Otani Dominant in Climax Series

October 12th, 2016

Perhaps the best pitcher in baseball was unhittable in the Nippon Ham Fighters 6-0 win over the Softbank Hawks to open their playoff series. Otani struck out six and gave up just one hit, a double in the fourth in his seven innings of work. He retired the last 11 hitters he faced. With a 6-0 lead the Fighters went to the bullpen to retire the last six hitters. Otani also became the first pitcher in playoff history to hit for himself by removing the designated hitter. He batted 8th in the lineup and had a critical single in the fifth inning to get the 6-run rally started.

The Fighters scored all their runs in the fifth inning off Hawk starter Shota Takeda, Sho Nakata blasting a two run homer to close out the scoring. Haruki Nishikawa and Kensuke Konda each drove in two runs with singles.

Even though this was the first game in the climax series Nippon leads the series 2-0, getting one free win for finishing first in the Pacific Conference.

Johnson Pitches Carp to Opening Win

October 12th, 2016

Not only do you get all your games in this seven game series at home, but you also get a 1-0 lead in games before the series even gets started. That is a big advantage in the extreme for the winners of the Central and Pacific Conference. It makes it more of a challenge for a wild card team to advance to the Japan series.

Kris Johnson made it even harder with his three hit shutout in the Hiroshima Carps 5-0 win over the Yokohama Bay Stars to give them a 2-0 lead in games in the series. Kris allowed just three hits in the complete game shutout win, inducing two ground ball double plays and never finding himself with more than one runner on base in the inning. The farthest anyone got on the bases against him was first base.

The Carp scored all the runs they needed in the third inning on an RBI double from Yoshihiro Maru followed by an RBI single from Takahiro Arai. Kosuke Tanaka was perfect from the leadoff spot going 3 for 3 with two doubles, a walk, two runs scored and a run driven in. Brad Eldred even got in the game with a pinch hit RBI double in the ninth inning.

You can go see the box score for the game at yakyudb.com.

Lefthanded Pitcher Review

October 11th, 2016

At the start of the season myworld ranked the top pitching prospects who threw lefthanded. This is an assessment or progress review of their 2016 season.

1. Julio Urias (Dodgers) - He was still a teenager when he was promoted to the Dodgers. He did not dominate in the major leagues as he did in the minors, but the tools are still there to ensure major league success. He has a fastball/change combination that gets his share of swings and misses. In the majors his hits to innings pitched were not impressive but expect that to improve with more experience. He will start the Dodgers 2017 season in their starting rotation.

2. Blake Snell (Rays) - Last year he started his minor league season with a 50 plus minor league shutout streak. This year he spent most of his time with the Rays. He was one of the Rays top starting pitchers though his strikeout to innings pitched were down and his hits to innings pitched were up after his promotion. He doesn’t throw quite as hard as Urias but also relies on a fastball/change combination to get hitters out. Blake also throws two effective breaking pitches in a curve and slider. Expect him also to be in the Rays rotation in 2017.

3. Steven Matz (Mets) - Injuries have prevented Matz from reaching his potential. Injuries last year prevented him from eating up innings allowing him to remain on the prospect list. Those injuries continued in the major leagues in 2016 as an elbow injury plagued him much of the season. The Mets finally shut him down even though they were in a playoff race towards the end of the season. Matz was the lone lefthander in the rotation at the beginning of the season and also relies on a mid-90s fastball and change to retire hitters. If healthy he should be in the Mets rotation in 2017. Don’t be surprised if he is limited to just over 20 plus starts.

4. Sean Newcomb (Braves) - The Angels traded many of their prospects to the Braves and Sean was one of those included to acquire shortstop Andrelton Simmons. The Braves farm system is loaded with talented arms and Sean is one of them. Command has been his biggest challenge with a walk every two innings pitched. His fastball sits in the low 90s but he can hit the mid-90s with a curve as his second best pitch. Once he improves his control in AAA for the 2017 season he will make his debut some time by mid-season.

5. Cody Reed (Reds) - There are two different Cody Reeds. This is the one who pitches for the Reds. Cody Reed was limited to 13 starts in AAA with a back injury. He got some major league opportunities but they toasted him in his 10 starts with an ERA over 7.00. The Reds could take a mulligan on his major league starts because you don’t give him on a lefthanded arm that can hit the mid-90s with his fastball. Unless he has a terrific spring expect him to start the 2017 season in AAA. He needs to get that confidence back that was tattered by major league pitching.

6. Sean Manaea (Athletics) - Sean did not spend a lot of time in the minor leagues. He made the Athletics rotation after just three AAA starts. Injuries limited him to 24 starts. The Royals drafted Sean in the first round in 2013 and traded him to the Athletics in the Ben Zobrist trade. At 6′5″ Sean can hit the mid to high 90s with his fastball, but sits mostly in the low 90s. A slider is his second best pitch. Expect him to be in the Athletics rotation to start the 2017 season.

7. Brady Aiken (Indians) - Drafted as the first pick by the Astros last year they failed to sign him after lowering his bonus payment for fear of an existing arm injury. Those fears proved to be true when Brady attempted to pitch in an Independent League and failed to finish the game because of an arm injury. He underwent Tommy John surgery. That did not prevent the Indians from drafting him in the first round in 2015, He spent all his time in the short season leagues struggling to find success. His fastball was pedestrian, sitting in the high 80s and his breaking pitch lacked the sharp break, but this was a rehab year. Next year the Indians hope for better results when they stick him in a full season league. He is still at least a couple years away from seeing a major league rotation.

8. Tyler Jay (Twins) - Tyler spent most of his time in the Florida State League and did not pitch like a 2015 first round pick. Drafted out of college the Twins were hoping for a quick ascent from the minors for Jay. The numbers are not showing he deserves a promotion. His fastball sits in the mid-90s and he balances that out with a wipe out slider. At 6′1″ he is not a big guy so durability issues could be a concern. A brief promotion to AA will probably be repeated to start the 2017 season. Myworld can’t get too excited about him at this point.

9. Justus Sheffield (Yankees) - The Indians traded him and Clint Frazier to the Yankees for Andrew Miller. Other players were involved in the trade but these three were the main players. Justus was a 2014 first round pick of the Indians. At 5′10″ he also has a small frame but packs a lot of heat with a mid-90s fastball. Last year he pitched at High A with limited success. The Yankees gave him one start in AA which is where he will probably start the 2017 season.

10. Kolby Allard (Braves) - A bad back delayed the start of his 2016 season. The 2015 number one pick of the Braves spent all his time in Low A where he put up pedestrian numbers (3.73 ERA). His fastball sits in the low 90s with a good curveball and change combination. Expect him to start the 2017 season at High A.

LG Twins Win Wild Game

October 11th, 2016

A double in the sixth inning by Brett Pill was the only hit given up by Jae-Kuk Ryu in his eight innings of work as the LG Twins defeated the Kia Tigers 1-0. Ryu walked three hitters and hit three batters so not all the innings were easy. Jung-Woo Im worked a perfect ninth inning and got the win after the Twins scored their lone run with one out in the ninth.

The Tigers Hyun-jong Yang matched the zeroes thrown by Ryu for his six innings of work. Yong-Yi Kim hit a bases loaded sacrifice fly off Zeke Spruil in the bottom of the ninth inning to score the lone run.

The Twins next opponent is the Nexen Heroes.

Hawks and Bay Stars Advance in Japanese Playoffs

October 10th, 2016

For the second time in two days the Chiba Lotte Marines got a lead off homerun from Ikuhiro Kiyota, but again it did not result in a win. It was the only run scored by the Marines in their 4-1 loss to the Hawks. With the win the Hawks will advance to play the Nippon Ham Fighters for the Pacific League title.

Kenji Akashi slapped a two out RBI single in the fourth to tie the game. Yuichi Honda singled to right in the fifth inning to drive in the run to give the Hawks a 2-1 lead. Kenta Imamiya had another big hit to secure the victory for the Bay Stars with a two run single in the eighth.

Rick Vanden Hurk got the start and the win for the Hawks. He worked six innings striking out six. Dennis Sarfarte struck out the side in the ninth to pick up the save.

The Bay Stars upset their bigger brother the Yomiuri Giants to advance to the Central League finals to face the Hiroshima Carp. The Giants had won the second game 2-1, Hayato Sakamoto hitting a solo shot in the third to tie the game and Hisayoshi Chono giving them the lead 2-1 in the eighth with an RBI single. Sakamoto had started the inning with a lead off double to score both runs. Scott Mathieson got the win with two shutout innings of relief.

The Bay Stars won game number three in 11 innings over their Tokyo neighbor with a 4-3 win. Hiroki Minei drove in the go ahead run in the 11th inning with a single. Jose Lopez smashed a two run homer in the first for the Bay Stars. The Bay Stars got five plus innings of shutout relief from their bullpen, saving the last inning for their second year closer Yasuaki Yamasaki to close out the game. It has been a rough second year for Yamasaki but a good playoff performance will erase all the poor regular season outings.

The Giants scored all three of their runs on homeruns, Shinnosuke Abe slugging a two run shot in the first and ex-Bay Star slugger Shuichi Murata hitting a solo shot in the sixth. The Giants were able to put two runners on in the 11th off Yamasaki but Abe flew out to right to end the game and send the Bay Stars into a wild celebration.

Kia Tigers Stay Alive with Wild Card Win

October 10th, 2016

The LG Twins finished ahead of the Kia Tigers in the standings so all they had to do to advance in the wild card game was beat or tie the game against the Kia Tigers. The Kia Tigers kept their playoff hopes alive by winning 4-2 setting the stage for a second game between the two teams.

The Tigers jumped out to a 4-0 lead and relied on the pitching of Hector Noesi to shut out the Twins for the first seven innings. A lead off double in the 8th, an error and a single drove in the first run for the Twins and ended the day for Noesi. Brett Pill scored two runs for the Tigers, leading off the fourth with a single and the sixth with a double. An error by the Twins shortstop allowed two runs to score in the fourth. Chang-Yong Lim pitched a perfect ninth to secure the victory for the Tigers.

The winner of the wild card game will play the Nexen Heroes who finished in third place in the regular season. The NC Dinos and the Doosan Bears await the winners of each series.

A Homerun by Lobaton Evens Series for Nationals

October 9th, 2016

The Nationals were down 2-0 in the fourth. Jose Lobaton had grounded into a double play his first time up with the bases loaded and one out. This time he had runners on first and second with two outs. Rich Hill had struck out seven in three innings with the Nationals limited to two hits, struggling to hit his curveball. On a 1-1 pitch Lobaton drove a pitch into the left field bullpen to give the Nationals a 3-2 lead, resulting in an eventual 5-2 win.

The game started with a ground hog day first inning. Just like Friday Corey Seager hit a solo homerun to give the Dodgers a 1-0 lead. The Nationals came up and Rich Hill struck out the side, just as Clayton Kershaw had accomplished on Friday. The script changed a bit after the first inning.

Tanner Roark was not sharp. The Dodgers loaded the bases with one out in the second, third and fifth innings yet could not score. In the second Rich Hill struck out and Chase Utley grounded to first to end the first threat. Yasmani Grandal grounded into a double play in the third to spoil a potential big inning. Grandal struck out in the fifth and pinch hitter Howie Kendrick ripped a line drive to left field to strand three runners.

The Dodgers were able to score a run in the third. Justin Turner coaxed a one out walk from Roark, the second of three walks issued by Roark in his less than five innings of uninspiring work. Adrian Gonzalez singled and Josh Reddick followed lining a single into right field. The throw from Bryce Harper drifted to the first base side of home plate, allowing Turner to score and the runners to advance to second and third. Joc Pederson was walked intentionally, which loaded the bases to set up the double play ground out by Grandal.

In the bottom of the fourth a walk to Daniel Murphy and a pitch off the foot of Danny Espinosa, his second hit by pitch of the game put runners on first and second with two out. That set up the three run homer for Lobaton, only the third hit allowed by Hill.

The Nationals added another run in the fifth. Trea Turner led off the inning with a single and advanced to second on a stolen base. Bryce Harper smoked a single to left field and the crowd moaned when the usually aggressive third base coach Bob Henley held Turner at third. Jayson Werth popped up to first for the first out. Daniel Murphy ran the count to 2-2 before coming through in the clutch with a line single into right center field to score Turner. Yasiel Puig attempted to throw to third to gun down Bryce Harper, but he had no chance. Anthony Rendon lifted a fly ball to shallow left. Bryce Harper tagged and tried to score on the weak armed Howie Kendrick in left, but the throw easily beat Harper to the plate to end the inning.

Murphy came through in the clutch again in the seventh inning. Jayson Werth lined a two out double into the left centerfield gap. Daniel Murphy went the other way with a single into left field. Werth raced home and this time the throw from Kendrick was too late.

The Nationals bullpen would shut down the Dodgers on one hit after the sixth. Adrian Gonzalez had a chance to give the Dodgers the lead in the sixth with runners on first and second with two out. Sammy Solis got him out on a fly ball into left field. That was the first of eight in a row retired by the Nationals bullpen. Mark Melancon gave up a one out single in the ninth but retired the next two hitters to give the Nationals the victory.

Game Notes: Nationals pitchers walked six hitters in the first six innings with one hit batsmen. The Dodgers stranded 11 runners in those first six innings…Andy LaRoche threw out the first pitch at the game with his son catching the pitch. LaRoche retired this year after the White Sox management cautioned LaRoche that he could not continue to bring his son to every game…Many conservatives refer to California as being the left coast. If you looked at the Dodger lineup and their rotation in the first two games everyone batted lefthanded or threw lefthanded. That is probably a first…The homerun by Corey Seager came on a 3-0 count. That is a lot of faith to put on a rookie…There were 89 fewer people at today’s game than Friday, 43,826 to 43,915…Danny Espinosa was hit in the elbow his first time up and in the foot his second time up. He struck out in his other two at bats meaning he has yet to make contact in fair territory in seven at bats…Wonder what Met fans are thinking with the two clutch hits by Daniel Murphy in this game? National fans were chanting MVP in his at bats. Last year Nats fans did not like Daniel Murphy.

Catcher Prospect Review

October 8th, 2016

These were the top ten catchers at the beginning of the year as rated by myworld. We could not find our Baseball America magazine that rated the top ten catchers, lefthanded pitchers and righthanded pitchers so we will go with our list for these three positions, even though we hate using our bias.

1. Gary Sanchez (Yankees) - He did not get a lot of major league at bats because of his late callup but his homerun production when promoted to the major leagues was record breaking. With more playing time he would be the cinch American League rookie of the year, but he may still win it. His defense has improved to such an extent that he is now considered above average. Brian McCann will be the back up next year despite his large contract while Sanchez takes over the starting role. Expect a drop in production but his bat should still carry 20 plus over the fence each year.

2. Wilson Contreras (Cubs) - Another player who got a major league promotion mid-season. Wilson played a lot in left field because the Cubs had more veteran catchers to use behind the plate. Wilson has 20 plus homerun power and an arm to limit base stealing. His pitch calling and handling of a veteran playoff pitching staff still needs more work. With Kyle Schwarber coming back next year to play left field and Anthony Rizzo at first Wilson will have to get more playing time behind the plate to justify him staying in the major leagues. David Ross retirement will ensure him of at least a back up spot.

3. Jorge Alfaro (Phillies) - His tools have always exceeded his production. Injuries have also limited his playing time. This year he played at Reading, a hitters park, but he was one of the better players on one of the top minor league teams in baseball. He slugged 15 homeruns and stayed free of any major injury. The Phillies have a young catcher in Cameron Rupp but Jorge offers more offensive and defensive potential. Alfaro won the Captains Choice catcher award for being the best defensive catcher in the minor leagues. He did get a September callup for the Phillies to get his feet wet for a mid-season 2017 role.

4. Andrew Knapp (Phillies) - When it rains it pours. Tommy Joseph was a top Philly catching prospect but moved to first base after concussion issues. This year Tommy took over the first base job from Ryan Howard. The Phillies will have to do something about their trio of catchers. Knapp is a couple years older than Alfaro and is playing at AAA. Next year Alfaro will be ready for AAA and Knapp does not have the power or arm to compete with Alfaro. Don’t be surprised to see Knapp traded next year or getting promoted to the Phillies to be the back up to Rupp.

5. Tom Murphy (Rockies) - The Rockies catcher of the future. He hit for power (19) and average (.327) in AAA and those tools were evident in a late promotion to the Rockies. Expect him to be looked at as the starting catcher for the Rockies next year. The third round 2012 pick can also handle the defensive side of the game with a strong arm and good pitch calling abilities. Playing in the high altitude of Colorado can only accentuate his offensive numbers.

6. Tyler Stephenson (Reds) - Eventually he could team up with Robert Stephenson to give the Reds a Stephenson/Stephenson battery. The 2015 first round pick is still a couple years away from playing for the Reds. Last year he struggled in Low A hitting only .216. Injuries limited him to just over 100 at bats. At 6′4″ he might be too big to catch. The arm is strong enough to limit a baserunning game and his bat is better than the .216 he showed in 2016.

7. Jacob Nottingham (Brewers) - The Athletics acquired Jacob from the Astros as one of the players for Scott Kazmir. They then traded him to the Brewers for Khris Davis. Davis hit 40 plus homeruns for the Athletics in 2016. Nottingham may take four years to reach that homerun figure, though at 6′3″ he is said to have raw power. Last year he hit 11 homeruns in AA but a 29/138 walk to whiff ratio brought his average below .250. His defense needs some improvement before it can be considered major league ready, but he does have a strong arm that can gun down baserunners.

8. Reese McGuire (Blue Jays) - The Pirates sent Reese McGuire and other prospects to the Blue Jays to rid themselves of the Francisco Liriano contract. McGuire has been a disappointment for a first round 2013 pick. He has shown little power with too much of a vanilla bat. With a little more electricity in his offense his defense is strong enough to play in the major leagues. McGuire does a good job of making contact but it is just too much soft contact. The Blue Jays do not really have a catcher they can brag about. If they can not find anyone with a bat next year McGuire has the defense to fill the position.

9. Clint Coulter (Brewers) - With the acquisition of Nottingham this takes the pressure off the Brewers to put Coulter behind the plate. He will continue to see more time in the outfield. His defense will always be below major league average but his bat carries enough power to play right field. It has now been two years since he has seen any time behind the plate. The 2016 season saw a big drop in his power numbers (.358 slugging). He will need to improve upon that to make up for his defensive deficiencies in the outfield.

10. Chance Sisco (Orioles) - His power numbers took a big drop in 2016 but he raised his average over the .300 mark again (.319). Defense is not his strong suit. Matt Wieters will be a free agent next year so the Orioles have a catcher opening. Chance probably needs a full season in AAA to get major league ready.

Hawks and Bay Stars Get Opening Wins in Climax Series

October 8th, 2016

The Yokohama Bay Stars defeated their Tokyo rivals, the Yomiuri Giants 5-3 in the opening round of the Climax Series. Jose Lopez led off the ninth inning with a solo shot to give the Bay Stars a 4-2 lead. A sacrifice fly by Yasutaka Tobashira scored an insurance run. Yoshitomo Tsutsugo hit a two run homer in the sixth to give the Bay Stars a 3-2 lead.

Hayato Sakamoto hit a solo shot in the ninth to give Giant fans hope, but they fell short. Yasuaki Yamasaki was able to get the last out to close out the victory.

The Softbank Hawks were able to hold off the Seibu Lions 4-3. Alfredo Despaigne hit two solo shots for Seibu including one in the ninth to close the gap to 4-3. Dennis Sarfarte was able to close out the win.

Kenta Imamiya got the big hit for the Hawks with a two run single in the 8th to break a 2-2 tie. Seichi Uchikawa stroked an RBI double in the first and contributed a solo shot in the third to drive in the Hawks first two runs.

Curacao Neptunus Wins Fourth Consecutive Title

October 8th, 2016

Curacao Neptunus defeated L&D Amsterdam 4-3 to win their four consecutive Netherlands title. Rien Vernooji drove in the go ahead run with an RBI single in the 8th to give Curacao the victory. Loek Van Mil danced around the ninth to pick up the win, putting runners on second and third with two outs before striking out Nick Urbanus to seal the victory.

L&D Amsterdam were 2011 champions. They had come back from a 3-0 deficit to tie the game with three runs in the seventh inning. Diegomar Markwell pitched seven innings in the start for Curacao. Rob Cordemans worked five innings for L&D.

Curacao has now won 6 of the last 8 championships, interrupted in 2011 by L&D and 2012 by Corendon Kinheim.