Archive for the 'Japan' Category

Nicaragua to Host U-23 WBSC Championship; Panama Under 15

Wednesday, December 6th, 2017

Nicaragua will host the Under 23 WBSC championship in 2018, playing the games at the newly constructed 15,000 seat Dennis Martinez stadium at a date yet to be determined. Despite all the points awarded for this event the No 2 United States and No 5 Cuba will not be playing in the tournament. The United States did not play in the qualifying round, while Cuba did not qualify. Below are the teams who have qualified for the games:

Africa (1) - to be determined
Americas (4) - No. 9 Venezuela, No. 6 Mexico, No. 11 Puerto Rico, No. 16 Dominican Republic
Asia (3) - No1. Japan, No.4 Taiwan and No. 3 South Korea
Europe (2) - No. 8 Netherlands, No. 14 Czech Republic
Oceania (1) - to be determined
Wildcard (1) - No 13 Nicaragua

The Under 15 Hosts will be Panama. The teams competing in that tournament are:

Africa (1) - to be determined
Americas (5) - No. 2 United States, No. 16 Dominican Republic, No. 5 Cuba, No. 15 Panama, No. 18 Brazil
Asia (2) - No. 1 Japan and No. 4 Taiwan
Europe (2) - No. 20 Germany and No. 8 Netherlands
Oceania (1) - to be determined

Chunichi Dragons Fail to Resign Alex Guerrero

Saturday, December 2nd, 2017

An interesting free agent for major league baseball teams may be Alex Guerrero. He caused some headaches for the Los Angeles Dodgers when he played for them a couple years ago but seemed to be quite tamed while playing for the Chunichi Dragons. The Dragons made an attempt to resign him but could not get it done.

Guerrero showed some amazing power for the Dragons. He led all Japanese players with 35 homeruns, hitting .279. At one point during the season he hit homeruns in six consecutive games, falling one short of tying the NPB record for consecutive games with a homerun. While he may not be able to duplicate those numbers in the major leagues, they are still good enough that some major league team will be motivated to give him another major league opportunity.

Guerrero is the player who bit a portion of the ear off of Miguel Olivo in a dugout scuffle in 2014. He will be 31 next year so you would expect his maturity level has increased.

Japanese Postings and International Free Agents

Wednesday, November 22nd, 2017

It appears that the Japanese posting procedures have been finalized. They will grandfather in the posting procedure that was in place last year for this coming season and then next year move to a system where the Japanese team only gets a percentage of a players contract, with that percentage rising the lower the contract. With the salary restrictions placed on Shohei Otani’s potential contract this year because of international salary cap ceilings, the rules for a percentage of the contract would not provide enough money to the Nippon Ham Fighters to give them any incentive to post Otani. So below are the top possible postings and the free agents that may be coming from Japan next year.

Shohei Otani (RHP/OFer) - enough has been written about him. The Babe Ruth of Japan will get the maximum posting of $20 million from at least a dozen major league teams who would like to negotiate with him. His contract will be cheap so if you don’t get him you don’t lose any money. Myworld’s concern with Otani is his injury history. That may restrict his ability to be a two way player. He is currently rehabbing from ankle surgery.

Dennis Sarfate (RHP) - After breaking the Japanese save record in a season and being the first reliever to save over 50 games the Softbank Hawks signed the 36 year old to an extension. A number of major league teams have expressed an interest in signing Sarfate. To do that the Hawks would have to release him or post him. Sarfate has redefined his career in Japan with a split fingered fastball. In the major leagues he would probably not be a closer but a set up man.

Kazuhisa Makita (RHP) - At 33 years of age he has asked to be posted. The Seibu Lions have agreed to post him. He will not break the bank with his posting. A set up pitcher in Japan he relies on a funky delivery to achieve success. Those types of pitchers have early success in the major leagues but their effectiveness wanes as hitters get more accustomed to their delivery. Because of his time in the NPB he will not be subject to international salary cap restrictions.

Free Agents

Hideaki Wakui (RHP) - A pitcher for the Chibba Lotte Marines, did not pick one of his better years in which to declare free agency. His best seasons were from 2007 to 2010. Last year he was 5-11, 3.99. He is an arm and at 31 does have some years left. He is not overpowering, relying on an assortment of pitches and a high left leg kick to add some funk to his delivery. Teams who need arms for the bullpen will look at signing him.

Yoshihisa Hirano (RHP) - The closer for the Orix Buffaloes is 33. His fastball hits the mid-90s and he has a forkball. His most likely role in the major leagues will be as a set up pitcher. His strikeout numbers have not been overwhelming since 2014. He began his career as a starting pitcher but after three years converted to relief, where he was first the set-up man and after 2012 converted to closer for the Buffaloes. Teams who need arms to fill their bullpen will look at signing him.

Two other international free agents, Shinya Tsuruoka and Shota Ono are catchers who will probably stay in Japan. Tsuruoka is an older catcher (36) who is not even a starter for his NPB team (Softbank Hawks). Ono is younger and catches for Otani. Teams could try to attract Otani by signing Ono as his personal catcher if they feel there is a connection. Ono does not have much of a bat with a .216 career average.

Japan Blanks Korea to Win Asian Championship

Monday, November 20th, 2017

In the first ever Asian championship from the three professional Asian Leagues featuring players 23 and under Japan continued their domination, blanking Korea 7-0 in the final and finishing undefeated in the three games. Kazuto Taguchi pitched seven innings of shutout ball, allowing just three hits to lead Japan to the victory. Tsuyoshi Ishizaki and Yasuaki Yamasaki each worked a perfect inning of shutout ball to complete the shutout. The attendance figure was listed at 30,498, a little less than the crowd that would attend Yomiuri Giants games, but a good crowd for this series.

The first two runs of the ball game were driven in by series MVP Shuta Tonosaki. He contributed RBI singles in the fourth and fifth innings to give Japan an early 2-0 lead. Ryoma Nishikawa drove in two more runs in the fifth inning with a double.

Nishikawa also slammed a solo homerun in the seventh to finish the game with three RBIs. Hotaka Yamakawa drove in two runs with a single in the sixth inning.

Korea strung together back to back two out singles in the fifth inning to place two runners on base for the first and only time in the game. Min-Woo Park grounded out to end the threat. The Japanese pitchers retired the next 12 hitters to sweep through the series.

The MVP of the tourney was Shuta Tonosaki, who finished the series driving in four runs. The All Asian Series team was:

Catcher - Ju-Suk Ha (Korea), First Base - Yu-Hsien Chu (Taiwan), Second Base - Min-Woo Park (Korea), Third Base - Ryoma Nishikawa (Japan), Shortstop - Ha-Seong Kim (Korea), Outfield - Shuta Tonosaki (Japan), Go Matsumoto (Japan) and Po-Jung Wang (Taiwan), designated hitter - Kensuke Kondo (Japan), Pitcher - Kazuto Taguchi (Japan)

Japan Eliminates Taiwan from Asian Series

Sunday, November 19th, 2017

The championship of the Asia Series will see powerhouse Japan duke it out with Korea. This after they had clobbered Taiwan 8-2. Japan will have a rematch with Korea who they had beaten earlier this year 1-0.

Yota Kyoda led the Japanese offense with a two run single in the fifth and an RBI single in the eighth. Shuta Tonosaki got the scoring started for Japan with a solo shot in the second inning. He added an RBI double in the ninth to close out the scoring.

Shoto Imanaga went six innings to shut out Taiwan, giving up just three hits and striking out 12. Taiwan scored their first runs in the ninth inning after the game was pretty much decided. Yu-Hsien Chu started the inning with a solo homerun. Chieh-Hsien Chen was hit by a pitch to force in a run. With the bases loaded Pin-Chieh Chen grounded into a double play to end the game.

Asia Series Results

Saturday, November 18th, 2017

In the past the Asia Series would pit the champions of the NPB, CPBL and KBO against each other, adding an All Star team from China and then later on the champion of the ABL. The attendance for these games was lacking resulting in the abandonment of the sponsor and the ending of the series. This year Japan, Korea and Taiwan have renewed the Asian Series, but this time they are pitting All Star teams of 23 and under prospects against each other. Each team is allowed to play three players who fall above that age requirement. Japan usually dominates these events, but the games are always competitive.

Japan 8 Korea 7

Japan rallied for four runs in the bottom of the tenth inning to win the game 8-7. Seiji Uebayashi slugged a three run homer to tie the game and Tatsuhiro Tamura got the walk off double to give Japan the victory. In the top of the tenth Korea had scored three runs to break a 4-4 tie.

Korea scored four runs in the fourth inning. Ha-Seong Kim started the inning off with a solo homerun. Jung-Hoo Lee ended the scoring with a two run double. Japan rallied back with Hotaka Yamakawa slugging a two run homer in the sixth. In the ninth the Korean pitchers got a little wild, walking two and giving up a hit to load the bases. Yota Kyoda walked to force in the tying run to send the game into extra innings.

Korea got the fireworks started in the tenth with an RBI double from Ji-Hyuk Ryu and a two run double from Ju-Suk Ha, who had driven in a run earlier with a sacrifice fly in the four run fourth. After the Korean bullpen could not protect a one run lead in the ninth, they failed to protect a three run lead in the 10th. With two runners put on base for the extra inning rule Uebayashi slugged a one out 3-run homer to quickly tie the game. Ryoma Nishikawa singled and stole second. Tatsuhiro Tamura ended the game with a double.

Korea 1 Taiwan 0

It was a pitcher’s duel. Kuan-Yu Chen gave up only one run in his 5.2 innings of work. Gi-Yeong Im only allowed two hits in his seven innings of shutout ball. He struck out seven and walked three.

A two out walk and a triple from Jung-Hoo Lee in the sixth inning scored the only run of the game. Pill-Joon Jang got the last four outs, striking out three to seal off the victory for Korea.

If Japan beats Taiwan tomorrow Korea and Japan will play in the championship. If Taiwan wins the series will knot into a three way tie for first at 1-1. A tie breaker will identify the two teams to square off in the championship match.

After Otani Who Else from Japan

Friday, November 10th, 2017

Shohei Otani has announced his intentions to play major league baseball. The Nippon Ham Fighters have agreed to post him. The only impediment to him playing in the United States is the Major League Players Association, who have some objections to the Nippon Ham Fighters getting a greater pot of gold than the player. They were to meet with Otani to discuss his posting soon.

Who else from Japan is ready to jump ship? There is Hideaki Wakui, who is eligible to be an international free agent. He is not restricted to a cap like Otani since he has been playing in the NPB for 13 years and is past age 25. Unfortunately, he is a couple inches shorter than Otani with a fastball that hits the low 90s, the equivalent of a changeup for Otani. But he does have command and an assortment of pitches.

He started his career with the Seibu Lions and then moved to the Lotte Marines in 2014. Last year he was 5-11 with an underwhelming 3.99 ERA. He gave up 20 homeruns, one less than his career high in 2010. His best years appear to be 2007 to 2009 when he pitched for Seibu. He wants to pitch in the major leagues but he may have to settle for a down sized contract. He will turn 32 next year.

The most interesting pitcher is Yusei Kikuchi, who was voted to the Pacific League Gold Glove team this year after putting up a 16-6, 1.97 ERA with 217 whiffs in 187 innings. He was Otani before Otani, declaring he did not want to be drafted after high school because he wished to play in the major leagues. There was pressure put on him to recant and he eventually submitted his paper work to make him eligible for the draft. Yusei took a few years develop. Last year was a break out season for him.

He may not throw as hard as Otani, but his fastball hits 95. As a lefthanded pitcher his small frame (6′0″) is not too much of a concern. He does have a few more years left in the NPB before becoming a international free agent. The Lions would have to post him to make him major league eligible and there have been no discussions on that this year. The Lions may want to see him replicate his performance next year to increase his posting value.

NPB Golden Glove Awards

Thursday, November 9th, 2017

Below are the golden glove awards issued by the NPB. These are not given to the best defensive players at these positions, but the best players at the various positions. Like major league baseball, sometimes the best is based on a popularity contest. The surprise was that Shohei Otani did not receive any votes as either an outfielder or pitcher. Injuries left him with minimal playing time.

Central League

Pitcher - Tomoyuki Sugano (Yomiuri Giants)
Catcher - Seiji Kobayashi (Yomiuri Giants)
First Base - Jose Lopez (Yokohama Bay Stars)
Second Base - Ryosuke Kikuchi (Hiroshima Carp)
Third Base - Takashi Toritani (Hanshin Tigers)
Shortstop - Hayato Sakamoto (Yomiuri Giants)
Outfield - Yoshihiro Maru (Hiroshima Carp), Seiya Suzuki (Hiroshima Carp), Masayuki Kuwahara (Yokohama Bay Stars)

Pacific League

Pitcher - Yusei Kikuchi (Seibu Lions)
Catcher - Takuya Kai (Softbank Hawks)
First Base - Ginji Akaminai (Rakuten Golden Eagles)
Second Base - Daichi Suzuki (Lotte Marines)
Third Base - Nobuhiro Matsuda (Softbank Hawks)
Shortstop - Kenta Imamiya (Softbank Hawks)
Outfield - Shogo Akiyama (Seibu Lions), Yuki Yanagita (Softbank Hawks), Haruki Nishikawa (Nippon Ham Fighters)

Hawks Win NPB Championship

Saturday, November 4th, 2017

A walkoff single by Keizo Kawashima in the bottom of the 11th gave the Hawks a 4-3 win over the Yokohama Bay Stars. They captured their first Nippon Series since 2015, winning it four games to two.

The Bay Stars scored all their runs in the fifth after a leadoff homerun from Hiroyuki Shirasaki and a two run single by Jose Lopez. Hawk starter Nao Higashihama was chased with one out in the fifth.

The Hawks pecked away at the Bay Star pitching staff getting a solo shot in the second from Nobuhiro Matsuda to take a brief 1-0 lead. They pulled to within one after an RBI ground out in the eighth by Yuki Yanagita scored Yuya Hasagawa. Bay Star closer Yasuaki Yamasaki was called on to pitch the bottom of the ninth to protect the lead and send the series into a game seven. He gave up a one out solo shot to Seiichi Uchikawa to tie the game.

Dennis Sarfate was asked to work three innings in relief. He was credited with the victory after Edwin Escobar issued two one out walks in the bottom of the eleventh. Tomoya Makami retired the first hitter he faced but then gave up the two out hit to Kawashima to end the series.

Tsutsugo Keeps Bay Stars Alive in Playoffs

Friday, November 3rd, 2017

Yoshitomo Tsutsugo led the Yokohama Bay Stars to a 5-4 win over the Softbank Hawks to leave their Nippon Series hopes alive. It was the Bay Stars second straight win but the Hawks still lead the series three games to two.

Tsutsugo hit a two run homer in the fourth to give the Bay Stars an early 2-1 lead. His RBI double in the sixth closed the Bay Star gap to 4-3. A Toshiro Miyazaki RBI single in the same inning tied the game and a Hawk error gave them the lead.

The Bay Star bullpen was able to hold the Hawks scoreless in the last four innings despite giving up five hits. Closer Yasuaki Yamasaki got the last out of the eighth but loaded the bases in the ninth on three hits. A ground ball out ended the game. The Hawks finished the game with 11 hits, stranding 12 runners. Akira Nakamura drove in two runs with his homerun in the fifth.