Japan Leaders

October 10th, 2017

For all practical purposes the NPB season is over. There are a few more games to play to get everyone to 144 but the playoff teams have been decided and the offensive and pitching leaders have also been decided. Below are the league leaders in various categories for the Pacific and Central Leagie.

Central League

Homerun - Alex Guerrero (Chunichi Dragons) - 35
Average - Toshiro Maru (Yokohama Bay Stars) - .323
RBIs - Jose Lopez (Yokohama Bay Stars) - 105
Stolen Bases - Kosuke Tanaka (Hiroshima Carp) - 35

Most Wins - Tomoyuki Sugano (Yomiuri Giants) - 17
ERA - Tomoyuki Sugano (Yomiuri Giants) - 1.59
Strikeouts - Miles Mikolas (Yomiuri Giants) - 187
Saves - Rafael Dolis (Hanshin Tigers) - 37

Pacific League

Homeruns - Alfredo Despaigne (Softbank Hawks) - 35
Average - Shogo Akiyama (Seibu Lions) - .322
RBIs - Alfredo Despaigne (Softbank Hawks) - 103
Stolen Bases - Haruki Nishikawa (Nippon Ham Fighters) - 39

Wins - Nao Higashihama (Softbank Hawks) 16
Yusei Kikuchi (Seibu Lions) - 16
ERA - Yusei Kikuchi (Seibu Lions) - 1.97
Strikeouts - Takahiro Norimoto (Rakuten Eagles) - 222
Saves - Dennis Sarfate (Softbank Hawks) - 54

Curacao Neptunus Rallies for Netherlands Championship

October 10th, 2017

It appeared L&D Amsterdam would take the championship series to a game five but Curacao Neptunus rallied for 6 runs in the last three innings to salvage the victory and bring the Dutch championship to Neptunus for the fifth consecutive season.

Kevin Heijstek pitched six innings of shutout ball for L&D. They were up 3-0 after six but Heijstek appeared to tire in the seventh. Two singles, two wild pitches and a double by Stijn Van de Meer drove in the first two runs. It also drove Heijstek from the game.

Down 4-2 into the ninth L&D stayed with Ward and Curacao tattooed him for three singles and a walk to score four runs. Stijn Van de Meer got another RBI single to pull Curacao within one. A Gianison Boekhoudt walk with the bases loaded brought in the go ahead run.

L&D managed to score one run in the bottom of the ninth but Loek Van Mil was able to contain the damage in his second inning of work to pick up the win. Orlando Yntema pitched seven strong innings for Curacao to help give the team the victory.

Lotte Beats Dinos in Rare Pitcher’s Duel

October 9th, 2017

1-0 pitcher’s duels are rare in Korea. That was the score with the Lotte Giants beating the NC Dinos in the second playoff game of the best of five series. Brooks Raley pitched 5.1 innings of shutout relief for the Giants. The bullpen followed with three pitchers getting an inning or more of work. Seung-Tak Son worked the last inning to earn the save.

Hyun-Shik Jang was wild for the NC Dinos, walking five, but he went seven innings, giving up only three hits and one unearned run. An error on a grounder in the second inning and two walks loaded the bases. A ground out double play allowed the only run to score. The Dinos were able to get a runner to second base on three occasions, but could not get the big hit to score the run and tie the game.

The best of five series is now even at 1-1.

Japan Wins Asian Title

October 8th, 2017

Japan beat Taiwan 6-1 to reclaim the Asia Baseball Championship, their 18th title. Korea secured the title in 2015. The third tiger Taiwan had to settle for a second place finish for the fourth consecutive tournament. Korea won the third place game over the Philippines 15-0.

With the wins Japan, Taiwan and Korea qualify for the Under 23 World Championships to be played in 2018. The Netherlands and Czech Republic are two other teams who have qualified. In late November the Pan American Confederation of Baseball Under 23 Championships will qualify five more countries. Those games will be played November 23 to December 3 in Panama City, Panama.

Taiwan had beaten Korea in pool play 3-2 while Japan cruised through their pool undefeated, beating Hong Kong 30-0 and Pakistan 13-1. China had to withdraw from the tournament dropping the number of teams in the pool to three.

Japan shutout out both Korea (3-0) and Taiwan (10-0) in the semi-final games but with only one loss Taiwan advanced to the championship while Korea, the defending champions had to settle for the third place game.

Dinos Down Lotte Giants in KBO Playoff Opener

October 8th, 2017

Eric Hacker for the Dinos and Josh Lindblom of the Giants both pitched well. Hacker gave up one run in seven innings and Lindblom two runs in six. Heon-Do Park crashed a clutch solo homerun for the Giants in the bottom of the eighth to tie it up 2-2.

The game went into overtime and NC erupted for seven runs in the top of the 11th to take the opener 9-2. Chang-Min Mo cleared the bases with a grand slam homerun to seal the victory. Three straight walks had preceded the homerun.

Nats Bats Explode Late in Win Over Cubs

October 8th, 2017

Last year Joe Maddon got into the heads of Bryce Harper and Ryan Zimmerman. He walked Bryce six times in one game, a number intentionally to face Ryan Zimmerman, who failed to drive in the city of runners he left on base. Both would go on to have less than stellar years.

Yesterday both Harper and Zimmerman got a little revenge against Maddon. Harper launched a mammoth two run shot in the eighth that settled into the second deck over the Nationals bullpen that tied the game at 3-3. In the same inning Zimmerman lifted a fly ball into left field that just cleared the fence for a three run homer to give the Nationals a 6-3 lead.

The game started well for the Nationals when Anthony Rendon lined a pitch into the right field bullpen with two outs in the first inning for an early 1-0 lead. That was the only hit the Nationals could muster off Jon Lester through the first four innings. It was shades of the previous night when they could only collect two hits in nine innings.

The Cubs got back early in the game when Wilson Contreras powered a pitch down the left field line for a second inning leadoff homer to tie the game 1-1. Gio Gonzalez like Jon Lester would settle down after that blast and not allow a hit until the fourth.

In the fourth Kris Bryant lined a double over the head of Jayson Werth to lead off the inning. Anthony Rizzo hit a high fly ball into right that a Cubs fan caught just over the fence for a two run homer. The Nationals appealed that the Cubs fan reached over the fence to rob Bryce Harper of an opportunity to make the catch but the appeal was denied after looking at the replay. Gio worked five innings before Dusty Baker went to the bullpen.

In the bottom of the fifth Ryan Zimmerman led the inning off with a slow bouncer up the middle for their second hit of the game. After two fly outs Zimmerman baited Lester to throw to first, taking a lead that was almost one third of the way to second. Lester did not throw to first and Zimmerman stole second with a huge jump. A wild pitch advanced him to third with two outs. Michael Taylor worked a walk and Howie Kendrick pinch hit for Gio and also walked to load the bases. That brought up Trea Turner. Trea swung at and missed at what appeared to be a outside fastball for strike three to continue the frustration of Nationals fans watching the anemic bats flail.

The Nationals could not get another hit until the eighth. Lester worked six and Pedro Strop hit Wieters with two outs in the seventh but retired Taylor to leave the Nats struggling to find base runners. The bullpen of Matt Albers, Sammy Solis, Ryan Madson and Oliver Perez quieted the Cubs bats through eight, leaving the score at 3-1 entering the home half of the eighth.

Adam Lind pinch hit for Oliver Perez and does what he does best, singling into left field. A faster runner would have gotten to second, but for Nats fans it was a hit. Harper worked the count to 3-1 and then launched a pitch into the full moon, landing in the second deck high above the right field bullpen to tie the game 3-3. The crowd had something to cheer about. Myworld does not recall a “N-A-T-S Nats, Nats, Nats” cheer for the two runs but too many people were slapping high fives maybe they forgot or perhaps myworld did not notice.

A walk to Anthony Rendon ended the day for Carl Edwards Jr. Mike Montgomery came on and gave up an opposite field single to left to Daniel Murphy. Ryan Zimmerman then lifted a high fly into left field. The left fielder drifted back, appeared to have caught the ball, but once he could not produce the ball from his glove the crowd realized it had just cleared the fence into the first row. Zimmerman made the leap just before touching first and it was 6-3 Nats.

Sean Doolittle came on for the ninth. He provided a little bit of excitement by giving up a one out single to Addison Russell. Ben Zobrist grounded a 2-1 pitch to Rendon at third and he turned it into a game ending double play. The series goes back to Chicago even at 1-1.

Nats Notes: A sellout crowd of 43,860 attended the game. There were more Cubbies blue than the game on Friday night…Game three starters are scheduled to be Max Scherzer for the Nats and Jose Quintana for the Cubs…Dusty stayed loyal to Jayson Werth, starting him in left field. He was hitless for his second straight game, though he did draw a walk in the first game. Expect Howie to get a start if Jayson’s bat stays cold…The Nationals handed out red towels for the game Saturday night. There were not too many opportunities for fans to wave them until the eighth…For Adam Lind he had his first playoff at bat after 1,344 regular season games. He made the most of it by singling to left, beginning a five run rally that would send the Nationals to victory. Victor Robles pinch ran for him and scored after the Harper homer…The homerun for Rizzo was a franchise record 6 homeruns in the playoffs. He also has the record for most post season RBIs with 16.

Dinos Win KBO Wild Card Game

October 8th, 2017

The NC Dinos opened the KBO playoffs with a 10-5 win over the SK Wyverns in the wild card game. Playing without MVP Eric Thames, who went to the major leagues for the 2017 season the Dinos finished a disappointing fourth place, after sitting atop the division in the early part of the year. The team signed Xavier Scruggs to take his place but his bat has not been as productive as Thames, though 35 homeruns and 111 RBIs is nothing to sneeze at.

The batting hero in the wild card game was their young All Star Sung-Bum Na, one of myworld’s favorite Korean players. He hit a three run homerun in the bottom of the first off Merrill Kelly to give the Dinos an early 3-0 lead. Na finished the 2017 season hitting .347 with 24 homeruns and 99 RBIs. Sol-Min Park also hit a solo shot in the first inning to up the lead to 4-0.

Kelly was sent to the showers after giving up four runs in the third inning to put the Wyverns in an 8-2 hole. Jin-Gi Jeong hit two homeruns for the Wyverns, a solo shot in the fourth and a two run blast in the sixth to lead the Wyverns offense.

Jeff Manship only worked four innings for the Dinos, denying himself a victory.

The Dinos now must play a best of five game series against the third place team the Lotte Giants.

Leather and Wood Fail the Nats in Playoff Loss to Cubs

October 7th, 2017

The Nationals have appeared in three playoffs series. They have yet to win one. Something always fails them. The bats. The pen. The lack of starting pitching. Yesterday it was the leather after a key error by Anthony Rendon allowed two unearned runs to score in the sixth to ruin an excellent performance from Strasburg. The bats were also frigid, failing to make any solid contact off Kyle Hendricks in the 3-0 loss.

The Nationals were able to advance a runner to second in the first two innings, but failed to score. Little did they know it would be their best opportunity of the night. After the second inning no National touched second base. It was pure domination by Hendricks, whose fastball was one tick slower than the change thrown by Strasburg. Whenever he threw his change the Nats could only stir a breeze or watch it flutter in the strike zone.

Strasburg was just as dominant, but in a more swing and miss way. In the first five innings he had struck out five. In the sixth leadoff hitter Javier Baez hit a routine grounder to third. Anthony Rendon had it in his glove and then it was out of his glove. Hendricks bunted Baez to second.

After a fly out to center Strasburg got ahead of Kris Bryant 0-2. It appeared he would escape adversity, a trait he has not been known for in the past. He had yet to allow a hit, but Strasburg does not lead a charmed life when facing adversity. On an 0-2 pitch Bryant lined one into right center for the first hit of the game. The throw home from Harper was a little too high and missed the first cutoff man, but Strasburg, instead of backing up home caught the ball and fired to second, where Bryant was trying to advance on the high throw. Bryant slid under the tag and a review confirmed that. If the throw had been low enough for the first cutoff man Bryant may have been out. This proved critical when Anthony Rizzo lined a single to right field to score Bryant to give the Cubs a 2-0 lead.

This proved insurmountable to the Nationals impotent bats. The offense only hit five balls into the outfield, two for hits and three routine fly outs. The Cubs added one more insurance run in the eighth on a Jon Jay double that hit the left field line. A one out grounder to second advanced Jay to third. Anthony Rizzo lined a double into the left field corner to give the Cubs another run they would not need.

The Cubs bullpen of Carl Edwards Jr and Wade Davis retired the Nationals in order in the last two innings. It was almost a relief to see Hendricks gone to start the eighth, but the Nats bats could not hit anyone tonight.

Nats Notes: A nice gesture by the Nats to have Steve Scalise throw out the first pitch. He was the Congressman shot at the baseball practice held by the Republicans. His body guards were also present at the ceremony, one of the Secret Service members catching the first pitch…The Nats passed out red cardboard “K” signs. Strasburg put them to good use with his 10 whiffs in seven innings. The bullpen of Ryan Madson and Brandon Kintzler also struck out three, but it was all for naught by an offense that also struck out 9 times and could not get solid wood on the ball…Steven Strasburg started the game throwing all strikes and retiring the Cubs in order in the first inning. His changeup (91) was a tick faster than the Kyle Hendricks fastball (88-91. Both Strasburg and Hendricks got a lot of swings and misses with their changeups….Jayson Werth took three strikes in his first at bat. While he did walk once his bat was not impressive. Expect Howie Kendrick to play left field in the second game to generate more offense…Ryan Zimmerman struck out in the ninth and when he ran to first the throw from Wilson Contreras hit him in the shoulder. The umpire ruled him out because he was far inside the line interfering with the throw from Contreras. The crowd did not like the call but he was clearly inside the infield area of the base path.

NL Central Minor League All Stars

October 6th, 2017

Below are the classification All Stars for the NL Central as provided by Baseball America. These are not necessarily the top prospects at each classification but they are players who performed the best over their time in that classification.

Chicago Cubs

Fernando Kelli OF (Dominican) - The fact you have to go as far down as the Dominican summer league to find an All Star tells a lot about the Cubs minor league system. Speed appears to be the best tool in his game with 58 stolen bases in 67 games. He also got on base with a .327 average and a .437 OBA. He does seem to swing and miss a lot, not what you want to see in a lead off hitter and his power is limited to the gaps.

Cincinnati Reds

Tyler Mahle SP (AA) - The seventh round pick threw no hitters in 2016 and 2017. His fastball can hit the mid-90s but is not overpowering. He relies more on mixing in his secondary pitches (curve, slider and change) to complement the fastball. Between AAA and AA he limited the opposition to a .208 average. They hit him a little better when promoted for four starts in the major leagues (.253) and his control of the strike zone was a bit shaky (11 walks in 20 innings) but his ERA was good (2.70).

Jose Siri OF (Low A) - There is a lot of raw power in his bat (24 homeruns) and his legs can steal bases (46). That speed allows him to cover a ton of ground in the outfield. His arm is strong leading to the possibility of a five tool athlete if he can develop. His only downside is his patience at the plate (33/130) with a tendency to swing and miss too much.

Taylor Trammell OF (Low A) - A two sport athlete in high school you can count the same tools for Taylor with Jose. He showed speed with 41 stolen bases and power (13 homeruns). Taylor has better patience at the plate (71 walks) with the speed to cover center. His arm is not as strong as Siri so when not playing center he fits better in left.

Debby Santana 3B (Dominican) - He was the youngest player on the Dominican All Star team (16 years). The power is limited to the gaps but as he matures many of those balls will carry over the fence.

Milwaukee Brewers

Lewis Brinson OF (AAA) - Drafted by the Rangers in the first round of the 2012 draft, the Brewers acquired him in the Jonathan Lucroy trade. The speed and power exist for him to be a 30/30 player, though his stolen base numbers were not high last year. He struggled when called up by the Brewers (.106), but he should be the centerfielder of the future for the Brewers.

Corbin Burnes SP (AA) - The fourth round 2016 pick does not rely on power, with a fastball that can hit the mid-90s but often sits in the low 90s. His slider gives him a good swing and miss pitch to complement his fastball. He needs to develop his change or move to the pen. The opposition hit him at a .212 clip and he showed good command of his pitches only walking 20 in 86 innings.

Nate Griep (High A) RP - Nate picked up 30 saves but bullpen pitchers with low strikeout rates (7.5 per nine innings) are not commodities to get excited about. He did limit the opposition to a .191 average so there was a lot of soft contact with his offerings.

Jean Carlos Carmona SS (Dominican) - He hit .302 but with very little power and no stolen base speed. Myworld anticipates that he carries a good glove but we don’t have much info on him.

Pittsburgh Pirates

Steven Brault SP (AAA) - The Orioles have traded a number of mid-rotation pitchers to keep their playoff hopes alive. Brault is another one of those pitchers that fits on the cusp of being mid to back rotation pitcher. He throws lefthanded relying on breaking pitches to retire hitters. Minor league hitters struggled with a .199 opposition average, major league hitters juiced him at a .287 average. He might be best used out of the pen as an emergency starter.

Luis Escobar SP (Low A) - At 6′1″ he is small, but his fastball has easy mid-90s velocity. His command is a bit erratic but he has swing and miss stuff. He needs to enhance his secondary pitches (curve and change) to stay in the starting rotation.

Mason Martin DH (Rookie) - The 17th round 2017 pick opened some eyes with his 11 homeruns and .630 slugging. He also walked 32 times in 39 games for a .457 OBA. Mason played most of his games at first base but did see some time in the outfield.

Sherten Apostel DH (Dominican) - The Curacao native did show some pop with 9 dingers. He also had an impressive 56/49 walk to whiff ratio. This was his second season in the Dominican League and he made enough improvement to go stateside next year. He has played third base the last two seasons.

St. Louis Cardinals

Evan Mendoza 3B (short season) - The 11th round 2017 pick hit .370 in short season. When promoted to Low A it dropped 100 points. There is gap power but if he hopes to stick in the infield corner slot there needs to be more.

Scott Hurst OF (short season) - Hurst was a third round pick in 2017 but the first player the Cardinals selected in the draft. Speed is his best tool which allows him to play centerfield. There does not appear to be much power in his bat to play a corner.

Ivan Herrera C (Dominican) - The native of Panama carries a mean stick (.335). He also threw out 34 of the 85 runners who stole off him.

Yankees Win Wildcard Game

October 4th, 2017

In a year when the major league record for homeruns was broken and no one seems to cast any suspicions of juicing, either of the ball or the muscles, the Yankees outhomered the Twins 3-2 to win the American League wild card game 8-4.

Luis Severino did not last long in the game, retiring only one hitter before he was sent to the showers. Brian Dozier greeted him with a leadoff homerun and Eddie Rosario launched a two run shot to end his night. Chad Green replaced Severino and tamed the Twins bats for two innings.

The Yankees bit back with some launches of their own off Twins ace Ervin Santana. Didi Gregorius got things started with a three run shot in the first to tie the game at 3-3. Bret Gardner put the Yankees up 4-3 with a solo shot in the second inning. With all that bashing the Twins went with Santana for only two innings. Facing elimination they turned to rookie Jose Berrios to quiet the Yankee bats.

The Twins tied it in the third but the Yankees recaptured the lead in the bottom frame. In the fourth the Yankees rookie Aaron Judge abused the Twins rookie Berrios with a screaming liner that cleared the wall and gave the Yankees a convincing 7-4 lead they would fail to yield. Judge and Gardner scored three runs each to account for six of the Yankees eight runs.

The Yankees ex-closer of days gone by David Robertson shut the Twins down for 3.1 innings. Another recent acquisition for their bullpen and a teammate of Robertson with the White Sox at the start of the season, Tommy Kahnle shut the Twins down for 2.1 innings. The current Yankee closer Aroldis Chapman struck out three of the four hitters he faced, even though it was not a save situation to close out the game.