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  • Posts Tagged ‘beijing’

    Beach Volleyball Cheerleaders

    Posted by japanstats on 2008 August 16日 Saturday

    Beach Volleyball is getting no coverage here in Japan because no Japanese team qualified for the Olympics. But how could the Japanese broadcasters be missing out on the only Olympic sport to be featuring bikini clad cheerleaders like these!? I didn’t even know that beach volleyball competitions had cheerleaders, as if the women’s competition wasn’t eye pleasing enough  😛

    Conspicuously, Olympic beach volleyball involves cheerleaders. At first blush, this might seem to argue in favor of its worthiness, but you must understand that these are nonpartisan cheerleaders. To quote NBCOlympics.com, the young ladies simply “use a variety of dances to make sure the fans stay rowdy.” Beach volleyball seems to be alone in Beijing in employing such bikini-clad rabble-rousers. Please correct me if I’m wrong and, in fact, the gals will be prancing over to the track for the triple jump or out to the shooting range for the skeet final.

    Posted in 02_English, information, olympics, random | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

    Japan v Korea! (Olympic Baseball)

    Posted by japanstats on 2008 August 16日 Saturday

    Yesterday’s games featured 2 games decided using the new fairy dust extra innings rule in the early games, and the 2 late games were both shutouts. Get the gory details from EWC for the new superball extra innings that led to Chinese victory over Taiwan and Cuba’s win over the US, and also for Korea and Japan shutting out Canada and the Netherlands, respectively.

    China’s victory over Taiwan was huge (possibly) for Chinese baseball. But this was engineered through having Taiwan play the night before against Japan after a rain delay at 8pm, while the China-Korea game was suspended because of the same rain, then the fatigued Taiwanese had to play the Chinese at 10am the next morning. Coincidence? Likely not.

    US is put in a tough spot with a 1-2 record, but their 2 losses are against the only undefeated teams in the tournament, Cuba and Korea.

    Though, the Korean lineup seems to definitely lack punch, as they were unable to score a run against China, of all teams, in 5 innings before the game was suspended scoreless. Then the lone run against Canada came on a homerun against a pitcher (Mike Johnson) who was below average when he did play in the majors, and that was 7 years ago!

    But Japan, in a seemingly stupid move by stubborn manager Senichi Hoshino (whose knowledge of PL baseball is often put into question), used their best pitcher Toshiya Sugiuchi against an easy opponent in the Dutch (though this does put Sugiuchi on schedule for the final round robin game against the States), and Kenshin Kawakami closed out the game, so the starter of the Korea game is the only unused pitcher in this tournament, Tsuyoshi Wada, who has been very effective the past 3 years, but is having a subpar season by his standards (3.78 ERA, 83/29 K/BB). But seeing how ineffective ace Darvish was against Cuba (though they were very patient), and Wakui succeeding against Taiwan (whose squad may be weaker than usual), who knows how Wada will perform tonight, we may see Hoshino magic(!) after all.

    Canada’s fought valiantly against both the Cubans and the Koreans, losing both games by the smallest margin of 1 run. But they were clearly the inferior team. So, Canada, along with fellow 1-2 record holders Taiwan appear to be out of the running for the medal rounds. The US also has a 1-2 record but they’ll be facing relatively weaker opposition from here on in.

    Standings after day 3 (Korea-China game is suspended and will resume play on the 17th):

    3-0 Cuba

    2-0 Korea

    2-1 Japan

    1-1 China

    1-2 USA

    1-2 Canada

    1-2 Taiwan

    0-3 Netherlands

    Games today (day 4):

    10:30 USA-Canada

    11:30 Cuba-Taiwan

    18:00 China-Netherlands

    19:00 Japan-Korea

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

    2008.8.15 Koshien Quarterfinals and Olympic Baseball

    Posted by japanstats on 2008 August 15日 Friday

    Koshien

    Quarterfinal action started in Koshien today. After the last three games of round of 16 yesterday (yesterday’s games were all close, as Keio of North Kanagawa squeezed by Aomori-Yamada 2-0, Osaka-Toin outhit Toho of East Aichi 7-5, and Yokohama defeated Sendai-Ikuei 3-2), the stage has been set for the quarterfinals which has already kicked off with its first game Hotoku-Gakuen (East Hyogo) v Osaka-Toin (North Osaka) in the battle of local schools. Here’s the schedule:

    8.15 Day 14

    11:00 Hotoku-Gakuen (East Hyogo) v Osaka-Toin (North Osaka)

    13:30 Urasoe-Sho (Okinawa) v Keio (North Kanagawa)

    8.16 Day 15

    11:00 Chiben-Wakayama (Wakayama) v Tokoha-Kikugawa (Shizuoka)

    13:30 Seiko-Gakuin (Fukushima) v Yokohama (South Kanagawa)

    Since both Osaka-Toin and Urasoe-Sho played their round of 16 games yesterday, they’re at a disadvantage of having to play on back to back days. And Urasoe seems to only have a single reliable arm, as it looks like Urasoe’s Iha’s set to go in the afternoon session, after a complete game yesterday. Iha is pitching on back to back days after already accumulating a lot of innings in a relatively short time period. Not only could Urasoe lose because of this, but Iha’s arm could be seeing an early demise in his career. (UPDATE: Osaka-Toin won comfortably 7-4 to advance to the semifinals. Uechi is starting for Urasoe instead of Iha, who starts in right field, that’s good to see.)

    Anyways, there are some interesting storylines here. Game 1 today is the battle of local schools, as Koshien Stadium is located in Hyogo near its border with Osaka. Game 2 today features Urasoe who defeated Spring Koshien champs Okinawa-Sho in their prefectural qualifier finals against the first Kanagawa team in the quarters and one of the most prestigious private schools in Keio. Game 1 tomorrow is the battle of ever present Chiben-Wakayama against the almost no-bunting attacking baseball of new powers Tokoha. And, finally, game 2 tomorrow features tournament favourites and the second Kangawa team remaining, Yokohama. We should see some exciting, close games over the next few days as the tournament heats up to the finals.

    ————

    Olympics

    Beijing was thunderstorming yesterday with a torrential downpour for a good part of the day. This added a twist to the baseball tournament which is being played in temporary outdoor stadiums. Even in those weather conditions, the US had no problems dispatching the Netherlands (Antilles) 7-0 in the game called after the 8th because of the weather. And No.1 draft prospect and only amateur on the US team, Stephen Strasburg, dominated, going perfect for 4 2/3 and keeping a no hitter for 6 1/3 innings. The other game that was being played at the same time was Korea-China, and surprisingly the it was still scoreless when the game was postponed after 5 innings, the game will resume on the 17th, an off day on the calendar.

    I was sitting in a faux British pub in Tokyo last night with Garrett from the Tokyo Yakult Swallows blog, not really expecting the Japan-Taiwan game to be played after hearing about the weather in Beijing, when suddenly the TVs in the pub showed the stubborn Japanese manager Senichi Hoshino on a live feed! We were getting the game after all. Well, we watched the game between consuming alcohol and talking, so I was far from my attentive self when I watched the Cuba game. But Japan’s inability to figure out Taiwanese starter Hsu Wen-Hsiung (5IP 3H 4K 1BB 1ER on a Yomiuri Giant catcher Shinnosuke Abe’s homerun no less, after we’d been bitching about how he should’ve been replaced in the starting lineup by the Marines’ Satozaki as Abe’s not particularly having a good season) and Japanese starter and Saitama Seibu Lion Hideaki Wakui’s more than competent performance (6IP 3H 6K 2BB 1ER) made the game very tight and exciting until the very end…

    when Japan managed to score 4 runs in the top of the 9th to ease Koji Uehara’s first Olympic appearance an easy one, protecting a 6-1 lead, though Uehara did look impressive as he had good stuff and command and set the side down in order. Regular closers Hitoki Iwase (Chunichi Dragons) and Kyuji Fujikawa (Hanshin Tigers) were the setup men, blanking the Taiwanese in the 7th and 8th innings while protecting the 2-1 lead. Iwase allowed a hit, but Fujikawa was particularly impressive striking out the side. He looked very different from the man who was hit very hard by the Cubans and was lucky to put the side down in order (not much of a surprise as Fujikawa’s high heat would be fairly normal in Cuba, but pretty rare in Taiwan). We’ll see how Uehara does protecting a closer lead, and we’ll also see how long Hoshino sticks with Takahiro Arai as the cleanup hitter, he’s so far only had one sacrifice fly in 8 PA and hasn’t looked sharp at the plate. But Hoshino is very loyal to his men, and both Uehara and Arai were integral parts of the Japan team that qualified for the Olympics last November.

    In the other game Canada put up a valiant effort against the Cubans, barely losing 6-7. But it’s apparent that the Cubans are obviously the superior team despite being outhit 9-5 in the game. Their command of the strike zone was impeccable, yet again, drawing 6 walks to Canada’s 1. And only striking out 5 times compared to Canada’s 12.

    Posted in 02_English, baseball, high school, information, olympics, opinion | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

    Spain still doesn’t get it

    Posted by japanstats on 2008 August 15日 Friday

    The Spanish just can’t get enough of making slanty eye gestures to show that they’re in Beijing, China! (I saw this first reported at EWC, and now on Gen’s blog.) The tennis team got into the action as well as the well publicized basketball one. Then again, open racism in Spain’s top soccer/football league La Liga seems pretty common, so something like this coming from the Spanish delegation is ugly, but not totally unexpected.

    Last season Eto’o threatened to walk off the pitch after being racially abused by fans in a match at La Romareda in Zaragoza. Real were fined after the incident.

    A number of other Liga clubs, including Atletico Madrid, Malaga, Racing Santander and Getafe, have been fined over the last two years after fans directed racist abuse at visiting players.

    Outbreaks of racist abuse have become a common occurrence in Spanish football matches in recent years, with leading clubs such as Atletico Madrid, Real Zaragoza and Getafe receiving fines because of the behaviour of some of their fans.

    National coach Luis Aragones caused an uproar in 2004 when he racially insulted Arsenal’s French international striker Thierry Henry.

    Posted in 02_English, culture, football, information, olympics, opinion, soccer | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

    2008.8.14 Koshien and Olympic Update

    Posted by japanstats on 2008 August 14日 Thursday

    Koshien

    Urasoe-Sho (Okinawa) is leading the game against Kanto-Daiichi (East Tokyo) 3-1 in the top of the 9th right now. (UPDATE: Iha pitched a complete game in the 3-1 win and looked very strong even at the end of the game, getting strike outs (127 pitches, 9 strikeouts) and even hitting 145 on the radar gun. Kinda worried about his arm though, he’s pitched all 27 innings for Urasoe so far at Koshien. Kanto-Daiichi lost without using their ace Matsumoto, who had pitched 4 days earlier on the 10th in the round of 32, instead they used a couple of younger pitchers who gained some valuable experience for next year and beyond.)

    Follow up to yesterday’s action, the remaining games after Tokoha’s (Shizuoka) dramatic win was powerhouse Chiben-Wakayama (Wakayama) absolutely destroying Komadai-Iwamizawa (North Hokkaido) 15-3 with Chiben’s slugger Sakaguchi smacking 2 homeruns in the 11 run 8th inning (a Koshien first). The last game yesterday saw Hotoku-Gakuen (East Hyogo) win 7-3 over Kagoshima-Jitsugyo (Kagoshima).

    A draw will be held after game 1 today (5th game in the round of 16) to determine the quarterfinal matchups. (UPDATE: Draw has been held, here’s the quarterfinals)

    8.15 Day 14 (tomorrow!)

    11:00 Hotoku-Gakuen (East Hyogo) v Toho – Osaka-Toin winner

    13:30 Urasoe-Sho (Okinawa) v Aomori-Yamada – Keio winner

    8.16 Day 15

    11:00 Chiben-Wakayama (Wakayama) v Tokoha-Kikugawa (Shizuoka)

    13:30 Seiko-Gakuin (Fukushima) v Yokohama – Sendai-Ikuei winner

    Now I’m really worried about Urasoe’s Iha’s arm if he’s going to pitch in the quarters, not sure how good their second pitcher is, as I haven’t seen him (I don’t think hardly anyone has).

    ————

    Olympics

    It looks like Saitama Seibu Lion Hideaki Wakui will start against Taiwan tonight in Beijing. This likely means Japan’s rotation will go something like this (if Hoshino is sane).

    8.13 Darvish v Cuba

    8.14 Wakui v Taiwan

    8.15 Wada v Netherlands

    8.16 Sugiuchi v Korea

    8.17 off

    8.18 Darvish v Canada

    8.19 Wakui v China

    8.20 Wada v USA (hopefully a meaningless game)

    8.21 off

    8.22 Sugiuchi (semifinals)

    8.23 Darvish (medal game)

    Don’t count your chicks before they hatch and all that, but this looks likely (hopefully), as Sugiuchi has been one of the best pitchers in Japan this season, and Kawakami was a disaster in the warmup game against CL selects last week so he’ll likely be used in relief, this rotation would make sense. (Yeah, I know I’m doing a 180 from saying that Kawakami is ace 1A next to Darvish, but this rotation will probably work best for Japan at the moment, and Kawakami could be valuable out of the pen.)

    ————-

    Swimming

    Kosuke Kitajima has just won the 200m breaststroke in Olympic Record time. With his double gold (100 and 200) in consecutive Olympics, the little man has shown that technique matters more than height and size in this discipline. (Kinda like how another short man, Shimizu, won the 500m speed skating in Nagano, surrounded by much taller opponents with longer strides.)

    Posted in 02_English, baseball, high school, information, olympics, opinion, tokyo | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

    Japan v Cuba impressions and Olympic baseball

    Posted by japanstats on 2008 August 14日 Thursday

    Olympic baseball has started. Canada trounced hosts China 10-0 (Canada has both Tim Burton and Stubby Clapp on its roster, how awesome is that!?… namewise), Taiwan breezed by the Netherlands 5-0, and Korea came from behind in the bottom of the 9th and scored 2 runs to win dramatically against the US 8-7 after allowing 3 runs in the top of the frame (EWC’s take on the game). That must’ve been one dramatic game. (Game results and rosters for all games.)

    Japan lost to Cuba 2-4 (boxscore, many photos of Darvish looking displeased with himself here). Some impressions:

    • Cuban batters’ control of the strike zone was impeccable, they were exactly the same as Puerto Rican umpire’s zone, coincidentally or not. The batters hardly swung at balls out of the zone, except for one batter trying to hit a sacrifice fly against Naruse. They made the Japanese pitchers throw A LOT of pitches. We’ll see if they’ll take the same approach to other teams (well, I won’t really be able to see them again until the medal rounds, probably).
    • Darvish was far from his sharp self. He had good stuff at times, but his command was often off, leaving pitches hanging down the middle of the plate and the Cubans didn’t miss many of these, or completely missing the zone, seemed to be having a little problem with the game ball that other pitchers in the game seemed to be ok with. Reminded me of this season’s Matsuzaka, getting out of jam after jam, though he was charged with 4 runs in 4 innings and credited with the loss.
    • Darvish was mercifully replaced in the 5th after he had thrown more than 100 pitches. Since he’s likely to pitch on 4 days rest against Canada on 18 Aug, and he was struggling, this was probably the right move.
    • Naruse promptly let in the 2 runners he inherited from Darvish, but then managed to hold his own.
    • Tanaka “Ma-kun” was pretty impressive, able to get strike outs when needed as he struck out the side in the 7th.
    • Japanese bullpen ace Kyuji Fujikawa put down the Cubans in order in his inning of work, but the balls were hard hit and he was lucky to escape unscathed, not dominant at all like he is in NPB.
    • Young OF Alexei Bell was impressive with a couple of extra base hits.
    • Strike zone seemed both narrow and thin, with some inconsistent calls. Guess we’ll see how the rest of the umpires are.
    • Long time closer 99 Lazo’s alive and well (35 year old is in his 4th Olympics). He doesn’t have dominating stuff anymore, but his pitches seem to have late movement, as there were lots of pop ups and fly outs by Japanese hitters against him in his 3 innings of work to save the game.
    • Injured SS Kawasaki had hits in all 3 of his plate appearances despite a visible limp. Perhaps it ironically helped him by changing his weight shift during his swing(?) He should be rested, as Japan’s full of shortstops anyways, and having an player with range limiting injury in the most important defensive position is not advisable. He was replaced by the Lions Nakajima as a pinch runner in the 7th after his third hit. Though Nakajima’s got rather poor range to be the starting shortstop. Morino at second and Nishioka at short might be ideal under current conditions. (Or Araki at second for a defensive configuration, but he’ll be a blackhole in the lineup.)
    • Guess red hot Lions and late additions to the roster OF G.G. Sato and SS/3B Nakajima are going to be platooned against left handed pitchers, otherwise why were they brough along to Beijing.. only to be used when some “trusted” players are in an obvious slump? I say, replace DH Abe with one of these guys, at least. But Hoshino is loyal, this trait better not be too costly.
    • Japan was unable to get an extra base hit when in need, and grounded into lots of double plays into the hands of slick Cuban middle infielders.
    • Veteran Cubans were very wily, often disrupting the rhythm of the game with unnecessarily stepping out of the box, taking extra long between pitches, and taking their time putting on body armour, and generally delaying the game (this is nothing new for them). This seemed to have distracted the younger Japanese team who are coddled mainly with domestic competition.
    • Manager Senichi Hoshino almost got ejected from the game for disputing a Satozaki check swing (didn’t look like the bat went around). But he has to realize that only in NPB can managers really get in the face of umps and pressure them psychologically. (Japanese umps don’t have the same authority that American (and international?) umps seem to have.)
    • Cuba looks like a lock for the playoffs, so Japan, Korea, USA, Taiwan, and Canada should be battling out for the other 3 playoff positions, with Taiwan and Canada being underdogs, but they can upset any of the top teams on any given day.
    • Tomorrow (14 Aug, Day 2), Americans will breeze breeze by the Dutch, Korea will pummel China, Taiwan has a legitimate chance against Japan but they are looking to avenge today’s loss, and Cuba looks too strong for Canada.

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

    2008 Koshien Round of 16 and Olympic Baseball

    Posted by japanstats on 2008 August 13日 Wednesday

    Round of 16 for the 90th Summer Koshien tournament began today.

    Oh, and Olympic baseball also begins today with Darvish going up against the powerful Cuban lineup, that’s a definite can’t miss event. Darvish didn’t look good in his pre-Olympic warmup when he gave up 2 runs over 3 innings against a PL selects team. Team Japan was handed the 6-4 win to them in that game because the PL team threw in an inexperienced pitcher in there to get mauled. The following day Japan’s other ace Kenshin Kawakami absolutely collapsed following second baseman Nishioka’s error and gave up 7 runs without recording an out, Masahiro “Ma-kun” Tanaka then proceeded to give up 2 more runs before mercifully bringing the inning to an end in what ended up to be a 2-11 loss against the CL selects team.

    Then again, I’m not worried about Darvish since he always cranks it up a notch or two for big games, but the Japanese team itself is a source of worry as many players entered midseason funks immediately before the Olympics, and many pitchers haven’t been pitching particularly well this season. Then again, conditions in Beijing on an outdoor grass field facing international competition will be very different from the warmup games against fellow Japanese players in the friendly confines of Tokyo Dome, so Team Japan itself could be kind of an enigma.

    Anyways, at Koshien, 21st century power Seiko-Gakuin (Fukushima) just won the first game of this round 5-2 over Gifu-Sho (Gifu) in the battle of middle powers.

    Game 2 today features Kurashiki-Sho (Okayama), Team Japan Senichi Hoshino’s alma mater and an old baseball school, against recent powers Tokoha-Kikugawa (Shizuoka). I didn’t remember Shizuoka schools getting this far in Koshien, but this school won last year’s Spring Invitational (Senbatsu) Koshien tournament through an almost no-bunting offense. I’m liking the sounds of this, go Tokoha! (UPDATE: Tokoha came back from 6 runs down by scoring 7 runs in the 5th, and is currently leading 11-7 in the 9th. Oh, and here’s Tokoha looking very Yankees. Kurashiki made things close scoring 2 runs in the top of the 9th, but the game ended 11-9 with a win for Tokoha.)

    Game 3 pits Komadai-Iwamizawa (North Hokkaido) vs long time powerhouse baseball school Chiben-Wakayama (Wakayama). I’ll be pulling for the boys from up north to pull off an upset here.

    And the final game today is Hotoku-Gakuen (East Hyogo) who battled their way through tough Hyogo prefecture to get here, against Kagoshima-Jitsugyo (Kagoshima) who seem to be always representing their prefecture. Again, it’ll be good to see a new face reach the quarterfinals.

    Game 1 on Day 13 tomorrow features Kanto-Daiichi (East Tokyo) vs Urasoe-Sho (Okinawa). Despite the fact that I saw Kanto-Daiichi play in their qualifiers, I’ll cheering the team from the far south. Both teams feature solid pitching and hitting, so this should be a good match.

    Game 2 is an interesting matchup that pits recent powers from a small prefecture Aomori-Yamada (Aomori) against an old power in Keio (North Kanagawa) who have returned to the Summer Koshien for the first time in 46 years out of difficult Kanagawa.

    Game 3 features two big hitting teams as Toho (West Aichi) score 15 runs in their first game, and Osaka-Toin (Osaka) scored 16 runs in their opening game. Kanazawa almost knocked Toin off its perch in the round of 32 through wily use of multiple pitchers with differing pitching forms, but Toin narrowly pulled off a 6-5 win in extra innings.

    And the final game in the round of 16 is tournament favourites Yokohama (South Kanagawa), who had a very tough draw having to defeat powerhouses Urawa-Gakuin (South Saitama) and Koryo (Hiroshima) to get here, against northern powerhouse Sendai-Ikuei (Miyagi) in an intriguing matchup.

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

    2008.8.11 Koshien Update and Kitajima Wins Gold with WR

    Posted by japanstats on 2008 August 11日 Monday

    Sports world has kicked into an ultra high gear during my absence as Koshien continues, Japanese Olympic baseball team played preparation games against CL and PL selects (more on that in a later post, hopefully), Olympics has started, and NPB continues to chug along.

    Kosuke Kitajima just won gold in the 100m breast stroke with a world record time (58.91, first time the 59 second barrier has been broken) despite being 3rd at the 50m turn. Impressive. Of course, this race, moment, and his post race interview (with tears) will be played ad nauseum from here on in, so I’ll quickly lose interest, but it’s great at the moment. (The Japanese national anthem during medal presentation wasn’t greeted with jeers and whistles like during the Asia Cup football tournament in 2006 in China, the Chinese government is reigning in hard with the crowd control and behaviour.)

    Through a quick glance of the Koshien match results through day 8 after all 55 teams have played their first game, we see that there were no major upsets. Some interesting game results and notes (though I didn’t get to see most of the games):

    • Northern powerhouse Aomori-Yamada (Aomori) narrowly defeated Nihon-Koku (Yamanashi) 2-1 in the first round, then was just the better team right now as they won convincingly 4-0 against the young Honjo-Daiichi (North Saitama) in the second round game that has just concluded right now on day 10.
    • Toho (West Aichi) and Hokkai (South Hokkaido) played a slugfest on day 5 as the former defeated the latter 15-10. Hokkai kept on coming back from behind but that just wasn’t enough. In the mean time, powerhouse Osaka-Toin (North Osaka) crushed the minnows Nitta-Rinko (Oita) 16-2 in the biggest win of the tournament so far.
    • Tainted Kiryu-Daiichi (Gunma), a 2nd year non-roster player groped a girl after the team got to Osaka for Koshien, thankfully lost their first round match against Kanazawa (Ishikawa) who feature many usable arms, but will be hardpressed to win against Osaka-Toin tomorrow on day 11.
    • There were a couple of powerhouse matchups in the first round. One of the tournament favourites Yokohama (South Kanagawa), and Daisuke Matsuzaka’s alma mater, pulled off a 6-5 victory against Urawa-Gakuin (South Saitama). And the 53rd and 54th schools to enter the tournament, in the battle of powerhouses from small prefectures, Kurashiki-Sho (Okayama) defeated Saga-Sho (Saga) 2-0.
    • In round 2 games that started on day 8, Komadai-Iwamisawa (North Hokkaido) easily handled Morioka-Dai (Iwate), the 55th team and final team to play it’s first game in the tournament, 8-3. And in matchups of powerhouses, Chiben-Wakayama (Wakayama) beat another tournament fave Kisarazu-Sogo (East Chiba) 5-2, meanwhile their sister school Chiben-Gakuen (Nara) barely lost to Hotoku-Gakuen (East Hyogo) 4-5.
    • As for teams with rooting interests, Kanto-Daiichi (East Tokyo) beat baseball school Naruto-Ko (Tokushima) 5-2, and Urasue-Sho (Okinawa) won against Chiba-Keidai (West Chiba) 12-9 despite Chiba’s late 6 run come back in the 7th inning.
    • Surprisingly, the remainder of round 2 doesn’t offer tantalizing powerhouse matchups, but it’ll be interesting to see if Kanazawa’s 4 pitchers can keep Osaka-Toin’s powerful bats off balance long enough to steal the game on day 11 tomorrow.

    Posted in 02_English, baseball, culture, high school, information, olympics, tokyo | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

    Japanese Olympic Baseball Team analysis (lite)

    Posted by japanstats on 2008 July 19日 Saturday

    Team Japan’s Hoshino GM and manager has made his final decision on the makeup of the Japanese National baseball team that will take to the field in Beijing. He emphasized intangibles like experience and previously playing together as a team (19 of 24 from the Asian qualifiers last autum return to the team) more than their current performance this season. We’ll see how this’ll pan out in the tournament, but Japan definitely has some holes because of this decision (but it may turn out to be a brillian move in a short tourney, who knows.) All players are from NPB, unlike Korea or Taiwan which has overseas based players from NPB or MLB minor league systems.

    Let’s look at the players performance so far to date and their career in some cases.

    Starters (some of them will be used as middle relievers, undoubtedly, as the team didn’t select any middle relievers)

    Kenshin Kawakami (Chunichi Dragons) 2.31 ERA, 101.1 IP, 103/22 K/BB.

    Struggled early in the season with a mysterious injury but seems completely recovered and his dominant self now, definitely should be one of the starters.

    Yu Darvish (Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters) 1.88 ERA, 148.2 IP, 142/31 K/BB, 8CG.

    The best pitcher in Japan, period, and the country’s ace. He should be pitching against the powerhouse teams during the Olympics.

    Yoshihisa Naruse (Chiba Lotte Marines) 2.66 ERA, 105 IP, 80/20 K/BB.

    Another starter having a standout season with great control.

    Tsuyoshi Wada (Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks) 3.97 ERA, 99.2 IP, 75/25 K/BB.

    Having a subpar season by his standards, likely bullpen material in Beijing.

    Toshiya Sugiuchi (Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks) 2.69 ERA, 134 IP, 145/20 K/BB.

    Outperforming even Darvish and is having the best season so far in NPB. His 2.06 FIP as of 7/14 is by far (0.29) the best in Japan.

    Masahiro Tanaka (Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles) 3.37 ERA, 120.1 IP, 98/35 K/BB

    Youngest member of the team at 19. His teammate Hisashi Iwakuma is having a lights out season, so I’m not sure why Tanaka was chosen over him, still got awesome raw potential, but Olympics is a short tournament to be testing out such young talent. More prone to giving out base on balls as well when compared to other starters, likely bullpen material here too, and could be very effective in short use.

    Hideaki Wakui (Saitama Seibu Lions) 3.32 ERA, 122 IP, 89/36 K/BB

    Slipped up a bit this year from his constant progression since his debut (7.32, 3.24, 2.79 ERAs in 2005-07). Probably will be used as a reliever unless Japan’s going to use more than 4 starters (Darvish, Sugiuchi, Kawakami, Naruse. A 3-1-3 schedule with rest days, that seems unnecessary).

    Relievers

    Koji Uehara (Yomiuri Giants) 6.46 ERA, 39 IP, 25/12 K/BB.

    A mystery selection considering his poor season (though he’s done better since returning from injury and being used as a setup man, but still don’t be surprised to see Uehara lose a game or two for Japan if used in high leverage situtations. He was brought along more for his international experience probably, but still there were so many more better qualified relievers to choose from like Kubota and Watanabe of the Tigers for example, and Oshimoto and Matsuoka who are sporting ERAs under 2 for the Swallows right now, but Hoshino went with the old familiar faces.)

    Hitoki Iwase (Chunichi Dragons) 2.83 ERA, 35 IP, 29/8 K/BB

    Dragons veteran shutdown closer. Though he often sported sub-2 ERAs in years past, so he’s not as rock solid this season.

    Kyuji Fujikawa (Hanshin Tigers) 0.86 ERA, 42 IP, 62/9 K/BB

    Absolutely the best reliever in Japan and Hanshin’s zero man closer, has been sporting K/9 well over 9 since 2005 with low number of walks. His high heater is unhittable.

    Catchers

    Shinnosuke Abe (Yomiuri Giants) 264/333/432 (AVG/OBP/SLG), 313 PA, 9 HR

    Best catcher in Japan when considering offence, but hasn’t been performing this season like his usual .850 OPS self, he could be another player dragging the team down if Hoshino insists on using him constantly, but he’s got international experience.

    Akihiro Yano (Hanshin Tigers) 292/309/388, 237 PA, 3 HR

    Turning 40 this year, and has lost his power that he had earlier in this century, probably on the team more for his veteran presence as Abe might be used as DH (though, there’s a logjam there too with the overflowing OF, barring Morino’s injury.)

    Tomoya Satozaki (Chiba Lotte Marines) 274/359/439, 223 PA, 11HR

    Solid catcher and WBC veteran, starting catcher? Then again Hoshino prefers familiar CL players over PL players it seems (he managed both the Dragons and the Tigers) .

    Infielders

    Takahiro Arai (Hanshin Tigers) – 1B/3B, 314/383/484, 360 PA, 8 HR

    Turned himself into a gap hitter from a homerun hitter with his move from the bandbox Hiroshima park to the spacious Koshien. He’s having his best OBP season to date, and this will be very valuable to the team because Japan doesn’t have huge sluggers (well, maybe except for GG).

    Masahiro Araki (Chunichi Dragons) – 2B/OF?, 249/291/307, 385 PA, 24 SB

    Capable of being a fifth OF and is an amazing at 2B. He posted .750 OPS in 2004-06 but this year’s numbers are identical to last year’s and at only age 30. Might be used as a defensive replacement for Nishioka.

    Shuichi Murata (Yokohama BayStars) – 3B, 303/358/600, 349 PA, 26 HR

    Probably Japan’s best option at 3B, even though 17 of his 26 homers so far has been hit in the friendly confines of Yokohama Stadium (a hitter’s paradise with the close fences).

    Shinya Miyamoto (Tokyo Yakult Swallows) – SS, 329/370/384, 328 PA, 3 HR

    Long time captain and spiritual leader of Team Japan. The 37 year old is performing well enough to warrant a spot on the limited 24 man roster (NPB uses a 28 man roster). His OBP is well above his career average of .325 which could be a fluke or he could have just become wiser at the plate. His ever decreasing fielding range means he shouldn’t be used as a defensive replacement though (but I fear Hoshino’s going to do that based on Miyamoto’s past reputation when he was an awesome shortstop).

    Tsuyoshi Nishioka (Chiba Lotte Marines) – SS/2B, 306/366/469, 375 PA, 9 HR, 16 SB

    Usually a shortstop but played second base in WBC, and is probably expected to do the same at Beijing. His OBP is consistent with his numbers from the last 2 seasons, but the 23 year old appears to have gained some power (not unexpected player development curve) which is great.

    Munenori Kawasaki (Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks) – SS, 327/358/402, 408 PA, 16 SB

    Part of double play combo with Nishioka at WBC. The 27 year old is performing well in line with his 2006-07 levels and with his international experience he should do well. But if the team goes for the bat at shortstop they’ll use…

    Hiroyuki Nakajima (Saitama Seibu Lions) – SS/3B?, 345/404/576, 364 PA, 17 HR, 16 SB

    Having a breakout season with the bat and can run as well, his weakspot is his defensive game with poor range. If Hoshino’s smart, he’ll start Nakajima at SS and bring in Kawasaki as a defensive replacement late in close games. There are rumours that Nakajima has been practicing at third (played 20 games there back in 2003), and his bat and legs may be worth replacing even Murata, but then again playing out of position in a short tournament is probably unadvisable. He’s playing third today with Seibu in the day game against the Marines, no doubt to prepare for the Olympics.

    Outfielders

    Masahiko Morino (Chunichi Dragons) – OF/1B/2B/3B, 302/383/525, 211 PA, 8 HR

    Versatile player with pop who can also play infield, missed part of season earlier with an injury but appears to be back in full health now, though he’s still an injury risk along with Uehara.

    Norichika Aoki (Tokyo Yakult Swallows) – CF, 339/410/570, 284 PA, 11 HR, 21 SB

    Also missed part of the season earlier with an injury but is absolutely tearing the cover off the ball since his return. The 26 year old is a clubhouse leader in Tokyo along with veteran Miyamoto, and his defensive skills and speed are impressive and his power game is constantly developing too. His spot as starting centre fielder hitting in the third spot is assured.

    Atsunori Inaba (Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters) – OF/1B?, 317/388/533, 343 PA, 12 HR

    The 35 year old has somehow developed a power game this late in his career (career SLG .469, but over .500 since 2006) and can also man first base.

    Takahiko “G.G.” Sato (Saitama Seibu Lions) – RF, 316/384/584, 359 PA, 20 HR

    One of the few true sluggers on the team, he spent some time in A ball before returning to Japan and having a breakout season in 2007 and is doing even better this season. He was a late addition to the list of potential Team Japan players because the team brass weren’t sure if his 2007 was a fluke. In a way he does have international experience so I hope Hoshino will use him regularly (even as DH), but I fear the starting lineup will be CL heavy what with his tendency to go with familiarity and having never been involved in PL ball. He’s also a capable right fielder but doesn’t have the reputation.

    Every position on Team Japan has at least one player who can backup the position, so that is a wise move with the limited roster space. Despite Hoshino’s preference for familiar CL faces that have international experience, the team appears to be well balanced. Hopefully starters being used as relievers won’t cause many problems.

    Obvious omissions from the team are Tomoaki Kanemoto (Hanshin Tigers) who leads NPB in OPS at the moment at .996, and Nobuhiko Matsunaka (Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks, .973 OPS) who are both advanced in age and maybe Hoshino wanted Kanemoto to continue his consecutive innings played record(?) but Matsunaka was a crucial part of the WBC champion team in 2006 when he was an on base monster, but then again Arai’s defence may be more important in a short tournament and he’s not shabby with the bat either and was the sacred cleanup hitter in the 4 spot during the Asian qualifiers last autumn in Taiwan. Hisashi Iwakuma (Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles) and Tetsuya Utsumi (Yomiuri Giants) are decent sized omissions on the pitching side, the former’s pitching motion is always a balk risk so that may be the reason for him, and the latter doesn’t have significant international experience as far as I know, but the pitchers that were chosen either have international experience or long track record of success in NPB.

    The team will gather on 2 August, have warmup games against the Yomiuri Giants farm team (5 Aug), PL selects (8 Aug), and CL selects (9 Aug) before heading over to China for the Olympics where they open play against one of the gold medal favourites Cuba on 13 August.

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

    2008.7.14 Batting and Pitching leaders

    Posted by japanstats on 2008 July 14日 Monday

    High school baseball’s regional qualifying tournaments for the annual Koshien tournament is well under way, but NPB is taking its usual day off on Monday, so let’s take a look.

    Batting (based OPS) as of 14 July 2008:

    The ageless 40 year old wonder and world record holder for most consecutive innings played, Tomoaki Kanemoto of the Hanshin Tigers, is the NPB OPS leader. His career line sits at around .300/.400/.550 (in healthy seasons), so while his performance is amazing, it is not totally unexpected. He is one of the few players on the batting leaders board who is not on the the Team Japan preliminary roster of 39 players, so his presence on the Tigers during the Olympics will be important in keeping the team’s big lead over its CL opponents.

    Norichika Aoki of the Tokyo Yakult Swallows makes an appearance on the leader board after missing some time with injury, he’s been on a tear lately and have continued to display his developing power with .578 SLG even in the expanded Jingu Stadium outfield. With his current hot back Aoki has pretty much cemented his place as the starting CF on Team Japan at Beijing. He will be hugely missed by the young and vulnerable Swallows during the Olympics though.

    Yokohama BayStars Seiichi Uchikawa’s breakthough season seems to be the real thing as he’s played in 70 games already and keeps on sticking around the leaderboard. He’s a career .290/.330/.420 hitter though with consistent AVG and OBP while seeing some fluctutations in SLG (.363 – .515), so either he’s altered his swing mechanics or approach at the plate to see some drastic results, or this is quite a fluke season. When I run across some interview with him I guess I’ll know.

    Pitching leaders (starters, based FIP) as of 14 July 2008:

    Toshiya Sugiuchi of the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks continues to dominate NPB in FIP but just isn’t getting the run support, luck, and defense to rack up the wins like his fellow leaders Iwakuma (Eagles), Lewis (Carp), and Darvish (Fighters). Sugiuchi’s K/BB sits at an astonishing 7.21 (Yup, that’s a 7 there in the first digit!) He’s cranked up his K rate to above 9 (his pre-2005 level) and simultaneously cut down on the number of walks issued.

    Masahiro Tanaka’s not getting his due what with his ERA over 3 and the 6-6 record, but he is contributing his share to the Eagles, though not quite at Iwakuma’s level. The Eagles have the second best run differential in the PL with +48 but are currently sitting in 5th place and out of the playoff picture. The team needs to learn how to win close games (or how to keep the lead?)

    Of the rest of the leaderboard, only Iwata, Kawakami, and Naruse are Olympic hopefuls while Utsumi, Komatsu, Greisinger, and Shimizu will be staying on the archipelago to give their clubs an edge during the Olympic month.

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