Archive for the 'Japan' Category

Sugano to Play in MLB on his Terms

Wednesday, January 13th, 2021

There were enough major league teams bidding for Yomuiri Giants star pitcher Tomoyuki Sugano that he could have signed with one of them. He was even willing to take less money to play in the major leagues. But none of those major league teams were able to meet his terms. So he returned to Japan to sign for a pretty good four year $40 million contract that will allow him to live comfortably in Japan. And if a major league team wants to sign him next year he will be available. But they need to offer him a contract that he can accept, and a life that he can accept. Otherwise he has the option to go back to Japan and pitch for the Yomiuri Giants.

There is also a bit of turmoil in the major leagues and the United States that does not make it so attractive to live and work here. There is no certainty that there will be a season in 2022. The players and the major leagues have not come to any agreement so there could be a strike impacting any salaries that were negotiated in a contract. Heck. There is some uncertainty about having a 2021 season with the corona virus spreading much more heavily in the United States cities than Japan. There was even an attempted coup attempt that reminds people of what happens in other less settled countries.

So any contract Sugano signed for this year had the potential of being heavily impacted by whether there would be a 2021 or 2022 complete season. Perhaps as the major league season progresses they will get their house in order so that they can attract a player like Sugano, but not under the present chaotic circumstances that exist currently with major league baseball and the United States.

Hawks Refuse to Post Senga

Sunday, December 27th, 2020

One of the best pitchers in Japan, Kodai Senga has asked the Softbank Hawks to post him. He and Tomoyuki Sugano were voted the top pitchers in the Central and Pacific Conferences in the NPB. Recently the Rangers signed Kohei Arihara to a two year $6.2 million contract, with yearly salaries of $2.6 million in 2021, $3.6 million in 2022 and a $1.24 million posting fee. Sugano is expected to receive much more than that.

Instead of posting Senga the Hawks gave him a 100 million yen raise, the equivalent of $975,000. That elevates his salary to 400 million yen, not including incentives, which is the equivalent of $3.9 million. What he is actually worth will be determined by what Sugano gets. At 27 years of age Senga is four years younger than Sugano, which would attract more suiters and probably a greater salary.

In the Hawks mind, a four time champion in the NPB, they would be challenged to win the championship without Senga as their ace. Posting him is not to their benefit. Sugano will be eligible to declare himself an international free agent after the 2022 season.

Japan Nine

Saturday, December 26th, 2020

Japan gives out awards for the best player at each position. They included one player who was posted last year but major league teams did not sign (Kikuchi) and one current player who has been posted (Sugano). For the first time in a number of years no foreign player made the list.

Pacific League

Pitcher - Kodai Senga (Hawks) 11-6, 2.16
Catcher - Takuya Kai (Hawks) .211, 11, 33
First Base - Sho Nakata (Fighters) .239, 31, 108
Second Base - Hideto Asamura (Eagles) .280, 32, 108
Third Base - Daichi Suzuki (Eagles) .295, 4, 55
Shortstop - Sosuke Genda (Lions) .270, 1, 21
OF - Yuki Yanagita (Hawks) .342, 29, 86, Masataka Yoshida (Buffaloes) .350, 14, 64, Kensuke Kondoh (Fighters) .340, 5, 60
Designated hitter - Takumi Kuriyama (Lions) .272, 12, 67

Central League

Pitcher - Tomoyuki Sugano (Giants) 14-2, 1.97
Catcher - Takumi Ohshiro (Giants) .270, 9, 41
First Base - Munetaka Murakami (Swallows) .307, 28, 86
Second Base - Ryosuke Kikuchi (Carp) .271, 10, 41
Third Base - Kazuma Okamoto (Giants) .275, 31, 97
Shortstop - Hayato Sakamoto (Giants) .289, 19, 65
Outfield - Keita Sano (Bay Stars) .328, 20, 69, Yoshihiro Maru (Giants) .284, 27, 77, Seiya Suzuki (Carp) .314, 25, 75
No designated hitter in the Central League

NPB Gold Glovers Announced

Friday, December 18th, 2020

Nippon Professional Baseball have announced their gold glovers. These players are voted because of their gloves, unlike the KBO players who are voted at each position based on their offense. Two possible future Major leaguers (Sugano and Nishikawa) are on this list. One player (Kikuchi) did not make an error at second base, but no major league team was motivated enough to sign him last year. Finally, an ex major leaguer turning 40 (Aoki) also made this list. Only one foreign player (Viciedo) was good enough with the glove to make this list.

Continental League

Pitcher - Tomoyuki Sugano (Giants)
Catcher - Ryutaro Umeno (Tigers)
First Base - Dayan Viciedo (Dragons)
Second Base - Ryosuke Kikuchi (Carp)
Third Base - Shuhei Takahashi (Dragons)
Shortstop - Hayato Sakamoto (Giants)
Outfield - Yuhei Oshima (Dragons), Seiya Suzuki (Carp) and Norichika Aoki (Swallows)

Pacific League

Pitcher - Kodai Senga (Hawks)
Catcher - Takuya Kai (Hawks)
First Base - Akira Nakamura (Hawks) and Sho Nakata (Fighters)
Second Base - Shuta Tonosaki (Lions)
Third Base - Daichi Suzuki (Golden Eagles)
Shortstop - Sosuke Genda (Lions)
Outfield - Yuki Yanagita (Hawks), Haruki Nishikawa (Fighters) and Taishi Ota (Fighters)

Sugano and Yanagita Win MVPs in Japan

Thursday, December 17th, 2020

Tomoyuki Sugano (14-2, 1.97 ERA), who is being posted for an opportunity to play in the major leagues and Yuki Yanagita (.342, 29, 86), who many consider the best hitter not playing in the major leagues, were voted MVPs in their leagues. The Giants pitcher Sugano won it for the Central League, while the Hawks outfielder Yanagita won it for the Pacific League. The Hawks swept the Giants in the Japan Series.

Sugano has now won two Sawamura awards (2017 and 2018) and another MVP award won in 2014. He finished second this year in the Sawamura award to Dragons pitcher Yudai Ohno. For Yanagita this is his second MVP award. He won his first in 2015.

Giants infielder Kazuma Okamoto finished second in the Central League MVP voting. He won the Central League homerun title with 31 homeruns. The Hawks Kodai Senga finished second in the Pacific League. Senga is considered by many to be the best pitcher in baseball not in the major leagues. The Hawks have a policy of not posting their players to the major leagues.

Hiroshima Carp pitcher Masato Morishita (10-3, 1.91) was named rookie of the year in the Central League. Seibut Lions relief pitcher Kaima Taira (1.87 ERA, 33 holds and one save) was voted the rookie of the year in the Pacific League. Taira became only the sixth pitcher in Japanese baseball to hit 99 miles per hour on the radar gun.

Mel Rojas Jr. Gets Big Pay Day in Japan

Wednesday, December 9th, 2020

Mel Rojas Jr. could not make a major league roster. He was signed by a Korean Baseball Organization (KBO) team where he shined for three years, winning MVP last year after hitting 47 homeruns and driving in 135 runs. The Hanshin Tigers in Japan have rewarded him for his efforts, signing him to a contract that is worth an estimated $5 million over two years with $500,000 in incentives for each year of the deal.

Major league teams and other Japanese teams such as the Yomiuri Giants were also interested in signing Rojas. The major league teams were not close to reaching the $5 million that Hanshin reportedly gave Rojas. The Giants may have had foreign roster limits that may have made it difficult to sign Rojas for that kind of money. Any KBO team could not financially afford such a large contract. So Rojas Jr. has seen his big pay day, after going from the United States, to Korea to Japan.

Eric Thames is another ex KBO player that put up similar numbers as Rojas in the KBO and also winning MVP honors. He returned to the major leagues, signing with the Milwaukee Brewers, becoming a free agent after disappointing seaons and then signing with the Washington Nationals. The Nationals did not sign him after this season after he put up disappointing numbers. Thames has not put up the numbers in the major leagues that he put up in the KBO, which could have been a reason any contract offers did not match the Hanshin Tigers.

Mel Rojas Jr. is the son of ex-major leaguer Mel Rojas. He was a third round pick of the Pittsburgh Pirates way back in 2010.

Ichiro Coaching High School Baseball

Saturday, December 5th, 2020

Ichiro Suzuki is giving back to baseball what it gave to him by coaching high school baseball in Japan. It is not easy to coach high school baseball in Japan. In order to coach baseball in Japan you have to get a license, which requires attending mandatory seminars and completing coursework. Professional athletes are also normally prevented from coaching high school baseball because of the concern of recruiting amateurs. Ichiro had to get a special exemption. He will be coaching at Chiben Gakuen Wakayama Senior High School.

Chiben Wakayama is one of the top high schools in Japan for baseball. They have won the Koshien summer tournament in 1997 and 2000 and were runner up in 2002. They have appeared in the Koshien summer tournament 23 times and last qualified in 2017, according to Wikipedia.

Break Out the Brooms - Back to Back Sweeps for the Hawks in Japan Series

Wednesday, November 25th, 2020

The Softbank Hawks swept the Yomiuri Giants for their fourth consecutive Japan Series championship. Last year they swept the Giants and they repeated that effort this year with a 4-1 win. The Giants were not a very competitive team in this series.

Ex-major leaguer Tsoyoshi Wada gave up a run in the first inning and lasted just two innings. The Hawks went with six different relievers to shut out the Giants for the remaining seven innings on just three hits. Yuki Matsumoto followed Wada and worked 2.2 innings. The Hawks then stuck to the same script they have been using during these playoffs, bringing in Livan Moinelo for the eighth and Yuito Mori for the ninth.

The Hawks scored all four of their runs in the first two innings. Yuki Yanagita gave the Hawks a 2-1 lead with a two run homer in the first. Takuya Kai hit his second homerun of the series, a two run blast in the second. Giants starter Seishu Hatake gave up both blasts and was removed from the game after the Kai homer.

The good news for the Giants was the bullpen held the Hawks to just one hit in the last 6.1 innings. The bad news is the Giants could not generate any runs off the Hawks pen.

The Hawks have been the dominant team in the NPB the last seven years, winning the last four and six of the last seven championships. Their 12 championships are now one behind the Seibu Lions but still far behind the Giants 22 championships.

Moore Pitches Hawks to Game Three Win

Tuesday, November 24th, 2020

Matt Moore threw no hit ball through seven innings and the Softbank Hawks shutout the Yomiuri Giants 4-0 to get within a game of winning the Japan Series. One more win will give them four straight Japan Series titles. The Hawks have now won 11 straight Japan Series games, and seven straight against the Giants.

Livan Moinelo continued the no hitter into the ninth inning. Yuito Mori got two outs into the ninth before giving up a hit to Yoshihiro Maru. The only no hitter in a Japan Series game appears to be in 2007 when Daisuke Yamai and Hitoki Iwasi combined for one.. Yamai went eight innings in the 1-0 win.

Akira Nakamura got the scoring started early for the Hawks when he drove a pitch from Angel Sanchez in the third inning into the bleachers for an early 2-0 lead. Nakamura made it 3-0 with an RBI single in the seventh. Yurisbel Gracial added a fourth run with a single in the seventh.

Ono Wins Sawamura Award

Monday, November 23rd, 2020

The Chunichi Dragons Yudai Ono won the Sawamura award for being the best pitcher in Japan. This award is similar to the Cy Young award in the major leagues. Finishing in second was the Yomiuri Giants Tomoyuki Sugano. It is rumored that the Giants will post Sugano for the 2021 major league season.

To even be eligible for the Sawamura award, a pitcher must start 25 games, complete 10 games with at least 15 wins, have a winning percentage of .600, have an ERA of 2.50 or below and pitch at least 200 innings with 150 strikeouts. With a shortened season it was difficult to meet all those requirements. The committee is looking at revising those strict requirements to account for the changes in the game today.

Ono finished with a 1.82 ERA, 10 complete games, six shutouts, 11 wins, 148.2 innings and 148 whiffs. Sugano had 14 wins, a 1.97 ERA, three complete games, three shutouts, 137 innings pitched and 131 strikeouts. For Ono it was his first Sawamura award. Sugano won back to back awards in 2017 and 2018. No pitcher won the award in 2019 because they failed to meet the minimum requirements..

Sugano looked like the sure fire winner early in the season winning his first 13 games. Ono got off to a slow start but then whirled six shutouts during a mid-season run, throwing 45 consecutive scoreless innings during a shutout streak that went five consecutive games.

Other pitchers considered for the award were the Softbank Hawks Kodai Senga, Rakuten Golden Eagles Hideaki Wakui and Hiroshima ace and rookie Masato Morishita.