Archive for the 'Japan' Category

Major League Baseball and the Corona Virus

Saturday, August 1st, 2020

It seems major league baseball has been hit with a number of positive tests for the corona virus. In Asia, in the NPB, the KBO and the CPBL I am not aware of one positive case. I can’t say whether they are testing daily or not but they have yet to have a postponement because of the corona virus. The major leagues seem to be having a number of postponements and their season just got started.

Makes you wonder about the United States efforts and ability to contain the virus. If there is a case in Asia everything shuts down as they contact trace. In the United States myworld wonders if they even bother trying to contact trace. In many cases, by the time you get a result seven days or more has passed and contact tracing becomes irrelevant. At least the major leagues has the ability to get results back in a day or two, but they have been getting so many positive results back that it makes continuing the season difficult. That requires quarantine for any player the positive case came in contact with, which is usually the whole team.

Myworld is not aware of any instance where an Asian player in the NPB, the KBO or the CPBL had a test come back positive and the player had to be put on the disabled list. The NPB had there season delayed because players tested positive, but once the season has started no positive tests have been reported.

Myworld wonders how the major leagues can complete the season with so many positive tests occurring after the season has started.

RBI Machine Asamura Leads Rakuten

Friday, July 10th, 2020

The Rakuten Golden Eagles have gotten off to a torrid 13-5 start. They are led by the ridiculous RBI pace of Hideto Asamura, who has slugged 9 homeruns and driven in 28 in just 18 games. The closest person to him in the RBI race in the Pacific League is Orix Buffaloes Takahiro Okada, who has 18. In the Central League Munetaka Murakami leads the RBI race with 18.

It is the last week that Asamura has punched in a number of runs with RBIs in five consecutive games. He has driven in 10 RBIs during that time frame, hitting homeruns in four consecutive games in which the Eagles won four out of five. The home run streak ended when he failed to hit a homerun in his last game. On June 27th, in a game won by the Eagles 18-5 he drove in seven runs.

Asamura isn’t the only bat that is hitting for Rakuten. The Golden Eagles have five players with double digit RBI numbers in a season that has only completed 18 games. Jabari Blash (13), Stefan Romero (11), Hiroaki Shimauchi (16) and Daichi Suzuki (14) are four other players joining Asamura who have also reached double digit RBI figures. No other team in the Pacific League has more than three players with have double digit RBI figures.

It will be interesting to see if Rakuten can maintain their run scoring pace. Despite driving in 13 runs Blash has not seen his power game yet with only one homerun this year. Last year Blash powered 33. He should improve. Suzuki is a new addition signed as a free agent this year after playing eight years with the Chibba Lotte Marines.

The Eagles are so confident in their offense that they traded their big bat from the last five years, Zeolous Wheeler to the Yomiuri Giants on June 29th of this year.

Fans Return to NPB

Friday, July 10th, 2020

The Japanese professional league, the NPB is now allowing 5,000 fans to attend games. This despite an increase to 243 corona virus cases reported in Tokyo. At this point the United States would love to see a count of 243 cases in some of their largest cities in California, Florida or Texas. The league is hoping that by August 1 they can fill their stadiums to half capacity.

Prior to entering the stadium the fans were given temperature checks and encouraged to use hand sanitizers. They were required to wear masks and sat in seats spaced apart from each other, even if they came with their families. Exuberant cheering was also discouraged, which meant no high fives, singing or shouting. Clapping and air high fives were allowed.

Top Foreign Countries for Major League Players

Wednesday, July 8th, 2020

Baseball America provided an article that identified all the countries that played major league baseball. Below is the list of those countries, separated by hitters and pitchers.

Top Offensive Players

1) United States, 2) Dominican Republic, 3) Venezuela, 4) Cuba, 5) Puerto Rico, 6) Curacao, 7) Canada, 8) Colombia, 9) South Korea 10) Aruba

Even when you add Aruba, Curacao and Netherlands together it still does not get them into the top five.

Top Pitchers

1) United States, 2) Dominican Republic, 3) Venezuela, 4) Japan, 5) Mexico, 6) Canada, 7) Puerto Rico, 8) Colombia, 9) Cuba, 10) Panama

South Korea, Taiwan and Australia just missed making the top ten. The ranking was measured by plate appearances and innings pitched.

Top Ten Japanese Pitchers

Tuesday, July 7th, 2020

A couple days ago we listed the top ten Japanese hitters. Today myworld identifies our top ten Japanese starting pitchers. Many of the best have gone on to star in the major leagues, Yu Darvish, Masahiro Tanaka and Shohei Ohtani just to name a few.

1. Kodai Senga RHP (Softbank Hawks) - Senga is one of the harder throwers in the NPB. His fastball can get up to 98 though it sits in the upper portion of the low 90s. His secondary pitches are quality, the best of which is his forkball. At 6′2 inches he has decent height to become effective as a right handed pitcher. He has asked the Hawks to post him so he could become eligible to play in the major leagues, but the Hawks are one of two teams who do not routinely post players, especially when they are in their prime. Last year Senga reached over 200 strikeouts (227) for the first time in his career, covering 180 innings. He has won 13 games in his last three years, with his losses increasing each year, from 4 to 7 to 8. At 27 he is in the prime of his career. An early season injury gave him a late start to the 2020 season. He made his debut start yesterday, picking up the win while giving up three runs and striking out six in five innings. Almost any major league team would love to have Senga in their rotation,

2. Tomoyuki Sugano RHP (Yomiuri Giants) - Last year was an off year for Sugano, though most would take a 11-6, 3.89 ERA. In his first seven years he has won double digits in six of those seasons. He also has a career ERA of 2.91. He was a first round pick of two teams in the 2011 draft and when the Fighters won the lottery for his services his loyalty to the Giants was so great he did not sign and reentered the draft in 2012. The Giants were the only team to draft him in the 2012 draft. Fortunately for Sugano two other pitchers, Shohei Ohtani and Shintaro Fujinami were eligible for the draft that year and most teams focused on those two pitchers in the first round. Sugano has won the Eiji Sawamura award two times, the equivalent of the major leagues Cy Young, in 2017 and 2018. He can reach the mid-90s with his fastball but sits in the low 90s and his quality secondary pitches (curve, slider and forkball) with excellent control of his pitches makes him stand out. He stands 6′1 and is solidly built at 210. The Giants are another team that does not traditionally post players for the major leagues, but last year they did post Shun Yamaguchi.

3. Takahiro Norimoto RHP (Rakuten Golden Eagles) - The Eagles have already given the major leagues Hisashi Iwakuma and Masahara Tanaka. It is possible Norimoto would be in the major leagues now, but an off year in 2018 and an injury shortened year in 2019 dropped his value. Prior to that he had four consecutive years of more than 200 strikeouts. He won the rookie of the year award in 2013 and in 2014 he pitched a perfect five innings in what would be a combined no hitter in an exhibition game against major league All Stars. His fastball does hit the mid-90s, but he sits in the low 90s with a forkball and slider. He only stands 5′10″ so major league scouts have some concerns with that height for righthanded pitchers. Norimoto has won five strikeout titles. This year will be big for him to show that he is back on his game. The 2020 season has started out well (3-0, 0.87), though his strikeout numbers fall below a whiff per inning. For most of his career he usually averages more than a strikeout per inning.

4. Shota Imanaga LHP (Yokohama Bay Stars) - Shota survived a nightmare of a 2018 season when he was 4-11, 6.80. He was a first round pick of the Bay Stars in 2015 with solid seasons his first two years in 2016 and 2017 with ERAs below 3.00. The 2019 season saw him get back to form with a career high 13 wins and a 2.84 ERA. He also had a career high 186 strikeouts. His fastball hits the low 90s and scout’s bias tolerate his 5′10″ height because he throws lefthanded with quality breaking balls (slider, curve and change). The park Imanaga pitches in is known as a hitters park so his low ERAs and low homerun numbers are testaments to him keeping the ball on the ground. This year he has gotten off to a strong start (2-1, 2.84) so it would not surprise myworld to see him in the major leagues next year or the year after.

5. Yoshinobu Yamamoto RHP (Orix Buffaloes) - Last year his 1.95 ERA was the tops in the Central League. It was just his third season in the NPB and his first real one as a starter. He will not turn 22 until August. It will probably be three or four years at minimum before you see him posted. His fastball sits in the low 90s but can reach the mid-90s and he throws the typical breaking pitches for righthanders in Japan, forkball, slider, curve and a cutter. He only stands 5′10 so that could be a concern, but that seems to be the average height for Japanese pitchers. This year he continues to shine with his 2-0, 2.18 in three starts. He has yet to allow a homerun this year in 20.2 innings and it is rare to see him give up a long ball.

6. Kohei Arihara RHP (Nippon Ham Fighters) - The NPB did not issue a Sawamura award last year. If they were forced to issue one Arihara had to be one of the favorites based on his 15-8 record with a 2.48 ERA with 161 whiffs. He won the Rookie of the Year award in 2015 in the Pacific League, but his numbers were not impressive (8-6, 4.79). The next year he had a solid season (11-9, 2.94) followed by two clunkers where his ERA was closer to five than four. He can hit the cheese with his fastball reaching the mid 90s, but sitting in the low 90s. His forkball is one of the better pitches in the NPB. He stands 6′2 and weighs 220. This year he has gotten off to a slow start (0-3, 4.95) so he needs to turn that around if he wants to attract the interest of major league scouts.

7. Atsuki Taneichi RHP (Chibba Lotte Marines) - Another youngster at only 21 years of age. His fastball is not overpowering, sitting in the high 80s to low 90s, but it could gain some heat as he fills out. He stands 6′0″. His best pitch is the splitter. Eventually, if he wants to get to the major leagues he needs to improve his command. The 2019 season was his second season, but his first when he pitched over 100 innings. His 8-2, 3.24 ERA was impressive when you consider his youth. This year he has been better (0-1, 2.37). Though he has yet to win a game his command has been better. After this year he could be the ace of the Marines staff.

8. Nao Higashihama RHP (Softbank Hawks) - Nao was a first round pick in 2012. The last two seasons he has been plagued by injuries, first a shoulder in 2018 and then an elbow in 2019. Prior to the injuries he went 16-5, 2.65. The 2017 season seemed to be his breakout year. This year he has gotten off to a strong start (1-0, 2.25) but has shown some command issues with 10 walks in 16 innings. Early in his career command issues prevented him from sticking in the starting rotation, but the 2017 season seemed to be a career changer.

9. Masato Morishita RHP (Hiroshima Carp) - He was a first round pick of the Carp last year. The 22 year old has already made his debut in the NPB with two starts. He is 1-0 with a 1.72 ERA striking out 15 in 15.2 innings. He has pitched in the Honkball tournament and the United States versus Japan college series. Now he is pitching in the NPB. He shutout the United States college national team for five innings in their 6-1 win. He also pitched three innings of shutout ball in the Honkball championship in 2018 against Taiwan, with Japan winning the championship game 7-5. In 2017 he also pitched Japan to the gold medal in the Universiade tournament, defeating the United States 10-0 while throwing seven shutout innings and striking out 11. While he did not make the All tournament team in the 18 and under baseball world cup in 2015, myworld thought he was worthy of mention after going 2-0 with a 0.00 ERA and a .118 opposition average. He has done nothing but win.

10. Shintaro Fujinami LHP (Hanshin Tigers) - He was the ace of the Japan 18 year old World Cup team, the same team that Shohei Ohtani pitched on. He was also drafted number one in the 2012 draft by as many teams as Ohtani. Having good height (6′6″) and a lefthanded arm that could burn a fastball across the plate in the high-90s there were more scouts excited about the Fujinami prospects than Ohtani. The one issue with him is an inability to find the plate. His NPB career has been a big disappointment because of that. He made the NPB All Star games his first three years (2013 to 2015), striking out 221 in 2015, but much of his last three seasons have been spent in the minor leagues. In his lone start this year he walked 6 in 4.1 innings. His stuff is electric if he can find the plate. He was also one of the players who was diagnosed with the corona virus that went on to delay the start of the NPB season.

Special Shout Out

Roki Sasaki RHP (Chibba Lotte Marines) - Roki was one of the more exciting players in the 2019 draft because of his ability to hit 100 miles per hour with his fastball. Any time a pitcher can ring up three digits it creates a lot of excitement in Japan. The one problem with Sasaki is his inability to throw strikes. This may delay his promotion to the major leagues.

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.