Archive for the 'Japan' Category

Top Ten Japanese Hitters

Saturday, July 4th, 2020

Myworld takes a look at the top ten hitters in Japan that we would like to see hit. Hopefully, we did not miss anyone. There are some younger players coming up that have not performed yet like the Tigers Koji Chikamoto but give them time and they may make the list.

1. Seiya Suzuki OF (Hiroshima Carp) - Seiya will turn 26 next month. Every year he just seems to get better. You can usually count on 25-30 homeruns every year with a batting average above .310. Last year he had a 103/81 walk to whiff ratio. His RBI production dropped to 87 after three years in the 90s. The drop in power numbers could be an indication that pitchers are refusing to pitch to him. This year he has gotten off to a good start with a .383 average and 5 homeruns in 12 games. Could probably fit into any major league outfield.

2. Hayato Sakamoto SS (Yomiuri Giants) - When you have a shortstop that can hit 40 homeruns that is pretty impressive. He was voted the MVP of the Central League last year. The only reason I do not put him at the top of the list is last year seemed a bit of an aberration. He did hit 31 homeruns in 2010 but he normally fits between 15 and 20 homeruns. Hard to believe at 31 years of age he can keep on producing at that high a rate. The 94 RBIs was his career high. The Giants will not post him or let him get away as a free agent until they feel he does not offer them anything. He is too valuable to the team. His 123 whiffs was also a career high so perhaps he is just taking greater rips at the ball.

3. Yuki Yanagita OF (Softbank Hawks) - The last two years injuries have limited him to 52 games. At 31 years of age he is not getting any younger. His peak years were between 2015 to 2018 when he had three seasons of 30 plus homeruns, two seasons of a batting average above .350, three seasons of 99 RBIs or greater and one 30/30 season. He would probably be at the top of this list if not for the injuries. This year he has gotten off to a decent start with a .294 average and three homeruns. The season is still early but he has avoided injuries.

4. Tetsuto Yamada 2B (Yakult Swallows) - Wladimir Balentien was their big time slugger so Tetsuto hit in relative obscurity. Now that Balentien is gone to the Hawks it will be time for Yamada to shine, if he has someone in the lineup to protect him. He has had two straight 30/30 seasons and four for his career. Name a major leaguer that can match that. The 28 year old has a career .296 average but he had a poor year in 2017 (.247 average), otherwise he could be going for his fifth straight 30/30 season. A slow start to this season where he is only hitting .226 but he has four homeruns and four stolen bases. The last four seasons he has walked at least 90 times, with over 100 walks the last two seasons. He has also whiffed over 100 times the last 5 seasons. Normally the Swallows have him bat leadoff, but this year could be different.

5. Hideto Asamura 2B (Rakuten Golden Eagles) - He started out his career with the Seibu Lions. He had a nice break out year with them in 2018 hitting .310 with 32 homeruns. He signed with Rakuten the next year as a free agent and continued his assault on the pitchers hitting .263 with 33 homeruns. His RBI production dropped from 127 to 92, but that 127 is difficult to maintain. That is almost an RBI per game. The 30 year old has started the 2020 season on fire, hitting .352 with six homeruns and 19 RBIs in 14 games. Perhaps it will not be too difficult for him to reach that 127 RBI peak this year.

6. Kazuma Okamoto 3B (Yomiuri Giants) - The 24 year old had his breakout season in 2018 when he hit .309 with 33 homeruns and 100 RBIs. Last year he was not as consistent, hitting just .265 but he did hit 31 homeruns and drove in 94. He played in all 143 games the last two seasons. Okamoto is still powering balls over the fence in 2020 with five homeruns, 12 RBIs and a .426 average. Imagine the left side of the infield teaming together to hit 71 homeruns.

7. Tomoya Mori C (Seibu Lions) - He plays a position in which players are not expected to hit. It is also a demanding position where offensive prowess goes down as players get beat up. He became the Lions starting catcher in 2015 at 20 years old. During that time he has maintained a career average of .298 with homerun numbers in the double digits. Last year he had his career offensive season hitting 23 homeruns, driving in 105 with a .329 average. This year his numbers have been very vanilla (.275, 1, 9) but he should break out soon.

8. Masataka Yoshida OF (Orix Buffaloes) - He will turn 27 next week. The last two years he has had break out seasons with 26 and 29 homeruns. He is now reaching the prime of his hitting career. Both years his RBI totals hit 85 and 86. He has a career average of .315. There is no other ballplayer as consistent as Yoshida. This year he keeps riding the train, hitting .308 with three homeruns and 9 RBIs. Perhaps playing with Adam Jones can improve his game.

9. Hotaka Yamakawa 1B (Seibu Lions) - The last two years Yamakawa has been a beast with the bat, hitting over 40 homeruns and driving in more than 120 runs. His strikeout numbers (140) bring his batting average numbers down to the .260 range. Yamakawa is the Lions big run producer. His batting average is down this year (.217) but he does have a 12/11 walk to whiff ratio with five homeruns and 13 RBIs.

10. Munetaka Murakami 1B (Yakult Swallows) - Last year was the first season for this then 19 year old. All he did was hit 36 homeruns and drive in 96 runs to win rookie of the year. He struggles making contact with his 184 whiffs breaking the record for most strikeouts in a season by a hitter in the Central League. The massive strikeout numbers also resulted in a low .231 average. This year he seems to be doing a better job of making contact (10 whiffs in 13 games) and it shows in his .341 average. He has hit three homeruns which gives him a monstrous .636 slugging average to begin the season.

Rising Star Okamoto Leading the Giants

Wednesday, July 1st, 2020

The Giants are led by their veteran shortstop Hayato Sakamoto. He was voted the MVP last year in the Central Conference. But another player is making his presence felt on a team that prides itself on superstars. That person is Kazuma Okamoto.

The Giants drafted Okamoto in the first round back in 2014. His first three seasons he got into 35 games and hit one homerun with a .189 batting average. Not the kind of numbers you expect from a superstar, but you have to remember he was still a teenager for part of those years. It was the 2018 season he had his breakout year.

Shinnosuke Abe was winding down his career opening up more playing time for Okamoto. Playing for the Giants is like playing for the Yankees. You have to earn your playing time. In 2018 Okamoto earned his playing time, appearing in all 143 games, hitting .309 with 33 homeruns and 100 RBIs. That is the kind of production that will keep your bat in the lineup.

In 2019 he proved that last season was not a fluke. He again played in all 143 games and hit .265 with 31 homeruns and 94 RBIs. The numbers dropped a little as pitchers became more aware of his presence in the lineup, but the production was similar. The strikeouts numbers increased while the walks dropped as pitchers pitched around him. Perhaps Okamoto found himself guilty of chasing pitches too much out of the strike zone that year.

This year he is on fire. He has started the season hitting .475 with 5 homeruns and 12 RBIs in just 10 games. His strikeout numbers have dropped a little while his walk numbers are increasing (4/7). It is still too early in the season so those numbers can change. Slumps can put a damper on the numbers. The Giants find themselves at the top of the Central League at 7-2-1 based on his early season contributions.

For those major league fans hoping to see him someday posted for the major leagues it probably will not happen while he is in the prime of his career. The Giants do not historically allow players to be posted. Last year they posted their first player Shun Yamaguchi so perhaps that policy is changing. But at 32 years of age Yamaguchi was seen as in the down side of his career as a pitcher.

Marines Sizzle to Start the Season

Sunday, June 28th, 2020

It has been close to a decade (2010) since the Chibba Lotte Marines won a Japan Series. Not a lot of people expected them to contend for the playoffs this season. They are proving those experts wrong. After losing their opener against the Softbank Hawks the Marines have nailed losses on eight straight opponents since then.

Yesterday they beat the Orix Buffaloes 6-5. Brandon Laird hit a solo homerun in the bottom of the eighth inning to break a 5-5 tie. Jay Jackson put an exclamation point to the win by striking out the side for his first save. The normal closer Naoya Masuda was not available since he had pitched in two consecutive games.

Brandon Laird has led this team on offense. He has hit .344 with his Pacific League leading 5 homeruns (tied with two other players). Those five homeruns have only led to 8 RBIs, but that is enough to lead the team. His eight runs scored also leads the team.

The other foreign player Leonys Martin is second on the team in runs scored (6). He has so far fallen short of expectations with a batting average of just .233. Only one of his seven hits have gone for extra bases (a double).

There are two Japanese players who are also helping with the offense. Seiya Inoue (.375, 1, 7) and Takashi Ogino (.361, 0, 2) are both in the top five in hitting. Inoue is second on the team in RBIs, despite hitting four less homeruns than Laird. Ogino is tops on the team in stolen bases (5).

The pitching, especially in the bullpen is where the team shines. Masuda is their closer with three saves and two holds. He has whiffed seven of the 19 hitters he has faced and has yet to give up a run in his five innings of work. Two foreign pitchers act as the setup men. Frank Hermann (2-0, 0.000) has two wins and three holds in his five appearances. Jackson (5.40 ERA) has one save and two holds in his five appearances. Hermann last year pitched for Rakuten while Jackson pitched for Hiroshima. Both signed with the Marines as free agents to stabilize the bullpen.

Atsuki Taneichi (0-0, 1.38) has been a pleasant surprise in the rotation. Last year was his breakout season (8-2, 3.24) in his second season in the NPB. The only runs he has given up in his two starts are two solo shots. Daiki Iwashita pitched 5.2 shutout innings in his lone start this season. Manabu Mima (1-0, 3.00) was another free agent signed out of Rakuten. Last year he won eight games for the Golden Eagles but the Marines expect him to add a veteran presence on the mound..

So far the Marines are marching in step as they lead the Pacific League. Whether they can keep their lead is up to the Hawks, Eagles and Lions, the three favorites to contend for first place in the Pacific.

Parra Starts Hot for the Giants

Monday, June 22nd, 2020

Gerado Parra is one of the hottest hitters in the NPB. The Yomiuri Giants were the only team to sweep their opponent (Hanshin Tigers) in the weekend series openers for all the teams and a big reason for that sweep was the bat of Parra. He batted .556, slugged two homeruns and drove in six in the three games. He also walked three times to put his OBA at .667.

When Parra made his first plate appearance of the NPB he walked up to the “Baby Shark” song. Since there are no fans in attendance it could only be appreciated by those watching the game on television. Myworld will be curious about the response once the fans can hear the music live.

Japan Hopes to Allow Fans by July 10

Monday, June 22nd, 2020

Japan has opened their season this past weekend to no fans. They hope that will change by July 10 when 5,000 fans will be allowed in the stadium. The Japanese parks tend to be larger than the parks in Taiwan so they can space out more people. They are then hoping that by August 1 the stadium can be filled to half capacity.

Some of conditions that may need to exist before they allow fans are 1) ability to do temperature checks, 2) masks must be worn, 3) prohibiting fans from countries with high corona virus rates - which could limit United States fans from attending 4) and limiting the fun at the stadium by not allowing any jumping or rocking back and forth, even waving towels will be discouraged.

Korea has yet to have a date for when they will start allowing fans. The major leagues continue to stumble with their money grab and threaten even the start of the season.

Japan Starts Their Season

Saturday, June 20th, 2020

The Japanese season saw there opening games on Friday. There was lots of rain, but no fans. Each team got their games in, with some delay. Pitchers seemed to be the hitting stars for two of the games, the first time in NPB history that two pitchers have hit homeruns on opening day. Below is a summary of the openers.

Yomiuri Giants 3 Hanshin Tigers 2

This is one of the biggest rivalry games, similar to Yankee/Red Sox games. The Giants got a two run homer from Naoki Yoshikawa in the seventh to erase an early Hanshin Tiger 2-1 lead to win the game. A good start from Giants ace Tomoyuki Sugano, who had an off year last year. He gave up two runs in seven innings, pitching long enough to get the win. Kata Nakagawa pitched a scoreless eighth and Rubby de la Rosa shut down the Tiger bats in the 9th to pick up the save.

Pitcher Yuki Nishi drove in both runs for the Tigers, one with a solo homerun in the third and the other an RBI double in the fifth. He also went six innings giving up just one run.

Chunichi Dragons 9 Yakult Swallows 7

These two teams are expected to be the cellar dwellers in the Pacific. Dragons scored two in the 10th to win it. The two teams combined for 35 hits. Zoilo Almonte and Dayan Viciedo each combined for three hits for the Dragons. Dayan clubbed a two run homerun in the first.

Hiroshima Carp 5 Yokohama DeNA Baystars 1

Daichi Ohsera went the distance giving up just four hits. One of those was a solo bomb by Jose Lopez in the second inning. The Carp put the game out of reach in the 10th with three runs, triggered by the pitcher Ohsera’s two run homerun followed by Jose Pirela with a solo shot to make it back to back.

Seibu Lions 3 Nippon Ham Fighters 0

The Lions got six shutout innings from Zach Neal, who only allowed one hit but walked three and hit a batter. Three different relievers pitched an inning of shutout relief with Tatsushi Masuda working the ninth to earn the save. The Lions scored all three runs in the third, Hotaka Yamakawa, Shuta Tonosaki and Takumi Kuriyama each driving in one run.

Rakuten Golden Eagles 9 Orix Buffaloes 1

Takahiro Norimoto also needs a come back year and he got it off to a good start, going seven innings and allowing just one run on one hit. Normally a strikeout pitcher Norimoto struck out just three. Taisuke Yamaoka also pitched well for the Buffaloes, allowing just one run in seven innings. The bullpen let the game get away coughing up 8 runs in the eighth inning.

Softbank Hawks 2 Lotte Marines 1

The defending champs are playing without their Cuban offensive stars Alfredo Despaigne and Yurisbel Gracial, who are stuck in Cuba because of the corona virus. Cuba is not allowing anyone to leave the country. Despite their absence the Hawks pulled out a 2-1 win in 10 innings, getting a walk off (sayonara) single from Ryoya Kurihara in the bottom of the tenth to nail the victory. Yuki Yanagita drove in the first run for the Hawks.

Lotte got six innings of shutout ball from Ayumu Ishikawa. He allowed just two hits and struck out seven. The Hawks Nao Higashihama countered with five shutout innings, also allowing just two hits.

Asian Dream Team

Wednesday, June 17th, 2020

Because one of the requirements is you have to have played in the major leagues it limits the talent level of the Japanese players. Some of the all time greats from Japan are not eligible. Limiting it to Japanese players who played in the major leagues would not create a full roster of quality players. In some cases, like with catcher you only have one player born in Japan that played catcher in the major leagues. This is a team filled with Asian players from Australia, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, thought Australia and Taiwan only had one player each.

Starting Lineup

Ichiro Suzuki RF (Japan)
Kosuke Fukudome CF (Japan)
Shohei Ohtani DH (Japan)
Hideki Matsui LF (Japan)
Ji-Man Choi 1B (Korea)
Kang Jung-Ho 3B (Korea)
Tadahito Iguchi 2B (Japan)
Kenji Johjima C (Japan)
Kazuo Matsui SS (Japan)

Bench

Dave Nilsson (C) (Australia), Rob Refsnyder (UTL) (Korea), Nori Aoki (OF) (Japan), Shin-Soo Choo (OF) (Korea), Dave Roberts (OF) (Japan), Tsuyoshi Shinjo (OF) (Japan)

Starting Pitching

Hideo Nomo (Japan), Masahiro Tanaka (Japan), Daisuke Matsuzaka (Japan), Yu Darvish (Japan), Park Chan-Ho (Korea)

Bullpen

Koji Uehara (Japan), Kazuhiro Sasaki (Japan), Hideki Okajima (Japan), Shohei Ohtani (Japan), Seung-Hwan Oh (Korea), Chien-Ming Wang (Taiwan)

This team lacks a true shortstop. Matsui and Kang played a lot of shortstop in Japan and Korea but were not considered major league shortstops. This is a big hole. Behind the plate you can rotate Nilsson and Johjima. Choi was even considered a catcher when he played in Korea and briefly in the minor leagues. So Taguchi was left off the roster but he and Shinjo are interchangeable. Refsnyder was included because of his ability to play infield. There are a number of quality starting pitchers to choose from. Kenta Maeda was left off this roster in favor of Park. The bullpen can have seven relievers because of the dual ability of Ohtani. Wang is the one player from Taiwan who I could not squeeze in the rotation but I did put him in the bullpen. He could make an occasional emergency start. That knocked off Australian lefty Graeme Lloyd.

New Ways for Team Owners to Make Money at Fanless Games

Friday, June 12th, 2020

Or at least appeal to their season ticket holders, many of whom may cancel their season tickets prior to the 2021 season. These ideas were brought up by people I spoke with who live in Japan who say that the Japanese teams are promoting some of these ideas. Myworld has not seen anything written about them yet, at least in English language newspapers. The Giants and the Bay Stars are promoting some variation of the below, but myworld has expanded a bit on the concept.

Have fans pay for or assign season ticket holders an outfield seat and if a player hits a homerun that hits that seat the fan who paid for that seat gets an autographed ball from the player who hit the homerun. Or at least you get the ball if the player refuses to sign the ball because it has not been negotiated in the latest contract.

You can advance that idea further by having fans pay for any seat in foul or fair territory and if a ball hits the seat the fan who paid for the seat, or the season ticket holder assigned that seat gets the baseball. Only one seat per fan. If the demand is enough you could limit the owner ship of that seat to a strict number of games.

Another idea that is being proposed at Japanese parks is having fans take a picture of themselves. They pay for a seat and the team creates a card board image of them from the picture and places it on the seat. And you can apply the first proposal that if a ball hits the cardboard fan he gets the baseball either mailed to him or he comes to the park to pick it up.

Major league baseball owners looking to add revenue in empty stadiums could use some of these ideas to help generate revenue.

Japan Still on for June 19 Start Date; Poor Look for MLB as Asian Leagues Start

Monday, June 8th, 2020

Despite the positive corona virus results to MVP Giant shortstop Hayato Sakamoto and teammate Takumi Oshiro, the NPB is still on track to begin the season June 19. The corona virus results have said to be mild, but the players have still been isolated.

There is so much confidence in the control of the pandemic that the NPB is talking about allowing 5,000 fans maximum into games starting as early as July 10. The stadiums in Japan are much bigger than Taiwan so fans have more spacing. It is expected that all teams will take a significant loss without fans in attendance, but you hear no griping from their owners about starting the season.

So another professional baseball league is ready to get started. Despite the fear about financial losses with no fans the owners have not put in provisions for salary cuts for the players despite reduced attendance. They hope to play 120 games this season when normal seasons are 143 games. Korea and Taiwan also have not had salary reduction discussions despite no or reduced attendance at games.

To date it is only the major league owners who want to socialize their losses while they privatize their gains, meaning they are not willing to share with the players any financial gains they get from the increase of their franchise values, but they want the players to share in any losses, rather than borrowing on the increased value of their franchise. Perhaps they need to learn something from these Asian leagues.

It is a very poor look for major league baseball with all these other professional leagues starting with no discussion of salaries or money. The owners seem to vent over the losses they will incur with no fans, but their is silence in the other professional baseball leagues as they begin their seasons with no fans.

Under 15 World Cup Scheduled for Tijuana in October

Friday, June 5th, 2020

Tijuana, Mexico is becoming a hot spot for baseball. First it was announced that the Women’s World Cup of Baseball would be played there November 12-21. Now the WBSC has made it a double header by announcing that the Under 15 World Cup will be played in Tijuana on October 30 to November 8. That is back to back World Cup events held in one city.

In the last World Cup held in 2018 the United States defeated Panama, while Taiwan finished third. The teams that will be competing in this 15 and under World Cup are:

Africa: South Africa
Americas: Cuba, Dominican Republic, Mexico, Panama, United States and Venezuela
Asia: Taiwan and Japan
Europe: Germany and Italy
Oceania: Guam