Tag Archive > Yuki Karakawa

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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Game Notes: Karakawa Dominates Orix

» 27 April 2011 » In npb » 2 Comments

Last night I caught most of Lotte’s 12-1 drubbing of Orix. Here are my notes.

  • The story of the day was Yuki Karakawa. As his 8 IP, 12 K, 3 H, 1 ER line suggests, Karakawa was masterful. He had command of everything he threw, and great movement on all his breaking stuff, particularly his changeup. I wouldn’t call Karakawa’s fastball an “out pitch”, but he was able to get a couple swinging strikeouts with by setting batters up with his breaking pitches.
  • It was windy in Chiba. The scoreboard consistently showed wind speeds of 12-13m, though I must plead ignorance to exactly what metric they use. Fly balls carried to right field, and high pop ups were nearly unplayable. Orix was collectively charged with three errors on dropped foul pop-ups, and Seung-Yeop Lee missed a fourth. It was pretty harsh to call those drops “errors” as they were all extremely tough plays.
  • Orix starter Hayato Terahara wasn’t quite as bad as his 6.0 IP, 8 ER line would have you believe. All of the damage was done in two innings, the 2nd and the 7th, but he did scatter mistake pitches throughout the game.
  • Terahara’s four run 2nd inning was really the turning point of the game. All of the damage came with two outs, and Lotte’s hitters handled Terahara’s mostly better stuff. Shoitsu Ohmatsu singled on a 147 kmph fastball, Tomoya Satozaki took a walk, Takumi Kohbe singled off a mistake fastball over the plate, Toshiaki Imae hit an opposite field triple off a good forkball over the lower outside corner after being down 0-2, Yoshifumi Okada slapped a fastball the other way for a line drive single. Lotte’s lineup was simply better in that inning.
  • Orix came right back with a threat in the top of the 3rd, but Karakawa K’ed mid-lineup guys Mitsutaka Gotoh and T-Okada with runners on first and third. It turned out not to matter, but Gotoh in particular waved at a bad pitch for a third strike, in a situation where any almost any kind of fair contact would have resulted in a run.
  • Saburo hit an opposite field home run in the 3rd, on a fastball over the outside corner of the plate. The homer was aided by the wind, but Saburo clearly managed to drive a pitch I always thought he struggled with.
  • Lee looked horrible at the plate against Karakawa, and a glance at his stats is revealing: .163 BA, 21 K’s in 43 ABs. I wonder how long it’ll be before we see Mike Hessman.
  • Terahara picked Takashi Ogino off first base in the 5th inning. This is not the first time I’ve seen Ogino picked off this year, I think it was Hisashi Iwakuma that got him before. It seems that every pitcher expects Ogino to run every time he reaches first with second base open, so he’ll have to refine his approach.
  • Ogino does, however, have a pretty good arm at shortstop. I haven’t seen it really tested but he makes good throws on routine plays.
  • The Lotte cheer girls looked pretty cold.
  • Masahide Kobayashi relieved a tired Terahara in the 7th. It looked Terahara strained his hamstring or something before he left, but he should have been removed two batters earlier anyway. Kobayashi looked absolutely horrible; it was almost painful watching him. No command, no velocity, no movement. It really looks like he’s done.

At this point, it was 10-1 in favor of Lotte, so I turned the game off.

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Offseason Changes: Chiba Lotte Marines

» 20 February 2011 » In npb » 4 Comments

Coming: Bob McCrory, Kazunori Yamamoto, Takayuki Takaguchi, a player to be named from Hanshin

Going: Tsuyoshi Nishioka, Hiroyuki Kobayashi, Bryan Corey, Juan Muniz, Akira Otsuka, Koichi Hori, Yuta Shimoshikiryo

Staying: Bill Murphy, Hayden Penn, Tae-Kyun Kim

Summary: You gotta have wa. After a decidedly wa-challenged Bobby Valentine farewell campaign in 2009, first-year manager Norifumi Nishimura made that single word his team’s slogan last year. He was a rewarded with a lineup that scored 88 runs more than they did in 2009, leading to a 13 win upward swing in the standings, a playoff berth and a Cinderella Nippon Series win. One good turn deserves another, so Nishimura has brought back the wa slogan for 2011.

The two big changes for Lotte this year were both subtractions: the Twins-bound Tsuyoshi Nishioka; and Hiroyuki Kobayashi, who is headed to Hanshin after failing to attract a suitable MLB offer. Nishioka leaves the bigger gap to fill, and I’ve already written a bit about the candidates Lotte has to take his place. Kobayashi was outstanding in his first year as Lotte’s closer, but his shoes will be easier to fill. Kobayashi’s departure leaves an opening for a guy like Tatsuya Uchi to step up to, and Bob McCrory was signed as well. Lotte is also still owed free agency compensation from Hanshin, which will either take the form of a player, or cash the Marines can use to sign another import.

Losing Nishioka hurts, but should his absence should be offset from a healthy season from Takashi Ogino. Aside from that the lineup is populated with steady performers. The only obvious regression candidate is the hot-and-cold Toshiaki Imae, who seems to be just as capable of hitting .250 as he is .320, and completely lacks the stabilizing presence of walks in his arsenal. On the plus side, Tae-Kyun Kim could improve in his second trip through the Pacific League, and maybe we’ll see Shoitsu Aomatsu find a little more power.

On the defensive side of the ball, Yuki Karakawa is reportedly healthy which will be a big boost for the rotation. Hayden Penn’s peripherals actually weren’t that different from Bryan Corey’s, but he won a Nippon Series game and should be a solid rotation presence. If those two guys are healthy and effective, the rotation should be deeper, though still not as good as Nippon Ham or Rakuten.

So what are the odds of a Lotte repeat? The Pacific League is incredibly balanced this year, so they have a shot but not a guarantee.

And on a final, semi-related note, our old friend Ryo Shinkawa will be working as Nishioka’s translator in Minnesota this season. Congratulations, Ryo and best of luck to both you and Nishioka!

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Lotte to Audition Yabu

» 21 July 2010 » In npb » Comments Off

Looks like the Chiba Lotte Marines are bringing Keiichi Yabu in for an audition on July 26. Last time we heard from Yabu, he was training in Arizona and hoping to play in a US-based independent league. If Yabu has anything left in the tank, I expect Lotte to sign him.

With Yuki Karakawa and Shingo Ono on the shelf, Lotte’s rotation has been short staffed. Bill Murphy stepping into a starting role has been a boost, none of the other options tried –Ryoji Katsuki, Yuji Yoshimi, Bryan Corey — have stuck. Karakawa should be back soon and Hayden Penn is on his way, but a little extra depth never hurt.

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The Makuhari Steamroller

» 24 June 2010 » In npb » 4 Comments

Put the 2010 Chiba Lotte Marines season down as something I was wrong about. In a year when I thought they’d be mid-division at best, Lotte has by meany measures been the best team in the Pacific League this year. They lead the league in team scoring with 370 (SoftBank is next with 323), run differential at a whopping +106 (Seibu has a +32), batting average (.284), and home runs (72). The pitching staff has done its job too, holding the opposition to 264 runs in 67 games. Lotte has fallen behind Seibu in the standings, but if they keep this up, as they have through the first three months of the season, they’ll be in the race all year.

I’ve only watched two Lotte games this year (a Yuki Karakawa start against Seibu early in the year, and a game against SoftBank prior to interleague), so I’m not the best guy to analyze Lotte’s success (I would recommend this guy, actually), but I won’t let that stop me. Here are a few observations.

In the lineup…

  • Tsuyoshi Nishioka and Toshiaki Imae are healthy and hitting like the Tsuyoshi and Imae we all know and love.
  • Takashi Ogino was having a great rookie year until he went down with a knee injury that required surgery.
  • Everyone’s getting on base: Lotte has five of the Pacific League’s 10 best OBP’s lead by Tadahito Iguchi with a robust .450. Iguchi is leading Japan in walks with 59; no one else has more than 42 and no one else in the Pacific League has more than 35.
  • With a .290/.372/.524 slash line, Kim Tae-Kyun has been the best Korean hitter we’ve seen in NPB since Lee Seun-Yeop’s heyday, and has already given Lotte more production from their foreign hitter slot than they got from anyone they had last year.

On the mound…

  • Yasuhiko Yabuta has put up outstanding numbers in his return engagement, and SoftBank castoff Akichika is looks like an inspired pickup.
  • Bill Murphy has moved into the rotation and won all six starts he’s made so far. I’m trying to think of the last time a suketto had any success as a starter with Lotte… Dan Serafini maybe?
  • Yoshihisa Naruse is off to a strong start, with 95 K’s in 104.1 innings so far to go along with a 2.95 ERA. I could see him setting new career highs in innings and strikeouts this year.
  • Hiro Kobayashi has made a successful transition to the closer role, picking up 12 saves so far this season.

There are a few minor question marks…

  • Ogino won’t be back until the All-Star game, in late July. His return should be a huge boost.
  • Yuki Karakawa has been out since taking a line drive off his right hand on May 13, and his return is unclear.
  • Without Karakawa, a rotation front three of Naruse, Murphy and Shunsuke Watanabe is a shade below the front three’s of Seibu, Nippon Ham, and Rakuten.
  • Spare a thought for Shunichi Nemoto, who was replaced in the lineup by Iguchi despite a solid 2008 season, and has fallen into no-man’s land.

The Pacific League is pretty well-balanced this year, so you never know what will happen, but Lotte’s chances look pretty good.

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