Posted by simon c on 2008 October 9日 Thursday
The Central League still has a few rain out games to remake that will determine first place, and the huge one game advantage and home field advantage (all games at home), so I’ll leave the CL until next week.
The Pacific League has completed its regular season schedule and the first round of the playoffs (best of 3) begins this Saturday.
So, here’s the season review and Climax Series playoff preview.
1. Saitama Seibu Lions
The powerful team that ran with the PL lead all season backed into clinching the PL crown while losing 7 straight because 2nd place Orix was also in a losing skid. The team will be without GG Sato (105GP 432PA 30 2B 21HR 302/368/546) in the playoffs. GG was invaluable in the first half of the season until his Olympic blunder (though, he was playing out of position) and subsequent injury. Luckily for the Lions, they have a capable replacement in Taketoshi Goto who blossomed in GG’s absence with 49GP 184PA 14 2B 12HR 301/370/602. The big time slugging team just fell shy of 200 homeruns with 198 (in a 144 game season!), significant contributions coming from Takeya Nakamura’s breakout 46 homers, Hiram Bocachica’s 20HR in just 78 games, shortstop Hiroyuki Nakajima who had an MVP season with 124GP 556PA 32 2B 21HR 331/410/527, and Craig Brazell’s 27 homers (though with a blackhole 294 OBP). The team struggled in September with a 9-15 record, but has a couple of weeks to prepare for their playoff appearance on October 17th and hopefully will be back in form by then, and the one game and home field advantages should help. But if the shutdown pitching of Fighters win the first round of the playoffs, the Lions will have a tough task at their hands, as pitching and defense are paramount in the playoffs, and slugging not so much.
2. Orix Buffaloes
The surprise team of the season, as most people had written them off far out of the playoff picture in their preseason predictions. American manager Terry Collins resigned in May with a 21-28 record, since then interim manager Daijiro Oishi directed the team to a great 54-40-1 (.574) record. The team definitely has more momentum than the Lions at the moment finishing off the season by sweeping the Lions in a 2 game series and capping it off with a win against the lowly Hawks. The Buffs rely on the power bats of NPB veterans Alex Cabrera (37yo 36HR 315/394/593) and Tuffy Rhodes (40yo 40HR 277/394/583). Word in the clubhouse is that Oishi had much better relationships with the sluggers than Collins, and they performed much better with the new manager after season opening slumps. Pitching on this team isn’t shabby either with the unheralded four Satoshi Komatsu (172.1IP 2.51ERA 15-3 3holds), Chihiro Kaneko (165IP 3.98ERA 10-9), Shogo Yamamoto (154.2IP 3.38ERA 10-6 2holds) and Kazuki Kondo (149IP 3.44ERA 10-7) anchoring the rotation. The Buffs will be a formidable opponent at home in the first round of the playoffs against the Fighters, as the only difference is in Darvish (though that’s a big difference) but the Fighters have absolutly no power and Rhodes and Cabrera can win the series for them in the non-Darvish games.
3. Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters
This low scoring team is built for its cavernous home, the Sapporo Dome, and rightly so as the team’s recent playoff success topped by being the Japan Series and Asia Series champions in 2006. The Fighters are, of course, led by the best pitcher in Japan in Yu Darvish (200.2IP despite going to the Olympics! 10CG 208K 1.88ERA 16-4). But one man can’t win a best of 3 series, and the rest of their pitching staff is not spectacular with Ryan Glynn (3.64ERA), Brian Sweeney (3.48ERA), Masaru Takeda (2.96ERA), and Shugo Fujii (3.25ERA) for getting to pitch half their games in a pitcher’s paradise. The Fighters hit a league low 82 homers during the season, but time and again over the years they’ve shown that they can win closely fought games, so as long as the team can hold a lead to its shutdown closer Micheal Nakamura (2.14ERA 46.1IP 28SV) the team will be able to win in the playoffs (reliable setup man Takeda Hisashi with ERAs in the 2s the last two seasons has been rather hittable this season with 4.40ERA). The power will be supplied by Kensuke Tanaka (297/379/451 32 2B), Atsunori Inaba (301/380/513 25 2B 20HR), and Terrmel Sledge (289/361/473). Hmm.. looking at this, I think the Fighters can take the first round of the playoffs against the Buffaloes. All they have to do is win one of the non-Darvish games and both teams equally rely on just a few power bats that can mightily swing the series.
4. Chiba Lotte Marines
Bobby Valentine’s team finished just half a game out of the playoffs in the fierce battle that lasted until the end of the season. The gaping hole in relief left open by the departures of Yabuta (Kansas City), Fujita (Yomiuri), and Kobayashi (Cleveland) were nicely filled in with Yusuke Kawasaki (3.00ERA 29holds), Brian Sikorski (2.23ERA 13holds), and the emergence of Tadahiro Ogino (2.45ERA 30SV) as the team’s closer. The team wasn’t short on power either with Shoitsu Ohmatsu (499SLG), Toshiaki Imae (509SLG), Jose Ortiz (454SLG from 2B), and Tasuku Hashimoto (404OBP and 536SLG as a catcher!). The team just fell short. Better luck next year, Bobby.
5. Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles
This mystery team posted a positive run differential all season but struggled to put together a winning season and was removed from the playoff race early in the summer. I’m sure losing their closer Fukumori (Texas) didn’t help, but the team needs more help in relief so that it can win close games, even though Tsuyoshi Kawagishi (1.94ERA 55.2IP) and Kanehisa Arime (2.05ERA 44IP) both put up impressive numbers in relief. As long as 40 year old slugger Takeshi Yamasaki’s performance (276/372/471) doesn’t fall off a cliff, the team should be able to expect better things next season. Hisashi Iwakuma had an incredible season (1.87ERA 5CG 201.2IP 21-4, a definite Sawamura (Japanese Cy Young) frontrunner along with Darvish) considering how incompetent his teammates were.
6. Fukuoka Softbank Hawks
The living legend Sadaharu Oh’s team was in playoff contention until late summer, then had a disastrous Sept-Oct (6-21!) and ended up finishing at the bottom of the standings, even losing the final game for Oh in a “sayonara” walk-off fashion to nearly futile Eagles. 35 year old Nobuhiko Matsunaka’s slip in performance over the last several years (2004-1.179OPS, 2005-1.075, 2006-.981, 2007-.798, 2008-.871) is a concern as he’s not getting any younger. Fellow slugger Hiroki Kokubo is even older at 37, Hitoshi Tamura is always battling injuries, so the only bright hope is the up and coming third baseman Nobuhiro Matsuda (279/322/468), his lack of ability to draw walks is concerning but he’s still 25. On the pitching side, Toshiya Sugiuchi had a great season (2.66ERA 196IP) and Ohtonari had a solid season (3.12ERA 155.2IP) but highly touted rookie Shota Ohba had a disastrous campaign (5.42ERA 78IP 14HR), he’ll have to cut down on the number of homers given up to improve his performance.
Posted in 02_English, baseball, information, MLB, NPB, opinion, statistics | Tagged: bobby valentine, buffaloes, chiba, climax series, CS, darvish, eagles, fighters, Fukuoka, golden eagles, hawks, hokkaido, lions, lotte, marines, nippon-ham, orix, pacific league, pl, playoffs, rakuten, saitama, seibu, softbank, tohoku | 5 Comments »
Posted by simon c on 2008 June 15日 Sunday
A comment I made at the great new Tokyo Yakult Swallows blog was rather lengthy so I think it deserves it’s own post here. I’m still kinda hung over from last night, so it’s just reprinted 😛 Hatakeyama is a 26 year old slugger currently batting cleanup for the Swallows and is sporting a handsome .429 OBP and .500 SLG right now, and this is no accident.
It’s great to see Hatakeyama doing well with the big club. He’s been steadily improving in the minors, OPSing about .800, .850, then 1.100(!) in the minors over the past 3 seasons. He’s entering his prime years as well, so we can expect continued success, hopefully (unless the big league pitchers find an exploitable hole in his swing, but he’s always been patient and has great plate discipline, so things are looking good).
I think being drafted out of high school is tough because NPB only has a single tier minor league system, so these young kids don’t get to compete and develop against players with similar experience and skill level, but instead have to compete against career minor leaguers and rehabbing 1-gun players (taking valuable playing time away from them too).
Bobby Valentine’s idea of forming a 3-gun league was too grand (especially since most NPB clubs themselves aren’t designed to turn a profit, let alone their 2-gun minor league teams), but loaning some players to the independent leagues seems like a feasible idea if the NPB brass have learned to become more flexible in recent years (a sliver of hope). I’m sure many potential NPB players have been wasted away because they were drafted out of high school and couldn’t get proper training and game experience that suits their age and skills.
Posted in 02_English, baseball, information, NPB, opinion, tokyo | Tagged: bobby valentine, hatakeyama, swallows, yakult | 1 Comment »
Posted by simon c on 2008 June 3日 Tuesday
Another busy week, so a short poster here. This interleague week’s day off was Monday. We have completed the first 2 weeks of interleague play now.
1. Hanshin Tigers(1) 34-17-1 .667
6-4 against PL teams, most importantly winning both games against PL leading Lions at home in Koshien. It’ll be interesting to see how they’ll fare in the return trip, but this definitely cemented the Tigers place at the top of this ranking.
2. Saitama Seibu Lions(3) 34-21-1 .618
Lost both games to the Tigers (though took the other cats to extra innings in the second game), but split the pair of games against the Dragons at home. 76 homeruns in 56 games is still far outpacing the next best homerest NPB team Dragons with 50 in 53 games and Buffaloes with 46 in 57 games. Bocachica with his amazing .997 OPS is still hitting 9th in the order, because the team’s still winning and pro athletes tend to be superstitious (they started him off hitting 9th when he first came back from the minors, understandably). 5-5 in interleague so far. Brazell continues to suck hard in the middle of the order with a .263 OBP and .416 SLG (and he started off the year scorching hot too!), there’s absolutely no justification for continuing to let him hit in the 4 spot… other than superstition.
3. Chunichi Dragons(2) 28-22-3 .560
4-6 in interleague competition so far, slowly but steadily falling behind the Tigers in the CL standings and in this ranking as well. Split its games against the Lions, but lost both games to the Fighters, it’s never a good sign when you give up 11 runs to the weakest hitting club in the nation.
4. Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles(4) 29-26 .527
7-3 in interleague, the team is starting to play up to its Pythagorean expectations (248 – 195 RS – RA), this team is for real. Surprisingly, they’re getting all this run scoring (2nd in PL) done while hitting by far the least homeruns in the league at 26.
5. Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters(5) 32-25-1 .561
Team continues to defy Mr. Pythagoras (197 – 192 RS – RA). With the team having played 40% of its game, this is probably real too (again), a repeat of last season. The ability to win low scoring games favours the team in the postseason as well, so I suppose I could/should rank them higher… oh, another 7-3 team in interleague here.
6. Fukuoka Softbank Hawks(7) 30-28 .517
7-3 in interleague. Trailing the Eagles by only half a game, the battle for the final playoff berth in the PL is interesting too. Though this team’s propensity of giving up runs (242 RA is by far the worst among the top 4 PL teams) means they should be further back.
7. Hiroshima Toyo Carp(10) 23-25-2 .479
6-4 against PL teams. The team’s winning again, doing a good job of keeping the Giants at bay.
8. Tokyo Yomiuri Giants(7) 25-28-1 .472
5-5 interleague record so far. Sunk below the poor Carp in the CL standings though. The team of high rollers continue to sputter along, making it a 3 horse race for 3rd place.
9. Tokyo Yakult Swallows(6) 22-28 .440
Struggling, with a 3-7 record against PL teams. Guiel’s posting a pedestrian .734 OPS, but his BA of .216 is by far the lowest amongst all qualifying CL batters and is acting as a black hole in the lineup. He struck out twice in key plate appearances late in the game that I went to see. He needs to start hitting, and with Aoki back in the lineup, the team has better potential to get back into the playoff race.
11. Chiba Lotte Marines(9) 24-34 .414
Woes continue with 3-7 record in interleague which brought them all the way to the bottom of the PL standings. Can’t decide if Bobby’s Marines are worse than the Buffaloes, but they’ve definitely have sunken to the bottom of the heap.
11. Orix Buffaloes(11) 25-32 .439
Hey, 5-5 against the CL, not bad, not bad at all. And managed to climb above the slumping Marines in the PL standings to boot.
12. Yokohama BayStars(12) 15-35-1 .300
Exactly .300! 2-8 against PL teams, so far so bad, as expected.
Posted in 02_English, baseball, information, NPB, opinion, Sabermetrics | Tagged: baystars, bobby valentine, bocachica, brazell, buffaloes, carp, central league, chiba, cl, eagles, Evil Empire, fighters, Fukuoka, giants, guiel, hanshin, hawks, Hiroshima, hokkaido, lions, lotte, marines, nippon-ham, norichika aoki, OBP, OPS, orix, pacific league, pl, power rankings, rakuten, saitama, seibu, SLG, softbank, swallows, tigers, tohoku, yakult, yokohama, yomiuri | 2 Comments »
Posted by simon c on 2008 May 19日 Monday
Yeah, I keep on changing the title format as well, shoot me 😛
1. Hanshin Tigers(1) 28-13-1 .683
Very strong hold on 1st place in CL. With setup man Jeff Williams back from injury, the invincible JFK relief trio (with Kubota, and closer and fireballer Fujikawa) is back together for the first time since opening day. This means that starters really only need to pitch 6 solid innings to give the team a chance to win. Combined this with Akahoshi, Arai, Toritani, and Kanemoto being 1, 2, 4, and 5 in the CL OBP rankings means that this team deserves its record and ranking.
2. Chunichi Dragons(2) 24-16-3 .600
Similar formula as the Tigers with solid pitching (2.79 team ERA good for 2nd after Hanshin’s 2.69) and hitters who get on base (Dragons have 5-10th place locked up in CL OBP rankings with Ibata, Woods, Morino, Wada, and Nakamura, respectively). The team’s Pythagorean expectations are similar to the Tigers, and its bullpen just as effective. So it shouldn’t be a surprise if the Dragons manage to narrow the 3.5 game gap with the Tigers during the upcoming 24 game (2 games each, home and away) interleague period.
3. Saitama Seibu Lions(3) 29-16-1 .644
This team can sure hit. It’s sluggers have launched 63 homers in 46 games, far outpacing the 2nd place teams which are the Dragons and Giants both with 45. The PL SLG leaderboard features G.G. Sato on top with .615, and Nakajima and Nakmura in 3rd and 9th. Hiram Bocachica’s been playing amazing since his short reconditioning stint down in 2-gun, he now sports 10 HR and 1.086 OPS in only 26 games. He really should replace Craig Brazell in the middle of the lineup, as this man has no plate discipline, walking only 7 times in 198 PA for a miserable .278 OBP. I reckon the league’s already figured out that you don’t have to throw strikes to him. Since he never displayed any plate discipline in Minor League Baseball, the chances of him suddenly developing this skill here is virtually unlikely, and it’ll likely be his downfall. (Bocachica’s still hitting 9th(!) and that’s a travesty.)
4. Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles(4) 22-23 .489
This team can score runs too, with its 203 runs only trailing explosive Seibu’s 229. With 166 RA, the team should have a winning record, as amazingly as that sounds for this recent expansion franchise.
5. Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters(7) 25-22 .532
Smoke and mirrors or a continuation of last year’s successful small ball? A 152 – 164 RS – RA has been helped by some offensive outbursts this month (finally).
6. Tokyo Yakult Swallows(6) 19-21 .475
Continues to play its near .500 ball, now with the crosstown rival Giants hot on their heels. Aaron Guiel’s continued troubles (his OPS is now down to .755) is worrisome as he’s the team’s lone pure power source. On the other hand, relievers Oshimoto (0 ER in 20 IP!), Matsuoka (0.56 ERA in 17.2 IP), and closer Lim (0.56 ERA and 12 saves in 16 IP) have been shutdown dominant. And starters led by Ishikawa (2.63 ERA in 61.2 IP) have been holding their own.
7. Tokyo Yomiuri Giants(10) 20-23-1 .465
As expected, the Evil Empire have finally started hitting, and winning a little more accordingly. The team’s ugly BA in the .230s have been brought up to .250 in the last few weeks, but it’s team OBP is still a CL worst .299. Expect the fight for 3rd and final playoff spot against the Swallows to continue, as this team’s not in same class with the Tigers and Dragons. Especially with regulars like Lee and Uehara missing.
7. Fukuoka Softbank Hawks(8 ) 23-25 .479
Continuing to plod along like this (similar to the Giants) with 191 – 210 RS – RA, the Hawks are currently fundamentally weaker than the Eagles.
9. Chiba Lotte Marines(5) 21-27 .438
The Marines are in a free fall, as Bobby V’s team has gone 4-13 since we last checked in. Probably not what the manager had in mind as he was featured in a student made documentary about him on ESPN.
10. Hiroshima Toyo Carp(9) 17-21-1 .447
Better pitching (3.35 ERA is 3rd in CL) than the Giants, but .364 SLG is worst in CL and the Carp play in an extreme hitter’s park!
11. Orix Buffaloes(11) 20-27 .426
The always injured greybeard slugger Kiyohara hit a homerun… in the minors. Nothing new here, move along.
12. Yokohama BayStars(12) 13-27-1 .325
Yay, the BayStars brought their winning percentage above .300!
I plan on alternating power rankings and a more sabermetric individual performance reviews every other week, unless work or real life puts up too much interference.
Posted in 02_English, baseball, information, NPB, opinion, Sabermetrics, statistics | Tagged: akahoshi, arai, bobby valentine, bocachica, brazell, buffaloes, carp, central league, chiba, cl, eagles, ESPN, Evil Empire, fighters, Fukuoka, giants, golden, guiel, hanshin, hawks, Hiroshima, hokkaido, ibata, jeff williams, jfk, kanemoto, kiyohara, lions, lotte, marines, morino, nippon-ham, OBP, OPS, orix, pacific league, pl, power rankings, rakuten, saitama, seibu, SLG, softbank, swallows, tigers, tohoku, yakult, yokohama baystars, yomiuri | Leave a Comment »