Archive for the 'Japan' Category

Honkball Announces Five Teams

Thursday, February 6th, 2020

Haarlem is a pretty cool city to watch baseball. You have the downtown area with a number of nice eating establishments and a little out in the suburbs you have the ball park where the Honkball tournament is held. It is also held in late June/early July where the sun stays out until 10 PM, or so it seemed. Loved the fact that bicycles seemed to outnumber automobiles as the mode of transportation.

Honkball has announced five of their teams for their tournament for June 26 to July 5 at the Pim Mulier Stadium in Haarlem. Netherlands, Cuba, Germany, Japan and Taiwan are the teams that have been added to the tournament. They are looking at adding a sixth team from the United States, but Curacao is an easy alternative if they cannot attract a team from the United States.

The Netherlands is normally their national team. You may recognize some ex-major or minor leaguers from their rosters. Roger Bernadina is a name some may recognize. Japan and Taiwan are teams whose rosters are filled with players from industrial leagues or colleges. Japan is the defending champions and Taiwan has won the tournament in the past. Cuba will probably be a mixture of veterans and youngsters depending on where Cuba wants to go. Germany will probably be a team composed of their national team players that could include Donald Lutz.

So enjoy the tulips, windmills and baseball in Haarlem. It will be a week difficult to beat for a vacation.

World Baseball Classic Officially Announces Qualifiers

Tuesday, January 28th, 2020

The World Baseball Classic has officially announced their qualifiers, both to be played in Tucson in March. The games will be played at the Kino Sports Complex.

Pool 1 (March 12-17) - Brazil, France, Germany, Nicaragua, Pakistan and South Africa

Pool II (March 20-25) - Czech Republic, Great Britain, New Zealand, Panama, Philippines and Spain.

The top two teams from each pool will qualify for the World Baseball Classic that will be held March 2021. All 16 teams who participated in the 2017 World Baseball Classic have qualified for the 2021 event. Those countries include the defending champion United States, Australia, Canada, Cuba, China, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Israel, Italy, Japan, Korea, Netherlands, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Taiwan and Venezuela

Japan is Number one in Both Men’s and Women’s Baseball

Thursday, January 16th, 2020

Japan has achieved the top rating in both men’s and women’s baseball. The United States is second in men and fifth in women. For men the United States team bypasses a number of tournaments such as the World Cup Under 23, and play amateurs in the Premier 12, which prevents them from accumulating the points that Japan earns. The United States women are hampered by the culture of forcing talented players to pursue softball, where it is a high school recognized sport, abandoning baseball. This eliminates talented female baseball players from continuing with the sport.

Below is the Top 12 Ranking for each gender.

Men’s Top 12

1. Japan (6,127 points)
2. United States (4,676)
3. Korea (4,622)
4. Taiwan (4,352)
5. Mexico (3,375)
6. Australia (3,249)
7. Netherlands (2,690)
8. Cuba (2,641)
9. Venezuela (2,624)
10. Dominican Republic (2,512)
11. Puerto Rico (2,013)
12. Canada (1,873)

The top 12 is significant since a team qualifies for the Premier 12 by being ranked in the top 12 for baseball.

The women’s top 12.

1. Japan (2,505 points)
2. Canada (1,947)
3. Taiwan (1,852)
4. Venezuela (1,736)
5. United States (1,524)
6. Australia (1,182)
7. Korea (955)
8. Cuba (947)
9. Dominican Republic (717)
10. Hong Kong (520)
11. Netherlands (500)
12. Puerto Rico (371)

In women’s softball the United States is ranked number one with Japan at number two. For the men in softball Japan is ranked number one. The United States is sixth, behind Argentina, New Zealand, Canada and Australia.

Under 23 World Cup Qualifying Round

Thursday, January 16th, 2020

The Under 23 Baseball World Cup qualifying round will be held in Nicaragua and Honduras. Competing in the Nicaragua competition will be Brazil, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Dominican Republic, Venezuela and the hosts Nicaragua. In Honduras, other than the hosts the competition will be Argentina, Colombia, Cuba, Guatemala and Panama. Absent from the competition are the United States and Canada. Even Puerto Rico is absent in the tournament.

The Under 23 World Cup will be held October 2-11 in Mexico. Mexico are the defending champions having defeated Japan in 2018 when it was played in Colombia. Other countries who have qualified to play are Germany and Czech Republic (European qualifier), New Zealand (Oceania - Australia dropped out), Taiwan, Japan and China (Asia Qualifier), Korea (wild card selection) and Mexico as the host.

Honduras is an interesting country to choose to be a host for a baseball qualifier since baseball is not a big sport in that country. If you want to grow the game you have to expose the countries not usually exposed to baseball. Not sure why the United States and Canada chose not to participate but the major and minor league pipeline availability probably has something to do with that.

Kim Returns to Doosan, Yanagita Signs Seven Year Pact with Hawks

Monday, January 6th, 2020

It was not a surprise to see major league teams not jump at the chance to sign a potential 30 homerun outfielder from Korea. Especially since those 30 homerun days had occurred in the past. Asking your team to post you is not a good idea after you have had a bad year.

Jae-Hwan Kim had won the MVP in 2018 with his 44 homeruns and 133 RBIs while hitting .334. The previous two years he had hit over .300 with homerun numbers of 35 and 37 and RBI stats of over 100. It was after the 2018 season he should have asked the Bears to post him.

In 2019 Korea went to a new ball and the numbers Kim had put up dropped off the cliff. He hit .283, slugged only 15 homeruns and drove in just 91, respectful numbers for the KBO but not Kim worthy. He requested to be posted after that season, his age 31 season. Major league scouts had not taken a close look at Kim since there were no indications he was going to request to be posted. Were injuries a reason for his numbers to drop? The change to the new ball? A drop in ability?

So Kim returns to the Bears. If he puts up good numbers will he again try to pursue a major league opportunity? Or will he be satisfied with his KBO career?

Another player the major leagues will not have an opportunity to sign is Yanagita. Yuki Yanagita, a star in Japan would obviously be a starter on any major league team if he had forced the Hawks to post him. The Softbank Hawks have yet to allow their players to be posted to the major leagues. Instead, Yuki recently signed a seven year contract with the Hawks, which means his career will remain in Japan. Major league teams will have to be content with watching Yuki in international events such as the World Baseball Classic and the Olympics. At 31 years of age now, Yanagita will be 38 when that contract expires.

Last year Yanagita missed most of the season because of a knee injury. The injury caused him to miss most of the season, putting him short by 13 days of service time to allow him to become a free agent. If he could have played in 2019 Yanagita could have declared for free agency after the 2019 season. Because of the injury he would have had to wait until after the 2020 season, when Yanagita would have been 32 years old to declare free agency. Major league teams do not sign 32 year old outfielders to rich contracts.

When Yanagita’s career ends, and if he can avoid injury, he could put up numbers that will make him one of the ten best players in Japanese history, up there with Sadahara Oh and Ichiro Suzuki.

Cuban Colas Leaves Japan Seeking Major League Opportunity

Friday, January 3rd, 2020

Cuban prospect Oscar Colas has left Japan to seek a contract with a major league baseball team. Most news sources are saying he hit .302 with 11 homeruns, but this was all in the minor leagues. He played for the Softbank Hawks and they had two other Cuban veterans ahead of him in Yursibel Gracial and Alfredo Despaigne playing for the big club. Colas was not going to see a lot of playing time with the Hawks with their foreign player quota restriction.

There are reports that the outfielder has been clocked at 95 miles per hour and he is lefthanded. At 21 years of age he still may be young enough to develop.

Colas did get 18 at bats with the NPB Hawks and hit .278 with one homerun. He also struck out six times, a high strikeout rate. He was also hit by pitch twice, which is high for only 18 at bats. In the minors he had a 19/61 walk to whiff ratio in 252 at bats. That lack of contact and patience is a cause of concern. He was only hit by pitch once in those 252 at bats.

Kikuchi to Stay in Japan

Friday, December 27th, 2019

One Japanese free agent has been taken off the market. Ryosuke Kikuchi has decided to stay in Japan. He was posted December 3 and would have needed to sign by January 2. Kikuchi is a gold glove fielding second baseman that has a questionable bat. Most major league teams have been sacrificing defense to get offense from their second base position. Because the market was slow for Kikuchi’s skills he made the decision to inform his team (Hiroshima Carp) early that he was returning to Japan.

There are still a number of major league veterans who play second base who are still looking for a team. There may not be enough positions open to fill all those slots. The Nationals still have two veteran second baseman still looking for work in Brian Dozier and Asdrubal Cabrera.

Status of KBO and NPB International Signings

Tuesday, December 17th, 2019

It was a big week for major league baseball as well as baseball in Japan and Korea. The Rays signed Yoshitomo Tsutsugo from Japan while the Cardinals inked lefthanded Korean pitcher Kwang-Hyun Kim. Both should make an impact for their teams.

Myworld has always liked Yoshitomo Tsutsugo. His defense is not that strong so it is unclear where he will play for Tampa Bay. Depth wise the Rays have better defensive outfielders in Hunter Renfroe, Austin Meadows and Kevin Kiermaier. The Rays also have a crowded first base field with Ji-Man Choi and Nate Lowe. That leaves the DH position as his most viable spot, with occasional starts in the outfield.

The bat is what attracts the Rays to Yoshitomo. In 2016 he had his best year for the Yokohama Bay Stars hitting 44 homeruns with a .322 average and 110 RBIs. His 2019 season was a disappointment with 141 whiffs, his only season in which he struck out more times than games played. He also drove in just 79 runs. Yokohama is a hitter’s park so the dimensions are small and homeruns are prevalent. Teammates Neftali Soto, who could not get major league playing time, slugged 43 homeruns and Jose Lopez hit 31.

The 28 year old only signed for two years and $12 million. Another $2.4 million will be paid to the Bay Stars as compensation for his posting. After the two years he could become another free agent at 30 years of age making him eligible for another rich contract if he shows success. He just needs to reduce those strikeouts that were so prevalent last year.

From another country Korean Kwang-Hyun Kim signed with the St. Louis Cardinals in his second posting opportunity. He was posted back in 2014 when the Padres won a bidding process for him. Kim seemed to be on the down side of his career at that point, suffering from injuries that saw his ERA climb by two runs the last two years. He and the Padres could not agree on a contract and he returned to Korea. He eventually had Tommy John surgery in 2017 and this seemed to be the answer to all his ailments. The last two years he has been the ace of the SK Wyverns pitching staff with ERAs under 3 the last two seasons. Last year the offense in Korea was down so the 2.51 ERA is not as impressive. He did go 17-6 in 30 starts.

Kim throws a fastball in the low 90s but it can hit the mid-90s. He also has an above average slider. The contract is for two years at $8 million. There are also incentives that can add an additional $1.5 million to the contract. How much the Cardinals will owe the SK Wyverns in the posting fee will depend on whether he meets any of those incentives.

There are three more professional international players out there looking for a contract after having been posted or as a free agent. Myworld thinks the Rays and Cardinals have signed the two top players.

Japanese pitcher Shun Yamaguchi had a good year for the Yomiuri Giants. He was 15-4 with a 2.91 ERA. There are reports that the Blue Jays have signed him to a contract. He will probably fit in the back end of the rotation, though in his early years he was the closer for the Yokohama Bay Stars. Last year was his career year so the Blue Jays may be signing buying him when his stock is at its peak, or perhaps he figured things out.

Shogo Akiyama was the free agent outfielder that may be the fourth outfielder type. He can play centerfield but there may be a question with his bat. Last year he hit .303 with 20 homeruns for the Seibu Lions. His last three years he has hit over 20 homeruns with a batting average over .300. Myworld would be surprised if his bat translates to the major leagues. He could be a solid player for a second division team, but a fourth outfielder for a playoff team. He is a free agent so there is no posting fee required to sign him.

The same can be said for Hiroshima Carp second baseman Ryosuke Kikuchi, though his defense is supposedly at the gold glove level. The problem for Kikuchi is his weak bat, where his average will sit around .250 and his OBA may fall below .300. He has hit double digits in homeruns the last four years but myworld would be surprised if he can reach those levels in the major leagues.

The Doosan Bears outfielder Jae-Hwan Kim has been posted but there has not been a lot of news on him. After hitting 35 or more homeruns between 2016-2018 and winning the MVP award in 2018, he had a down year last year. Offensive numbers were down in the KBO but Kim’s numbers were really down, at 15 homeruns and a .283 average. At 31 years of age it will be interesting to see if he gets any major league teams interested in him.

Not Korean, but playing in the KBO, Josh Lindblom signed a big contract with the Milwaukee Brewers. He was the teammate of Kim and may put in a good word for him, though the Brewers are a little stacked in the outfield. Lindblom won the KBO MVP award last year with his 20-3, 2.50 ERA. This is his third attempt at making a major league team. After having some success in the KBO in 2015-2016 he tried to return to the major leagues. He found himself back in the KBO late in 2017 after failing to stick on a major league roster. He signed a three year contract for a little over $9 million.

NPB Award Winners

Tuesday, November 26th, 2019

The Nippon Professional Baseball has issued out there awards. Below are the winners.

Central League MVP

Hayato Sakamoto SS (Giants) - .312, 40, 94 RBIs. Imagine major league teams with a shortstop who can hit 40 homeruns.

Pacific League MVP

Tomoya Mori C (Lions) - .329, 23, 105. Imagine a major league team with a catcher having the ability to drive in 100 runs.

Central League Rookie of the Year

Munetaka Murakami 1B (Swallows) - .231, 36, 96. Only 19 years old.

Pacific League Rookie of the Year

Rei Takahashi P (Hawks) - 12-6, 3.34 ERA

Sawamura Award (similar to Cy Young)

For the first time in 19 years no award was given. To be considered pitchers have to achieve minimal accomplishments. Wins, innings pitched, complete games, strikeouts, ERA, etc. The voters felt that no pitcher meant these minimums to receive an award. Since these numbers were established back in the iron man days when pitchers threw 160 pitches in a game, there has been talk of modify some of the minimums to take into account the new era.

Central League Best Nine

Pitcher - Shun Yamaguchi (Giants) - 15-4, 2.91. First time voted to the Best Nine. Will be posted for major league teams this year.
Catcher - Tsubasa Aizawa (Carp) - .277, 12, 63
First Base - Dayan Viciedo (Dragons) - .315, 18, 93. Cuban has found a home with his bat in Japan.
Second Base - Tetsuto Yamada (Swallows) - .271, 35, 98. Stole 33 bases to make him a 30/30 player.
Third Base - Shuhei Takahashi (Dragons) - .293, 7, 59. First Best Nine, but the vanilla stats shows a lack of quality at third base.
Shortstop - Hayato Sakamoto (Giants) - .312, 40, 94
Outfield - Seiya Suzuki (Carp) - .335, 28, 87. MVP of the Premier 12.
Outfield - Yoshihiro Maru (Giants) - .292, 27, 89
Outfield - Neftali Soto (Bay Stars) - .269, 43, 108

Pacific League Best Nine

Pitcher - Kodai Senga (Hawks) - 13-8, 2.79. 227 strikeouts. One of the top five pitchers in baseball. His first selection to Best Nine.
Catcher - Tomoya Mori (Lions) - .329, 23, 105
First Base - Hotaka Yamakawa (Lions) - .256, 43, 120
Second Base - Hideto Asamura (Eagles) - .263, 33, 92
Third Base - Takeya Nakamura (Lions) - .286, 30, 103. These are the stats you want to see from your third baseman.
Shortstop - Sosuke Genda (Lions) - .274, 2, 41. Stole 30 bases and scored 90 runs.
Outfield - Shogo Akiyama (Lions) - .303, 20, 62. Another player being posted for the major leagues.
Outfield - Masataka Yoshida (Buffaloes) - .322, 29, 85
Outfield - Takashi Ogino (Marines) - .315, 10, 46. Stole 28 bases.
Designated Hitter - Alfredo Despaigne (Hawks) - .259, 36, 88. One of the few Cuban stars who has not defected. The Cubans sub-contract him out to Japan and make money off his skills, instead of Alfredo making millions of dollars by defecting when he was in his prime.

Baby Shark, Parra Off to Japan

Wednesday, November 20th, 2019

The Yomiuri Giants have signed Gerrado Parra to a contract. You have to wonder if he will bring his baby shark walk up song into the Tokyodome. Don’t know if they have a Japanese version of the song.

The Giants will pay him $2 million for 2020 and have a vesting option for $3 million in 2021. Parra is not the offensive threat many Japanese teams usually seek in a foreign bat. Perhaps they are hoping his locker room presence will have the same effect it had on the Nationals.

It has been some time since the Giants have last won the Japan Series (2012). The last time the Giants had a seven year lag between championships was from 1974-1980 and 1982-1988. They have never gone more than seven years between championships and will do so if they do not win the Japan Series in 2020.