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  • Posts Tagged ‘fujikawa’

    WBC Pitch f/x

    Posted by japanstats on 2009 March 21日 Saturday

    Some interesting WBC Pitch f/x articles for Japanese, Korean, and Cuban pitchers for their games pitched in MLB parks, these are normally data that are not seen or available, either in these pitchers home countries or in the US. The websites BeyondTheBoxscore and FanGraphs are doing a great job gathering and breaking down the data, so I’m just gonna link to them here (also for posterity since these articles are already getting buried under the usual barrage of MLB articles). All articles are interesting.

    Yu Darvish (Japan) – FanGraphs, BeyondTheBoxscore (satisfying all observers with his stuff)

    Hisashi Iwakuma (Japan) – FanGraphs (getting rave reviews for his pitch selection)

    Ryu Hyun-Jin (Korea) – FanGraphs

    Yoon Suk-Min (Korea) – BeyondTheBoxscore

    Felix (Venezuela), LaMura and Cody Cirillo (Italy, the latter with his 67mph “changeup”) – BeyondTheBoxscore 

    Cuban pitchers who pitched in their first game against Japan (from wild Chapman to Maya to Vladimir Garcia) – BeyondTheBoxscore

    Wily Cuban veterans Vera and Lazo (and his 57mph somthing) in their elimination game against Japan – BeyondTheBoxscore

    HardballTimes also has analyzed Pitch f/x data from Round 1 and Round 2 featuring pitchers in the Toronto Round (Yoel Hernandez, DiFelice, Mestri, Cillo), and the 2nd Round in Florida (Leon Boyd, who pitched himself into the Toronto Blue Jays organization, congrats!) and San Diego (Chapman, Vladimir Garcia, Oliver Perez).

    Added: Hisashi Iwakuma and Kyuji Fujikawa (Japan), and Bong Jung-Keun and Ryu Hyun-Jin (Korea) – Hardball Times

    WBC pitch speeds, they were generally slower than during the regular season showing that pitchers are not ready in March, not a big surprise. The pitcher with the most decline in velocity was Matsuzaka, which is kinda surprising considering he was training from January – BeyondTheBoxscore

    The Dutch-Canadian pitcher and recent Toronto Blue Jays signee Leon Boyd – one, two

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

    WBC Opens

    Posted by japanstats on 2009 March 6日 Friday

    But Japan only beats China 4-0 (Japan Times) (box score).

    murata

    Some thoughts:

    • China’s definitely improving, their pitchers seemed much less like batting practice pitchers this time around, but their play on the field was still sloppy from time to time. Japanese baserunning was sloppy too though.
    • Darvish was pulled with less than 50 pitches so he’s eligible to pitch again in the Asia Round.. but unless he manages to gain command of some of his breaking pitches with the WBC ball, he’s not going to be too useful just with his fastball.
    • Murata bashed a homerun, and he’ll be useful in the Asia Round in the friendly confines of the Tokyo Dome, but his big swings aren’t gonna become homeruns in Petco Park and Dodger Stadium which are pitcher’s parks. Ideally I’d like to see Hara try Uchikawa at first and Ogasawara at third, but this probably won’t happen unless Murata is a total disaster, and with this homerun he’s secured third base for himself even if he’s useless once the team travels across the Pacific.
    • Nakajima and Fukudome showed great plate discipline, but they needed guys behind them to drive them in. Super free swinger Johjima also managed to draw a walk. Japan left 24(!) runners on base, so even though they had the same number of hits as the Chinese, the game wasn’t as close as the score indicated.
    • Ichiro went 0 for 5 and looked horrible at the plate. But then again he didn’t start hitting in 2006 until the games moved to the States, and he’s a notorious slow starter even in regular MLB seasons (he seems to really start hitting in June).
    • Kyuji Fujikawa closed out the game, but his fastball wasn’t up to his usual velocity. If he doesn’t gain velocity, he’ll be an easy target for the sluggers from the Americas (but not A-Rod).
    • Japan now awaits the winner of the Taiwan-Korea game tonight. Taiwan has a depleted roster with major leaguers and half the CPBL players missing (2 of 4 teams didn’t release the players). So, it should be Korea pulling through, but stranger things have happened in baseball (China pulling a fairy dust extra innings upset over Taiwan at the Beijing Olympics, for one).
    • Koreans are going to get to see WBC games on free TV thanks to a last minute deal between the rights holder and TV stations. Korea seems to take a similar approach to big ticket sporting events where multiple TV stations share broadcasting rights. This time around TV Asahi has exclusive rights for the Tokyo Round, and TBS has exclusive rights from round 2 to the finals (though pay sports channel J Sports will show all WBC games). In 2006, NTV was also in the mix, and it’s surprising that they’re not this time around considering that Yomiuri is a sponsor for the event and a group company.
    • If the over/under for tonight’s Korea-Taiwan attendance is 20,000, I’ll take under  😛

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

    Osaka-Toin Wins Summer Koshien!

    Posted by japanstats on 2008 August 19日 Tuesday

    Congratulations to Osaka-Toin who won this summer’s 90th Summer Koshien tournament in a more than dominating 17-0 crushing of Tokoha-Kikugawa of Shizuoka.

    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H
    大阪桐蔭 Osaka-Toin 4 0 1 0 1 6 2 0 3 17 21
    常葉菊川 Tokoha-Kikugawa 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 5

    Kikugawa started their injured ace Togari in a show of support even though he was barely throwing 120km/h (75mph) batting practice softies. It was painful to watch, but on this day, it didn’t matter who was pitching for Kikugawa, look at these ugly lines by each pitcher. Oh, and Toin’s Hagiwara hit homeruns in three straight games including this final, that’s a Koshien first or something as well.

    IP BF H SO BB ER
    回数 打者数 被安打 奪三振 四死球 自責点
    戸狩 聡希 3 18 9 1 1 5 Togari
    野島 大介 2(2/3) 18 7 2 2 2 Nojima
    萩原 大起 2(1/3) 11 4 0 1 2 Hagiwara
    浅川 将輝 0(2/3) 6 1 0 3 1 Asakawa
    戸狩 聡希 0(1/3) 1 0 0 0 0 Togari

    And Kikugawa’s powerful bats were shutout completely by Toin’s ace Fukushima who had pitched the majority of innings in all 6 games it took to win the championship, capping it off with an unnecessary shutout in the final even though he had pitched a complete game the previous day in the semifinal. Hope his arm doesn’t fall off.

    ———-

    And in Olympic baseball action Japan barely defeated Canada 1-0 on the back of Inaba homerun and more than solid pitching by Naruse (7IP 2H 0BB 10K 0R), as the lefty was pitted against the Canadian lineup featuring 8(!) lefties, and Hoshino’s plan worked perfectly as Fujikawa and Uehara shut the door in the last 2 innings with 1-2-3 innings. This is Canada’s 4th straight 1 run loss, and that’s gotta be heartbreaking, but the team has no plate discipline and seems to have serious problems laying off balls (very low number of walks and lots of strikeouts). While Japan’s problems have been the lack of clutch hitting which may or may not just be bad luck. Japan had runners on 2nd and 3rd with no outs late in the Korea game and came away with 0 runs, and the same lack of clutchness was on display against Canada late in the game again with a runner on 3rd and no outs.

    Korea’s had similarly difficult time scoring runs, and Cuba hasn’t been scoring boatloads either (except in the mercy rule win against the Dutch today), so this is a generally low scoring tournament so I guess the Japanese offense is not really an exception, maybe the Olympic baseball stadium is a pitcher’s park? USA and Japan look pretty set to grab the last 2 playoff positions, though Japan can’t cruise through tomorrow’s China game, as the upstarts have taken both the Taiwanese and Koreans to extra innings, beating the former. Taiwan lost a heartbreaker today against Korea as the team came back from an 8 run deficit to tie the game only to have Korea score the winning run in the 7th and shut them out for the rest of the game. Taiwan, and to a lesser degree Canada, being 1-4 at this point in the tournament is probably the biggest shocker, and fittingly these two teams face eachother on the final day of round robin play.

    Cuba 5-0

    Korea 5-0

    USA 3-2

    Japan 3-2

    Canada 1-4

    China 1-4

    Netherlands 1-4

    Taiwan 1-4

    Looking back at how the pitchers have been used, it doesn’t seem like Japan has a rotation set up. Maybe this is intentional, or maybe emergency measures because the team looked close to falling out of contention. Anyways, here were the starting pitchers so far.

    8.13 Darvish v Cuba (L)

    8.14 Wakui v Taiwan (W)

    8.15 Sugiuchi v Netherlands (W)

    8.16 Wada v Korea (L)

    8.17 off

    8.18 Naruse v Canada (W)

    8.19 ??? v China

    8.20 ??? v USA

    8.21 off

    8.22 Darvish(?) in Semifinal

    8.23 ??? in Medal game

    It seems impossible to predict the starting pitchers now, but a TV analyst (hope he had insider info) was saying Darvish in the Semifinal. We’ll see. Maybe we’ll see Darvish on a throw day tomorrow if Japan builds a big enough lead against China (IF that happens, Chinese managed to shut down both Taiwan and Korea, and the Japanese offense is equally anemic), I’m sure Hoshino will want him to face some live batters before the semis.

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

    Koshien Final and more Olympic Baseball

    Posted by japanstats on 2008 August 17日 Sunday

    Well, my team in Koshien, Okinawa’s Urasoe-Sho, got bombed out 9-4 in the semifinals by hard hitting Tokoha-Kikugawa (Shizuoka) based on their 9 run 2nd inning. The team had engineered 10 and 7 run innings to win their previous 2 games as well, showing the Japanese baseball world how big ball can be played and that, yes, you don’t have to always bunt over a runner every time. Kikugawa will face Osaka-Toin (Osaka) who also won comfortably 9-4 over Yokohama (South Kanagawa) in this final-worthy matchup. Toin has looked stronger as the tournament goes on, defeating better opponents with ever more ease. The finals will pit upstart Kikugawa against hometown Toin in what should be a slugfest (but will probably turn into a pitching duel against all expectations, as these things tend to do) at 12:30pm on Monday 18 August.

    Incompetently managed (both on and off the field) Japan also lost to Korea in Olympic baseball action (boxscore). A pretty resounding 5-3 defeat. I don’t even know where to start on this one, but I’ll list some of the shortcomings of Team Japan as managed by Senichi Hoshino (who has never won the Japan Series as manager, and indeed there might be a reason why).

    • Despite the limited 24 man roster (NPB uses an expansive 28 man roster), the team took injury question marks Kawasaki and Murata with them to Beijing. Nishioka’s injury on top of this didn’t help matters, as the team was down to 11 position players at full health for the Korea game (though Murata played).
    • This forced Hoshino’s hand and he started all glove no bat Araki at second and solid hitting catcher Satozaki at DH. These wouldn’t normally be bad decisions except he let Araki hit second even though he is by far the worst hitter on the team (classic old school baseball move). And for some unknown reason he, yet again, let incompetent Abe catch instead of the defensively superior Satozaki catch, and this cost the team a run when Abe’s errant throw to second scored a Korean run.
    • Hoshino also left pitchers in too long in the game, with pretty good relief corps, he should’ve pulled Wada earlier in the inning, and he has admitted to this mistake. And he also left reliever Iwase in for too long even though he is clearly more hittable this year and is not a shutdown reliever like he used to be (or like Fujikawa, who didn’t get to enter the game).

    Good news is that, despite Hoshino’s bumbling management, the team still has a decent chance of making medal rounds due to Canada always coming up just short (tough 1 run losses to Cuba, USA, and Korea), and Taiwan recording their first ever loss to China in pixy dust extra inning rules (China might be onto something though, as they managed to pull Korea into extra innings as well, though this time they lost 1-0). Korea and Cuba are both unbeaten at 4-0, but Cuba looks like the team to beat. Since Japan still has to play Canada, chances of both teams making it into medal rounds is slim to nil, considering that USA now has a relatively easy schedule having already played the 2 undefeated teams.

    Cuba 4-0

    Korea 4-0

    USA 2-2

    Japan 2-2

    Canada 1-3

    China 1-3

    Netherlands 1-3

    Taiwan 1-3

    This Kuricorder Quartet version of the Imperial March might sum up my feelings pretty well at the moment, after waking up with a hangover from an all you can drink birthday party on the day of those defeats.

    Posted in 02_English, baseball, high school, information, olympics, opinion | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 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 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 »