Saturday, March 28, 2015

2015 CL Predictions: Will the Dragons Finish in Last Place?

The 2015 season is off and running, here's how I think the standings will end up:

Yomiuri Giants
Hiroshima Carp
Hanshin Tigers
Chunichi Dragons
Yakult Swallows
Yokohama Baystars

According to some of the articles and message boards I've been seeing, many think this will be a dreary year for the Dragons.  Some are even picking them to finish in last place, something that hasn't happened since 1992  (since 1992 Chunichi has finished lower than 4th only once, which was in 2001).  Somehow I'm not seeing what they're seeing, barring some very serious injuries (something Chunichi's already been dealing with the last two years when they've missed the playoffs, Yoshimi, Asao, etc.) I don't see this year's team being the worst in the Central League.  Sure, they are old and have some holes, but this looks to me like another ho-hum middle-of-the-pack Dragons team.  Certainly they are not the only team with holes.

This year's team likely isn't going to score a ton of runs, but is their lineup much worse or even worse at all than their recent pitching-driven playoff teams?  I don't think so, it includes two all-star quality players in Oshima and Luna, and Hirata is just coming into his prime.  Outside of the catching position, the rest of the lineup was no worse than average last year.  Then we get to the pitching, I like the bullpen, they have some good young arms there.  Starting pitching shouldn't be a problem either, Valdes is looking like he could be a great pick up to go with Yamai and Ono and maybe even Yoshimi at some point, plus plenty of servicable guys in the back end of the rotation.  I'm just not seeing a last-place team here.  There is no doubt that the Dragons lineup needs to get younger for future success, but statistics-wise last year wasn't a bad year for guys like Morino, so why is this the year that everyone goes in the tank? 

Get fired up Dragons fans, it's a new season, we don't have to listen to the haters! ;-)  

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Dragons' Starting Rotation Announced

Per Nikkan Sports and yakyubaka the following pitchers will make up the Dragons starting rotation to begin the year:

Daisuke Yamai - Coming off the best season of his career, hopefully he can follow it up with another quality season

Raul Valdes - New foreign player, he has been very impressive throughout the preseason.

Kenta Asakura -  Not sure why he was included, he hasn't had a successful season at ichi-gun since 2009

Yudai Ohno - Currently the most promising young starter Chunichi has

Tomoya Yagi - Free agent pickup, most recently with Orix.  He's had a nice preseason and earned his spot.  My wife has been rooting for him since she saw him on the TV show "Senryokugai Tsukoku," He's the father of five children.

Yudai Kawai - Solid last year in 18 starts, should be a good end of the rotation guy

Overall looks to be an improvement over last year.  It seems unlikely that Asakura will remain in the rotation for long.  Tatsura Hamada, Shinji Iwata, Junki Ito or someone else will probably take his spot sooner rather than later.  Former ace, Kazuki Yoshimi, has pitched frequently and fairly well this preseason but is still working his way back from injury.  Hopefully he will return to the rotation at some point this year.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

A First Look at Raul Valdes and Amaury Rivas

New foreign players Raul Valdes and Amaury Rivas made their first appearances for the Dragons in yesterday's practice game against the Marines.  A replay of the game can be seen on UStream

Valdes is a 37-year old Cuban lefthander with some experience as a reliever in the Major Leagues, but was mainly a starter in the minors.  I don't know which role Chunichi plans on using him, but he did start this game.  His severely short-armed delivery looks more like a reliever's to me, but it looks like he has a variety of off-speed pitches so he has a chance to be successful as a starter.  He pitched three shutout innings yesterday and his fastball was topping out around 140 km.

Rivas is a 29-year old righty from the Dominican.  He looks more like a traditional power pitcher with a big windup and a mid-140's fastball.  Rivas was tagged for a couple solo home runs yesterday, one on a breaking ball and the other looked like a first-pitch fastball.  He did have a nice strike out on a changeup.

Overall, I had a good first impression of both pitchers.  You can't take too much from the results of a preseason game, especially a first game, but based on their stuff I think both of these guys could be useful this year.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Katsu Burger Still on Top of Their Game

Glad to say that Katsu Burger is as delicious as ever.  Back in 2012 I did a post about a new restaurant in Seattle serving Japanese-style burgers and sides.  The original store closed last summer for a couple months, but returned in the fall under new ownership.  Local restaurant owner and Katsu Burger fanatic Stephanie Kang purchased the Seattle store and has since opened another one in Bellevue.  I've visited the Bellevue store twice and it's still one of my favorite restraunts in Seattle.  Certainly stop by if you are in the area and you think you'd enjoy a delicious katsu burger.  Try the Godzilla Attack with pork. 

Tokyo Tower

Saturday, February 7, 2015

The Birth of the Modern Japanese Baseball Card Hobby Presented by NPBCardGuy

An excellent journalistic effort by NPBCardGuy can be found at the Japanese Baseball Card Blog.
He provides a great look at the beginnings of BBM through a first-hand interview and further research.  Also very interesting information about how the late-80's baseball card boom in the U.S. influenced the creation of BBM cards and influenced Calbee and the other established card-makers at that time.
Great work, I encourage everyone to check it out.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Upcoming Dragons Preseason Games on UStream

Baseball season is just around the corner.  Chunichi is already training in Okinawa and UStream has a lot of the footage.  I saw a little bit of Kaz Yoshimi's throwing session, good to see him on a mound and hopefully will be ready to go.

Here is a list of some upcoming preseason/practice games that will be shown on UStream.
UStream conveniently converted the times to Pacific Time, so PT is also included.

February 14: Dragons vs Samsung Lions 1 PM (2/13 8 PM PT)
February 15: Dragons vs DeNA Baystars 1 PM (2/14 8 PM PT)
February 21: Dragons vs Chiba Lotte Marines 1 PM (2/20 8 PM PT)
February 22: Dragons vs Hanshin Tigers 1 PM (2/21 8 PM PT)
February 24: Dragons vs LG Twins 1 PM (2/23 8 PM PT)

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Happy New Year!

I attended a gokitou ceremony for the first time today at the Tsubaki Grand Shrine in Granite Falls, WA. We have visited the shrine on New Year's Day several times before, but this is the first time I've attended a ceremony here in Washington or in Japan. I enjoyed it, the setting and tone of the ceremony was very relaxing and a great opportunity to reflect on the past year and focus on goals for the new year.

I would recommend visiting the shrine to anyone from Japan or in the U.S. and interested in Japan. It's about as close as you can come to experiencing Japan while still being in the U.S. I believe it is one of only two Shinto shrines currently operating in the lower 48 States and it's located in a very scenic wooded area near the Pilchuck River. If you are going on New Year's Day I would suggest going early because parking is limited. Also dress warm because when its a cold day it's even colder in the shade down by the water.

Happy New Year everyone, have a great 2015!