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    Nomo probably returning to Japan

    Posted by japanstats on 2008 May 12日 Monday

    MLB and NPB insiders say that Nomo is ready to return to Japan. This is surprising considering he’s always stated that he had no interest in playing in NPB again, and his single-minded insistence and commitment to playing in the majors. But maybe this time he finally saw the writing on the wall shortly after making a return to a major league  mount after a 1000 day absence, only to have his now below average stuff hammered away to the tune of 3 homers and 9 runs in only 4.1 innings in 3 appearances as a reliever (18.69 ERA).

    Former major leaguers returning to Japan after being deemed dispensable in the States presents a mixed bag. But Nomo wasn’t just below average dispensable, he has been downright awful since 2004, and this last surgery and rehabilitation didn’t give him back his super-arm (not surprisingly).

    The only pitcher who had been comparably terrible in the majors before moving back to Japan was Mac Suzuki, who had in fact started his pro career stateside. He followed up his meltdown seasons in 2001-02 (5-12 with 5.86 ERA, followed by 9.00 ERA in 21 IP) with equally forgettable seasons in Japan (7.06 ERA in 108.1 IP, then 8.57 ERA in 48.1 IP), before attempting a return to the majors with the Cubs (pedestrian 4.11 ERA in 15 IP in AAA). 

    It’s interesting that some former major leaguers returned to Japan after a below average MLB season and had one successful season before finally meeting their demise in their second season back in Japan (Kaz Sasaki, Shingo Takatsu, and Hideki Irabu). 

    This offer probably also means that he was got no interest from any teams outside of NPB, and that’s too bad because it would’ve been fun to see how he did in, say, Korea or Taiwan, but it’s more than a few years too late as his last effective season as a major leaguer was in 2003! (Wow, I feel old  😛  )

    Anyways, there were previous rumours linking Nomo with the Yokohama BayStars, but it seemed to be some creative works of sports writers who had no story to file that day. But this time around, his links with the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles seem more assured, with various insiders chipping in information like Nomo and the club’s intents, and even specifics like a possibility of an announcement this week before the start of interleague games, and confirming with a quote from Orix Buffaloes (who hold rights to Nomo after his retirement from NPB and the Kintetsu Buffaloes before the club was merged with Orix BlueWave) representative Nakamura saying that Orix have no interest in Nomo (the club and the Mr.Tornado were unable to reach a contract agreement back in 2006) and will not block any other teams from trying to acquire him, meaning that Orix will should be releasing their rights to Nomo soon. While I expect the probability of a successful return to Japan for the pioneering former major leaguer to be very low, the pitching thin team’s partly interested in his services partly to coach the young staff, and any good pitching under Nomura, who is famous for reviving many careers under his watch, would probably be seen as a bonus.

    Posted in 02_English, baseball, information, MLB, NPB, opinion | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

    NPB Power Rankings 2008.4.28

    Posted by japanstats on 2008 April 28日 Monday

    I’m rather busy at the moment, so I’ll try to keep this entry short too. Previous week’s ranking in brackets.

    1. Hanshin Tigers(1) 18-6-1 .750

    Keeps on going strong, splitting the series against the Dragons (1-1-1) and taking 2 of 3 from the Giants with a dramatic game winning bases loaded walk against Yomiuri’s closer Kroon last night.

    2. Chunichi Dragons(2) 15-8-2 .652

    Couldn’t overcome the Tigers wall, but didn’t fare badly either. Ace Kawakami returned to the top team, made a relief appearance, but gave up a solo shot in 1 inning of work. He needs to return to form… by October.

    3. Saitama Seibu Lions(3) 14-9-1 .609

    Dropped both games against the Marines, then feasted upon the Buffaloes weak pitching to the tune of 29 runs in 3 games! The team gets on base (.324 OBP is 2nd in PL) and far outslugs anyone else (.432 SLG and 36 HR, no other team is above .374 and 27 HR). Pitching’s just mediocre though, and Watanabe’s questionable bullpen use (bringing in historically shaky Onuma or Mitsui into high leverage situations) doesn’t bode well for October (and the team’s slugging’s gotta come back down to earth sooner or later). Hiram Bocachica made a dramatic return to the top team, hitting 3 homers in the last 2 games, after a stint in the minors following early season struggles. He adds even more on base ability and power to the lineup, and Watanabe has a happy problem of having too many hot bats to fit into the lineup. If this were the majors, trading one or two hitters for good pitching would be considered, but alas..

    4. Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles(8 ) 16-13 .552

    Had an undefeated week to jump up to 2nd in PL, thanks to complete game shutouts thrown by Nagai, Domingo, and Tanaka!

    5. Chiba Lotte Marines(7) 17-14 .548

    A great 4-1 week against the strong Lions and struggling Hawks, continuing its strong play.

    6. Tokyo Yakult Swallows(4) 11-12 .478

    Another 2-3 week. Though splitting the two games against the Carp, and taking 1 out of 3 against the Dragons is pretty much the expected result considering each team’s strengths.

    7. Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters(5) 15-15 .500

    2-4 week. The team can’t score runs to save their lives with only 8 runs scored over 6 games, 6 of those against porous Buffaloes pitching. Fighters got swept by the rising Eagles.

    8. Fukuoka Softbank Hawks(6) 14-17 .452

    Continued its poor play, going 1-4 against key rivals Eagles and Marines. 

    9. Hiroshima Toyo Carp(9) 9-13-1 .409

    The same ol’ the same ol’, a 2-3 week against the Swallows and BayStars.

    10. Tokyo Yomiuri Giants(10) 11-14-1 .440

    Continues to struggle. A 4-2 week sounds good, until you realize that 3 of those wins came against the worst team in NPB, the Yokohama BayStars. Kroon blew a save and lost last night’s game against the Tigers. Uehara was sent down to the minors. The team is definitely much less than what the sum of their parts should be.

    11. Orix Buffaloes(11) 11-20 .355

    Lost 2 to the Fighters who can’t score, and got absolutely bombed by the Lions and got swept.

    12. Yokohama BayStars(12) 6-17-1 .261

    Won 2 games against Hiroshima! But the team’s winning percentage is still barely above .250.

    Aaron Guiel Watch

    23GP 95PA 16R 8HR 21RBI .277/.358/.639 9BB 2HBP 18K

    Only 1 HR, 1 walk, and striking out 6 times in 5 games, our man may be in a mini-slump.

    Pitchers Watch:

    Koji Uehara (Giants) – sent down to the minors, there’s definitely something wrong with him physical or psychological, and he already let the team and the fans know that he intends on going to the majors next year in a major PR gaffe (not that he cares about these sorts of things) so his future is really unclear now
    5GS 29.1IP 21/8 K/BB 5HR 22RA 6.75ERA

    Kenshin Kawakami (Dragons) – Returned from minors and promptly gave up a bomb, we’ll have to see how he does when he gets a start.
    4GS 17.2IP 15/3 K/BB 5HR 9RA 4.58ERA

    Masahiro “Ma-kun” Tanaka (Eagles) – a shutout
    6GS 50IP 45/19 K/BB 2HR 12RA 1.80ERA

    Shota Ohba (Hawks)
    6GS 43IP 48/10 K/BB 8HR 18RA 3.77ERA

    Yu Darvish (Fighters) – 9IP 2RA, allowed his first HR, and team lost in extra innings
    6GS 52IP 51/7 K/BB 1HR 5RA 0.69ERA 3CG

    Posted in 02_English, baseball, information, NPB, opinion, Sabermetrics, statistics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

    Early season PL attendance and the Giants

    Posted by japanstats on 2008 April 26日 Saturday

    westbaystars at Japanesebaseball.com does a logical analysis on the early season PL attendance figures.

    Compared to the same time period last year (up to games ending April 24), SoftBank takes the biggest hit, down 10.3% (27,036 per game). But Nippon Ham makes up for that, up 10.2% (23,362). Orix, having moved to Osaka Dome, is up a whopping 45.7% (16,429).

    While the article attributes moving to Osaka as the cause for the rise for Orix, I’ll contend that it was their great start that got people coming out. SoftBank, on the other hand, has had its worst start in years, thus the downturn. I think that when you compare results on the field with results in the seats, that there will be a close correlation – which the press doesn’t seem to get for some reason.

    Yeah, that seems like a way more plausible reason. I’ve only been to 2 games so far this season. A half empty Jingu for a midweek Swallows-BayStars tilt, and a Sunday afternoon Hawks-Fighters game in Sapporo that drew well (just north of 30,000).

    Meanwhile, sports journalists are desperate to write good things about the Giants. Sure having your first 4 game winning streak of the season is a good thing, scoring 6 runs each in the first 3 wins, but that series sweep was against the lowly BayStars, the worst team in Japan, so that’s nothing to write home about. Now, the 3-1 win against the Tigers last night is a good thing for the club, though only getting 3 runs on 10 hits is rather inefficient. The Giants are the least patient team in the league with only 41 walks while Hanshin leads the league and almost doubles that with 78. Hmm…

    Posted in 02_English, baseball, information, NPB, opinion, tokyo | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

    2008.4.22 NPB Power Rankings

    Posted by japanstats on 2008 April 22日 Tuesday

    I’m rather busy at the moment, so I’ll try to keep this short. Previous week’s ranking in brackets.

    1. Hanshin Tigers(1) 15-4 .789

    Continues to roll right along with yet another 4-1 week. 4 of the top 7 in CL OBP with Akahoshi (.451), Arai (.415), Kanemoto (.413), and Toritani (.395) explain their position up top.

    2. Chunichi Dragons(2) 12-6-1 .667

    Can stake a claim for the top spot in the Hanshin series starting tonight.

    3. Saitama Seibu Lions(3) 14-9-1 .609

    Went undefeated in 3 games (2-0-1) in a short 4 game week that got reduced to 3 games by rain. Outslugging the rest of the league with its 26 homeruns, 7 ahead of the nearest competitor.

    4. Tokyo Yakult Swallows(4) 9-9 .500

    Continues to slip with a 2-3 week. Saw the 2-1 win on Tuesday against Yokohama, but that’s not much to write home about. Lim continues to look fantastic, not allowing a run in 7 appearances while only allowing 5 baserunners. He may return to the setup role when/if Igarashi returns from injury, in which case the duo could become the Betancourt-Borowski of Japan, at the very least.

    5. Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters(6) 13-11 .542

    Another smallballrific week with game scores being 3-3, 2-4, 3-1, 4-2, and 2-4. I saw that last game on Sunday up in Hokkaido, great crowd and a funky dome in the great white north of Japan. Winning record but currently being outscored 69-77. Could they repeat Hanshin’s success last year as a playoff team with a negative run differential? Maybe.

    6. Fukuoka Softbank Hawks(5) 13-13 .500

    Dropped 2 out of 3 against perennial playoff rivals Fighters for a 2-3 week.

    7. Chiba Lotte Marines(8 ) 13-13 .500

    Went 3-2 against the Eagles and the Buffaloes to bring the record up to .500.

    8. Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles(7) 11-13 .458

    A 1-3 week against the Marines and Lions. Iwakuma is in top form as he battles Darvish for the ERA lead with miniscule 0.46.

    9. Hiroshima Toyo Carp(10) 7-10-1 .412

    Won 2 of 3 against the ever slumping Giants as the teams swap spots.

    10. Tokyo Yomiuri Giants(9) 7-12-1 .368

    Lost both series against the Dragons and the Carp, losing both of Uehara’s starts as the ace gave up 10 runs in 9 innings over two starts.

    11. Orix Buffaloes(11) 10-15 .400

    Hitting bombs (19 HR is 2nd in PL) but unable to get hits with any regularity (.219 BA is only 1 point better than league worst Fighters, and probably the worst once adjusted for park factors), and league worst pitching staff sporting 4.10 ERA means the team’s at the bottom of PL.

    12. Yokohama BayStars(12) 4-13 .235

    Going 1-3 this past week actually raised the team’s winning percentage, can’t get much lower than that.

    Aaron Guiel Watch

    Still batting over .300, expect that to come down to his more typical 260-280 range though. A relatively quiet week with 1HR and 4RBI as he gave up his CL lead in the latter category, but earned his first HBP of the season in the game I saw at Jingu last Tuesday.

    18GP 74PA 13R 7HR 19RBI .313/.392/.734 8BB 1HBP 12K

    Pitchers Watch:
    Koji Uehara (Giants) – 2 painful starts giving up 10 total runs
    4GS 25IP 19/8 K/BB 5HR 17RA 6.12ERA
    Kenshin Kawakami (Dragons) – back with the big club yesterday after a short spell in the minors for an unspecified ailment, not scheduled to start in the Tigers series though
    2GS 15.2IP 13/1 K/BB 4HR 8RA 4.60ERA
    Masahiro “Ma-kun” Tanaka (Eagles)
    5GS 41IP 38/15 K/BB 2HR 12RA 2.20ERA
    Shota Ohba (Hawks) – the rookie continues to serve up the long ball
    5GS 30.2IP 35/4 K/BB 8HR 10RA 3.44ERA
    Yu Darvish (Fighters) – yet another CG victory
    5GS 43IP 42/5 K/BB 0HR 3RA 0.46ERA 3CG

    Posted in 02_English, baseball, information, NPB, opinion, Sabermetrics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

    2008.4.14 NPB Power Rankings

    Posted by japanstats on 2008 April 14日 Monday

    Previous week’s ranking in brackets. Still tight as ever in the PL with the 5 teams (except Orix) within 2 games of the league leader. And thanks to westbaystars’ pitching game scores comment at EWC, we know whose been rocking early this season.

    1. Hanshin Tigers(3) 11-3 .786

    Went 4 – 1 last week, and big bro “Aniki” Kanemoto got his 2000th hit to ensure his place in the Meikyukai (the old boys club version of a hall of fame).

    2. Chunichi Dragons(1) 8-5-1 .615

    A tough week going 2 – 3 losing close fought games to Hanshin, then beating up on Hiroshima. Losses were by 2 runs or less though.

    3. Saitama Seibu Lions(4) 12-9 .571

    A win some, lose some 3 – 3 week. But Brazell is absolutely smokin’ right now, he already has 8 homeruns which is 3 more than anyone else in the league, smashing one of them in a 15-5 win over Chiba.

    4. Tokyo Yakult Swallows(2) 7-6 .538

    An even tougher week going 1 – 3, a loss to the Carp sandwiched by rainouts, and losing the series against the Giants. Losses here were also by 2 runs or less.

    5. Fukuoka Softbank Hawks(6) 11-10 .524

    Dropped 2 games against Orix, but won 2 against Seibu. Hitting just fine, but not getting consistent pitching performance with their super staff, on paper, allowing 4.2 runs per game, the second worst in the PL.

    6. Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters(7) 11-9 .550

    A 4 – 2 week where 1 win was by 2 runs, and all remaining games were decided by 1 run, including a 1-0 nailbiter shutout win by Darvish over Iwakuma’s Eagles. Being a fighters fan must do bad things to your heart.

    7. Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles(5) 10-10 .500

    Swept Orix, but got swept by the Fighters. Two great pitching performances with a 0-1 complete game loss by Iwakuma, and a 3-0 shutout by Tanaka.

    8. Chiba Lotte Marines(8) 10-11 .476

    A Jekyll and Hyde week slugging it out in the Seibu series (18 RS – 19 RA), then a series of pitching duels against the Fighters (6 RS – 5 RA). 

    9. Tokyo Yomiuri Giants(10) 5-8-1 .385

    The sleeping Giant half awoke, going 3-1-1 against the crosstown Swallows and the lowly BayStars.

    10. Hiroshima Toyo Carp(11) 5-7-1 .417

    Rain washed away 2 games, 2 gritty wins, and 2 blowout losses to Chunichi last week.

    11. Orix Buffaloes(9) 8-13 .381

    Starting to slip from the PL pack with a 2-4 week. Getting swept by the Eagles, including a brilliant 10K shutout performance by Tanaka, is not a good sign. 

    12. Yokohama BayStars(12) 3-10 .231

    A 1-3 week where they offered a helping hand in reviving the Giants, and they also played the Tigers. You can’t win games when you score 2.8 runs per game in a hitters park (and allow 5.3 runs per game). 

    Aaron Guiel Watch

    The man keeps on slugging, in fact he managed to raise his slugging percentage over the past week, amazingly enough.

    13GP 54PA 11R 6HR 15RBI .340/.426/.830 7BB 0HBP

    (CL leader in HR, RBI, SLG) 
     
    For good measure, let’s keep an eye on some pitchers: 
    Koji Uehara (Giants)
    2GS 16IP 17/2 K/BB 4HR 7RA 3.94ERA
    Kenshin Kawakami (Dragons)
    2GS 15.2IP 13/1 K/BB 4HR 8RA 4.60ERA
    Masahiro “Ma-kun” Tanaka (Eagles)
    4GS 32IP 30/12 K/BB 1HR 9RA 1.97ERA
    Shota Ohba (Hawks)
    4GS 30.2IP 35/4 K/BB 6HR 10RA 2.93ERA
    Yu Darvish (Fighters)
    4GS 34IP 32/5 K/BB 0HR 2RA 0.53ERA
    Granted, he plays in the pitchers park of NPB, Darvish continues to dazzle, all this only in his 4th year and as a 22 year old.

    Posted in 02_English, baseball, information, NPB, opinion, Sabermetrics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

    2008.4.7 NPB Power Rankings

    Posted by japanstats on 2008 April 7日 Monday

    I was never really fond of power rankings for sports leagues since they’re so arbitrary. When Aaron Shinsano at EWC asked me to do NPB power rankings, I was hesitant. Not only was I busy with my new job, the task of ranking teams fairly seemed like too much work. But after a while, I suddenly realized that it doesn’t have to be fair, power rankings are always arbitrary anyways. But there’s certainly demand for them as every sports publication, on or offline, seem to indulge in these things. So I’ve decided to join the ranks of the arbitrary rankers! (And hey, what great timing, EWC’s Korea League Rankings have just gone up!)

    Even though it’s a real logjam in the PL with only 3 games separating the 6 teams, without further ado, here’s the NPB power rankings for 7 April 2007, a little more than two weeks and one week into PL and CL seasons, respectively.

    1. Chunichi Dragons 6-2-1 .750

    After a lackluster first year in NPB (batting .261 after a .312 career in the KBO) Byung-kyu Lee has awoken with a .314/.351/.486 line 9 games into 2008. Woods, Nakamura, and Morino(!) are supplying the power, so Kosuke Fukudome is not being missed thus far. Team pitching is absolutely shutting down the opponents with a 1.95 ERA, almost 1 full point lower than the next team in the league.

    2. Tokyo Yakult Swallows 6-3 .667

    Sweet revenge in the home opener Tokyo derby where the team swept the crosstown rival Giants who signed away the birds top pitcher, Greisinger, and one of the top hitters, Ramirez. The team has continued its hot play, but the lineup cannot be expected to keep on slugging .450 (it was .409 last season), and team ERA of 4.04 doesn’t bode well for the future, but things are looking good at the moment. Losing closer Igarashi to injury after the first game may have been a blessing in disguise as import Chang-Yong Lim has wicked stuff, mid-90’s fastball with late movement from a deceptive submarine delivery, and he has probably won the closer’s job (though using him in the most high leverage situations before the 9th would probably be better for the team than a strictly 9th inning closer role, and the birds’ pen is not exactly awash with talent so the return of Igarashi would help.)

    3. Hanshin Tigers 7-2 .778

    The cats feasted on weak opposition in Yokohama, Hiroshima, and the slumping Yomiuri to their current record. Real test starts tomorrow with the series against the mighty Dragons. 

    4. Saitama Seibu Lions 9-6 .600

    Getting it done with both hitting (18 HR is more than twice the second place team in PL, and .418 SLG also leads the league) and pitching (2.77 ERA leads the league). Brazell has been a pleasant surprise (.276/.323/.603 and his 6 HR leads the league) and Takeya “Okawari” Nakamura is showing a return to his 2005 debut year form with 4 HR and .296/.367/.630 after two disappointing years. Rotation has been absolutely solid, with a couple of surprise veterans, one being Nishiguchi’s slow start (is this the beginning of the end for this vet?) and Kaz Ishii’s gems (3GS 3W 1.67ERA). 

    5. Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles 7-7 .500

    Started the season ice cold with 4 straight losses, then went on a tear winning 7 in a row, then got swept in the most recent series against the Lions. Enigmatic, you could say. But the team took hold of first place in PL for the first time ever in its short franchise history last week. Starters “Ma-kun” Takana, Iwakuma, Nagai, and Asai have been solid, and 40 year old slugger Yamasaki continues to defy father time leading the league in hitting with .390/.490/.707 overshadowing Fernandez who is also off to a hot start with .352/.367/.611.

    6. Fukuoka Softbank Hawks 8-7 .533

    54 RS and 58 RA, makes sense being stuck in the middle of the table despite superb performances by everyone’s coveted rookie Ohba who pitched a 16K 0BB shutout on Saturday (1 strikeout shy of tying Hideo Nomo’s NPB record for rookies) against the Marines.

    7. Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters 7-7 .500

    37 RS and 48 RA, yet the team is doing it again, somehow being kept afloat with a .500 record. Yu Darvish didn’t allow a run until his 3rd start of the season (0.72 ERA in 25 IP) so that certainly helps. But their chronic inability to score runs (though they play in an extreme pitchers park) will come back to haunt them this season, finally. Terrmel Sledge (.236/.340/.457) is needlessly being bashed by the fans because of his low BA, but he’s doing about as well as expected otherwise, as indicated by his numbers in the minors (.309/.401/.490) and majors (.247/.327/.418). Something needs to be done about the league worst .279 OBP.

    8. Chiba Lotte Marines 7-8 .467

    Rotation’s having a shaky start beyond the Naruse, Watanabe, and Kobayashi trio. But the team’s 50 RS and 59 RA means they’re in the thick of things in the PL.

    9. Orix Buffaloes 6-9 .400

    League worst .211/.281/.322 and 61RA puts a shudder in their coaches and fans (and probably themselves too). Tuffy Rhodes (.952 OPS) is playing like himself, but Greg LaRocca (.526 OPS) and Alex Cabrera (miniscule .356 OPS!) need to wake up if this team is going to go anywhere, as they’re dependent on the import cleanup.

    10. Tokyo Yomiuri Giants 2-7 .222

    Best NPB on paper got swept by the Swallows in the opener, and hasn’t recovered since, despite having a great array of pitchers and sluggers. Though opening the season against scorching Swallows and always tough Tigers and Dragons couldn’t have helped. If the team doesn’t right the ship in the upcoming Yokohama series, it’s tough going again with consecutive series against the Swallows and Dragons after that. Koji Uehara declaring his MLB intentions in this midst doesn’t help him or the team, he truly shot from the hip. This team will surely climb up through these rankings as the season progresses. Oh yeah, and .284 team OBP is by far the worst in the CL.

    11. Hiroshima Toyo Carp 3-5-1 .375

    36 RS and 30 RA, have the Carp been unlucky? Nah, the run differential is skewed by the 17-3 win over the BayStars on Sunday. Arai was no Godzilla, but losing him certainly hurt the lineup. And losing Kuroda to the Dodgers have been extremely painful as 25 year old former 1st round pick Kan Otake has been the only good starter (3RA in 16IP) at this early point in the season.

    12. Yokohama BayStars 2-7 .222

     

    Rather hopeless start to the season, scoring only 29 runs on .677 OPS while allowing by far the league worst 57 runs on 6.37 ERA. And unlike the Giants, there aren’t huge improvements in sight. Team’s lone slugger Murata is off to a slow start (.216/.275/.432) but starters Terahara, Wood, and Miura are off to solid starts with ERA in the 3s. But the bullpen’s been absolutely disastrous in the first week of the season.

     

    Aaron Guiel Watch

     

    The underappreciated (many Swallows fans were hoping he wouldn’t return to the team this year) Canadian slugger (his fight song is great, starting out with a long Oh Canada! introduction, which the cheer squad can play because he’s a patient hitter) is the NPB King of Three True Outcomes (HR, K, BB) in the mould of Adam Dunn but not as extreme as Jack Cust. He hit .245/.381/.493 last season with 35 HR (2nd in CL). But incredibly enough, many fans can’t see past his low average. Anyways, this JHB blog will track his year.

     

    Guiel also has a reputation for bending the space-time continuum (one example being his inside the park homerun during playing manager and Swallows legend Atsuya Furuta’s retirement game), but this requires an entirely separate entry  😛

     

    Aaron Guiel (as of 2008.4.7) – the whole team’s off to a hot start and Aaron’s no exception
    9GP 37PA 8R 3HR 12RBI .344/.432/.781 5BB 0HBP
    (CL leader with 12RBI) 

     

    For good measure, let’s keep an eye on some pitchers:

     

    Koji Uehara (Giants)
    1GS 9IP 7/2 K/BB 2HR 4RA 4.00ERA
    Kenshin Kawakami (Dragons)
    2GS 15.2IP 13/1 K/BB 4HR 8RA 4.60ERA
    Masahiro “Ma-kun” Tanaka (Eagles)
    3GS 23IP 20/9 K/BB 1HR 9RA 2.74ERA
    Shota Ohba (Hawks)
    3GS 25IP 29/2 K/BB 3HR 5RA 1.80ERA
    Yu Darvish (Fighters)
    3GS 25IP 26/4 K/BB 0HR 2RA 0.72ERA

     

    Posted in 02_English, baseball, information, NPB, opinion, Sabermetrics, tokyo | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

    2008 Central League Preview

    Posted by japanstats on 2008 April 1日 Tuesday

    Well, we’re now 3 games into the 2008 Central League season, but here’s the season preview. (Here’s the Pacific League preview for 2008.) There’s been lots of player movement, relatively speaking for Japanese pro sports, new impact players moving within CL, coming over from the PL (pretty much a one way street), and overseas, from both Asia and the Americas.

    Chunichi Dragons
    2007 Record: 78 – 64 – 2 (.549)
    2007 RS – RA: 623 – 556
    Coming: Kazuhiro Wada, Maximo Nelson, Tomas De La Rosa
    Going: Shinya Okamoto, Kosuke Fukudome

    Last season’s Japan Series champions lost Fukudome. Theoretically, losing a career 305/397/543 hitter from your lineup should be devastating, but the Dragons won the postseason without him anyways. What is it with star players getting injured and missing half the season before they go to the majors? Ichiro, Johjima, and now Fukudome. Anyways, the Dragons acquired Wada from the Lions via free agency to fill the hole, Wada’s OBP and SLG have been declining for the past 5 seasons (from .428 and .632 to .370 and .473). He’s no longer the great power threat that he was, but this is no surprise with his age. He’ll still be adequate though, much like Norihiro Nakamura that the team picked up from the blacklist scrapheap last year to man third base. The team’s got solid pitching and defence, led by one of Japan’s top pitchers in Kenshin Kawakami, closer Takuya Iwase, and the doubleplay combo of Masahiro Araki and Hirokazu Ibata, all key parts to a successful championship defence.

    Hanshin Tigers
    2007 Record: 74 – 66 – 4 (.529)
    2007 RS – RA: 518 – 561
    Coming: Satoru Kanemura, Keiichi Hirano, Takahiro Arai, Scott Atchison, Lew Ford
    Going: Osamu Hamanaka

    The team that managed to vastly outperform its Pythagorean expectation (.460, 66 – 78 ) by an amazing 10 games thanks to short term maximum gain use of its vaunted bullpen JFK trio Jeff Williams (65.1 IP, 66 K, 16 BB, 4.1 K/BB, 0.96 ERA(!), 42 HLD), Kyuji Fujikawa (83 IP, 115 K, 18 BB, 7.2 K/BB(!), 1.63 ERA, 46 SV), and Tomoyuki Kubota (90 GP(!), 108 IP, 101 K, 32 BB, 1.75 ERA, 46 HLD) in high leverage situations. Though it’s a wonderful strategy (JFK won 15 comeback games together) in the short term, but Williams is in his mid 30’s and Fujikawa and Kubota are in their late 20’s, so it’s probably a matter of time before their arms fall off. Luckily, the team added slugger Arai from the Carp, but you can expect his 290/351/480 line to see a decline after moving from a hitter’s paradise to a pithcer’s park and he’s on the wrong side of 30. Depending on how much Arai’s offense declines by, the Tigers may be forced yet again to press JFK into action often during the season in order to make the playoffs (finish in the top 3).

    Tokyo Yomiuri Giants
    2007 Record: 80 – 63 – 1 (.559)
    2007 RS – RA: 692 – 556
    Coming: Marc Kroon, Alex Ramirez, Seth Greisinger, Soichi Fujita, Adrian Burnside
    Going: Jeremy Powell

    Yomiuri made the biggest splash of the offseason (as usual) by signing away the BayStars’ closer Kroon, and Swallows’ slugger Ramirez and ace Greisinger (only 1 year removed from success in the KBO). Much like the Yankees, this is by far the highest scoring team in the league, and has a strong closer, but its Achilles heel is the weak middle relief (which the team did not address in its offseason moves, as Koji Uehara is moved back into the rotation, but that’s his place as staff ace) and aging lineup (Seung-Yeop Lee and Michihiro Ogasawara are coming off surgeries). With so many players brought in from other teams, the team’s spiritual hopes rest on the 19 year old Sakamoto, the 1st round pick of 2006 high school draft. But you can’t expect a kid hitting .268/.325/.377 in 2-gun (minors) to succeed in NPB, expect him to be sent back after the Giants figure out he needs much more seasoning and less media pressure. I also expect a significant drop from Ramirez’s walk year performance, but this was a luxury bet that the Giants could afford to take. I expect this team to cruise through the regular season, feasting on weak pitching of the pennant race grind, then get shut down by superior pitching and defence of the opposition in the postseason, yet again. (Pythagorean expectation of .608 and 88 – 56 also shows that the team was dropping close games while blowing out inferior opponents.)

    Hiroshima Toyo Carp
    2007 Record: 60 – 82 – 2 (.423)
    2007 RS – RA: 557 – 673
    Coming: Colby Lewis, Ben Kozlowski, Mike Schultz, Scott Seabol
    Going: Hiroki Kuroda, Takahiro Arai

    The Carp have passionate supporters, but losing your ace (Kuroda to the Dodgers) and cleanup hitter (Araki to Hanshin) from your already woeful team isn’t going to help matters at all. The club hopes that some of the newcomers will turn out well, as the ability of its overseas scouts to find good imports have been historically the team’s strong point. Seabol looks to be a good candidate to take advantage of tiny Hiroshima Municipal Stadium, as he slugged about 300/350/550 in the PCL from 2003-07. Lewis starts the season in the rotation and his minor league numbers of 8.59 K/9 and 2.75 BB/9 are promising, but he’ll have to keep the fly balls in the park. Kozlowski’s numbers are less impressive and he starts the year in the bullpen. Shigenobu Shima doesn’t look likely to bounce back too much from his drop in production as he’s already on the wrong side of 30, and none of the players are high OBP types, so just young slugger Kenta Kurihara and Seabol can’t be expected to carry the offence, though that’s what it’s shaped up to be. This will be another long season for the freshwater fishies.

    Yokohama BayStars
    2007 Record: 71 – 72 – 1 (.497)
    2007 RS – RA: 569 – 623
    Coming: Hiroaki Ohnishi, Mike Wood, Dave Williams, Travis Hughes, J.J. Furmaniak, Larry Bigbie
    Going: Katsuaki Furuki, Hitoshi Taneda, Marc Kroon

    Is this the least inconspicuous team? The Hamasters lost Kroon to league rival Giants, but otherwise the player movements are unexciting, maybe except for the fact that Hughes is a 6’5” giant towering over everyone in the field, especially from the top of the mound, but his career 4.11 BB/9 in the minors does not bode well. And Bigbie may be running away or blacklisted from the majors depending on who you talk to, he’s a career .726 OPS and .789 OPS in the majors and minors respectively, and he should be able to take advantage of the comfortable confines of Yokohama Stadium. The club significantly overshot their Pythagorean expectation (.455, 65 – 79) by 6.5 games and with no significant additions to the roster, so I expect definite regression, especially with Kroon gone. Slugging thirdbaseman Shuichi Murata (improved every season in OPS from 788 to 929 from his debut in 2003) and pitchers Hayato Terahara, who managed a full workload for the first time in his career after coming over from the Hawks, and veteran Daisuke Miura, with his immaculate pompadour, are the players to watch for on this team.

    Tokyo Yakult Swallows
    2007 Record: 60 – 84 (.417)
    2007 RS – RA: 596 – 623
    Coming: Kazuki Fukuchi, Yoshitaka Hashimoto, Takehiko Oshimoto, Keizoh Kawashima, Chang-Yong Lim, Daniel Rios
    Going: Shugo Fujii, Hajime Miki, Alex Ramirez, Seth Greisinger, Brian Sikorski

    The Swallows suffered similar losses as the Carp, in having both the staff ace Greisinger and revived slugger Ramirez signed away by the Yankees Giants. But the team hopes to fill these holes with Daniel Rios who hopes to repeat Seth’s successful transition from the KBO where he went an incredible 22 – 5 in 232.2 IP of 2.07 ERA in 33 GP (I guess KBO teams use something similar to the MLB style 5 man/day rotations, unlike in the NPB where a 6 man/7 day rotation is the norm, so starters only get about 25 starts per season). His K-rate had been decreasing and it’s well below Greisinger’s, so he’ll have different challenges in adjusting to Japan. Lim looked great with his late breaking fast pitches coming from a submarine delivery, it should take NPB hitters a while to figure if him out, if ever. In fact, he has taken over the closer’s job from Igarashi who strained his thigh in his first appearance in 2 seasons after a return from elbow surgery. Lim looked sharper anyways, but this doesn’t help the club. The team’s poor bullpen was probably more the cause than pure unluckiness when it comes to undershooting of its Pythagorean expectation last season (.477, 69 – 75). A combination of healthy Igarashi and successful Lim is needed to return the bullpen to competency.

    The birds likely won’t miss Ramirez because his 2007 was probably a walk year fluke (see link on Giants preview), and hopes that his hole can be filled by a healthy Adam Riggs who can OPS above .850. Aaron Guiel will continue to be the King of Three True Outcomes (Walk, HR, or Strikeout), although BA obsessed fans are wish for more, you can expect a line similar to his 2007 of 245/381/493, which makes him the second most valuable hitter in the lineup, only behind the awesome hit machine Norichika Aoki. The youngster has added power to his stroke bringing his SLG up from .417 to .508 in his 3 full seasons (and his OPB was a truly awesome .434 last season, even though his 202 hit rookie year still gets highlighted more by the fans and media), and he will be rightfully hitting in the 3rd spot this year. The middle of the lineup is as good as any, but unfortunately it can’t be said the same about the rest. So the new manager Shigeru Takada is instituting a small ball strategy, but to achieving success with that will require a true shut down bullpen which the Swallows don’t have… unless Masaru Satoh develops into a useful lefty out of the pen along with Lim baffling NPB hitters all season long. Though, the strategy does mesh well with the now pushed back outfield walls and the new slower turf.

    The Swallows started off the year perfectly by sweeping the Giants in the annual Tokyo derby season opener. But the Giants should come around soon to battle for 1st with the Dragons. Tigers should be positioned for the 3rd and final playoff position, but wishful thinking has all the stars aligning for the Swallows and overtaking the popular Hanshin team. BayStars and the Carp will battle to get out of the basement. And Chunichi Dragons are again the most likely team to emerge with the CL crown in the postseason to attempt their defence of the Japan Series title, even if they finish behind the Giants again in the regular season.

    Posted in 02_English, baseball, information, NPB, opinion, statistics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

    Larry Bigbie, the ratty BayStar?

    Posted by japanstats on 2008 March 20日 Thursday

    An interesting Yahoo article on the new Yokohama BayStar outfielder Larry Bigbie about his involvement in the Mitchell Report (he was featured on only 1 less page than the Rocket!) He plans on burying his baseball bones here in Japan. I haven’t bothered looking into how many years he used steroids and HGHs, but his career lines of 267/331/395 in the majors and 292/368/421 in the minors aren’t very inspiring. Though the fact that he didn’t see too much of a drop off in the minor to major transition is somewhat promising, and playing home games in the bandbox Yokohama Stadium (308’/93m to both poles and 387’/117m to centre) in a hitters league (Tokyo Dome, helped by its peculiarly straight power alleys, and tiny Hiroshima Stadium are both notorious hitters parks as well) may be his saving grace (the Tamura effect?) especially if he’s used at CF.

    An interesting excerpt from the article:

    Larry Bigbie’s name appeared 93 times in the Mitchell Report. Seven full pages were devoted to him, one fewer than Roger Clemens. Mitchell attributed much of the information accusing Baltimore Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts of steroid use to Bigbie, his former roommate, and did the same with Jack Cust, the slugging outfielder now with Oakland.

    In news reports, Bigbie was placed alongside Brian McNamee and Kirk Radomski as Mitchell’s informants. He stewed. He had talked, yeah, but says he brought up neither Roberts’ nor Cust’s name and only confirmed information with which Mitchell’s investigators confronted him.

    “They had everything,” he says. “They knew. It wasn’t like I had to sit there and spit names to them.”

    I’ve read somewhere that borderline major leaguers are most likely PED abusers, and this makes sense economically because the the financial incentives to stay in the majors is astronomical, with the crevasse sized gaps between major league and minor league salary as well as in the pension system.

    And I guess he won’t be seeing Cust in person when he arrives in Tokyo for a pair of exhibitions against the Tigers and Giants, and the season opener agaist the Red Sox.

    Posted in 02_English, baseball, information, MLB, NPB, opinion | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »