Japan NPB Awards

November 26th, 2015

The MVPs were not a surprise to myworld. The Softbank Hawks Yuki Yanagita won it in the Pacific League with his 30/30 performance (34 homeruns and 32 stolen bases). He also led the Central League in hitting with a .363 average. Yuki was one RBI short from scoring (110) and driving in (99) 100 or more runs. A leg injury prevented Yuki from participating in the Premier 12.

The Yakult Swallows Tetsuto Yamada won the Central League MVP. He was also a 30/30 man with 38 homeruns and 34 stolen bases. He was the only NPB player to both score (119) and drive in (100) 100 or more runs. His .329 average was second in the Central League and his 38 homeruns were second to none.

The Nippon Ham Fighters found another stud pitcher to join Shohei Otani in the rotation. Kohei Arihara won the Pacific League rookie of the year award with a 8-6 record and a 4.79 ERA. He will need to improve on those numbers if he wants to earn a permanent spot in the rotation. Kohei was a first round pick in 2014 for the Fighters. Three other teams also selected him in the first round but Nippon Ham won the lottery ticket.

The Yokahama Bay Stars reliever Yasuaki Yamasaki won the Central League rookie of the year award. He appeared in 58 games going 2-4 with 37 saves and 7 holds. The 37 saves were third in the Central League. The top two relievers in saves, Tony Barnette and Seung-Hwan Oh are both looking at pitching in the major leagues in 2016. Yokohama was one of the four teams selecting Kohei in the first round, but after they lost the lottery they were given another first round pick and chose Yamasaki.

The top players at each position:

Central League

Pitcher - Kenta Maeda (Hiroshima), Catcher - Yuhei Nakamura (Yakult), First base - Kazuhiro Hatakeyama (Yakult), Second Base - Tetsuto Yamada (Yakult), Third Base - Shingo Kawabata (Yakult), Shortstop - Takashi Toritani (Hanshin), Outfield - Yoshitomo Tsutsugo (Yokohama), Kosuke Fukudome (Hanshin), Ryosuke Hirata (Chunichi)

Pacific League

Pitcher - Shohei Otani (Nippon Ham), Catcher Ginjiro Sumitani (Seibu), First Base - Sho Nakata (Nippon Ham), Second Base - Kensuke Tanaka (Nippon Ham), Third Base - Takeya Nakamura (Seibu), Shortstop - Takuya Nakashima (Nippon Ham), Outfield - Shogo Akiyama (Seibu), Yuki Yanagita (Softbank), Ikuhiro Kiyota (Lotte), Designated Hitter - Dae-Ho Lee (Softbank)

Dae-Ho Lee was the only foreign player voted to the KBO All Star team. Information for this report was provided by Yaku Baka.

Thames Wins KBO MVP

November 25th, 2015

The NC Dinos Eric Thames carried his 40/40 season (40 homeruns and stolen bases) to a KBO MVP award, winning by six points over the Nexen Heroes Byung-Ho Park, who finished his second straight season with over 50 homeruns. Park won the RBI battle with 146 to Thames 140, but Thames .381 average won the batting title while Park was fifth at .343. Thames becomes the third foreign player voted MVP in the KBO, the first being outfielder Tyrone Woods in 1998 and the second pitcher Daniel Rios in 2007.

The Samsung Lions Ja-Wook Koo was voted the rookie of the year. The first baseman was third in the KBO in batting average hitting .349 with 11 homeruns and 57 RBIs. The 22 year old youngster also managed to steal 17 bases in 24 attempts.

Ah-Seop Son Shutout

November 23rd, 2015

Myworld is not surprised there was no major league team interested in posting for Korean outfielder Ah-Seop Son. Major league teams should focus more on outfielder Hyun-Soo Kim, who is a free agent and would not require any posting amount. Son would have been at best a fourth outfielder for a major league team with a minor league contract if he did not make the team. Minor league contracts are usually less than $1 million.

The lack of interest in Son gives Jae-Gyun Hwang an opportunity to be posted. The KBO does not allow a team to post two players. Both Son and Hwang play for the Lotte Giants. The Giants chose to post Son first because he will be a free agent in two years. Hwang will be a free agent after next season.

Hwang may provide more interest because he plays third base, a position of need for many major league teams. Hwang could be foiled by the Soft Bank Hawks third baseman Nobuhiro Matsuda, who is a free agent out of Japan. Matsuda does not have to be posted and he hits for more power than Hwang. Since Matsuda does not have to be posted he may be a cheaper alternative than Hwang.

Dodgers Sign Two More Cubans

November 22nd, 2015

They seem to have all the resources to pay top dollar for the more talented Cubans. Yesterday they signed 19 year old outfielder Yusniel Diaz to a $15.5 million deal, continuing to soar past their 2015 international salary cap. Next year they will not have the money to pay for top international prospects.

It is reported Diaz would have won the Nacional Series rookie of the year award if he had not defected. They gave it instead to Alfredo Rodriguez, who later defected. Diaz should be able to fit in centerfield because of his speed. He hit .348 with a .440 OBA in Series Nacional. Power could develop as he matures. At 19 years of age he will spend a couple years in the minor leagues.

They also spent $6 million to sign infielder Omar Esteves. Myworld knows little about Esteves other than he is a couple years younger than Diaz. Hopefully, the Dodgers know more since they spent $6 million on him. The reports on him indicate he is a more offensive oriented second baseman who could hit for some power.

In a couple years the Dodgers could field an all Cuban lineup. Don’t know how many Cuban fans living in Los Angeles will be attracted to that.

Scorpions Sting Saguaros for AFL Championship

November 21st, 2015

The Scottsdale Scorpions won the AFL championship with a 6-4 win over the Surprise Saguaros. For the Scorpions it was their third championship, their last one being in 2010. The Saguaros were last champions in 2013.

The Scorpions got the runs they needed in the fourth, erupting for three runs. Back to back fielding errors opened the gates for Scottsdale, setting up the RBI double by Dominic Ficociello. Adam Brett Walker followed by driving in the first of his three runs with an RBI single. Carlos Asuaje finished off the scoring with a sacrifice fly to left field. The Saguaros committed their third error of the inning, but this one did not lead to any runs.

Both teams exchanged runs in the fifth. Mac Williamson drove in the Scorpion run with a triple. An error by the Scorpions set up the Saguaros first run, scoring when Yadiel Rivera grounded into a bases loaded double play.

In the seventh the Saguaros pulled to within one, another error by the Scorpions setting up an RBI single by Dustin Fowler. The second run scored on a sacrifice fly from Ramon Torres. That was as close as they got.

Adam Walker got the two runs back in the eighth with a two run double to extend the lead to three again. In the bottom of the eighth Jake Reed struck out the side after walking the leadoff hitter. Closer Nick Burdi came on in the ninth with his three digit fastball. Dustin Fowler rifled the ball over the right field fence to pull the Saguaros to within two. Burdi was able to retire the last three hitters to pick up the save.

2015 Premier 12 All Tournament Team

November 21st, 2015

Below is the Premier 12 all tournament team.

Starting Pitcher - Shohei Otani (Japan)

Relief Pitcher - Dustin Molleken (Canada)

Catcher - Humberto Sosa (Mexico)

First Base - Sho Nakata (Japan)

Second Base - Adam Frazier (United States)

Third Base - Jae-Gyun Hwang

Shortstop - Carlton Daal (Netherlands)

Outfield - Randolph Oduber (Netherlands), Matt McBride (United States) and Hyun-Soo Kim (Korea)

Best Defensive Player - Hayato Sakamoto (Japan)

Most Valuable Player - Hyun-Soo Kim (Korea)

Korea Premier 12 Champions - Routs United States

November 21st, 2015

Myworld did not think the United States minor leaguers had much of a chance against the Korean professionals. They may have beaten them in pool play in extra innings, but Korea had already qualified for the quarter finals and were not playing to win. In the championship game the stakes were different and the Koreans won handily 8-0.

The attendance was listed at 40,411. Perhaps everyone was anticipating a Japan final and had bought their tickets in advance. Or perhaps it was the doubleheader with the bronze game featuring Japan that attracted the large crowd. Japan also won in a rout over Mexico 11-1.

Kwang-Hyun Kim shut down the United States bats for five innings on four hits, the second time he had faced them in this tournament. Kim pitched against the United States team in pool play giving up two runs in less than five innings. He was much more effective his second time out. He bent a little bit, giving up one hit in each inning except the second and fifth, but he did not break. Kim gave up two out back to back singles in the third but struck out Adam Timothy Frazier for the third out to end the threat. A lead off double in the fourth was muted by three ground outs.

The Korean bats were relentless against the United States hurlers. Zack Segovia, who had pitched well getting the United States to the finals, did not survive past the second inning. In the opening frame he gave up two hits, a walk and a hit by pitch but survived the inning by giving up only one run, an RBI double by Yong-Kyu Lee.

In the third a walk and an RBI double by Premier 12 MVP Hyun-Soo Kim, who is a free agent and looking for a major league contract, finished the day for Segovia. Brooks Pounders, who has been unhittable in this tournament got out of the inning leaving the United States deficit at two. Pounders was not so unhittable in the fourth.

Korea pounded Pounders for five runs in the fourth, raking him with four hits, one of them a booming homerun by a future Twin if negotiations go right. Hyun-Soo Kim again got the big hit for Korea with a two run double to ignite the rally. Kim finished the game with three RBIs and had 13 in the tournament over eight games. Byung-Ho Park, another major league hopeful made Twin fans hopeful finishing off the inning with a three run homer.

The game was over after that. The United States bats could only get one hit off the four pitchers the Koreans trotted in from the bullpen. The Koreans tacked on one extra run in the ninth to add to the carnage.

Except for one nightmarish inning the Japanese felt this tournament was theirs to win. They proved that with a 11-1 pasting of the outmanned Mexican team. Sho Nakata, who would have won the MVP award if Japan had won the event, slugged a two run homer in the seven run second to help win the game in seven. He finished the tournament with three homeruns and 15 RBIs. Tetsuta Yamada and Nobuhiro Matsuda also had two run homers in the inning.

Yamada also homered in the first inning to give the Japanese a 1-0 lead. Shogo Akiyama ended the game with his two run homer in the seventh, the game declared over because of the 10 run rule. Don’t know if the Japanese players had plans to purchase bronze medal rings with part of their winnings. They were talking about it when they still had a chance to win a gold.

Premier 12 - Semi Finals United States Waltzes Over Mexico

November 20th, 2015

Entering this tournament myworld did not think the United States had much of a chance defeating Japan. When they played them in pool play Japan beat them pretty easily. Now that Japan has been eliminated thanks to Korea, the United States must play Korea in the finals. They beat the Koreans in extra innings earlier in pool play. Myworld will be surprised if they can beat them again.

They did handle a Mexican team pretty easily, a team that had upset an undefeated Canadian team 6-1. A five run fourth inning was all they needed to propel them to the victory.

Zeke Spruill worked the first five innings. He only allowed one run, a solo blast by Humberto Sosa to lead off the fourth inning. The only other inning in which he faced trouble was in the second inning when he issued two two out walks. Seth Simmons pitched three shutout innings. He worked himself out of a bases loaded one out situation in the seventh, created by a single, error and walk to protect the lead.

The United States rallied for their five runs after two were out. Dan Black doubled down the right field line but Matt McBride, who had ripped a one out single was thrown out at third, after getting in a run down. Four hits and two walks followed, creating the five runs the United States team needed to ensure victory. Dan Rohlfing got the big hit with a two run double.

The United States will now face Korea in the finals. Korea has four players in the lineup looking to sign a major league contact, Byung-ho Park, Dae-Ho Lee, Hyun-Soo Kim and Ah-Seop Son. They have something to prove to show they belong. Japan will play Mexico for the bronze medal game.

Premier 12 - Semifinals Korea Upsets Japan

November 19th, 2015

The Koreans could not hit Shohei Otani again. He went seven innings striking out 11 while only giving up one hit. Korea finally got that first hit in the seventh inning, a lead off single by Keun-Woo Jeong. Takahiro Norimoto retired the Koreans in order in the eighth. After that the Japan night mare began for some of the 40,258 fans in attendance.

Japan jumped out to an early 3-0 lead jumping on Dae-Eun Rhee for three runs in the fourth. An error by Jae-Ho Kim opened the floodgates for the inning. Sho Nakata started the inning with a walk. Singles by Akira Nakamura and Ryosuke Hirata gave the Japanese an early 1-0 lead. An error by Kim when he threw a ball into right field allowed the second run to score. The third run scored on a fly ball by Hayoto Sakamoto to the warning track in right field.

With a 3-0 lead and Otani dominant in his performance it appeared the Koreans were headed for another shutout. Japan got their first two runners on base via walks in the seventh but failed to score and collected two hits in the eighth and came up empty. The Koreans never mounted a threat.

Japanese fans confident in victory sat back and watched Jae-Won Oh begin the ninth with a pinch hit single. Another pinch hit single by Ah-Seop Son got the crowd a bit uncomfortable. Keun-Woo Jeong drove in the first run for Korea with a double down the left field line. Comfort turned to anxiety as now the tying run stood on second. Norimoto nicked the uniform jersey of Yong-Kyu Lee on a 1-2 count to load the bases, sending him to the showers. Closer Yuki Matsui came on and walked Hyun-Soo Kim on five pitches. That would be the only batter he would face. Hirotoshi Masui was called on to try to preserve the victory for Japan.

Japanese fans watched in terror as the Koreans had the bases loaded, nobody out and only down 3-2. Korea fans went ecstatic when Dae-Ho Lee ripped a single to drive in two. The MVP of the Japan Series broke the hearts of the Japan faithful. Masui was able to get out of the inning without allowing any more runners to score, but that was little comfort to the Japanese fans who saw a victory snatched from their hands.

Korea brought in Tae-Hyon Chong to close out the game. He retired the first two hitters but gave up a single to Sho Nakata. The Koreans brought in Hyun-Seung Lee to get the last out of the inning and on his second pitch pinch hitter Takeya Nakamura grounded to third to give the Koreans the victory and an invitation to the finals to face the winner of the Mexico/United States match.

It was a typical ending to a tournament that has had a number of comebacks and dramatic victories. The scheduling of the games has been a bit haphazard and lacking the precision of the WBC, rain creating some difficulty with the timing of the games as the officials tried their best to accommodate television, but once the players got between the lines the entertainment value was worth the viewing.

Tiburones First Half Winner in Venezuela

November 17th, 2015

Venezuela is going the route of Mexico with two seasons to determine playoff participants. Tiburones La Guairá and Tigres de Aragua had identical 19-13 records but Tiburones won the tie breaker winning the first half.

Tiburones la Guairá (19-13) 8-5

The ageless 43 year old Alex Cabrera (.343, 6, 19) still swats the ball over the fence, tying for the team lead with Brian Burgamy (.287, 6, 21). The Royals rewarded Jose Martinez (.299, 2, 15) with a 40 man roster spot after hitting .382 last year in the minor leagues, despite his 27 years of age. A little slump has dropped his average below the .300 mark in the Venezuelan league. Cuban Ronnier Mustelier (.380, 1, 14) is their top hitter for average.

Alexis Candelario (3-0, 0.76) has been tough to hit with the opposition hitting him at a .153 clip. He has yet to give up more than two runs in any of his eight appearances, five of them starts. At 33 it would be difficult for a major league team to take an interest in him. Junior Guerra (4-1, 3.12) has been the ace of the staff leading the team in whiffs (37).

Tigres de Aragua (19-13) 9-5

Hernan Perez (.264, 3, 12) recently signed with the Brewers. Guillermo Quiroz (.237, 3, 15) and Alex Nunez (.304, 0, 15) share the team lead in RBIs. Alex has yet to hit one over the fence and Quiroz has 31 whiffs in 32 games played. Perez and Quiroz share the team homerun lead.

Vidal Nuno (5-1, 2.13) and Austin Bibens-Dirkx (4-2, 1.80) have been the aces of this staff. Freddy Garcia (1-2, 5.14) should be back after his Premier 12 performance with Team Venezuela that failed to make the playoffs to share the ace responsibilities. Ronald Belasario (1-0, 1.53, 9 saves) has been the team closer. His whiffs (10) and hits given up (23) to innings pitched (20) have not been impressive, but he’s getting the job done.

Navegantes del Magallanes (17-15) 8-6

Adron Chambers (.516, 0, 8) will be facing a drug suspension when he returns to the summer league. He is raking in the winter league with multiple hits in six of his first 10 games. Ronny Cedeno (.304, 4, 18) has been the big bopper but Mike Freeman (.272, 2, 19) leads the team in RBIs. Adonis Garcia (.267, 2, 6) is a little guy but he has popped two over the fence in just eight games played.

Hassan Pena (1-1, 2.12, 13 saves) has been closing out games for the Navegantes.

Cardenales de Lara (17-15) 7-7

Rangel Ravelo (.420, 5, 23) has been difficult to get out. He has a 24/10 walk to whiff ratio. It appears he is enjoying the pitching in Venezuela. Carlos Rivero (.286, 5, 25) leads the team in RBIs. Jairo Perez (.316, 6, 23) leads the team in homeruns despite making good contact (12/8 walk to whiff ratio). Maikol Gonzalez (.258, 2, 11) leads the team in stolen bases with 9, assisted by a .402 OBA (23/13 walk to whiff ratio). He is tied with Perez for the top spot in runs scored (19).

Raul Rivero (4-1, 2.16) has prevented the opposition from scoring. James Hoyt (1-2, 2.25, 8 saves) is the closer with Tiago da Silva (5-0, 2.50) playing setup and leading the team in wins. Hoyt has 22 whiffs in just 16 innings of work.

Leones del Caracas (17-15) 5-8

Felix Perez (.356, 4, 20) leads the team in RBIs and has slashed 12 doubles. He is also tied with Henry Urrutia (.275, 3, 14) and Dixon Machado (.295, 4, 14) in runs scored with 20.

Luis Diaz (1-1, 1.27) has not given up more than one run in his seven starts. The opposition is hitting him at a .205 clip with two ground balls for every fly ball. Cory Riordan (4-2, 3.46) has picked up more victories despite a higher ERA. Joe Gardner (3-2, 2.16) has also been effective despite a less than stellar 12/9 walk to whiff ratio in 33 innings. Loiger Padron (0.52, 2 saves) has only given up one earned run in 18 appearances limiting the opposition to a .107 average. Despite that success Mark Montgomery (5.91, 7 saves) is still the primary closer.

Aguilas del Zulia (15-17) 7-7

Alex Romero (.385, 1, 12) leads the team with 21 runs scored. A .465 OBA with a 16/10 walk to whiff ratio makes him a tough out. David Adams (.274, 5, 15) has been showing some pop, leading the team in homeruns. Lane Adams (.273, 3, 16) is the team leader in RBIs. Franklin Barreto (.164, 2, 13) has been getting a lot of playing time but has struggled to put up any offensive numbers. Jose Pirela (.373, 1, 12) has been another big bat for Aguilas.

Matt Lujan (2-1, 1.97) has been the most consistent starter. Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez (0-4, 4.88) is hoping to carry his winter league performance into a starting spot with the Phillies. The early returns do not look good. Tyler Sturdevant (0.77, 4 saves) has been difficult to hit in a closer’s role.

Caribes de Anzoátegui (15-17) 6-9

Gorkys Hernandez (.319, 0, 5) has been hitting but is only 4 for 9 in stolen base success.

Patrick Johnson (1-1, 1.15) puts the ball over the plate with only 5 walks in 31.1 innings. Pedro Rodriguez (1.13, 9 saves) has come in to close out more than half of their victories.

Bravos de Margarita (9-23) 5-8

The Bravos may be struggling but Jose Osuna (.351, 2, 13) is raking. He is hitting .500 against left handed pitching. Elias Diaz (.235, 1, 3) just arrived and will get an opportunity to catch. Their other catcher Eliezer Alfonzo (.286, 3, 17) leads the team in RBIs.

Andres Perez (2-1, 0.56) is doing pretty good in a setup role. P.J. Francescon (1-1, 2.45, 5 saves) takes over and closes out the games.