Archive for the 'Japan' Category

Bucketlist Reviewed

Monday, June 24th, 2019

Myworld is in Omaha to watch the last two games of the college world series. First we will enter into Papillion for a day game for the Storm Chasers, which will be a DHer of sorts, i.e. a finish to the second game that was suspended last night and a new game. Then we will travel down to Omaha for the first game of the finals of the College World Series. That will be a first, three games in one day.

Since this college world series was on my bucket list myworld thought we would summarize some of our bucket list accomplishments since 2011 after we first wrote of our bucket list down. At the end we will identify those adventures still on the list. These are only our baseball bucket lists. We have plenty of non-baseball adventures we would still like to capture.

October 2011 - Went to Panama to watch the last Baseball World Cup. The event is not quite as strong as the soccer World Cups. Attendance was sparse. Netherlands went on to upset Cuba for their first World Cup win. Lots of rain at the event. The third place game was not played because of rain but Canada was awarded the bronze. The gold medal game was delayed by about five hours. This would be the last World Cup before a major reorganization.

November 2011 - Visited Taichung, Taiwan for the Asian World Series. This is another event that was discontinued. Another upset as the Samsung Lions defeated the Softbank Hawks to become the first non-Japanese team to win the Asian Series.

February 2012 - Traveled to the Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic to see the Series del Caribe. Cuba had yet to be allowed to participate. This is another event that is struggling for survival. At the time the teams played pool play and the team with the best record was declared champion. This event was anticlimactic as the Dominican Republic won it easily. On the last day, win or lose the Dominicans had won the pool. They added Cuba later and went to a pool play and playoff format to make the finals or last day more meaningful.

September 6-11 2013- Japan trip. This was my fourth trip to Japan to watch baseball so not really bucket list material. Some of the events were. Witnessed Wladimir Balentien hit his 54th homerun on his way to a record breaking 60 for the year, smashing the record of Sadaharu Oh and Randy Bass, who each had 55. Also saw a pitcher’s duel between Masahiro Tanaka and rookie sensation Shohei Ohtani, won by Tanaka 3-2. Tanaka would go on to break a baseball record of 25 consecutive wins and then went on to play for the New York Yankees the next year. Ohtani is now with the Angels.

November 7, 2013 - Visited Arizona and watched the Arizona Fall League for the first time. Aaron Sanchez and Travis Shaw were two players who impressed me during that visit.

July 8th 2014 - Traveled to Dyersville Iowa to see the Field of Dreams. Also around that time went to Durham, North Carolina to see the old stadium that was used for the Durham Bulls movie. Myworld loves the Durham park and we have visited there at least three times.

November 11 2014 - Revisited Taichung, Taiwan for the 21 and under World Cup. Taiwan won it, upsetting Japan. Chun Lin Kuo pitched seven shutout innings in the 9-0 rout. Myworld was strangled in blue confetti after the win.

June 20th 2015 - These bucket lists can not be predicted. Witnessed my first no hitter, Max Scherzer doing the honors in Washington D.C.. The only previous no hitter I had seen prior to that was a seven inning minor league no hitter. I never really counted that since it was only seven innings.

June 23 2016 - Did not see a Little League World Series but I did go to Williamsport and visited the park. Went to a minor league game in Williamsport and watched Triston Mackenzie pitch for the Indians minor league team. The minor league park is located next door to the first field where the Little League World Series was played. They are still playing Little League games at that field.

July 2016 - Went to Haarlem, Netherlands to watch the Honkball tournament. It was my first experience of European baseball. The facility where they held the tournament is pretty impressive. I do believe Japan may have been the winners of that tournament, upsetting the Netherlands in the finals but I could be wrong. I did not see the finals preferring to enjoy some of the sights of Haarlem instead.

February 8 2017 - Witnessed my second Series del Caribe, this one in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico beat Mexico in the championship match. This was the first Series del Caribe that Cuba was allowed to play.

March 12, 2017 - Travelled to Miami, Florida to watch a World Baseball Classic game and it was wild. The Dominican Republic beat the United States and the crowd was probably more entertaining than the game. Also saw a couple World Baseball Classic games in Miami in 2013. Kenley Jenson was a catcher for the Netherlands.

July 7-9, 2018 - This was my first Futures game. The United States defeated the World. Talk is that they will be changing that format for this year. The homerun derby and the All Star game followed after that. The experience was awesome. The only downside is I had to leave early because the game went into extra innings and Metro was closing.

June 24 2019 - In Omaha to see the College World Series

November 2019 - Hope to return to Tokyo to watch the Premier 12

2020 and beyond.

The Olympics is on the agenda. I’ve already been to an Olympic event when they were in Los Angeles but watched the volleyball. The prices for these events seem a little steep.

World Series game is still a must see. I may have to travel for that since the Nationals and Orioles may never give me that opportunity.

Been to every ball park in Japan but Hokkaido. That is on the list. Will be going to Saint Louis after the College World Series leaving Tampa, Seattle, Oakland, Chicago White Sox, Detroit, Arizona, Toronto and Colorado as the only major league parks I have not visited. Went to the old Seattle park and if I don’t hurry the Oakland and Tampa parks may no longer be available. Still lots of minor league parks to visit.

Hope to see a European championship tournament. On my bucket list is a visit to Italy so seeing a game there and visiting Italy would fulfill two accomplishments.

Myworld has seen games in Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Netherlands, Puerto Rico, Nicaragua, Panama and Dominican Republic so going to another country to see a game would be cool. We’ve also played softball in Australia and Sweden.

Myworld has also been to Cooperstown, but it might be cool to visit it again to see how time has changed it.

That is it for now.

Swallows End 16 Game Losing Streak

Sunday, June 2nd, 2019

On May 12 the Yakult Swallows were in second place in the Central League. Three weeks later and after 16 losses in a row the Swallows found themselves in last place, 12 games out of first. The Central League record for most consecutive losses is held by the Swallows with 16 back in 1970. The Japanese record is held by the Chiba Lotte Marines, who lost 18 in a row in 1988.

The Swallows ended the losing streak on June 1 with a 5-2 win over the Yokohama Bay Stars. Keiji Obiki was instrumental in breaking the losing streak, driving in three early runs with a bases loaded, bases clearing three run double in the first inning. The Swallows added on another run in the second on an RBI triple by Yasutaka Shiomi and Wladimir Balentien blasted a solo shot in the third for the fifth run.

Another record was also broken in the game. Jose Lopez committed an error in the first inning for the Bay Stars to load the bases in the first inning. The error was his first error at first base since August 31, 2017. That was 1,632 chances at first base without an error.

Major League Draft Prospect Stewart Signs Japanese Contract

Tuesday, May 21st, 2019

There have been Japanese players who have wanted to forgo the Japanese draft and sign major league contracts. Those players ultimately played in Japan with Shohei Ohtani recently posted to the major leagues. No significant Japanese player has bypassed the Japanese draft to sign with a major league team.

Carter Stewart, who was drafted eighth by the Atlanta Braves in the 2018 draft has signed a six year $7 million contract with the Softbank Hawks. He failed to sign his contract with the Braves after a medical exam discovered a ligament issue in his wrist and the Braves significantly reduced their initial offer. He enrolled in a junior college to remain eligible for the major league draft and was projected to be selected somewhere in the second round.

That is a moot point now that he has signed a Japanese contract. This commits him to the Hawks for at least six years. The Hawks are not known for posting their players so an early departure does not seem possible. He will begin his Japanese career in the minor leagues and enjoy a cultural and educational experience.

Koji Retires

Monday, May 20th, 2019

Koji Uehara could not find a major league team to sign him at 43 years of age. So he returned to Japan to play for his old team, the Yomiuri Giants. He pitched 36 games last year but went 0-5 in a relief role with 14 holds.

He had pitched nine games in the minors this year for the Giants but his 4.00 ERA did not motivate a callup to the big club. Instead of hanging on in the Japanese minor leagues he decided to call it quits.

In Japan he began his career as a starter, winning 20 games in his rookie season. It was good enough to win the rookie of the year award and the equivalent of the Cy Young (Sawamura award). He never matched that win total or got under the 2.09 ERA the rest of his career as a starter. He was turned into a relief pitcher in 2007 saving 37 games.

In 1998 the Angels tried to temp Uehara to the major leagues with a $3 million offer. The Yomiuri Giants do not post players to the major leagues so Uehara had to wait until free agency before taking his craft to the major leagues. The Orioles signed him for two years and $10 million. That began a nine year major league career.

In his first year the Orioles tried him as a starter but he was not that effective. In 2010 he was converted to the bullpen where he became one of the more effective major league relievers. His 7.33 whiff to walk ratio is the best in major league history for a pitcher who has thrown at least 100 innings. The Orioles can thank Koji for the acquisition of Chris Davis, since the Orioles traded him to the Rangers for the Orange Crush.

World Cup 18 Groups

Friday, May 17th, 2019

The under 18 World Cup will be played in Gijang, Korea on August 30 to September 8 at the Gijang-Hyundai Dream Ballpark. The United States has won the last four under 18 championships.

Group A

Korea, Australia, Netherlands, Canada, Nicaragua and China

Group B

Japan, United States, Taiwan, Panama, South Africa and Spain

The top three teams from each group advance to the super round. The top two teams from the super round play for the championship. The absence of Cuba could be financial. They have also lost a number of their younger players to the major leagues.

NPB Pacific Update

Monday, May 13th, 2019

Softbank Hawks (21-15-2)

It is unusual when the Softbank Hawks are not at the top of this conference. They have been the Japan Series champions in four of the last five years. Yuki Yanagita may be one of the better players in the NPB. He hit 30 plus homeruns in three of this last four seasons and stolen over 20 bases in four of the last five years. This year injuries have limited him to nine games. In those nine games he hit .355 with four homeruns and 14 RBIs. Kenta Imamiya has replaced his offensive production (.336, 8, 22), which if he can keep it up would be career numbers. The big difference is his walk to whiff ratio (13/19), which is also the best in his career. Nobuhiro Matsuda (.279, 9, 26) leads the team in homeruns and RBIs. This is his 14th season with the Hawks where he has slugged 253 homeruns.

Two Cuban players have also been providing excellent production. Alfredo Despaigne (.250, 8, 20) and Yurisbel Gracial (.345, 5, 11) have been providing the Hawks some excellent offense. The two combined to hit homers in three consecutive games last week. Despaigne has been the Hawks slugger for the last three years, but his skills have been declining. Gracial is in his second season and his stock is rising, despite his 33 years of age.

On the pitching front Kodai Senga (4-0, 1.26) may be the top pitcher in Japan. His fastball has hit triple digits and he has struck out 71 in 50 innings. He would like to play in the major leagues but the Hawks do not post players so he will have to wait for free agency in a couple years. Kotaro Otake (1-1, 1.02) may not be getting the wins or the whiffs as Senga, but his ERA is better. This is his second season in the NPB after pitching 11 games last year. One of their traditional aces, Nao Higashihama (2-1, 6.16) has really been struggling. Rei Takahashi (4-0, 2.10) is another second year player who the Hawks have been relying on for the rotation.

Rick Van Den Hurk has been a starter for the Hawks the last four years but has not made an appearance yet this year. Dennis Sarfate has been the Hawks closer, saving 54 games two years ago. He has yet to make an appearance this year because of injury. Ariel Miranda (2-2, 4.94) has not matched Van Den Hurk in the rotation as a foreign pitcher. The Hawks continue to rely on Yuito Mori (1-2, 2.60, 10 saves) to be their closer. Last year he saved 37 games when Sarfate had his season end early because of injury after 18 games.

Livan Moinelo (0-1, 0.56) has been the setup man. The Cuban was to be made available by the Cuban Baseball Federation for major league baseball but Trump has nixed that arrangement. So Japan will continue to benefit from his services. At 23 years of age he still has a lot of future. Robert Suarez (0-1, 21.00) may have seen his last games in the NPB.

Nippon Ham Fighters (18-17-2)

The two big bats are Sho Nakata (.237, 8, 23) and Taishi Ota (.318, 6, 24). At 40 years of age Sho can not be counted on to be a regular producer. Last year he drove in 106 runs with 25 homeruns but at some point he will run out of gas. Ota appears to be coming into his own at 28 years old. The Fighters got him from the Giants for the 2017 season and he has hit double figures in homeruns his first two years with the Fighters. He was a bench player in his eight years with the Giants. Po-Jung Wang (.277, 1, 16) was the big name the Fighters got from Taiwan. He was a big homeruns hitter in the CPBL, but in Japan he only has one. Haruki Nishikawa (.287, 2, 13) stirs the Fighters offense from the leadoff spot and leads the team in runs scored (30). He has stolen 40 or more bases in three of his last five seasons. This year he has six, but he has also been caught three times.

Kohei Arihara has been the ace of the staff (4-1, 1.54). This is his fifth year with the Hawks and appears to be his best as far as the numbers go. The Fighters need him to keep it up because he is the only effective starter they have. Chihiro Kaneko (1-2, 3.94) who was once posted to the major leagues but could not agree on a contract, was acquired by the Fighters from the Orix Buffaloes, but he has not been impressive. His best seasons appear to be behind him. Naoyuki Uwasawa (3-1, 4.54) won 11 games last year but has faced struggles this year.

Other than Wang the Fighters foreign contributions have all been from the pitcher’s mound. Nick Martinez has yet to make an appearance this year after winning 10 games in 2018. Justin Hancock (0-1, 9.00, 2 saves) was used in the pen as the closer but was not reliable. Johnny Barbato (2-2, 3.52) has been unimpressive in the rotation. Bryan Rodriguez (2-1, 3.58) has bounced from the pen to the rotation. This is his second season with the Fighters. So no real superstars from outside Japan.

Lotte Marines (18-17-1)

The Marines have traditionally not been a baseball power. Brandon Laird (.308, 13, 28) has been changing that equation. This is his first season for Lotte after four seasons with the Fighters. With the Fighters he had hit over 30 homeruns and driven in more than 90 his first three years, but last year slumped to 26 homeruns and 65 RBIs, resulting in his release. The Marines took a chance on him and are getting paid in big dividends. They have not been getting much in the first year from Kennys Vargas (.203, 1, 6).

Seiya Imoue (.276, 4, 14) has been the most consistent Japanese bat. Last year he hit 24 homeruns in his first year making the starting lineup. Shogo Nakamura (.200, 7, 20) is three homeruns shy of reaching a career high in his fifth season with the Marines but the hits have been few. Last year he stole 39 bases. This year he has 9.

The veteran Hideaki Wakui (3-1, 3.25) has been the Marines most effective starter. Foreign pitcher Mike Bolsinger (1-3, 4.73) was their ace last year going 13-2, but in just the first few weeks of the season already has one more loss than he put together all of last season.

The bullpen has been the strength of the Marines early in this season, led by closer Naoya Masuda (2-1, 1.00, 10 saves). Last year Masuda was their setup man. Takahiro Matsunaga (1-1, 0.79), Yuki Karakawa (2-1, 2.70) and Yasuhiro Tanaka (1-0, 0.00) have been solid in the set up role.

From the mound on the foreign side, Brandon Mann (0-1, 13.50) has been absent and Josh Ravin has yet to make an appearance in his first season in the NPB. Kuan-Yu Chen (0-0, 0.00) has been good in his eight appearances from the bullpen.

Rakuten Golden Eagles (18-17-1)

The Eagles rely on the foreign bats of Zealous Wheeler (.271, 7, 31) and Jabari Blash(.269, 10, 28) for most of their offense. Wheeler is a veteran of the Eagles, in his fifth year. Last year was a down season for him because of injuries limiting him to 106 games. For Blash, this is his first season in the NPB and he has been worth the effort to acquire him. The bat of Luis Jimenez, acquired from Korea, is still stuck in the Japanese minor leagues.

The Japanese bats lack the power but hit the gaps. Eigoro Mogi (.313, 4, 15) has been getting on base from the leadoff spot. His 19/25 walk to whiff ratio has been the best in his four years in the NPB. He leads the team in runs scored with 30. Hideto Asamura (.292, 8, 25) is the big power bat acquired in free agency from the Seibu Lions. Last year he hit 32 homeruns and drove in 127 runs in his most productive NPB season.

Historically, the Eagles have been known for their starting pitching, providing the major leaguers with Hisashi Iwakuma and Masahiro Tanaka. Takahiro Norimoto has had four seasons of 200 or more strikeouts, but this year he has yet to make an appearance. He has had double digit victories in his first six seasons in the NPB but that streak appears to be in jeopardy this year. There is no solid starter on the mound who has an ERA under 4.00.

The bullpen has been their strength led by closer Yuki Matsui (1-1, 1.69, 9 saves) who may be small in stature but he piles up the saves. In his second through fourth years he picked up 30 or more saves but last year yielded to Frank Hermann (3-2, 6.23). This year it has been Hermann that has struggled, yielding the closer duties back to Matsui. Chia-Hao Sung (0-1, 2.00) appears to have taken over the setup role from Hermann. Alan Busenitz is a foreign pitcher on the roster who has yet to make an appearance. He has been very effective in the minor leagues with three saves and a 0.75 ERA.

Seibu Lions (16-19-1)

Last year the Lions were the class of the Pacific Conference. Losing Asamura to the Eagles via free agency put a dent in their offense this year. Hotaka Yamakawa (.270, 15, 42) continues to bash homeruns for the Lions. Last year he slugged 47. There lacks a second bat to protect Hotaka in the lineup. Shogo Akiyama (.290, 5, 15) prefers to spray the gaps with doubles, hitting over 30 in his last four seasons. Tomoya Mori (.306, 5, 28) is perhaps the best hitting catcher in the NPB. Takeya Nakamura (.241, 5,20) is 10 shy of reaching 400 homeruns in the NPB. He should reach that this year.

No one in the starting rotation to brag on. Most of the pitchers in this rotation have ERAs over 5. The bullpen also sucks. That brings us to foreign pitchers. Zach Neal (1-1, 5.95) has not held his own. Deunte Heath (0-1, 3.60) picked up 13 saves last year but is limited to one save this year. This is his fourth year and most ineffective. Fabio Castillo has yet to pitch in the NPB and Jen-Lei Liao has made three appearances.

The one big foreign bat, Ernesto Mejia (.143, 3, 9) has had a wasted year. This is his sixth year and he has had two good seasons with 35 and 34 homeruns. Last year he hit only .212 with 9 homeruns. They need to go scour the minor leagues to find a foreign bat to bring some power into this lineup.

Orix Buffaloes (14-20-3)

The Buffaloes, who had Ichiro Suzuki in their outfield when they were the Buffaloes have been absent any glory since then. The last time they were in the playoffs was in 2014 as a wild card team. The last time and only time they won a Japan Series was in 1996. They have nothing this year.

Masataka Yoshida (.271, 8, 21) is their only big bat. Last year was hit first year in a starting role and he slugged 26 homeruns. After him no player has more than four homeruns. Foreign hitter Joey Meneses (.206, 4, 14) is that bat. This is his first and possibly last year in the NPB. Chris Marrero (.167, 0, 0) hit 31 homeruns in his first two years but in 14 games this year has not hit a homerun. Stefen Romero (.304, 1, 5) bat has been limited because of injury.

The pitching has been decent. Yoshinobu Yamamoto (2-1, 1.37) has been moved to the starting rotation of the Buffaloes. Last year he pitched 53 innings. This year he has already accumulated 46. Taisuke Yamaoka (4-0, 3.00) has been racking up the wins in the starting rotation. In his first two seasons he had a losing record. Rookie Tsubasa Sakakibara (1-3, 2.09) has not been racking up the victories but he has been effective. Hirotoshi Masui (3.60, 11 saves) is the closer in his second season with the Buffaloes. He saved 35 games last year for Orix and prior to that was the closer for Nippon Ham.

Andrew Albers (1-2, 6.11) has been a big disappointment in the rotation. Last year he was 9-2 with a 3.08 ERA. Brandon Dickson has been a starter for Orix for six years. He has yet to make an appearance in his seventh year with the team. Tyler Eppler has seen minimal time (3 appearances).

Sakamoto Breaks NPB On Base record to Start a Season

Monday, May 13th, 2019

The Yomiuri Giants star shortstop Hayato Sakamoto broke a Central League record for most consecutive games reaching base to start the season. The old record was 35 consecutive games. Sakamoto delivered a first inning single in the Giants 4-1 loss to the Yakult Swallows to extend his on base streak to start the season to 36 games, breaking the old record held by Tomoaki Kanemoto back in 1997. The NBP record is 40 games held by Steve Ontiveros back in 1983.

The chances of Sakamoto going into the major leagues is slim to none. Even though he is one of the better players in Japan, the Giants, like the Softbank Hawks do not post their players. The players have to wait to become free agents, and by that time they are past 30 and not as attractive to major league teams.

For those interested, the record hitting streak in Japan is 33 games by Yoshihiko Takahashi of the Hiroshima Carp in 1979. The record for consecutive games on base is held by Ichiro Suzuki, who got on base in 69 consecutive games back in 1994.

NPB Central Update

Sunday, May 5th, 2019

The Japanese season is a little more than a month old. Below is an update on some of the players making an impact. The two favorites or traditional powers, Yomiuri Giants and the Softbank Hawks sit atop their division. Below is a review of the Japanese Central.

Yomiuri Giants (18-12)

Like the Hawks, the Giants do not post their players. Yoshihiro Maru has been a good free agent acquisition from the Hiroshima Carp. Last year he hit 39 homeruns and walked 130 times while hitting .306. He is staying on that course with the Giants with his .300 average, six homeruns and 20 walks in 30 games. They have also extracted a good bat from their rival Carp team and added it to their lineup. Hayato Sakamoto is their top player. The shortstop is the Derek Jeter of the Giants, hitting .333 with 9 homeruns. At 22 years of age, Kazuma Okamota had his breakout season last year with 33 homeruns and 100 RBIs in his first full season. He has continued to hit this year with his seven pops, though his average has dropped to .231.

On the pitching front Tomoyuki Sugano continues to be one of the top pitchers in the NPB, putting together double digit win totals in five of his six years in the NPB. He is going for double digit win total number six with his early 4-2, 3.21 ERA, though his hits to innings pitched numbers appear to show he has been a little more hittable early this season. Koji Uehara is still on the roster but he has yet to pitch this year after appearing in 36 games of relief last year. Shun Yamaguchi has been their top pitcher this year (4-0, 1.59). In his early years he was a closer for the Yokohama Bay Stars but he has been a starter for the Giants.

On the foreign front, Ryan Cook has been acting as the Giants closer in his first year in Japan. He has picked up six saves and is 0-1, 3.38 ERA. Injuries to Scott Mathieson have left him unavailable for the bullpen so far this year. Christopher Mercedes (3-1, 2.65) has been effective as a starter in his second season in Japan. On the offensive side Christian Villanueva (.240, 5, 13) has not yet been an impact player. The Giants were hoping for more than his .308 OBP and .438 slugging. Alex Guerrero would like to rebound from his poor year last year (.244, 15, 40) after wowing the fans his first year, showing unexpected power (.279, 36, 86). The early results have not been pleasant (.222, 4, 13). If those numbers do not improve Alex may be looking elsewhere for employment.

Yakult Swallows (18-13-1)

Tetsuto Yamada is their big bat. He has had three 30/30 seasons in Japan, hitting at least 30 homeruns and stealing 30 bases. He is going for his fourth with seven homeruns and 10 stolen bases. He has also driven in more than 100 runs in a season twice. His 22 RBIs in 33 games put him on course for a third season. His .318 average puts him at one of the more complete players in Japan. Munetaka Murakami is still a teenager (19) but his 8 homeruns is tied for the team lead. He is a strong candidate to win rookie of the year. Norichika Aoki left the major leagues but he continues to hit (.306, 5, 11). His 24 runs scored is second to Yamada on the team.

On the pitching front, Ryota Igarshi was signed away from the Softbank Hawks and has been playing vulture for the Swallows. In 12 relief appearances he is 5-0 with a 0.73 ERA. The closer is their veteran Taichi Ishiyama (1-1, 1.26, 7 saves). He saved 35 games for them last year. The starting pitching has been a big disappointment early in the season.

The big foreign contributor continues to be Wladimir Balentien. He broke the Japanese record for homeruns in a season back in 2013 with 60. He has always had difficulty staying healthy, but his previous three years he has played in at least 125 games and hit more than 30 homeruns in each of those seasons. This year he is hitting .284, 8, 29. Wladimir has 263 career Japanese homeruns. Pitching is where the other foreign players congregate. Dave Huff (1-0, 3.45) has been pitching in a setup role. David Buchanan (0-1, 4.75) has struggled in his third season as a starter for the Swallows. Albert Suarez (1-1, 1.38) has pitched well in two starts for the Swallows.

Hanshin Tigers (16-15-1)

The Tigers have the most passionate fan base in Japanese baseball. The 24 year old rookie Koji Chikamoto has been exciting that fan base, leading the team in stolen bases (10), runs scored (20), RBIs (17) and triples (3). He is also hitting .316. He is a big reason for surging up the Tiger fan base. Yusuke Oyama is also 24 but he is in this third year in the NPB. He leads the team in homeruns (6) and is tied with Koji for RBIs (17). Last year Oyama hit a career high 11 homeruns and he is almost half way there early in the season.

At one point Shintaro Fujinami was considered a better pitcher than Shohei Ohtani. The last few years he has had trouble finding the plate and hasn’t found the pitcher’s mound yet for the Tigers in 2019. Yuki Nishi, a free agent pickup from Orix has been eating up the innings as a starter (44) with a 2-3 record and a 2.25 ERA. That is about a run below his career 3.26 line. Koyo Aoyagi (2-2, 1.89) has been the other consistent starter.

On the foreign side, Randy Messenger (2-2, 3.66) is in his 10th year pitching for the Tigers. He has 97 career wins, three shy of the century mark. His numbers have been falling and at 37 he may be in his last season pitching in Japan. Pierce Johnson on the other hand is in his first season pitching in Japan and is doing well (2-0, 0.00) as the setup guy with seven holds. He has not given up a run in his first 14.2 innings. Myworld is positive Randy has told Pierce it will not always be this easy. Rafael Dolis (0-1, 2.38, 6 saves) is in his third season as the Tigers closer. Onelki Garcia (0-2, 19.29) has had a little hiccup in his second season in Japan. Last year he was 13-9, 2.99, but this year he has given up 23 hits in just 9.1 innings. On the offensive side Jefry Marte (.158) has struggled in his first year. Efren Navarro (.209) has also not been much of an offensive force in his second year in the NBP. He was also a disappointment in his first year. The two foreign bats have combined for just 4 RBIs on the season.

Hiroshima Carp (15-16-1)

The Carp have won the Central crown the last three seasons, but the Japan Series championship has proved elusive. It was 1984 when they last won a championship. Seiya Suzuki (.348, 9, 22) is the class of this offense. The last three years he has driven in more than 90 runs. At 24 years of age any major league team would love to have him for their outfield. Ryosuke Kikuchi (.280, 3, 13) has expressed interest in playing in the major leagues, but he may not generate enough offense to be an impact second baseman. Hisayoshi Chono was enticed away from the Giants have nine seasons but has gotten a slow start out of the gate (.224, 2, 4). With the Giants he was always in double digits with his homeruns and never hit below .251.

The big strength for the Carp is in their starting pitching with Daichi Osera (2-2, 1.64) and Hiroki Tokoda (4-1, 1.55) leading a solid rotation. For Hiroki this is his first big season in the NPB, especially as a starter. Shota Nakazaki is their closer with 29 or more saves in three of his four seasons. This year he has picked up four saves, but 12 runs in just 12.2 innings of work, but eight of those runs are unearned.

Kris Johnson has usually been a strength to this rotation, but this year has been a struggle (1-3, 5.54). He has a career 2.65 ERA in his fifth season in the NPB with win totals in double digits in all seasons but his worst. Kyle Regnault has been a pleasant surprise in the bullpen. He has yet to give up a run in 16.2 innings, though his walk rate is a little high. If he keeps throwing goose eggs he may replace current setup foreign guy Geronimo Franzua (4-1, 4.20), whose ERA is almost three runs higher than last season. Johnny Hellwig and Casey Lawrence have seen little to no activity with the big club. Xavier Bautista is their only foreign offensive player, second to Suzuki in homeruns and RBIs (.242, 6, 19).

Chunichi Dragons (14-17)

The Dragons have been out of the pennant races the last few years. Toshiki Abe has been a surprise bat (.343, 2, 16). This is his fourth season but he has always struggled to keep his average above .200. The 16 RBIs and two homeruns are already career highs. Dragon veteran Ryosuke Hirata has been raking (.310, 4, 14) in his 14th NPB season. He is good at getting on base (.425 career OBA) but not at stealing bases (38 stolen bases in 63 attempts).

Veteran Dragon starter Yudai Ono has been their most consistent starter (2-1, 2.34). This is his first year in nine seasons when his strikeout numbers are far ahead of his innings pitched (39 whiffs in 34.2 innings). This is the second season for Hiroshi Suzuki but they trust him enough to be their closer (10 saves). His 3.46 ERA could be better. Throwing strikes has been an issue for the 22 year old youngster.

Joely Rodriguez (0-1, 2.31, 12 holds) and Raidel Martinez (0-1, 1.04, 5 holds) have been effective setup guys. Enny Romero throws hard. The Dragons chose to use that heat in the starting rotation (2-1, 3.00). No matter what continent he is on he still has trouble finding the strike zone. Dayan Viciedo handles the offensive fire power for the Dragons (.302, 6, 21). Last year he was one shy of 100 RBIs. Zoilo Almonte (.260, 2, 5) has been a little too vanilla with his offensive numbers. At some point the Dragons may want to see what Steven Moya has. This is his second year in the NPB but all six of his homeruns have been in the minor leagues.

Yokohama DeNA Baystars (12-20)

Back to the basement for the Baystars. Next year they may lose their best hitter Yoshitomo Tsutugo to the major leagues (.301, 9, 22). Finishing last will provide extra motivation to post him to the major leagues. Last year he hit 38 homeruns and in 2016 he hit 44. They play in a band box in Yokohama so the homeruns come easy. The 24 year old third year player Keita Sano is putting up interesting numbers (.357, 2, 12) which could put him in the starting lineup more often.

Shota Iamnaga (3-1, 0.98) has been virtually unhittable in the rotation. He has give up just 28 hits in 46 innings. This is his fourth year in the Bay Stars rotation and could be his best year. Haruhiro Hamaguchi has pitched one shutout in this three starts and has spun together a 1.71 ERA in his third NPB season. Yasuaki Yamasaki is in his fifth season as closer for the Bay Stars. He has only picked up 4 saves but his 0.79 ERA is proof that he has had very few opportunities to pick up saves. He has already give up five unearned runs, a number he never gave up in his previous four years.

The foreign contingent consists of one of the biggest bats in Japan now, Neftali Soto. Last year he hit 41 homeruns. This year he already has 11 with 22 RBIs and a .246 average. Last year he was more consistent (.310). The career of Jose Lopez is winding down. This is his seventh NPB season. His batting average (.238) and slugging percentage (.393) are at career lows. Edwin Escobar (0-1, 3.63) is in his fourth season of set-up work with the Bay Stars. Edison Barrios (6.75) and Spencer Patton (9.72) are struggling with their roles. In the last two years Spencer has combined for 60 saves.

Hawks Take Advantage of their Cuban Connection

Friday, May 3rd, 2019

Most of the Japanese teams scout the major leagues to find their foreign players. Some teams like the Hiroshima Carp use their Dominican academy to try to find diamonds in the rough. Alfonso Soriano was one of those diamonds in the rough that first played for Hiroshima before he went to the major leagues. The Hawks work with the Cuban Baseball Federation to find their foreign players.

Alfredo Despaigne was at one time one of the best hitters in Cuba. He rarely plays in the Cuban Nacional Series, saving his at bats now for the NBP. His lack of defense keeps him as a DH now. He started his NPB career with the Lotte Marines, playing with them for three years. This is his third year with the Hawks. His first year he hit 35 homeruns and drove in 103 runs. Last year injuries cut down 30 of his games, dropping his homerun total to 29 and his RBI production to 74. His batting average dropped from .262 to .238. It was his lowest average of his NPB career.

The 2019 season is not showing a lot of promise. His batting average has dropped even further to .236. His power production has dropped to a slugging average of .355, the lowest it has been in the NPB. If his struggles continue this could be his last year in Japan. He will turn 33 years old in June. Major league teams seem to have a reluctance to sign players older than 33.

The Hawks signed Yurisbel Gracial last year. The 33 year old played in 54 games, batting .292 with 9 homeruns. This year the Hawks recently called him up and in his first 8 games he is hitting .357 with two homeruns. Last night he hit a three run homer in the Hawks 12-11 win. In Cuba he was a power hitter for Matanzas for about ten years.

The one pitcher they acquired from Cuba is Livan Moniello. He is not a big guy, standing less than 6′0″ (though he is listed at 6′0″) but less than 140 pounds. He throws left handed and can hit the low 90s with his fastball. Livan pitches out of the bullpen as the Hawks setup reliever. His first two years he picked up 28 holds. Last year he gave up one too many long balls, forcing his ERA to rise from 2.52 his rookie season to 4.53. This year he has yet to give up an earned run. The Cuban Baseball Federation was prepared to make him available to major league teams but Trump nixed the agreement between Cuba and the major leagues.

The Hawks have been the best team the last few years in the NPB, winning the Japan Series the last two years and four of the last five. They generally do not allow their players to be posted. Yuki Yanagita has been one of the best position players in Japan. Last year he hit a career high 36 homeruns with a .356 batting average. Back in 2015 he was a 30/30 player with 34 homeruns and 32 stolen bases, winning the Pacific League MVP award. This year he has been stalled by injuries, playing in only 9 games. At 31 years old major league teams may shy away from him. He does have 154 NPB homeruns in 9 years and could become a free agent soon. He could probably start for any outfield in the major leagues.

One of the better pitchers in Japan is Kodai Senga. He has expressed interest in pitching in the major leagues but he is still a couple years away from free agency. His fastball has reached triple digits but sits in the mid-90s. Since 2016 he has struck out more than one batter per inning. He pitched for Japan in the 2017 World Baseball Classic and was voted to the All World Classic Baseball Team. At 6′0″ he is not a tall pitcher but he is still just 26 years of age. This year his ERA is 1.46 in five starts with 54 whiffs in just 37 innings.

Dominican Republic Still Leads in Foreign Major Leaguers

Monday, April 1st, 2019

According to a major league baseball press release there are 251 foreign players from 20 different countries or areas who appear on 25 man major league rosters, or are on restricted or disabled lists. That accounts for 28.5% of the players. The Dominican Republic again leads in the most major league players outside the 50 United States. Below is a breakdown of where all those foreign players are from;

1. Dominican Republic (102)
2. Venezuela (68)
3. Cuba (19)
4. Puerto Rico (18)
5. Mexico (8)
6. Japan (6)
7. Canada (6)
8. Curacao (5)
9. South Korea (5)
10. Colombia (4)
11. Aruba (1)
12. Australia (1)
13. Brazil (1)
14. Germany (1)
15. Lithuania (1)
16. Netherlands (1)
17. Nicaragua (1)
18. Panama (1)
19. Taiwan (1)
20. U.S. Virgin Islands (1)