the Pacific League with a seven game lead, but losing the core of the team for an extended period of time could be a problem. Top prospect Sho Nakata will be getting another opportunity with the Fighters due to the absence of these players. If he makes the most out of this opportunity, the Fighters might have an X-Factor going into the playoffs.

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