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    Seibu Lions Classic

    Posted by japanstats on 2009 June 29日 Monday

    This season’s Lions Classic games have begun with Seibu wearing its home uniforms from the dynasty era. (Koji Akiyama #1 and Hisanobu Watanabe #41 flanking Kazuhiro Kiyohara #3.)

    seibu_80s

    Well, the uniform design was used until quite recently as it can be seen here with a young Daisuke Matsuzaka wearing it.

    matsuzaka

    However, the Lions were unable to replicate their success of the awesome uniforms as the team has lost its first two games wearing it against the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks managed by former Lions star Koji Akiyama. Incidentally, another former 80’s Lions star, Hisanobu Watanabe, is currently managing the Lions, so the ceremonial first pitch for Sunday’s game was old teammates Watanabe facing off against Akiyama, and Koji fouled the pitch off to the third base side.

    watanabe

    Saitama Seibu Lions looking great (except for the lack of stirrups and addition of the Nike logo) in losing the first two games wearing these classic uniforms 3-10 and 5-7.

    seibu

    You can see the ceremonial first pitch here, Akiyama’s front foot slips but he still makes contact with NabeQ’s pitch.

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

    Lions Win Lions Win!!

    Posted by japanstats on 2008 November 10日 Monday

    The Saitama Seibu Lions are the 2008 Japanese champions having won a thrilling game 7 against archrival, and the New York Yankees of Japan, Yomiuri Giants 3-2 in the deciding game. The guys at the Tokyo Yakult Swallows blog has what I know as the fastest championship game write up

    The Lions overcame many obstacles, like missing sluggers GG Sato and Craig Brazell (well, the latter was an OBP black hole so I don’t think he was missed much) from September on, and losing the starting catcher with some pop in Toru Hosokawa and having 5 tool shortstop Hiroyuki Nakajima injured in game 5 where the team outhit the Giants but were unable to come up with any clutch hits or extrabase hits (except for a late solo shot).

    Some photos and movies from game 5 at the Seibu Dome on Thursday 6 November.

    Cheering for Nakamura in a scoring opportunity:

    “We are the Lions” (the flags give a neat crowd effect when cheering):

    Reliever Chikara Onodera warming up:

    pb060584

    Dude sitting in front of us with a creative “hyaku-ju no oh” (rhymes with 100 10 0) meaning “king among beasts” Lions uni:

    pb060590

    7th inning stretch jet balloons:

    pb060594

    Game 6 swung the other way as the Giants were unable to capitalize on numerous opportunities, and Seibu in a desperate move brought in game 4 starter Takayuki Kishi on 2 days rest in the 4th inning to put out the fire. He went on, incredibly, to finish the game. It was like watching high school baseball with the ace always ready to pitch in any game. Hopefully Kishi’s arm hasn’t received any permanent damage from this, many Japanese pitchers have their careers ruined by overuse, but then again some have genetically freaky rubber arms like erstwhile Lion and current Boston Red Sox Daisuke Matsuzaka. 

    Game 7 was a thriller from start to finish, with declining veteran and long time team ace Fumiya Nishiguchi being handed the ball to start off the game. He was shaky and gave up 2 runs in 2 innings and was substituted for pinch hitter Akira Etoh. Then the Lions pitchers proceeded to shut down the powerful Giants lineup with 2 innings each from starters Kazuhisa Ishii and Hideaki Wakui, an inning from reliever Tomoki Hoshino, then 2 innings from closer Alex Graman, all perfect in relief not allowing a single runner on base.

    On the offensive side, the second pinch hitter in the game Hiram Bocachica hit a homerun to make it a 1-2 game (then he proceeded to swing for the fences on succeeding at bats being easily struck out by high fastballs out of the zone, but that’s here nor there). Then in the 8th Giants reliever Daisuke Ochi became shaky in his 2nd inning of work and hit leadoff hitter Yasuyuki Kataoka (who was delighted to be able to get on base and even clapped his hands after being hit) who promptly stole 2nd on the very next pitch, then Takumi Kuriyama bunted him over to 3rd and Nakajima drove him in with a grounder to short to tie the game. Inexplicably (but luckily for the Lions) Ochi was left in the game to walk cleanup hitters Takeya “Okawari” Nakamura and Taketoshi Goto before allowing the hit by Hiroshi Hirano to drive in the game winning run, and that’s all Seibu needed to seal the deal (though driving in Shogo Akada from 3rd with no outs in the 9th would’ve been a nice insurance).

    Kishi took home the series MVP having won 2 games. His first win was an absolutely impressive complete game shutout in game 4, then he went on to save the day in game 6 on 2 days rest.

    Anyways, congratulations Saitama Seibu Lions, you are the 2008 Japanese chamions!!

    Japan Series banner sign:

    japan_series

    Series MVP Kishi being tossed high into the air by teammates:

    doage_kishi

    More portly manager Hisanobu Watanabe’s doage:

    doage_watanabe

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

    2008.6.16 NPB Update

    Posted by japanstats 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 »

    Lions manager Watanabe and Taiwanese baseball

    Posted by japanstats on 2008 June 13日 Friday

    I didn’t know that one time ace of the Seibu Lions during their dynasty in the 80’s and early 90’s and now manager of the team Watanabe spent time in Taiwan as a player-coach, and that his appreciation for the power game is partially responsible for the Lions success this season, especially with the long ball. The Lions have half the number of sacrifice bunts (42) as the ultimate smallball team, the Fighters (84). But the team up in Hokkaido is more of an exception, as the rest of the PL teams have sacrificed 36-51 times so far this season.

    Watanabe, who once graced the cover of Sports Illustrated as the Lions starter in Game 1 of the 1994 Japan Series (featured because the majors were on strike that year), has come a long way since he was considered the pop idol of the otherwise-stodgy club.

    After retiring from Japanese ball, Watanabe went to Taiwan, ostensibly as a coach.

    “It was funny. My career was over and I was there as a coach. But I couldn’t speak a word of Chinese so I had to demonstrate,” Watanabe told The Hot Corner early this season. “And I could still throw hard–so I became a player-coach in camp.”

    Living in a rural town between Tainan and Taichung, Watanabe studied with a tutor and within a year his Chinese language skills were “fairly useful.” He is still fond of the country and its game. Although Taiwan’s baseball people have a lot of respect for Japan’s skill level, Watanabe says the thinking there is somewhat different.

    “They’ve had Japanese coaches going over there for the last 20 years, so they look to Japan,” Watanabe said. “But they aspire to a more powerful game; the hitters take big swings.

    “I liked that.”

    In Watanabe’s early days as a pro, the Lions were the hardest hitting team in Japan. But that didn’t prevent managers Tatsuro Hirooka and Masaaki Mori from steering the club toward a painfully predictable Japanese-style game, picking opponents apart with sacrifice bunts, pitching and defense.

    I have a pet theory that the fact that Watanabe is letting his team run wild on the bases with league leading 53 steals might help because that places runners in scoring position without sacrificing an out, thus leading to higher probabilities for big innings (especially with all those homeruns). But then again, being caught stealing 24 times is too undisciplined, as a success rate below 70% must surely be detrimental, but maybe it’s still better than bunting.

    Then again, the big bats of Seibu were no match for the shutdown bullpen (JFK + Watanabe) of Hanshin Tigers, as the CL leader took 3 of 4 from the Lions in their interleague games. The fact that the Tigers don’t have to leave their starters in games accumulating fatigue and losing effectiveness with every pitch over 100, coupled with the powerful bullpen and lineup full of on base machines means that the Tigers are a way more balanced squad than the Lions and the best team in the nation at the moment.

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

    2008.6.10 NPB Pitching and Batting Leaders

    Posted by japanstats on 2008 June 11日 Wednesday

    We’re 2/3 of the way through interleague play with 16 games played, and the Eagles are on top of the interleague standings tied with the Tigers with 11-5 records. The eagles had strong numbers in runs scored and runs allowed heading into interleague, so this is no fluke, expect the strong performance of the Eagles to continue past the interleague period.

    Also, Hoshino, manager and GM for Team Japan at Beijing Olympics, has added 4 players to the list candidates for the Olympic team and they are G.G. Sato and Hoashi (both Lions), Yoshimi (Dragons), and Watanabe (Tigers). Sato and Watanabe have both shown that their great performances last season weren’t by chance, and among the 70+ players already named as candidates, many are off to slow starts or injured which prompted this announcement. The final team will be announced in July… but the first game that counts is on 13 August. I expect some changes made between the team is announced to the opening game against Cuba.

    Anyways, just a partial update, only the batting and pitching leaders this week.

    Batting leaders (2008.6.10)

    Familiar faces up top, and we see a new name in the table in the league leading batter Uchikawa(!) of Yokohama who sports a handsome .395 batting average at the moment after getting enough playing time to qualify. Perhaps a Sato, Aoki (missed time with injury, returned to lineup recently), and Inaba outfield in Beijing?

    Pitching leaders (2008.6.10)

    Lewis is doing an incredible job for the Carp who are 1.5 games behind the Giants for 3rd place and the last playoff spot. Komatsu is pitching pretty well for the Buffaloes too even if he’s not getting the run or defensive support. Hoashi has a sparkling 1.55 ERA but his FIP is 3.20 suggesting he’s gotten benefits of both good luck and defense, still wouldn’t be a bad choice for the Olympics (though, he’ll probably hurt Seibu more than benefit Japan). Tanaka is pitching in the shadows of resurgent Iwakuma this year, but he’s contributing nearly as much as his teammate to the Eagles’ success when you look beyond the won-loss record and the ERA. Kawakami has returned, he’s pitched 8, 7, and 7 innings in his last 3 starts allowing 1, 3, and 1 run each time out.

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