Archive for the 'Japan' Category

Yomiuri Giants Advance to Central League Finals on Sugano No Hitter

Monday, October 15th, 2018

The Yomiuri Giants advance to the finals of the Central Conference with their 4-0 win over the Yakult Swallows, winning the best two out of three match. Giants ace Tomoyuki Sugano pitched a complete game no hit shutout, walking one and striking out seven. The one walk happened in the seventh inning. It was the first no hitter in a Climax playoff series. The Chunichi Dragons Daisuke Yamai and Hitoki Iwase combined for a perfect game in the fifth and final game of the 2007 Japan Series.

Hisayoshi Chono gave the Giants an early 1-0 lead with a solo shot in the second inning. Casey McGehee tacked on an insurance run in the fourth with a solo blast and Yoshiyuki Kamei added two more with a homerun in the same inning. Swallows starter Juri Hawa gave up all three homeruns.

The Giants will now play a six game series against the Hiroshima Carp with the Carp already up one game to zero.

Nippon Ham Fighters 4 Softbank Hawks 2

The Fighters got back to back to back two out doubles from Haruki Nishikawa, Taishi Ota and Kensuke Konda to break a 2-2 tie. Naoya Ishikawa worked a perfect ninth to pick up the save.

Nick Martinez worked seven innings for the Fighters, allowing just two runs, one on a solo homerun from Akira Nakamura in the fourth. Kodai Senga worked six innings, giving up just two runs, one of them unearned. Toshitake Yokoo hit a solo blast off Senga in the third.

The series is now even at one game apiece with a possible final game tomorrow.

Yomiuri and Softbank Strikes First

Saturday, October 13th, 2018

The Yomiuri Giants and the Softbank Hawks have traditionally been the best in the Central and Pacific Conferences for the last decade or so. In the first round of the wild card playoff games that dominance appears to be intact.

Yomiuri Giants 4 Yakult Swallows 1

Hayato Sakamoto broke a 1-1 tie with a solo blast in the third inning. Ex-major leaguer Koji Uehara pitched to four batters in relief and struck out three of them in his perfect 1.1 inning of relief. Shun Yamaguchi pitched a perfect eighth and ninth innings to earn the save. Nobutaka Imamura got the call to start but fell one out short of five innings to get the win.

Sofbank Hawks 8 Nippon Ham Fighters 3

Orlando Despaigne crushed a grand slam homerun in a five run first inning that proved to be the difference for the Hawks. Kai Takuya extended the lead to 7-1 with a two run homer in the third.

Yomiuri Giants Clinch Last NPB Playoff Spot

Wednesday, October 10th, 2018

With the Giants 9-4 win over the Hanshin Tigers they have clinched the last playoff spot in the Nippon Professional Baseball League. They will play the Yakult Swallows in a best two out three format. The Central League will have the Nippon Ham Fighthers play the Softbank Hawks.

The winner of the Central Division (Hiroshima Carp) and Pacific Division (Seibu Lions) will play the winners of the wild card games in a best of seven series with the Carp and Lions getting a 1-0 advantage before the series begins (making it a six game series).

Kazuma Okamoto hit two homeruns, a solo shot in the seventh that broke a 4-4 tie and a two run blast in the eighth to give the Giants the win. The 22 year old is in his fourth season, but his first three seasons he accumulated only 69 at bats. This has been a break out season for Okamota with 33 homeruns and 100 RBIs.

Okamoto was a first round pick of the Giants in 2014 and became the youngest player in Japanese history to hit .300 with 30 plus homeruns and 100 RBIs. The youngest prior to that was Yakult Swallows superstar Tetsuto Yamada, who accomplished the feat in 2015 at 23 years of age. Tetsuto also stole more than 30 bases that year, the first of his three 30/30 seasons. Okamoto is not a base stealer.

Lions to Post Kikuchi

Tuesday, October 2nd, 2018

The Siebu Lions have agreed to post Yusei Kikuchi to the major leagues next year. He becomes a free agent in Japan after the 2019 season. Kikuchi does not have the stuff of Shohei Ohtani or even Masahiro Tanaka. He is more representative of Hisashi Iwakuma, a smallish righthander who sits in the low 90s but can hit the mid-90s with his fastball.

Kikuchi had a season for the ages in 2017, going 16-6 with a 1.97 ERA. He struck out 217 batters and gave up just 122 hits in 187.2 innings. This year he is not so dominant (14-4, 3.08, 153 K’s and 124 hits in 163.2 innings). Reports say his slider is not as effective as it was in 2017.

At 6′0″ he is a small righthander and durability comes into question. Japanese pitchers are used to pitching every sixth day so they have one more day of rest than pitchers in the major leagues. This extra work could slow down the fastball.

Like Ohtani Kikuch wanted to avoid the Japanese draft so he could play in the major leagues right away. Players who choose to bypass the Japanese draft are prevented from returning to Japan to play in the NPB for three years. Signing with a Japanese team binds a player to that club for nine years.

Top Thirteen Baseball World Rankings

Friday, September 28th, 2018

The World Baseball and Softball Confederation has come out with their rankings of the top world baseball teams. The rankings go 73 deep but below is the top thirteen. The Top 12 teams are invited to the Premier 12, which is an Olympic Qualifier event.

1. United States (5515 points)

2. Japan (5245)

3. Korea (4534)

4. Cuba (3495)

5. Taiwan (3165)

6. Mexico (2672)

7. Netherlands (2263)

8. Australia (2233)

9. Canada (2142)

10. Puerto Rico (1849)

11. Venezuela (1809)

12. Dominican Republic (1481)

13. Panama (1475)

Japan picked up 146 points on the United States to close the gap on first place. Taiwan earned the most points in 2018. Latvia and the British Virgin Islands sit at the bottom of the rankings with one point each.

NPB Update

Thursday, September 27th, 2018

The playoff opportunities in the Nippon Professional Baseball League have all but been decided for five of the six teams. In the Pacific League the top spot appears to be the Seibu Lions. One of the benefits of taking first place is the bye in the first round, the automatic win prior to the playoffs starting and every playoff game in the conference is at your park. It is rare for a first place team not to advance to the Japan Series. The two wild card teams are the defending champion Softbank Hawks and the Nippon Ham Fighters. Last year with Shohei Otani on the team the Fighters did not make the playoffs. In 2016 they were Japan Series champions.

In the Central League the Hiroshima Carp have sewn up the conference for the third year in a row. Last year they lost to the wild card Yokohama Bay Stars in the Central League championship, a rarity in the NPB. They have not won a championship since 1984, the longest drought in the NBP. The Yakult Swallows appear to have the first wild card in hand. For them it will be their first playoff appearance since 2012.

The last playoff spot appears to be a battle between the Yokohama DENA Baystars and the Yomiuri Giants. Last year the Giants did not make the playoffs. You have to go back to 2006 to find a time when the Giants went two consecutive seasons without making the playoffs. The Baystars have had back to back season when they have qualified for the playoffs as the wild card team. Last year they won the Central League championship but were beaten by the Hawks in the Japan Series. On the outside looking in with still a hope is the Hanshin Tigers, but the games are getting scarce and they are more than two games out with 12 to play.

For individual performances in the Pacific League, the leaders are:

Batting average

Yuki Yanagita (.359) Softbank Hawks, Shogo Akiyama (.325) Seibu Lions, Kensuke Kondo (.321) Nippon Ham Fighters, Hideto Asamura (.312) Seibu Lions, Masataka Yoshida (.310) Orix Buffaloes

Homerun Leaders

Hotaka Yamakawa (44) Seibu Lions, Yuki Yanagita (34) Hawks, Hideto Asamura (30) Lions, Nobuhiro Matsuda (28) Softbank Hawks, Alfredo Despaigne (27) Softbank Hawks

RBIs

Hideto Asamura (119) Lions, Hotaka Yamakawa (117) Lions, Sho Nakata (102) Nippon Ham Fighters, Yuki Yanagita (97) Hawks, Seiya Inoue (89) Chibba Lotte Marines

ERA Leaders

Takayuki Kishi (2.72) Rakuten Golden Eagles, Yusei Kikuchi (3.16) Seibu Lions, Naoyuki Uwasawa (3.24) Nippon Ham Fighters, Nick Martinez (3.49) Nippon Ham Fighters, Yuki Nishi (3.65) Orix Buffaloes

Wins

Shinsaburo Tawata (15) Seibu Lions, Yusei Kikuchi (13) Lions, Shuta Ishikawa (13), Softbank Hawks, Mike Bolsinger (13) Chibba Lotte Marines, Kodai Senga (12) Softbank Hawks

Saves

Yuito Mori (34) Softbank Hawks, Hirotoshi Masui (33), Orix Buffaloes, Tatsuya Uchi (25), Chibba Lotte Marines, Frank Hermann (18) Rakuten Golden Eagles, Naoya Ishikawa (14) Nippon Ham Fighters

Central League

Batting Average

Dayan Viciedo (.350) Chunichi Dragons, Hayato Sakamoto (.332) Yomiuri Giants, Ryosuke Hirata (.329) Chunichi Dragons, Norichika Aoki (.326) Yakult Swallows, Toshiro Miyazaki (.325) Yokohama Bay Stars

Homeruns

Yoshihiro Maru (38) Hiroshima Carp, Yoshitomo Tsutsugo (38) Yokohama Bay Stars, Neftali Soto (35) Yokohama Bay Stars, Wladimir Balentien (34) Yakult Swallows, Tetsudo Yamada (33) Yakult Swallows

RBIs

Wladimir Balentien (121) Swallows, Dayan Viciedo (98) Dragons, Yoshihiro Maru (95) Carp, Kazuma Okamoto (95) Yomiuri Giants, Seiya Suzuki (91) Hiroshima Carp

ERA

Tomoyuki Sugano (2.36) Yomiuri Giants, Daichi Osera (2.53) Hiroshima Carp, Katsuki Azuma (2.54) Yokohama Bay Stars, Onelki Garcia (2.88) Chunichi Dragons, Kris Johnson (3.27) Hiroshima Carp

Wins

Daichi Osera (15) Carp, Tomoyuki Sugano (13) Giants, Onelki Garcia (13) Dragons, Randy Messenger (11) Hanshin Tigers, Katsuki Azuma (11) Bay Stars

Saves

Yasuaki Yamasaki (34) Yokohama Bay Stars, Taichi Ishiyama (31) Yakult Swallows, Shota Nakazaki (30) Hiroshima Carp, Rafael Dolis (30) Hanshin Tigers, Shinji Tajima (15) Chunichi Dragons

Shumpei Yoshikawa Signs with Diamondbacks

Sunday, September 23rd, 2018

Shumpei Yoshikawa did not register for the NPB draft in Japan last year, expressing an interest to play major league baseball. No Japanese team drafted him. He pitched in the industrial leagues and the Diamondbacks saw enough of him to pay a $650,000 bonus to sign him. He will report to the instructional leagues in Salt River.

Yoshikawa throws in the low 90s with a splitter and slider. At some point pitching coaches may want him to develop a change. The stuff is far from Ohtani like so don’t expect an ace like pitcher. He will fit in the middle or back of the rotation, or could be used in relief. It all is dependent on how he develops his other pitches.

18 and Under Qualifiers

Saturday, September 15th, 2018

The 18 and under World Cup will be played in Gijang, Korea in 2019. The first two qualifiers for that tournament were from Europe, Netherlands and Spain. The Asia qualifiers have finished and the three dragons have advanced.

Korea won the 18 year old qualifiers held in Miyazaki, Japan, defeating Taiwan in the finals 7-5. The game went into extra innings after Taiwan scored a run in the ninth to tie. Japan had to settle for third place after their 14-1 victory over China.

Korea and Japan seem to be leap frogging the 18 and under championships, with Korea winning in 2009 followed by Japan in 2011. Korea took the crown again in 2014 but Japan followed by recapturing the championship in 2016. Taiwan has finished in second place for consecutive tournaments. The last time they won an 18 and under Asian championship was in 2007.

The last time any team other than Korea, Japan or Taiwan has finished in the top two was in 1994 when Australia finished second. That was the first recorded 18 and under championship. Australia now competes in the Oceania region. China, Philippines and Thailand are the teams that fill the fourth spot.

Carp and Lions Class of the NPB

Monday, September 3rd, 2018

In the Central everyone loves the Yomiuri Giants, who are considered the New York Yankees of the NPB. They are one of the first professional Japanese teams and have won more NPB titles. The Hanshin Tigers may not be good consistently but they are popular.

In the Pacific League the Softbank Hawks had replaced the Giants for the best team in the NPB. Since 2000 no team has won more NPB championships (5) than the Hawks and four of their five championships have occurred after 2011.

This year, the top two teams in each division are the Seibu Lions in the Pacific League and the Hiroshima Carp in the Central League. The Lions last won a title in 2008. For the Carp, they have won the Central Division the last two years, but you have to go back to 1984 to find their last championship. Since 2000 eight of the 12 NPB teams have won championships. Of the four teams that have not won championships, the Bay Stars won in 1998, Orix won in 1996 as the Blue Wave and the Hanshin Tigers won in 1985. So the Carp have the longest reign without winning a championship.

The Carp are comfortably on top in the Central and this should allow them a third appearance in Japan Series. Winning the division gives them a bye in the Central playoffs and home games once they play the winner of the wild card series.

The big bat for the Carp is Yoshihiro Maru, who is having a career season (.323, 31, 78). His 104 walks are a career high as are his 31 homeruns. Injuries delayed the start of his season so all this production will happen with fewer games played than in previous seasons. Seiya Suzuki (.337, 27, 81) is the other productive outfield bat. At 24 years of age this is probably his most productive season.

For the most part the Carp are winning without the presence of a foreign bat. Xavier Batista is hitting well when in the lineup (.255, 23, 48) but he has only played in 80 of the Carps 115 games and his production has been inconsistent. Brad Eldred continues to have trouble staying healthy, limited to 38 games with just a .213 average. He has played more (40 games) in their minor league system trying to find his bat.

The ace of their staff is 27 year old Daichi Osera (15-5, 2.21) whose 15 wins and 2.21 ERA are all career highs. This is his fifth year pitching for the Carp. On the pitching front the Carp have been better with foreign players, Kris Johnson putting up solid numbers to be their number two starter (10-2, 2.98). This is a bounce back year for Johnson after struggling with a 4.01 ERA last year in only 13 starts.

The closer for the Carp has been Shota Nakazaki (3-0, 2.78, 29 saves). He is supported by two foreign pitchers Jay Jackson (3-1, 2.70, 23 holds) and Geronimo Franzua (1-3, 1.68, 16 holds).

The Lions have two big bats in Hideto Asamura (.316, 26, 102) and Hotaka Yamakawa (.268, 36, 97). No player has more homeruns than Yamakawa. This is actually his first season as a full time player and the first baseman is taking the league by storm. Last year he showed his potential for power with 23 homeruns in 78 games. The last Asamura hit for more than 100 RBIs was in 2013. He is now one homerun and eight RBIs from passing his career highs.

Outfielder Shogo Akiyama (.325, 18, 65) is a steady source at the top of the lineup. His 84 runs scored are second on the team to Asamura and Yamakawa, who each have scored 85 runs. Sosuke Genda builds on his rookie of the year season (.268, 3, 45) with another good season. His 32 stolen bases are tops in the NPB.

Amazingly, the Lions are also dominating their division with no productive foreign bats in their lineup. Ernesto Mejia (.212, 9, 18) who had been a traditional source of production for the Lions has been absent for most of the season. They have had no foreign presence to replace him.

The Lions may have the next Japanese pitcher who comes to the major leagues to test his craft. Yusei Kikuchi (10-4, 3.07) was the star at Koshien but took a few years to have success in the NPB. Last year he had his breakout season (16-6, 1.97). This year his strikeout numbers are down and he has been easier to hit, not the kind of season Kikuchi was looking at if he wished to be posted to the major leagues next year.

Daiki Enokida (9-2, 3.30) has been having a good season in his first year with the Lions. Previously Daiki pitched for the Tigers and was used primarily in relief. This has been his first real opportunity in the starting rotation and he has made the most of it. Shinsaburo Tawata (12-5, 4.38) leads the team in wins and eats up innings, but his outings have been inconsistent. This is only his third season in the NPB.

The biggest weakness for the Lions has been their bullpen. Last year’s closer Tatsushi Masuda has been awful (0-4, 6.75, 11 saves). They have found no alternative, though foreign pitcher Deunte Heath (3-1, 2.43, 8 saves), signed away from the Carp has the second most saves for the Lions.

South Korea Wins Asian Games Gold

Sunday, September 2nd, 2018

They were upset in their opener by Taiwan 2-1. After that South Korea ran the table, shutting out Japan 3-0 in the gold medal game for their fifth straight victory. It was their third straight Asian games championship.

Yang Hyeon-jong shut out the Japanese amateurs on one hit for six innings. Japanese pitcher Ryoga Tomiyama walked the first two hitters he faced. Both of them scored on a single by An Chi-Hong. Ex-Twin Park Byung-ho is starting to find his homerun bat. He slammed a solo shot in the third inning, the fourth consecutive game in which he has hit a homerun.

Jang Pill-Joon and Jung Woo-ram closed out the game for South Korea, completing the shutout by retiring all nine hitters they faced.