Archive for October, 2011

Venezuelan Winter League Update

Monday, October 31st, 2011

Magallanes Navegantes (3-2), 11-4

The veteran Richard Hidalgo is still suiting up in Venezuela, but with his latest 0 for 14 slump he is seeing a lot more bench time.  The slump has dropped his average to .171.  Jose Altuve is hitting a sweet .333.  It is rare when his batting average is anywhere below .300.  Recent arrivals Marcos Vechionacci (.385) and Ezequiel Carrera (.357) are trying to reinvigorate the offense and could result in decreased playing time for Hidalgo and Lorenzo Cain (.212).

Jerome Williams went six innings and gave up his first run of the winter, but it was unearned.  That means his earned scoreless streak has extended to 17 innings to start the season.  He is also 3-0.  Straight from the World Cup and Pan Am games Andy Van Hekken got his first start in Venezuela and picked up the loss, giving up three runs in six innings of work.  Andy only gave up one run in his two starts covering 14 innings in World Cup action.

Caribes Anzoategui (6-0), 10-6

The hottest team in the league went the week without a loss to move into second place.  Jeremy Moore had a leadoff homerun and drove in six runs in his last three games to lead the offense.  He is hitting .333 with a .549 slugging percentage and his 10 RBIs are second on the team.  Mike Wilson went deep in two straight games and has a six game hitting streak to coincide with the undefeated streak.  His average is at .191 and except for one game of two hits, all his games in the streak have been restricted to one hit.  Dmitri Young’s comeback has hit a bump.  His recent 0 for 17 slump has dropped his average to .120.

The winning streak has been carried by good pitching with 35 year old Alex Herrera getting the best start of the year.  He tossed a complete game 5-hit shutout to get his first victory, striking out 11 while walking none.  He also three six innings of one run ball to begin the week, but did not get a decision for that effort.  The 15 innings of one run ball lowered his ERA to 3.42 for the winter.  Andrew Baldwin (2.41) and Renyel Pinto (2.50 ERA) also got seven inning victories to improve their records to 2-0.  Baldwin gave up two runs and Pinto just one.  With the extended starts, the bullpen got a rest, but Jon Hunton still picked up two saves to give him five for the year and give him four saves in his last four appearances.

La Guaira Tiburones (2-3), 10-6

The walk machine Gregor Blanco was 6 for 12 in his last three games with two walks.  That translates to a .571 OBA.

Les Walrond got his first win, throwing six plus innings of one hit ball.  During the outing he struck out seven and walked just one.  His ERA dropped to 0.96.  Enrique Gonzalez picked up a couple saves last week to give him four for the winter.  During that four save streak he struck out nine hitters, giving up only one hit.  That translates to striking out 9 of the 13 hitters he faced.

Aragua Tigres (3-2), 9-7

Lastings Milledge is being courted by a Japanese team as a result of his .316 average.  If you want to wear the bling you can’t do that on a minor league salary.  He has a four game hitting streak where he is 5 for 15, but with five strikeouts.  He is tied for the league lead in doubles with six.

Deunte Heath picked up his first win throwing five innings of 3-hit shutout ball.  He was a bit wild walking four.  This was his second start of the week.  He took the loss in the first start giving up three runs in four plus innings.  He is now 1-1, 2.08.

Caracas Leones (3-3), 9-7

Not a lot of hitting going on in Caracas.  Jose Lobaton was given the starting catching job when the Rays looked like they were out of the playoff chase, but his .118 average and the Red Sox collapse took away his playing time.  He is only hitting .143 for the Leones, hitting a 0 for 13 streak.  Daniel Mayora is second in the league in RBI’s and an 8 for 23 week put his average at .315.  He drove in four runs for the week.

Michael Fiers picked up a win with five innings of two hit no run ball.  In seven innings of work he has yet to give up a run.  Joe Bisenius gave up only one hit in his five inning start, but three walks allowed two runs to score.  His ERA is 2.45 after three starts.

Lara Cardenales (1-4), 5-11

Luis Jimenez had a two homerun game last week to put him one behind league leader Bryan LaHair.  He had a 10 for 18 stretch with four homeruns, but a recent 1 for 9 streak dropped his average to .317.  Alex Liddi (.136) and Cesar Izturis (.087) are really struggling early in the season.  An 0 for 14 streak with six whiffs may give Alex a lot of pine time.  Cesar is at least drawig walks, which puts his OBA at .344.

Nicaraguan Erasmo Ramirez got two starts last week.  He won one with six innings of 2-hit shutout ball then lost the next, giving up two runs in just four plus innings.  After four starts he is 2-1, 1.74.  The older brother of King Felix, Moises Hernandez has not inherited his brother’s pitching moxy or his stuff.  He has achieved a 20.77 ERA after four appearances and the opposition is hitting him at a .556 clip.  They may keep throwing him out there just because he has got his brother’s genes or maybe it is only his jeans.

Zulia Aguilas (2-4), 5-11

Despite his team’s struggles, Jose Pirela and his .406 batting average lead the league.  He had two 3-hit games but the 9 for 24 week still dropped his average.  Only three of his 26 hits are for extra bases, but he did hit a homerun his last game.  Seth Bynum leads the team in errors with five and his average is near the bottom at .122.  That will draw a scout’s inattention.  Half of his six hits have gone over the fence though.  After a pinch hit 3-run homer to end the previous week he finished last week 0 for 17.

Josh Schmidt has been one of the better pitchers in the league.  He threw six innings of shutout ball, lowerig his ERA to 1.08.  Despite that he still is without a victory in three starts.  Righthanders are only hitting .111 off him.  Dwayne Pollock picked up his first win with seven innings of 4-hit shutout ball.  His ERA is at 2.25 after three starts.  A third excellent outing was thrown by Austin Bibens-Dirkx, six shutout innings where he picked up his first victory to move to 1-2.  Unfortunately, earlier in the week he had picked up his second loss, getting knocked around for four runs in just five plus innings.  Despite the three excellent starts, the Aguilas were still only capable of picking up two wins.

Margarita Bravos (2-4), 5-12

The just released by the Rangers Sean Burroughs has joined the Bravos to get them out of the basement.  In his first three games he hit .455, driving in three and scoring three.

Luis Chirinos picked up one of the two victories for the Bravos last week, throwing six innings of one run ball.  He gave up four hits.  The outing lowered his ERA to 4.66 after his first two starts were stinkers.  Ronald Belasario let a little success get to his head and lost his bullpen job with the Dodgers.  He has pitched in five games and has a 2.08 ERA, with one win, one loss and one save with the cellar dwelling Bravos.

Lions the KBO Champs

Monday, October 31st, 2011

In another pitcher’s duel the Samsung Lions beat the SK Wyverns 1-0 to win the KBO and become the third team eligible for the Asia series in Taiwan.  Woo-chan Cha pitched seven innings of five hit shutout ball to get the win.  Lions closer Seung-hwan Oh, who was named MVP of the series, pitched the last two innings to preserve the win, his sixth career post season save.  Bong-kyu Kang drove in the only run with a solo homer off Wyvern starter Brian Gordon in the fourth.  It was sweet revenge for the Lions, who had lost last year in the Series to the Wyverns.

Swallows Advance by Defeating Giants

Monday, October 31st, 2011

It must have felt nice for Swallows fans after their 3-1 win over the Tokyo favored son Giants.  Katsuki Akagawa threw six plus innings of five hit shutout ball before turning it over to the bullpen to complete the victory.  With a runner on second and two out and a slim 1-0 lead the Swallows turned to Takehiko Oshimoto to get the final out of the inning.  Kyohei Muranaka pitched the last two innings to pick up the save.  He gave up a solo homerun to Michihiro Ogasawara in the ninth inning, but by then the Swallows had built a 3-0 lead.

The Swallows got a third inning homer from catcher Ryoji Aikawa to give them the 1-0 lead.  Ryoji had hit only one homerun during the regular season, so this lead off shot to start the third was a bit of a surprise.  The next two runs were the result of errors by the two different players that played second base.  In the seventh a throwing error by Takayuki Terauchi allowed Wladimir Balentien to advance to second where he scored (actually Tsuyoshi Ueda scored) on a Ryosuke Morioka 2-out single.  Shigeyuki Furuki booted a ball in the eighth that allowed Kazuki Fukuchi to drive in the final run with a single.

Dicky Gonzalez got the start for the Giants and went six plus innings, giving up only four hits.  Other than the homerun, he deserved a better fate.

The Swallows will now play the Chunichi Dragons at the Nagoya dome for all five games if the series goes five.  This is the first time since 2007 when the Yomiuri Giants did not play the Chunichi Dragons in the finals of the Central League.  You can see a summary of the games at http://yakyubaka.com/2011/10/31/cs-yomiuri-giants-vs-tokyo-yakult-swallows-october-31-2011/

NL East Minor League All Stars

Monday, October 31st, 2011

Atlanta Braves

Julio Teheran RHP (Colombia) AAA (15-3, 2.55) - He only had a 5.03 ERA in five appearances, three of them starts, in the major leagues but the Braves will find room next year for him to pitch in their 2012 rotation.

Stefan Gartrell OF (United States) AAA (.260, 25, 91) - At 27 his prospect days are behind him.  Despite some productive years he has yet to get a major league call.

Tyler Pastornicky SS (United States) AA (.299, 6, 36) - Many consider him the Braves shortstop of the future.  The big question is will this future be 2012.  Hit .365 in over 100 at bats when promoted to AAA.

Ernesto Mejia DH (Venezuela) AA (.297, 26, 99) - At 26 he is at least three years older than Braves starting first baseman Freddie Freeman so his future with the Braves is not bright.

Joey Terdoslavich 1B (United States) High A (.286, 20, 82) - He is also older than Freeman, but only by a year and he is currently tearing it up in the AFL.

Andrelton Simmons SS (Curacao) High A (.311, 1, 52) - Curacao is replacing San Pedro de Macoris in the Dominican Republic as the shortstop factory for the major leagues.

Evan Gattis C (United States) Low A (.322, 22, 71) - At 6′4″ 230 he may be a bit big for catcher, but if you look at the numbers the Braves will find some place in the lineup for him.

Brandon Drury 3B (United States) short season (.347, 8, 54) - The 13th round 2010 pick had quite a year compared to his .198 season last year.  Still needs to increase those walk numbers.

Washington Nationals

Tyler Moore 1B (United States) AA (.271, 30, 90) - An encore performance after leading the Carolina League in homeruns last year.

Brad Peacock RHP (United States) AA (10-2, 2.01) - Not only the Eastern League pitcher of the year, but the AA pitcher of the year.  In three appearances, two of them starts finished with a 0.75 major league ERA.

Sandy Leon C (Dominican Republic) High A (.251, 6, 43) - The Nationals can add one more quality player to their depth behind the plate.

Jeff Kobernus 2B (United States) High A (.282, 7, 50) - The 2009 second round pick also has a tough climb, but his 53 stolen bases could add some speed to the lineup.

Destin Hood OF (United States) High A (.276, 13, 83) - A second round 2008 pick should start developing a power stroke.  The 13 homeruns was twice as many as he hit in any previous seasons.

Wander Ramos OF (Dominican Republic) short season (.313, 12, 37) - His .653 slugging was quite impressive.  His previous two seasons he had only hit one homerun.

New York Mets

Joshua Satin Utl (United States) AA (.325, 11, 60) - Not a strong defensive player but his bat could be productive as a utility player.  At 27 years old his time is now.

Darin Gorski LHP (United States) High A (11-3, 2.08) - Picked up one save and three complete games in a break out year that saw his ERA drop by more than two runs from his previous two years.

Camden Maron C (United States) short season (.318, 3, 24) - With a name like that he should be playing for Baltimore.  An impressive 38/34 walk to K ratio resulting in a .434 OBA.

Philadelphia Phillies

Matt Rizzotti DH (United States) AA (.295, 24, 84) - With Howard’s injury the first base position could open for him with a good spring, but that is quite a big stretch for a player who was designated at the beginning of 2010.

Sebastion Valle C (Mexico) high A (.284, 5, 40) - His power numbers dropped in the Florida State League, but he is still considered the Phillies catcher of the future.

Darin Ruf DH (United States) High A (.308, 18, 72) - At 25 he needs to advance more quickly to have any hope of cracking the major league roster.

Julio Rodriguez RHP (Puerto Rico) High A (16-7, 2.76) - Not overpowering but showed impressive stuff at the World Baseball Cup in Panama.

Trevor May RHP (United States) High A (10-8, 3.63) - It will be interesting to see if his 208 strikeouts carry with him as he gets promoted to the higher levels.

Jim Murphy DH (United States) Low A (.268, 22, 77) - Played down a level from previous season and at 26 should have put up even more dominant numbers.

Jesse Biddle LHP (United States) Low A (7-8, 2.98) - Local boy and 2010 first round pick had solid season after a slow April.  Stuff is not overpowering so it will be interesting to see how his numbers are as he rises to the higher levels.

Florida Marlins

Kyle Jensen OF (United States) High A (.309, 22, 66) - Showed good pop for the Florida State League.

Christian Yelich OF (United States) Low A (.312, 15, 77) - The 2010 first round pick shows four solid tools.  A bit short with the arm.

Jesus Solorzano OF (Venezuela) short season (.299, 3, 31) - First year state side a solid one.

MLB “All Stars” Arrive in Taiwan

Sunday, October 30th, 2011

The President of EVA Airways called the flight “the highest priced flight” that Taiwan’s second largest international carrier had ever served.  There were two full cages of baseballs for the players to sign.  But they were all excited to be there.  It is always fun and different to play in new cities.

Myworld could be missing some, but these are the players that we have been able to identify as playing for the United States team in Taiwan:

Catcher - Drew Butera, Jeff Mathis, Ronny Paulino

Infield - Eric Aybar, Emilio Bonafacio, Robinson Cano, Ryan Roberts, Pablo Sandoval, Danny Valencia, Ty Wigginton

Outfield - Curtis Granderson, Logan Morrison, Michael Morse, Josh Reddick, Andres Torres

Pitchers - Bill Bray, Ross Detwiler, Dillion Gee, Jeremy Guthrie, Mark Melancon, Jose Veras, LaTroy Hawkins, Trevor Bell, Rich Thompson, Colin Ballester, Phil Coke, Felipe Paulino, Ramon Ramirez

I hate to inform Taiwan, but most of these players are not all stars.  Some of them are borderline major leaguers.  But there are some All Stars among the group.  Taiwan was a bit concerned that their national team would not be competetive enough, even with the addition of major leaguers Chien-Ming Wang and Fu-Te Ni.  My concern is that Taiwan fans should not view this group of major league players as “All Stars” but just major league players.

The games will start Tuesday November 1 and run through Sunday, playing in three different cities, New Taipei City (XinZhuang Stadium), Taichung (Intercontinental Stadium) and Kaohsiung (Chengcing Lake Stadium).

One interesting note is that Robinson Cano’s father Jose Cano had pitched for the Uni-President Lions in 1992 through 1994 and the Wei Chuan Dragons from 1998 to 1999.  He also pitched six games for the Houston Astros in 1989.  Robinson was too young to go to Taiwan to see his dad pitch, but his dad is accompanying the team to see Robinson play.  Jose Cano named his son after Jackie Robinson and was the homerun derby pitcher for David Ortiz and the eventual winner Robinson Cano.  Perhaps he will pitch a little batting practice for the United States team.

Lions Win Series; Giants Stay Alive

Sunday, October 30th, 2011

Seibu Lions 8 Nippon Ham Fighters 1

Nippon’s struggles continued in the playoffs as Seibu had no trouble sweeping them in two games.  The first half of the season the Fighters were battling the Hawks with two of the best records in the NPB.  But their season came crashing down in the last two months, and the slump continued into the playoffs.  Now they will have to make a decision on whether they will post Yu Darvish and use that money to rebuild.

The game was 1-1 going into the top of the eighth, but two walks, one intentional and fielding error gave the Lions the go ahead run without benefit of a hit.  They then destroyed the Fighters bullpen, specifically Hirotoshi Masui for six runs in the top of the ninth to run away with the game.  Lions slugger Takeya Nakamura got the climatic hit with a 3-run homer to end the scoring.

It was a disappointing way to end the season in front of the home crowd.  The bullpen allowed both games to get out of control.  The Fighters did have an opportunity to get back in the game in the bottom of the eighth, putting runners on first and third with no one out, but they squandered that opportunity and it seemed to have an impact in their ninth inning debacle.

Fumiya Nishiguchi went seven plus innings for the Lions to pick up the victory.

You can see a summary of the games at: http://yakyubaka.com/2011/10/30/cs-saitama-seibu-lions-vs-hokkaido-nippon-ham-fighters-october-30-2011/

Yomiuri Giants 6 Yakult Swallows 2

The Giants stay alive, also breaking the game open with a 4-run ninth to give themselves a split of the series.  Yoshinobu Takahashi delivered a clutch pinchhit 3-run double to extend the Giants 2-1 lead and allow them to waltz to victory.  The Giants starter Tetsuya Utsumi went six innings to pick up the win, giving up only one run.  Shinnosuke Abe got the scoring started for the Giants with a solo homerun in the fourth and they never trailed in this game.

You can see more of the summary of this game here: http://yakyubaka.com/2011/10/30/cs-yomiuri-giants-vs-tokyo-yakult-swallows-october-30-2011/

Samsung Wallops SK to Take 3-1 Lead

Sunday, October 30th, 2011

The Samsung Lions found used to be SK ace Kwang-hyeon Kim easy fodder, battering him for three runs in his three innings of work to lead them to an easy 8-4 win.  The three previous games between these two teams had only scored eight runs, but Samsung matched that number in game four alone.  Samsung second baseman Myeong-cheol Chin stroked a 2-run homer in the fourth inning and Hyeon-woo Choi bashed a solo job in the fifth to give the Lions an early 5-1 lead.

The Wyverns battled back when Jae-sung Park hit a 3-run homer in the seventh to cut the Lions lead to one.  They even had runners on first and third with no outs, but could not score.  The Lions then capitalized with two runs in the top of the eighth and an extra run in the ninth to run away with an easy 8-4 win.

Lions starter Seong-hwan Yoon gave up only one run but labored throughout the game, lasting only three plus innings, giving up four hits and two walks.

You can read more about the game here: http://koreabaseball.blogspot.com/

AFL Week Four Review

Sunday, October 30th, 2011

AFL East

Salt Lake Rafters (3-3), 15-8

Despite the Rafters .500 record over the last two weeks, they continue to maintain their lead in the East because of the mediocrity of the other teams in the league.  Nolan Arenado continues to be their big bat, driving in runs in four consecutive games to give him an AFL league leading 24 RBIs in the 17 games he has played.  Nolan went deep in three straight games to give him five for the season and his 9 for 21 week kept his average at a team high .392.  Adam Eaton got hits in all the games he played last week to put his hitting streak at 6.  His average is .338 and he has stolen six bases in seven attempts.  His 20 runs scored is tied for first in the AFL.

Stephen Fife has gotten five starts and gotten credit for the loss in all five games to give himself an 0-5 record with an ERA of 9.60.  The five losses represent 63% of the Rafter losses. Josh Wall (2-0, 2.16, 4 saves) and Kevin Munson (1-1, 0.84, 2 saves) have been sharing the closer role. Kevin leads the team in appearances with 10. Joe Gardner has only allowed one run in his last two starts, picking up the victory in both starts. Joe is 2-0, 3.60 in his four starts but has yet to go more than three innings in any of his starts.

Mesa Solar Sox (3-3), 11-12

Robbie Grossman has been playing an excellent leadoff hitter with a 17/13 walk to K ratio and a .381 batting average with a .480 OBA. He has also clobbered six homeruns, which ties him for the AFL lead. The downside is that he is 4 for 9 in stolen base success. Junior Lake (13 for 13), Xavier Avery (7 for 7) and D.J. LeMahieu (10 for 12) have been providing the stolen base excitement, the three falling in the top three in the AFL. D.J. was 4 for 5 in stolen base attempts last week to take over the number two spot and Xavier went 7 for 10 in his last three games with the stick to raise his average to .283. He also walked three times.

Terry Doyle continues to be the class pitcher of the league, winning his fourth game in five starts to move his record to 4-0, 0.92. The opposition is hitting him at a .097 pace and he has yet to give up a run in his last two starts. Two of the six hits he has given up have been homeruns, resulting in the only two runs he has given up in his five starts. Gerritt Cole won his second game last week, going three plus innings without allowing a hit. A walk and an error allowed an unearned run to cross the plate. In three starts Gerritt is now 2-0, 3.00. The opposition is hitting an anemic .152 off him. Steve Johnson has not had a decison yet, but it is not for lack of trying. In his last two starts he only gave up one run in his six innings of work. In five starts his ERA is 3.00. Brandon Kloess struck out all four batters he faced in a relief appearance. In his last four bullpen appearances he has struck out 9 of the 14 hitters he has faced, picking up two saves.

Scottsdale Scorpions (2-3), 7-14

Bryce Harper has slugged a homerun in three straight games, driving in 10 runs during that period. He has a nine game hitting streak that has raised his average to .259. His Nationals teammate Derek Norris has an 8 game hitting streak, bringing his average up to .356. With the kind of year Wilson Ramos had, Derek may need to find another position if he wants to play for the Nationals. The good field, no hit shortstop Brandon Crawford has a nine game hitting streak that has raised his average to .341.

Stephen Harrold picked up another win in relief. He is 3-0 with a 1.93 ERA. The three wins represent 43 percent of the Scorpions victories. In his last five bullpen appearances Jake Diekman has retired 16 of the 17 hitters he has faced. The only hitter to get on was via a walk and he has yet to give up a hit in his six appearances covering six plus innings. Matt Purke continues to be cannon fodder for the bats of the AFL. In three appearances, one start his ERA is 29.70 and the opposition is hitting .500 against him. The poor outings are probably making him wonder why he left TCU to sign with the Nationals as a fourth round pick.

AFL West

Surprise Sagauros (4-2), 16-6

Will Myers had a couple three hit games last week and continues to be the Sagauros big stick with his .375 average. It took him three games, but he hit for the cycle, his triple giving him three on the year. His 16/13 walk to whiff ratio gives him an OBA of .514. Mike Olt has 23 strikeouts and 22 RBIs in the 15 games he has played. Last week he equaled those out with six whiffs and six RBIs, slugging two homeruns to give him six for the season. Leonys Martin is hoping to get his bat on track. His last game he went 2 for 4 with three runs scored and a stolen base. Currently, he is hitting only .188 in the four games he has played.

Miguel de los Santos combined with four other relievers in an 11-0 one hit shutout over the Phoenix Desert Dogs. Miguel struck out eight of the 13 hitters that saw pine in a game that was played yesterday. Miguel is now 3-0, 3.18 in six appearances, three of them starts. Sean Gilmartin, the Braves 2011 first round pick is 2-0 with a 3.43 ERA in five starts. He has a 5/18 walk to whiff ratio in his 21 innings of work and the opposition is hitting him at .234. He could be a quick addition to the Braves rotation with that kind of success.

Peoria Javelinas (2-3), 10-12

Juan Lagares had a five game stretch where he hit two homeruns and drove in 12 runs. It appears that he is one of those reserve players limited to two games per week. This past week he took advantage of his two games, going 5 for 9. His average now sits at a pretty impressive .432. The Mets outfielder also stole two bases last week to give him three successful steals in four attempts.

Another 2011 number one pick, the Mariners Danny Hultzen had another solid start, giving up just one run in three plus innings of work.  He has only given up three runs in his four starts for a 2.13 ERA.  He struck out five last game, which is a welcome relief for the Mariners, since he had only struck out two in his first three starts.

Phoenix Desert Dogs (3-3), 8-15

Ronnier Mustelier has five straight multiple hit games to raise his average to .424.  The Cuban now Yankee second baseman went 11 for 23 during that stretch with one homerun and three RBIs.  Only three of Ronnier’s 14 hits have gone for extra bases.  Michael Choice had a 3-hit, 5-RBI game, hitting his sixth homerun to keep pace with the league leaders.  The three hit game was sandwiched between two 0 for 4 outings, dropping his average to .333.

Murphy Smith has been given five starts and he has given up at least three runs in each start to put his ERA at a rather stratospheric 12.64.  The opposition is hitting him at a .403 clip.  Aroldis Chapman has made a couple of bullpen appearances, giving up one run in two plus innings of work for a 3.38 ERA.  He is scheduled to make a start on Monday.  T.J. McFarland got ambused by the Surprise Rafters for five runs in his last start, raising his ERA to 3.94.  In his previous four starts T.J. had not allowed more than one run.

Swallows and Lions Win NPB Series Openers

Saturday, October 29th, 2011

Yakult Swallows 3 Yomiuri Giants 2

The playoffs have started in the NPB.  Home field advantage is given to the team that finished highest in the standings.  When a team has the home field advantage, they really have home field advantage.  Every game is played in the park of the team with the best record.  Even the seven game series that reach the final stage.  Only the Japan Series between the winner of the Central and Pacific alternate home and away.

With the game between the Yakult Swallows and the Yomiuri Giants this wasn’t seen as too much of an advantage.  Both teams are located in Tokyo and there are more Giants fans than Swallows fans.  So despite the game being played in Jingu stadium it was still expected that Giant fans would out number the Swallow fans.

For the Swallows that did not let it influence them.  Atsushi Fujimoto got a clutch 2-out pinch hit RBI single in the fifth inning to tie the game at 1-1 and then a critical error by the Giants first baseman Michihiro Ogasawara in the sixth allowed the Swallows to eventually load the bases where a flyball by Shinya Miyamoto and an RBI single from Wladimir Balentien gave the Swallows a 3-1 lead.

The Giants were able to get a pinch hit homerun from Saburo Omura in the top of the ninth, but then the Swallows called on their Taiwan closer Chang-Yong Lim to get the last out.  He got lead off hitter Hayato Sakamoto to pop up to second on the only pitch he threw in the game to pick up the save.

The Giants chose to start their rookie Hirokazu Sawamura, who became the first rookie in the Climax Series to ever start game one.  He went five innings, giving up only one run on five hits and striking out five in five innings of work.

The Swallows can advance in the Series to play the Chunichi Dragons with just a win or a tie.  They play a three game series and if the two teams play a tie game the tie breaker goes to the team that finished the season ahead in the standings.

You can read more about the game here: http://yakyubaka.com/2011/10/29/cs-yomiuri-giants-vs-tokyo-yakult-swallows-october-29-2011/

Seibu Lions 5 Nippon Ham Fighters 2

The Fighters gave Yu Darvish a quick 2-0 first inning lead in the opening game of the Climax Series, getting back to back RBI singles from Eiichi Koyano and Atsunori Inaba.  Yu Darvish went seven innings but was removed from the game after the close of the seventh, giving up an RBI single to Jose Fernandez.  The bullpen was not able to hold the lead for Darvish and surrendered a run in the top of the ninth on an RBI single from Hideto Asamura to tie it, then collapsed in the 11th giving up three runs.

The big hit was delivered by Jose Fernandez after the Fighters chose to walk Takeya Nakamura intentionally to face Fernandez, who had already stroked three hits on the day.  Jose came through with a 2-run single to give the Lions a 4-2 lead.  Takanori Hoshi was able to add a sacrifice fly in the inning to give the Lions a 3-run cushion.

The Fighters have traditionally had the top pitching in the league.  Their achilles has always been generating enough offense to support the pitching.  After the first inning the bats went silent, with five different pitchers shutting them down for the final 10 innings of the game.  The Fighters did have runners on first and third with no one out in the sixth, but on a ground ball the runner on third attempted to score.  He was thrown out and the threat was reduced.

You can read more about the game here: http://yakyubaka.com/2011/10/29/cs-saitama-seibu-lions-vs-hokkaido-nippon-ham-fighters-october-29-2011/

World Series Ratings Impressive as MLB Season Comes to a Close

Saturday, October 29th, 2011

Major league baseball was a bit concerned with a World Series match up between two mid market teams, the St Louis Cardinals and the Texas Rangers.  They were hoping to see a big matchup between the New York Yankees and Philadelphia Phillies, who entering into the playoffs were considered the top two playoff teams.  Both were eliminated in the first round so MLB had to settle for the best they got.  It is almost like going out with Plain Jane to the prom when a drop dead gorgeous beauty queen is available and you justify your choice by saying that Plain Jane has a wonderful personality.

Well, guess what?  Just like Cinderalla, Plain Jane turned into a stunning beauty as this World Series progressed.  First it was the shocking news that the game four World Series had outdrawn Sunday night football.  Football fans pooh-poohed that comparison because it wasn’t much of a football game between the Colts minus Peyton Manning versus the Saints.  The football game turned into an uninteresting laugher.

Game five did okay, with the Rangers going up three games to two, but the game six ratings showed that most eyes were on the baseball game, one of the more entertaining games in years.  What is even more interesting is that those ratings went up as the game went past midnight and into extra innings.  The game six ratings were the highest since 2009, when you could have guessed it, the New York Yankees played the Philadelphia Phillies in final game of the World Series.

All the advertising in the world can not get people to watch an event, unless they feel they will be entertained.  After Albert Pujols hit three homeruns in game two of the World Series the baseball world and some even in the non-baseball world started to pay attention.  Perhaps this game would be entertaining after all.  It did offer the best player in baseball, so that made the game worth watching, but what other story lines drew the interest of the public as the games progressed.

It is hard to predict what draws people to events, but both teams were considered underdogs going into the series.  Sometimes people are attracted to underdogs.  As fans you are drawn to a game because either there is a team you like that you root for, a team that you hate that you root against or a team or teams that draw your interest because of the journey those players took in getting to the World Series.  Both the Texas Rangers and St. Louis Cardinals took interesting journeys to this World Series.

First, the poor St. Louis Cardinals.  They lost one of their best pitchers Adam Wainwright before the season even started.  Adam was introduced to the words Tommy John, which force you to miss at least a year of your career.  He will not be up to full strength until a good portion of the 2012 season has progressed.

Albert Pujols hit the biggest slump of his career, then goes on the disabled list after an injury.  He recovers to still have a decent year, but fails to hit .300 for the first time in his career, hitting .299 and also falls short of driving in 100 runs, driving in only 99.  A few extra games would have gotten him past 100 RBIs.  It may not have gotten him past .300, but the way he was hitting his average in September was rising faster than the summer afternoon temperature in Arizona.

The bullpen turned into a disaster at the start of the year, with their expected closer Ryan Franklin failing at every opportunity to protect leads.  He blew so many games that the Cardinals eventually had to designate him and turned to a number of other no name relievers to figure out their closer.  LaRussa informally settled on former catcher turned reliever Jason Motte, but it took a lot of different pitchers to fail at the job before he made his decision.  Motte failed much less than the others.  Most playoff teams try to determine their closer by the end of spring training not during the season.  It is like trying to race the NASCAR before you get your driver’s license.

As the season progressed these Cardinals found themselves 10 and one half games out of any playoff chance going into September.  There were always cries of wait till next year.  The Brewers got hot during the middle of the season and ran away with the AL Central.  It took an Atlanta Braves collapse and a St. Louis Cardinal 23-9 surge to get them invited into the playoffs, but no one expected them to go far.  Chris Carpenter had to win the final game of the season to get them to the playoffs.

They were then down to the expectant World Series champion Philadelphia Phillies two games to one before they beat them the final two games to face their nemesis the NL Central champion Milwaukee Brewers.  Chris Carpenter was called on for game five to to face Cy Young contenter Roy Halladay and not a lot of people expected him to be successful.  But as he did the last game of the season, he won the game and got the Cardinals to the next round of the playoffs where they would get a chance to play the AL Central champion Brewers.

The Cardinals went up against the Brewers three games to two, but now they had to go to Milwaukee to face the team that had the best home record in baseball.  Many in St. Louis gave Albert Pujols a standing ovation during his last at bat because they feared they would never see him play again as a Cardianl, becoming a free agent at the end of the 2011 season.  The Cardinals needed only one game to beat the Brewers and advance to the World Series.

Finally, those comeback Cardinals faced elimination in game six of the World Series, twice being only a strike away from elimination.  Unlikely heros David Freese and Allan Craig extended their stay in the Series with clutch hits, Allan Craig getting them to game seven with a walk off homerun.  Chris Carpenter became the hero again, pitching on three days rest to give the Cardinals an opportunity to win game seven and become champions.  To play with the words of a Bob Dylan song “If I were a Carpenter, I’d be a champion…”  You can finish the rest.

The Rangers have nothing to be ashamed of, the cast of misfits that few teams wanted early in their career turning into heros.  Now they are back to back American League champions with only the Giants and Cardinal in their way to becoming World Series champions.  They just have to hope if they make a third straight appearance to the World Series that they win the next one or they will be compared to the Buffalo Bills of football, who appeared in three straight Super Bowls and lost them all.

First there was the news that the Rangers manager Ron Washington had tested positive for cocaine during the middle of the 2009 season.  It was announced prior to the start of the 2010 baseball season.  Most teams would have fired Ron Washington after his drug failure.  The Rangers chose to hang on to him and as their reward he has taken them to two straight World Series.

Michael Young felt disrespected at the beginning of the 2011 season after the Rangers signed Adrian Beltre as a free agent and acquired Mike Napoli in a trade.  Michael had volunteered to move to short with the acquistion of Alfonso Soriano to play second then agreed to move to third with the development of Elvis Andrus for shortstop.  He was feeling squeezed out of the Rangers plans, with very few positions left for him to be in a starting role.  The Rangers were fortunate to not get what they felt was an adequate price for Young and he turned into one of the best utility players in the game, having a career year playing 40 games at third, 36 games at first, 14 games at second and one game at short.

The Angels traded Mike Napoli to the Blue Jays for Vernon Wells because their manager, ex-catcher Mike Scioscia preferred a defensive catcher.  The Angels stuck with the .175 hitting Jeff Mathis and the Blue Jays traded Napoli to the Rangers for a reliever by the name of Frank Francisco.  Napoli went on to hit 30 plus homeruns and the Rangers were more than happy with his defense, where he played 61 games at catcher.

Everyone has heard the story of Josh Hamilton and his battles with drug abuse.  The Reds surprised the baseball world by selecting him as a Rule V draft pick and despite having a break out year the Reds felt he could never stay healthy and traded him to the Rangers for Edinson Volquez.  While Josh has had trouble staying healthy, Volquez had to face Tommy John surgery and has not been the same pitcher since.  Josh has battled through his injuries and led the Rangers to two straight World Series appearances.

Nelson Cruz was traded a couple times and even placed on waivers by the Rangers before he broke out and made the starting lineup at the ripe old age of 29.  That is 13 years of playing the game before anyone recognized him as a major leaguer, since he signed as a 16 year old out of the Dominican Republic.  Now general managers everywhere are scratching their heads wondering why they never made a claim on him when he was placed on waivers.

Finally, there is the story of Colby Lewis, a high draft choice who did so poorly early in his career that he had to go to Japan to get his act together.  After having a couple of successful seasons in Japan, the Rangers took a chance and signed him and he has been a rock in their rotation.  Without Colby, they may not have made appearances in the last two World Series.

There are other players and events myworld may have forgotten, but this article has gotten a little longer than we intended.  We will just end it here and say it was a good end to the major league baseball season, with two well deserving underdogs battling it out until the end.  We can hardly wait until the beginning of the season in March to see who we will again root for, or against.  In the meantime we will try our best to enjoy the winter leagues, which includes baseball in Australia, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Mexico, Puerto Rico and Venezuela and hope they will be just as entertaining.