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  • Posts Tagged ‘Fukuoka’

    2008 PL season review and playoff preview

    Posted by japanstats 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

    76-64-4 (.543)

    RS-RA: 715-626

    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

    75-68-1 (.524)

    RS-RA: 637-605

    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 

    73-69-2 (.514)

    RS-RA: 533-541

    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

    73-70-1 (.510)

    RS-RA: 662-648

    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

    65-76-3 (.461)

    RS-RA: 627-607

    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

    64-77-3 (.454)

    RS-RA: 556-641

    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.

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    Posted in 02_English, baseball, information, MLB, NPB, opinion, statistics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

    John Koronka to Orix?

    Posted by japanstats on 2008 June 27日 Friday

    Yeah, well, I didn’t know about the guy either, but Orix conitinue to scrape the bottom of the barrell with their attempts to sign some import pitchers (some tryouts earlier in the season didn’t work out, if I remember correctly). Koronka’s career minor league stats are 4.36 ERA, 6.75 K/9, and 3.94 BB/9. His cumulative MLB record from 2005-07 (mostly accumulated in 2006 when he was part of the Texas Rangers rotation for part of the season) is an avert your eyes 6.02 ERA, 4.35 K/9, and 3.58 BB/9 (though with a small sample size warning of 151 IP). If he manages to earn some playing time with the big club I expect his numbers to fall somewhere between his minor league and MLB numbers, as generally NPB is regarded to be about AAAA level.

    The Buffaloes continue to grasp at straws after their Jeremy Powell fiasco (JP officially signed with the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks while Orix management were twiddling their thumbs with an informal offer), but then again what can you expect from talent that’s available midseason, and also the Orix bumbling management. But, there is a chance that Japanese waters suit Koronka so well that he succeeds (or at least be useful) in NPB. So, if he’s a cheap signing (likely will be) then I guess it’s a low risk scenario (though I have about 95% doubt that it’ll pan out).

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

    NPB Power Rankings 08.6.3

    Posted by japanstats 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: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

    2008.5.27 NPB Update

    Posted by japanstats on 2008 May 27日 Tuesday

    We’re a week into interleague play now, and that changes the day off to Tuesday, so that gives us an opportunity to look at some overlooked numbers in baseball, especially NPB.

    Def Eff
    守備効率

    F%
    守備率

    FIP

    ERA
    防御率

    W%
    勝率

    CL
    セリーグ

               

    0.685

    0.989

    4.13

    4.49

    0.304

    BayStars
    横  浜

    0.689

    0.988

    4.00

    3.56

    0.477

    Carp
    広  島

    0.688

    0.990

    3.18

    2.87

    0.587

    Dragons
    中  日

    0.669

    0.988

    3.51

    4.19

    0.49

    Giants
    巨  人

    0.713

    0.989

    4.24

    3.55

    0.457

    Swallows
    ヤクルト

    0.693

    0.991

    3.15

    2.73

    0.681

    Tigers
    阪  神

     In CL we see that defensive competency is actually keeping the Giants and Swallows closer in the standings than they really should be, as the Giants have better pitching but worse ERA due to having the worst defenders in the league (no big surprise here for a team that is always assembled full of sluggers).

    DER
    守備効率

    F%
    守備率

    FIP

    ERA
    防御率

    W%
    勝率

    PL
    パリーグ

               

    0.678

    0.988

    4.19

    4.49

    0.415

    Buffaloes
    オリックス

    0.697

    0.987

    3.36

    3.28

    0.529

    Eagles
    楽  天

    0.709

    0.984

    3.79

    2.94

    0.547

    Fighters
    日本ハム

    0.682

    0.985

    3.61

    3.90

    0.481

    Hawks
    ソフトバンク

    0.699

    0.984

    3.63

    3.22

    0.627

    Lions
    西  武

    0.679

    0.985

    3.82

    4.26

    0.407

    Marines
    ロッテ

    In the PL, Fighters have great pitchers, but it’s their defense that makes them a winning team (with league leading ERA) despite their pathetic offense (team OBP of .300 is by far the worst in the league). Eagles are for real, with their solid pitching, defense, and league leading .350 OBP and run scoring prowess, they should actually be winning more games than they currently are. Look for them to solidify their playoff position in the coming weeks.

    Read the rest of this entry »

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

    NPB Power Rankings 08.05.19

    Posted by japanstats 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: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

    Shinjo throws out a 90 mph ceremonial first pitch!

    Posted by japanstats on 2008 May 19日 Monday

    Fukuoka Softbank Hawks 3 – 4 Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters

    18 May 2008 Fukuoka Yahoo! Dome

    Former Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighter Tsuyoshi Shinjo showed off his strong arm in an off the charts ceremonial first “pitch”. In this event to promote Tokyo’s bid for the 2016 Summer Olympics, the 36 year old Shinjo made his first appearance on a baseball field since his retirement in 2006. He pitched a no holds barred ceremonial “at bat” against his former understudy, and Fighters leadoff man, Hichori Morimoto. After going to a 2-2 count, Shinjo got Morimoto to ground out to the shortstop. Of the 4 pitches that were measured by a speed gun, the first pitch clocked in at 145 km/h (90 mph). “I thought I threw a little harder” remarked Shinjo playfully, as the crowd was wowed. Wearing the full uniform of his hometown Fukuoka Softbank Hawks, and in an incredible show of fan service, he threw in the actual gold glove that he won for his 2006 Golden Glove award into the crowd after completing this big task. He was exhilarated, saying “moriagattabai!” (“that got the crowd going!”) in the local Hakata dialect.

    (Shinjo’s done it again! He never ceases to surprise fans and casual observers alike, even well into his retirement. I’m not sure if a former player has ever donned the full uniform of a team he had never played for, including cleats, and threw an entire at bat as a ceremonial “first pitch”. Probably a world first by the man who loves to surprise.) Here’s the video:

    Original article (Japanese):

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in 02_English, 03_Translations (英訳ポートフォリオ), baseball, culture, information, NPB, opinion | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

    Oh Day

    Posted by japanstats on 2008 May 6日 Tuesday

    The living legend and current Fukuoka Softbank Hawks manager Sadaharu Oh gets featured in two prominent American publications.

    SI is doing the best baseball players per number, and they chose Oh over the Wizard of Oz for No.1.

    Oh, baby, was he good. In 22 seasons as the Yomiuri Giants’ first baseman, Oh hit 868 home runs, 106 more than Barry Bonds. He led the Japan League in home runs 15 times.

    Runner-up: Ozzie Smith

    And the New York Times also has an interview piece with Oh where he instinctively calculates/makes sabermetrically correct translation of his power numbers had he played in the majors, interesting.

    “It’s not that we haven’t shown our power yet, we simply don’t have it yet,” Oh said. “When I watch the home run derby at the M.L.B. All-Star Game, I can’t believe the way they launch the ball out of the park like a tee shot in golf. Japanese don’t have the power to do that. Diet has a lot to do with it, but that’s changing.”

    Although Oh hit more home runs than Barry Bonds, the major league career leader with 762, Oh said he did not do so with power.

    “I had strong legs that would have made me a good sumo wrestler and I used that to my advantage, but my home runs were achieved by technique,” Oh said. “I competed well with the Americans in those good-will-type exhibition games they used to bring here with M.L.B. all-stars, and I always thought if I had a chance to go to America, I could probably hit close to 30 home runs in a season. But again, it would have been with technique.”

    As a player, Oh could compute his batting average as he sprinted toward first base. He still uses his skill with an imaginary abacus on the bench.

    “It keeps the mind sharp,” he said.

     

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

    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

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    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

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    2008 Pacific League preview (NPB)

    Posted by japanstats on 2008 March 19日 Wednesday

    Since Japanese baseball sites lack in depth statistical data and analysis, and because I don’t have much time, this is more or less just a poorly written cursory glance at the upcoming 2008 Pacific League season in NPB.

    Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters
    2007 Record: 79 – 60 – 5 (.568)
    2007 RS – RA: 526 – 489
    Coming: Shugo Fujii, Hajime Miki, Terrmel Sledge
    Going: Satoru Kanemura, Yoshitaka Hashimoto, Takehiko Oshimoto, Keizoh Kawashima

    Unlike last year when the team faced the great unknown with the departure of their best hitter (Michihiro “Guts” Ogasawara to the Giants) and their wacky team leader Shinjo (retirement), the Fighters go into 2008 defending their second consecutive PL crown without losing any significant pieces from their roster. In fact, the team has added a major league calibre bat in the terrifically named Terrmel Sledge. But it looks like he has a thing for pitchers parks, as he has gone from Washington’s JFK to San Diego’s Petco to now the Fighters’ cavernous Sapporo Dome. He has hit significantly better on the road than at his pitchers park homes in each of his past 3 seasons (a difference of at least .180 in OPS), but his move to the pitcher friendly PL instead of the hitter friendly CL may do him in. It will be interesting to see.

    The Fighters can still finish in 1st without significant contribution from Sledge, as long as he’s not dragging the team down, as shown in last year’s championship run thanks to its superior pitching (and probably defence), despite being the lowest scoring team in the league. The value of airtight pitching and defence surely increases in the postseason, though at the same time it can be easy to see difficulties for the Fighters if the offence remains last in the league, even though pitching and defence can repeat its success of allowing the fewest runs in the league two seasons running. The team outperformed its Pythagorean expectation of .536 (77-67) but that is not a surprise with its strong tactical, pitching, and defensive games in a pitchers park. This is a team that won the league while scoring the fewest runs, after all.

    Chiba Lotte Marines
    2007 Record: 76 – 61 – 7 (.555)
    2007 RS – RA: 629 – 525
    Coming: Brian Sikorski, Winston Abreu
    Going: Yasuhiko Yabuta, Masahide Kobayashi, Soichi Fujita

    2 seasons removed from the glorious 2005 Japan Series championship under the guidance of Bobby Valentine, the Marines have dismantled their famed YFK relief corps of Yabuta, Fujita, and Kobayashi with the first man going to the Kansas City Royals via free agency and the second going to the Yomiuri Giants via untendered contract and the last man going to the Cleveland Indians also via FA. Out of the 3, Yabuta may be missed the most as Kobayashi had become known for creating unnecessary drama in the 9th and his ERA climbed to 3.61 after 2 seasons of about 2.5, and Fujita completely lost it last season with a 12.64 ERA over 31 appearances (logging only 15.2 IP) and reports out of Giants camp this season indicates that he still hasn’t found it.

    The two newcomers of significance are Brian Sikorski and Winston Abreu. The former is a known commodity in Japan and is expected to be productive providing about a 3.00 ERA in relief, and Winston Abreu figures to be similarly effective if he can successfully translate his recent AAA game that gave him 2.48 and 1.20 ERA in the last two seasons (and not the his 6.81 ERA in limited major league service).

    Solid pitching is led by Yoshihisa Naruse (an amazing 16-1 and 1.82 ERA) and Hiroyuki Kobayashi (2 consecutive seasons of 10+ wins and ~2.7 ERA). The offense is forced to rely on Julio Zuleta, Jose Ortiz, and Benny Agbayani for power. Ortiz came was signed in June last season to cover for Zuleta’s injury and it will be beneficial to the team to have them both in the lineup, even if all 3 players are only good for about .800 OPS.

    The Pythagorean expectation of the 2007 club was .589 (85-59) so the team underperformed their expectations slightly and is fully capable of making a repeat visit to the playoffs, the question is, are they capable of winning the pennant?

    Fukuoka Softbank Hawks
    2007 Record: 73 – 66 – 5 (.525)
    2007 RS – RA: 575 – 508
    Coming: Shota Ohba, Tetsuya Matoyama, Jeremy Powell, Dennis Houlton, Michael Restovich
    Going:

    This is another team that underperformed their Pythagorean expectation in 2007 (.562, 81-63) and is fully capable of winning it all this year. The Hawks have a slew of arms and Ohba, the coveted first round draft pick won out of 6 teams, and Powell, somehow being punished for the continued incompetence of the Orix front office by being banned until June, will only add to their depth. Houlton (3.83 minor league ERA) and Restovich (.862 minor league OPS) are rather uninspiring, but the team is capable of advancing far in the postseason without them.

    The parade of arms continues with ace materials Nagisa Aragaki (7-10 and 3.60 ERA after a 13-5 and 3.01 ERA in 2006 from this 2003 second round pick), Tsuyoshi Wada (12+ wins each in the past 3 seasons, along with sub-3.00 ERAs in the last 2 seasons, 1st round pick in 2003), Kazumi Saitoh (fantastic 2006 with 18-5 and 1.75 ERA, battled injuries but still posted 2.74 ERA in 72.1 IP last season, had off season shoulder surgery) and Toshiya Sugiuchi (recently had 2 sub-2.5 ERA 15+ win seasons sandwiched by a 7-5 and 3.53 ERA season). Though, Saitoh and Wada are coming off surgeries so whether they’ll return to form and when that’ll be are some questions.

    The offense has some definite question marks. The fragile Hitoshi Tamura lost his power stroke somewhere along the way from Yokohama to Fukuoka. But this should not come as a surprise when a player moves from one of the most extreme hitters parks to one of the most pitcher friendly stadiums. Nobuhiko Matsunaka saw a huge drop off in his power numbers (his OPS since 2004 are 1.179, 1.075, .981, .798) he’ll need a rebound to be a useful useful on firstbase. But having registered his lowest BA/OBP/SLG since his rookie season, pitchers may have figured out that they can now challenge him without paying too high a price. Hiroki Kokubo had a revival season hitting .277/.338/.494 in 2007 after returning home to the Hawks from the Giants where he hit .256/.325/.458 in his last season in hitter friendly Tokyo Dome and CL. But his numbers still can’t hide the decline that comes with his age, 36.

    Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles
    2007 Record: 67 – 75 – 2 (.472)
    2007 RS – RA: 575 – 676
    Coming:
    Going: Kazuo Fukumori

    The Eagles have been making steady improvements ever since joining the league in 2005, being forced to construct their roster out of the Kintetsu-Orix merger scrapheap (winning percentage over the last 3 seasons are .281, .356, and .472 and the team finished out of the cellar in respectable 4th place in only its 3rd season). The team should get better as sophomores Masahiro Tanaka (11-7, 3.82ERA, 9.47 K/9, and 3.28 BB/9 in 186.1 IP) and Satoshi Nagai (7-7, 3.61ERA, 6.94 K/9, and 3.61 BB/9 in 127 IP) both had solid rookie seasons in 2007. If former aces Hisashi Iwakuma (5-5, 3.40ERA, 8.4 K/9, and 2.3 BB/9 in 90 IP) and Yasuhiro Ichiba (5.37 ERA in 2007 in 58.2 IP after 4.37 ERA in 193.2 IP the year before) can regain their health, along with the growth of former Kintetsu 1st round high school pick Hideaki Asai (8-8, 3.12 ERA, 6.67 K/9, and 2.49 BB/9 in 144.1 IP, his first 100+ IP season), the Eagles should have a solid rotation.

    Closer Fukumori was signed away by the Texas Rangers, but the 31 year old struggled to a 4.75 ERA 17 save season in 2007, so he may not be missed. It will be interesting to see how much the 39 year old Takeshi Yamasaki will see a drop off in his numbers after his best season in 11 years with .261/.359/.577 and 43 HR 108 RBI in 2007 (his best year since 1996 performance of 39 HR 107 RBI and .322/.382/.625), a realistic expectation might be something north of .800 OPS as he has fluctuated .784, .690, .867, .764, and .936 over the last 5 seasons in the PL (last 3 with the Eagles).

    Saitama Seibu Lions
    2007 Record: 66 – 76 – 2 (.465)
    2007 RS – RA: 564 – 585
    Coming: Kazuhisa Ishii, Shinya Okamoto, Hitoshi Taneda, Mattew Kinney, Craig Brazell, Hiram Bocachica
    Going: Kazuki Fukuchi, Alex Cabrera, Kazuhiro Wada

    The club has added the prefectural name of Saitama to their name starting this season, along with other local activities, in an effort to lay better roots down in the local community.

    Lions lost the big bats of Cabrera and Wada, even though they’re power numbers have been declining as the greybeards aged in their late 30s, their bats were most productive ones in the lineup and their .370+ OBP and near .500 SLG will be missed. The team has attempted to plug these holes with the signings of Brazell and Bocachica. The former is absolutely crushed AAA pitching to the tune of .307/.337/.605 but he lacks plate discipline and will get into deep funks during the PL seasons while adjusting to Japanese pitching. Bocachica OPSed at over 1.000 in his last 2 AAA seasons, and knows how to get on base, so he carries more hope of becoming the next Cabrera. But of course, this depends on if they manage to adjust to Japanese baseball, and that remains to be seen.

    Seibu also added a serviceable league average arm and veteran presence in Ishii who will dependably eat up innings. And depending on the performance of the imports, a breakout season by Takeya “Okawari” Nakamura (22 HR and .603 SLG in 2005, .359 OBP in 2006) will be required if the team wants to contend for a playoff spot.

    Orix Buffaloes
    2007 Record: 62 – 77 – 5 (.446)
    2007 RS – RA: 536 – 585
    Coming: Osamu Hamanaka, Katsuaki Furuki, Alex Cabrera, Eric Junge
    Going: Tetsuya Matoyama, Hiroaki Ohnishi

    The Buffaloes remain the sole truly corporate team in the league, not embracing the local hometown spirits displayed by the remaining PL teams. However, this befits the owner Miyauchi, who is responsible, along with reviled Giants owner Watanabe, for trying to contract NPB down to 10 teams in an effort of cost cutting without putting in significant efforts to better market the product first to increase revenue, a small minded man.

    The aging squad added oft-injured Hamanaka (collapsed to .598 OPS after .845 in 2006) and Cabrera (steady decline in OPS over the last three seasons with 1.013, .968, .889, but he should still be useful). The club signed Junge, who is totally uninspiring with a career minor league line of 4.11 ERA, 6.86 K/9, and 3.24 BB/9, but he is a true band-aid late signing after the team had botched the Powell contract and lost him to the Hawks.

    Mamoru Kishida, Yoshihisa Hirano, Chihiro Kaneko, and Tom Davey provide a pretty solid pitching core, and the cleanup of Greg LaRocca (29 doubles, 27 HR, and .891 OPS last season), Dusty Rhodes (42 HR and 1.006 OPS after being out of NPB for a year), and Cabrera will instil fear into any pitcher. Come to think of it, this team can improve this season.

    With no significant additions or subtractions to their lineups, we’ll probably see the same 3 teams in the playoffs again in 2008. That’ll be the Fighters, Hawks, and Marines, though the order in which they finish will probably depend a lot more on injuries, breakout performances, and the number of players over- or underperforming their expectations, than the strength of these teams on paper. The growth of the Eagles is intriguing, but now that they have a good arsenal of arms, they’ll need to start acquiring quality bats to compete with the big boys. The Lions and Buffaloes are relying on stop gap veterans, both domestic and imports, to bolster their teams, not very encouraging, but it looks like the Buffaloes improved more and might battle the Eagles for 4th. In retrospect, since this is a pitchers league, using ERA+ probably would’ve been a better indicator than being caught up with all the ERAs around or below 3.00, oh well, too late now, I don’t have time to re-research and rewrite 😛

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