Heroes Manager Resigns

October 9th, 2020

When you are in the middle of the playoff race the last thing you want is to fire your manager. The Kiwoom Heroes did not fire their manager, Son Hyuk, but they will need to replace him after he resigned.

The Heroes had caught the NC Dinos for first place in the KBO a couple weeks ago. The Dinos got hot and the Heroes got cold and have now dropped 8 games behind in the standings, but still well within shot of the playoffs, which go to the top five teams in the KBO. For Son, this was his first year managing the team after the Heroes did not rehire their manager after a failed playoff run. In the past he had been a pitcher for the Heroes.

The Heroes this year were a popular pick to win the division but injuries have haunted them, especially to their foreign players. Pitchers Erik Jokish and Jake Brigham have been in and out with injuries and slugger Byoung-Ho Park has been absent from the lineup. They did not get any production from foreign signing Taylor Motter and his replacement Addison Russell has not been the answer. So it has been a disappointing year for the Heroes.

Hyuk is signed through 2021 and the Heroes have stated they will honor his contract through next year. He has been replaced by quality control coach Chang-Hyeon Kim, who was hired to be the team’s data analytics guru. Kim has no professional baseball playing experience. There are only 12 games left in the season.

Pirates Sign Taiwan Righthander

October 8th, 2020

The Pittsburgh Pirates spent a lot of cheddar to sign a righthander from Taiwan. Po-Yu Chen signed for $1.25 million, one of the highest international signing bonuses for this year.

Chen pitched for the U18 Taiwan national team, working six innings of one run ball against Korea in a start and getting the final outs in the championship game against the United States while pitching in relief. He stands 6′2″ and throws a fastball in the low 90s.

Eleven Lotte Marines Hit with Virus

October 6th, 2020

As the Chibba Lotte Marines fight for a playoff spot, they may have to play without a significant number of their starters. Eleven staff members of the Marines, including seven Marine players, tested positive for the COVID-19.

Pitcher Daiki Iwashita tested positive for COVID-19 on Sunday. As a result of that positive test, the team did other tests and Takashi Ogino, Ikuhiro Kiyota, Takashi Toritani and Katsuya Kakunaka were some of the players who tested positive. The seven players who tested positive and four players who tested negative who were in close contact with Iwashita will be removed from the roster.

With just 28 games left to play the Marines are just two games back from the Softbank Hawks for first place. They play a three game series against the Hawks this Friday and will have to play that series minus those seven players.

Just last week four Hanshin Tigers tested positive for the corona virus.

Taiwan Minor Leaguers to Play in Popcorn League

October 5th, 2020

There were no minor leagues this year in the United States. The Arizona Fall League has also been swiped from the scheduled slate. But the Taiwan minor league players have the Popcorn League to play in, a Fall League of ten teams played in Taiwan. The eight Taiwan minor leaguers who plan to participate in the Popcorn Fall League include:

Tseng Jen-Ho (RHP) - Free Agent
Hu Chih-Wei (RHP) - San Diego Padres
Sung Wen-Hua (RHP) - San Diego Padres
Cheng Tsung-Che (SS) - Pittsburgh Pirates
Lin Kai-Wei (RHP) - Arizona Diamondbacks
Cheng Hao-Chun (RHP) - Los Angeles Dodgers
Ling Huei-Sheng (RHP) - Los Angeles Dodgers
Chang Jing-Yu (LHP) - Seattle Mariners

Tseng and another Taiwan pitcher, Huang Wei-Cheh signed with the Australian Baseball League’s Auckland Tuatara. Information courtesy of CPBLstats.com.

Bologna Wins Italian Championship

October 1st, 2020

It took seven games but Fortitudo Bologna defeated San Marino 6-5 in the seventh game of the Italian championship. Bologna has now won back to back to back championships. Eugene Helder gets credit for the game winning hit, but pitcher Alex Bassini won the MVP award. He pitched 4.1 innings in the seventh game after the starting pitcher got injured. Bassini got credit for the win.

Federico Celli became the fifth Triple Crown winner in the Italian League, hitting .473 with 10 homeruns and 36 runs driven in.

Dinos Take Charge in KBO

September 30th, 2020

The Dinos lost their ace Koo Chang-mo back in late July. They lost their slugger Na Sung-bum for about ten days in mid-September. They also began losing their lead to the LG Twins and the Kiwoom Heroes, falling to just half a game at one point.

That no longer is the case as the Dinos have stormed to a 10 game winning streak and increased their lead to seven games. The Heroes and Twins have been relegated to .500 ball and have now dropped to third and fourth in the standings. It is the KT Wiz that have taken over the second place spot. The Wiz arrived as an expansion team the same year as the NC Dinos, but unlike the Dinos they have yet to make the playoffs.

Addison Russell has found the KBO a little more difficult, his batting average dropping to .258. The Heroes fortunes have also been dropping with his batting average. Russell only has one hit in his last 18 at bats. He has only hit one homerun and his slugging average is creeping closer to below .300. When he first arrived to the KBO scene Russell was an RBI machine, driving in at least one run in his first four games, but that production has also disappeared.

The defending champion Doosan Bears have lost their hold on the final spot in the playoffs after being one hit by Warwick Saupold and the last place Hanwha Eagles 10-0. The Kia Tigers have taken over the fifth place spot after their 3-2 win over the sliding Kiwoom Heroes. The Lotte Giants still have faint playoff hopes, but find themselves five games back of the Tigers.

With only about 25 games to the season it would take a Dino collapse to lose their first place spot.

Po-Jung Wang Goes Deep for First Time in 2020

September 29th, 2020

Po-Jung Wang had two incredible season in the CPBL, where he hit where he hit over .400 and slugged 60 homeruns in those two seasons with the LaMiga Monkeys. In 2016 he became the first CPBL player to record 200 hits in one season. His fourth season with the Monkeys he slumped to a .351 average with only 17 homeruns, but by that time it was rumored that he was either going to Japan or the major leagues. After the 2018 season he became the first player from Taiwan to be posted to a foreign league.

The Nippon Ham Fighters won the bidding war, signing him to a three year four million dollar contract. After all the hype his first year in the NPB was a big disappointment, though injuries could have led to his downfall. He missed time in May and July to injuries and after a decent start he finished with just a .255 average and three homeruns in 88 games. The biggest slugger from Taiwan could only slug at a .327 clip in Japan and he was not a star on the defensive front in the outfield.

The 2020 season has not increased the hype. Japan has a limit of four foreign players on the roster maximum. They began the season with Christian Villanueva as their big foreign bat, but he has failed to produce (.239/.326/.333). On the pitching side they have Drew Verhagen and Nick Martinez, but neither of them are producing super star numbers. That should have left plenty of opportunity for Wang to show that he belongs.

He hasn’t, hitting just .194/.239/257 in his first 40 games. In the farm leagues he was dominate in eight games, hitting .684/.741/.947 with 13 hits in 19 at bats. Of those 13 hits just three went for extra bases, but those are still some pretty impressive stats. It showed what he is capable of, if given a chance. Yesterday he hit his first 2020 homerun.

The Fighters are still not out of the 2020 pennant race. But only two teams and just one wild card, instead of two wild cards, will advance to the playoffs in the Pacific League. With about 33 games left in the season the Fighters find themselves 7.5 games out of the playoff race. After this season Wang only has one more year on his contract. The Fighters might as well play him to see what he could possibly give them in his last year of his contract, the 2021 season.

Ryosuke Kikuchi Doing Well in Japan

September 28th, 2020

Ryosuke Kikuchi made an attempt to play major league baseball for the 2020 season. No teams showed enough interest in the gold glove fielding second baseman to offer him a large enough contract to sign. He eventually returned to play for the Hiroshima Carp, signing for four years for $2.7 million per year.

Many major league teams struggled to find a starting second baseman this year. The Red Sox were one, going with Jose Peraza at the beginning of the season and then trying to find other alternatives. The Oakland Athletics thought Franklin Barreto would be the answer but he failed and was later traded. There were others but injuries or poor performance created their problems at second base.

The negative with Kikuchi was his lack of stand out offensive tools. While his glove would be considered one of the best in the major leagues, his lack of power, inability to steal bases and his failure to hit for a high average or drum up a high enough On Base Percentage led to his downfall. His .270 career NPB batting average could translate to .250 or below at the major league level and his .315 career OBP would fall below .300. Major league teams are now looking for a little more offense in their second baseman.

This year Kikuchi appears to be showing a bit more homerun power while playing in Japan, but sacrificing his doubles numbers. Yesterday he hit his ninth homerun, which sets him up to surpass his career high 14 for a season if he continues at his present pace, but his doubles numbers have taken a hit. The result is that his .404 slugging percentage and .715 OPS this year are equivalent to his career numbers (.392/.707).

He could try again next year. Myworld thinks the results would be the same. At 30 years of age he has developed enough history to define his game and if major league teams failed to sign him last year his best bet would be to continue his solid performances in Japan.

Five Hanshin Tigers Players Test Positive for Corona Virus

September 26th, 2020

Five Hanshin Tigers players tested positive for the Corona Virus, four from the top team and one from the minor league team. The four from the top team are infielders Kento Itohara and Naomasa Yokawa and pitchers Yuta Iwasada and Kosuke Baba. The minor league player was pitcher Masumi Hamachi, who had a brief callup in September with the major league club.

The minor league game between the Tigers and Dragons was cancelled. Players testing positive for the corona virus for the top team were removed from the roster for the weekend series with the Yakult Swallows. Forty players and staff from the minor league organization were tested and found to be negative. The Japan Times did not mention any testing procedures for the Hanshin Tigers team.

Earlier this season a couple Tiger players tested positive for the corona virus resulting in the delay of the start of the NPB season.

Wang Signs 5 Year Contract with Dragons

September 23rd, 2020

Ex-Major League and KBO pitcher Wang Wei-Ching signed a five year $2.08 million contract with the Wei Chaun Dragons of the China Professional Baseball League (CPBL). Though he has not had success as a major league or KBO pitcher it still did not stop the Dragons from making him their top pick in the CPBL draft.

Wang pitched for the 2004 Taiwan Little League World Series team. Instead of playing in the CPBL he signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2011 and then was a Rule V pick up by the Milwaukee Brewers in 2013. He made his major league debut with the Brewers in 2014.

He did not have a lot of success in the major leagues, finishing with a 6.52 career ERA. After being released by the Brewers in early 2018 he tried his luck in the KBO with the NC Dinos. That did not turn out as well either with a 7-10 record and a 4.26 ERA in 25 starts. He tried to make his return to the major leagues in 2019, pitching first for the Oakland Athletics and next for the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Pirates released him at the end of the 2019 season.

Wang expressed an interest in returning to Taiwan to play baseball and the Dragons selected him as the first pick in the 2020 draft. Scott Boras was his negotiating agent. The $2.08 million is one of the largest contracts in CPBL history. Leave it to Boras to accomplish that. It also has an escape clause that allows the Dragons to release Wang from the contract after three years if he has an opportunity to pitch for an overseas team using the CPBL posting system.