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    Guiel’s ceremonial at bat

    Posted by simon c on 2009 June 6日 Saturday

    Today, and of course he gets hit by the ceremonial first pitch, very Aaron  😛  He got hit by FC Tokyo striker Sota Hirayama, the Swallows and FC Tokyo have a working agreement.

    guiel

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

    Japan-Korea atmosphere videos

    Posted by simon c on 2009 March 13日 Friday

    The atmosphere at the Japan-Korea I went to see (Japan won 14-2 in 7 innings on the mercy rule, the first time either country’s done it to each other… of course, the Koreans came back 2 days later to shut down Japan 1-0 in its usual nail-biting fashion) was absolutely electric, probably the best sporting event atmosphere that I’ve been in.

    Here are some videos from that day (7 Mar 2009, Tokyo round of 2009 WBC).

    Taiwanese fans doing the Atlanta Braves tomohawk chop-like cheer against China in the day game.

    Ichiro’s at bats, crazy camera flashes in his first plate appearance, bunt single in his second, and crowd going crazy after his 3rd hit of the evening.

    More videos after this break.

    Read the rest of this entry »

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

    Korea 9 – 0 Taiwan

    Posted by simon c on 2009 March 7日 Saturday

    The non-story in the WBC today was Korea thrashing Taiwan 9-0. Well, the Taiwanese starter could not find the strike zone. Taiwan starter C. Lee had one of the wildest outings I’ve ever seen with a 0.1IP 2H 6ER 3BB 1HBP 1GrandSlam (and he seemed to only hit the strike zone about 10-20% of the time).

    Game 2 of the Asia Round determines the winners and losers brackets. Saturday, Japan will face Korea in the nightcap in the Japan/East Sea rivalry and depleted Taiwan will attempt to avenge their Beijing Olympics loss to China in the day game in the battle of the Taiwan strait. 

    The announced crowd was a little north of 12,000, I should’ve set the over/under at 15,000 instead of 20,000, but I got it right nonetheless  😛

    Both the Korean and Taiwanese crowds were small in number but pretty loud, creating decent atmosphere. Attendance for non-Japanese games seems to be better than the Asia Series. Must be the marketing and the national teams factor.

    There seemed to be a couple of nationalistic incidents where both Korean and Taiwanese fans displayed large banners and were told by security to withdraw them. The Taiwan banner (we were sitting in the Taiwan section) clearly spelled out “Taiwan” (台湾) in Chinese characters (hanzi), so this may have had something to do with the no politics in the WBC policy.

    Photos after this break:

    Read the rest of this entry »

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

    Akinori Iwamura 2008 spring training quotes

    Posted by simon c on 2008 October 23日 Thursday

    I had read about improvements in the Rays team heading into the 2008 season, but didn’t believe they’d be this good going from finishing last almost every season to suddenly winning the toughest division in baseball, AL East, and winning the ALCS (by defeating defending WS champs the Boston Red Sox) to reach the World Series against the Philadelphia Phillies.

    When I initially read these Akinori Iwamura (converted from 3B to 2B for the 2008 season) quotes during spring training, I thought it was typical athlete optimism mixed in with a media face, but Iwamura turned out to be right.

    「オフの間もチームが本腰を入れて補強に入ったなと感じた。(キャンプ)初日に集まった時に、選手だけでなくスタッフの顔色も違うという感覚があった。投打が噛み合えば面白いチームになると思うし、ヤンキースとかを本気で倒しにいけるんじゃないかな。ここまでこのチームに興奮しっぱなしです」

    “The team was really dedicated during the offseason to strengthen the squad. When we got together in the first day (of spring training), I felt that not only were the players’ expressions different, I could also feel it from the team staff. This will be an interesting team if the pitching and hitting click together, and I think that we can really beat the Yankees and other teams. I’m really, really excited to be here.”

    「いい意味で(自分たちは強いんだと)勘違いしてもいいと思う。みんなで勝ちにいこうという姿勢は大きいし、勘違いしているうちにだんだん実力もついてくる。今年は一味違うというのを少しずつ出していかないといけないし、それをシーズン中に癖にさせるのが大事。オープン戦なんですけど、勝ち癖をつけていかないといけない」

    “I think that we are allowed to delude ourselves, in a good sense (that we are strong). It’s important that we’re all in this together to win, and mistaken confidence will lead to real strength. We have to gradually show that we’re different this year, and turn that into a good habit during the season. Even though this is still spring training, it’s important for us to get in the habit of winning.”

    Some times when athletes talk, sometimes they’re not just merely paying lip service or being a bland quote machine but instead they’re telling rather interesting nuggets of truth. Not that Iwamura called the Rays’ reaching (or winning) the World Series or anything, but I should have given his quotes more credit than I did at the beginning of the season.

    Posted in 02_English, 03_Translations (英訳ポートフォリオ), baseball, information, MLB, opinion, tokyo | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

    2008.8.5 Koshien Update

    Posted by simon c on 2008 August 5日 Tuesday

    The 90th Koshien Summer Tournament is chugging along as we’re now in day 4 of first round games.

    11 games have been played so far and powerhouses Chiben-Wakayama (Wakayama), Kagoshima-Jitsugyo (Kagoshima), Chiben (Nara), Hotoku-Gakuen (East Hyogo), Kanto-Daiichi (East Tokyo), Kisarazu-Sogo (East Chiba), and Urasoe-Shogaku (Okinawa) have all won their first round games, and young Honjo-Daiichi (North Saitama) with a starting lineup consisting seven 1st and 2nd years (with a 1st year 1st baseman slugger hitting cleanup, most unusual as most teams lineups are loaded with 3rd year students as they’re more physically and technically developed at this age) is currently tied with Kaisei (Shimane) 4-4 in the first game of the day right now. (Update: Okuda Pedro just won the game for Honjo by leading off the bottom of the 9th with a walkoff homerun to deep centre on a difficult pitch.)

    Some other notes of interest:

    • Baseball exchange students are on some teams. Iizuka (Fukuoka) had Kim Dong-Ming(? 金東民) from Korea as it’s leadoff hitter and starting shortstop, as a 2nd year, definitely the core of the team. Magario Mike(?) is a Japanese-Brazilian 2nd year outfielder and 187 cm tall slugger for the powerhouse Aomori-Yamada (Aomori). And Honjo-Daiichi (North Saitama) also features two Japanese-Brazilians, ace Ito Diego and starting shortstop Okuda Pedro. They have both gone through the “Centro Trainament Yakult”(?) baseball academy before going to Honjo-Daiichi. Ito Diego (left) and Okuda Pedro
    • Urasoe-Shogaku’s (Okinawa) cap is designed like the Tokyo Yakult Swallows cap, and this is probably intentional as Urasoe is the Okinawan city where the Swallows hold training camp every spring.                   Urasoe-Shogaku         Tokyo Yakult Swallows
    • Pitch counts are often mentioned during game commentary, mostly as how it wears down pitchers, and some teams even talk about a walk being just as valuable as a hit (not true, but close, and way better than discounting the walk). The tides are slowly changing even in high school ball.

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

    NPB Power Rankings 08.6.26

    Posted by simon c on 2008 June 26日 Thursday

    Interleague games officially ended on Monday but the title was clinched by the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks on Sunday, even though they tied with the Hanshin Tigers with 15-9 records. The silly tiebreaker rule doesn’t take head to head record into account, if that were the case the Tigers would’ve won the (still) rather meaningless Interleague crown because they took 3 of 4 from the Hawks (also won 3 against the PL leading Saitama Seibu Lions). Anyways, after a few days off (scheduled as reserve dates for rainouts), regular intraleague play resumes tomorrow with a full slate of 6 games.

    Anyways, here are how things shook out following the conclusion of the Interleague period.

    1. Hanshin Tigers(1) 43-22-1 .662

    Tied for best record in Interleague without having the advantage of playing against the sorry Yokohama BayStars, and beat up on the PL leading Lions and Interleague Champs Hawks. Most balanced team in the league with an on base juggernaut offense (top 3 CL OBP leaders, and only hitters to have OBP over .400 in CL are Kanemoto, Akahoshi, and Arai, and Toritani checks in at 8th with .362) So the Tigers lead the league in runs scored (273) despite homering the least (35), and their shutdown bullpen helps prevent runs big time and they lead the league in this category too (218). The complete package.

    2. Chunichi Dragons(3) 36-28-3 .563

    Regains the penultimate position in this ranking largely thanks to the Lions tailspin at the end of Interleague, as the Dragons only had a .500 record against PL teams, but managed to take 3 of 4 against Seibu.

    3. Saitama Seibu Lions(2) 39-30-1 .565

    Ended Interleague campaign on a horrible note, losing 6 straight and 9 of the last 12. Even losing both games to the lowly BayStars. This is still a strong team and PL race has just gotten really interesting with the slumping Lions and soaring Hawks as the top 4 teams are now bunched together within 4 games of eachother. Lions are probably thankful that what turned out to be a dreaded Interleague season is finally over.

    4. Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters(5) 39-32-1 .549

    Was in the hunt for the Interleague title going into the final weekend, the team continues to win close games as the Fighters have only outscored their opponents by 4 runs for the season.

    5. Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles(4) 35-34 .507

    A team with very good fundamentals (310 – 256, RS – RA) sits in 4th place in the PL standings but definitely has the capability to be in a playoff position and should be there sooner rather than later. Had first ever winning Interleague season in its history with 13-11 record.

    6. Fukuoka Softbank Hawks(6) 38-34 .528

    Interleague champions nudged their way up to claim the 3rd and final playoff position in the PL. The team seems to have woken up, it’ll be interesting to see if they can keep this up in their own league.

    7. Tokyo Yomiuri Giants(8 ) 34-33-1 .507

    Solid Interleague campaign of 14-10 has the team back in black. Good pitchers Takahashi and Uehara are returned to the big club after rehabbing from injury. The former should go into the rotation and the latter in the bullpen where he was a successful closer last season. Beneficiary of the new Free Agency rules agreed upon between NPB and the Senshukai (Players’ Association) reducing the number of years of service until domestic FA to 8, a quirk in the rule allows FA eligible imports to not count as imports, meaning that slugger Alex Ramirez will not count against the import quota starting next season.

    8. Hiroshima Toyo Carp(7) 30-32-2 .484

    A decent 13-11 record in Interleague. The dog days of summer may be very helpful to the Carp this year as all of NPB’s best will be at Beijing while the Carp will likely not lose anyone to the Olympics. They’ll just have to hang on until then, as a 3rd place finish and a seat in the playoffs is needed for Marty Brown to extend his contract as the manager of this feisty club that lost its cleanup hitter (Arai) and ace (Kuroda) to FA after last season. (Though Colby Lewis is doing a fine job filling in for Kuroda with 10-5, 2.28 ERA on a mediocre team playing in a hitters park.)

    9. Tokyo Yakult Swallows(9) 30-34 .469

    Norichika Aoki is back and has been his awesome self with a slash line of .331/.391/.506. NPB hitters may be getting wise to the ways of the Lim though, as the closer has given up 5 runs (4 earned) over his last 5 appearances. Aaron Guiel’s rehab seems to be going well, as he’s played 2 games in the minors recently (going 0-3 with a walk), hopefully he’ll be fully recovered soon and back with the big club. An Aoki – Hatakeyama – Guiel cleanup could be pretty awesome.

    10. Chiba Lotte Marines(10) 31-41 .431

    10. Orix Buffaloes(11) 31-40 .437

    Both teams had uninspiring Interleague season (10-14 and 11-13). Still no end in sight to their woes, but neither of them are even close to the patheticness of…

    12. Yokohama BayStars(12) 19-45-1 .297

    Only team to win less than 10 games (.417) in Interleague, the sad BayStars went 6-18 (.250), their saving grace was the sweep of the slumping Lions at the end of Interleague. U-G-L-Y.

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

    2008.6.16 NPB Update

    Posted by simon c on 2008 June 17日 Tuesday

    Yeah, I know this is a couple of days late, but these numbers are only missing the Eagles-Giants game yesterday.

    Let’s look at the Central League first:

    Hanshin remain strong, both in the real life standings and in Pythagorean win expectations based on runs scored and runs against. But I’m starting to think that maybe the Tigers record is inflated due to the unusually weak CL this year. With interleague play almost finished CL teams have gone 53-67 against their PL counterparts so far, but then again maybe this is mostly the fault of the pathetic Yokohama BayStars who are 3-17 in interleague and sport a 16-44-1 (.267) record overall. The utter incompetence of the BayStars are probably helping other CL teams look more respectable, and tipping the balance in favour of the PL. With the slumping and injured Giants, the race for 3rd and last playoff spot in the CL is a three horse race between Yomiuri, Carp, and Swallows. (The Swallows getting it done on defence is a bit of a surprise as that’s not typically talked about.) The Dragons are doing about as well as expected, no better no less, but they are much stronger now with Kawakami back in full force.

     

    Now onto the Pacific League: 

    The Lions continue their dominance, but the reliance on the long ball didn’t work against the Tigers as the king of the jungle lost 3 out of 4, getting outplayed by a much better balanced Les Tigres team full of on base monsters (Arai, Akahoshi, and Kanemoto lead the CL, with all three OBPing over .400 and Toritani is no slouch either at .370) and killer relievers in JFK+Watanabe which makes their games 5-6 inning games. So, the Lions fortunes come October may not be so bright as they play Yankee style big ball susceptible to opposition pitching in the playoffs which usually only consist of aces.

    I’m beginning to think that the ultra-low scoring Fighters getting it done almost entirely on pitching, defence, and the cavernous Sapporo Dome last year was not a fluke, as they continue to outperform their Pythag expectations (with the staggering .718 Defensive Efficiency, far and away the best in the PL and NPB), winning one close game after another (they’re like the winning version of the Padres in this regard). 

    The Eagles are for real, they’re getting it done both with hitting, pitching, and defence (they, in fact, have the highest Pythag win% in NPB!), I expect them to pull ahead of the Hawks to secure themselves a playoff position and battle the Fighters for 2nd place.

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

    Swallows’ Hatakeyama and NPB minor leagues

    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: , , , | 1 Comment »