Monday, December 1, 2014

Take Me Out to the Yakyu

Came across this book the other day at the library. It's an award-winning childrens' book written and illustrated by Aaron Meshon. The book gives a fun comparison of baseball and the baseball experience in the states and in Japan. It's completely full of colorful artwork and has a Japanese-English Baseball Dictionary in the back. I definitely recommend it, good holiday gift, I will be giving one. And by the way, in his bio he says he saw his first NPB game in Nagoya and his dog is named Chubu, so I'm thinking he's a Dragons fan. Happy holidays everyone!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Upcoming Free Agency

Lots of NPB free agency rumors out there right now as the period for free agents to declare themselves is now open.  Eligible players with free agency options still have several days to declare so at this point it's still unclear who exactly will be available to sign.

After missing the last two post-seasons Chunichi should be a player in the free agent market, but based on recent history they probably won't be much of one.  The Dragons have obvious needs at catcher, middle infield and starting pitching and there are some potentially useful players out there.

Lets take a look at their options at the following positions:

This may be Chunichi's greatest need, but unfortunately it looks like the two most promising catchers eligible for free agency will be remaining with their current teams.  Motohiro Shima would be a great pick up, he's a good all-around player and from the Chubu region.  Unfortunately he has chosen to remain with Rakuten.  Ginjiro Sumitani of the Lions was another potential target, though his offensive numbers are nothing special, he probably would have been upgrade for the Dragons.  He was linked to the Dragons in several articles during the season, but in the end he chose to remain with Seibu for at least one more season.

Middle Infield:
There are a few potential difference makers out there.  Hiroyuki Nakajima, Kensuke Tanaka, Yuichi Honda, Tsuyoshi Nishioka and Eishin Soyogi could all be on the market.  If I could have my choice I'd take Tanaka or Nishioka.  Tanaka is just a pro in every way, he'd look great as the two hitter in Chunichi's lineup and at second base every day.  Sounds likely though that he will be returning to the Fighters for the upcoming season.  Nishioka is one of the youngest of the group and though he's coming off of a tough injury, he has already re-acclimated himself to the NPB and had some success in 2013.  Nakajima will likely be expensive and may not be what he once was, I highly doubt Honda will exercise his option and I've never really been a fan of Soyogi though he's coming off of a couple solid seasons and I doubt he'll be leaving the Carp.

Starting Pitching:
Chunichi's first order of business in free agency was to lock up Daisuke Yamai who earned his free agent option for the first time after last season.  Yamai, coming off of his best season, will be staying with the Dragons and at a reasonable price.  Some interesting potential free agent starting pitchers are Chihiro Kaneko, Yoshihisa Naruse, Atsushi Nomi and Hiroki Kuroda.   The Dragons haven't been linked to any of these other starters so it's probably a long shot for them to go get any of them.  If they have a chance at any of them it's probably Naruse, he's going to end up somewhere.

Yakyubaka has posted a list of the players who have filed for free agency, linked here.
Ryoji Aikawa has filed and would be a nice pick up.  He's 38, so not a long term option, but could be a useful catching option for a couple years.  None of the domestic infield options I listed filed, like usual, a very limited NPB free agent class.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Some Mildly Surpising Names on Chunichi's Senryokugai List

Over the last week or so yakyubaka has been posting each teams' players who will not be offered contracts for next season, at least at this time.  It's always seems strange to me that these are released prior to the end of the season.  The teams that are still alive in the playoffs now each have a handful of guys that are like dead men walking going into the biggest games of the season.  I guess it could have a motivating effect on those guys given they get a chance in the playoffs, but sadly that is not an issue for Chunichi this year as they failed to make the playoffs for a second straight season.

On October 1st Chunichi officially announced the following players will not be back:

Takehiro Tsuji
Kosi Inoue
Kento Yachi
Kohei Oda
Daisuke Tanaka
Ryoji Nakata
Yuto Morikoshi
Shingo Ito
Takehiro Donoue
Sang-Hoon Song

Kohei Oda is not a surprise as he's been a career backup at catcher who has managed to have a 17 year NPB career despite never getting more than 95 plate appearances in a season.  Though he has never been on the field much he has had some memorable playoff hits and has contributed at times when given a chance.  He's definitely been a good bench guy, but at 37 years old he probably knew that his time could be running out.

The two names that I was most surprised to see were Takehiro Donoue and Ryoji Nakata.  Both are under 30 years old and had solid years at ni-gun.  Nakata has yet to develop the power that Chunichi had probably hoped when they drafted him; only two home runs at ni-gun this year, but slugged .423.  He's currently pretty deep on the depth chart at the positions he can play and struggles with weight problems, but at 26 years old I still had hope for him.  Takehiro Donoue is a little older at 29 years old, but has shown some ability to hit at the ichi-gun level.  He was a guy that I had hoped would get more playing time a couple years ago.  I think that it could be a bit of a mistake to let him go though Hirata seemingly has looked down the right-field position and Fujii is now the go-to fourth outfielder.  Still, guys get hurt and Wada probably doesn't have more than a year or two left.  Donoue gives you a little depth, I can't understand why they are letting him go.  I wouldn't be surpised at all if both of these guys are picked up by other teams.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Dragons Streaking the Wrong Way: Dreadful August Puts Them Out of Contention

It's been a rough month for the Dragons.  Chunichi is currently 7-18 in August with only two more games to play.  What was shaping up to be a five team race for the Central League playoffs has turned to an undramatic three team race with Yomiuri, Hanshin and Hiroshima separating themselves from Chunichi and Yokohama over the course of the month.  Chunichi's uncharacteristic lack of pitching depth has come back to haunt them as they've given up six runs or more in 11 of their losses this month.  That's not going to get it done and so they are left to hope for next year.

Chunichi's talent level isn't that far (if at all) behind teams like Hanshin and Hiroshima so there is hope for next year.  The Dragons didn't get a ton out of their foreign players this year except for Hector Luna, while the Tigers and Carp have gotten quite a bit, so there is room to improve there.  Chunichi's young pitchers may do better next year with more seasoning and with better health and a little luck they could be back in the playoffs.  Unfortunately though 2014 will not be their year.  Fortunately though for me, as this has been a backwards, flip-flopped year, while my favorite NPB teams Chunichi and Rakuten are near or at the bottom, my two favorite MLB teams the Mariners and Royals are now contenders after years of mediocre play.  I guess a guy can't have it all.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014 Says Goodbye has unfortunately been shut down.
It's been a great resource and allowed me to enjoy Japanese baseball in a way I would never have guessed years ago when my in-laws were still sending/bringing us VHS and DVD recordings of games.
It has also been the best, easiest place to find recorded playoff games the last few years.
But now it's gone and there are alternatives out there, Reddit NPB is a good resource for finding games.

Update: Where the heck am I going to watch college football games?  Go Dawgs!

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Dragons Trade Kyohei Iwasaki to Orix for Taiki Mitsumata

In one the few trade deadline moves Chunichi sent Kyohei Iwasaki to Orix in exchange for Taiki Mitsumata.  I don't know a ton about Orix's roster, but I imagine this was a move to add a little depth to their middle infield as it doesn't appear to be a move that would improve Chunichi's playoff chances, at least for this season. 

Iwasaki is 28-years old and wasn't seeing much time with the ichi-gun team this year.  He had less than 100 plate appearance at ichi-gun in his career with the Dragons.  He's a bit of a light hitter and hasn't had much success as a hitter in his ni-gun career either, though he did have a fairly high OBP this year.  I'm sure Orix is looking to add him for his defense and hoping he'll at least be able to get on base at a reasonable rate.  I don't know if they are planning to use him much, maybe for late-inning defense.

Though this looks to be minor trade, Mitsumata could eventually turn out to be an interesting player.  He is only 22-years old and was a 2nd-round draft pick of the Buffaloes out high school in 2010.  So far he's been about a .230ish hitter in ni-gun and has had limited opportunities at ichi-gun.  He showed power in high school hitting double-digit home runs in his final year at Shutoku HS.  He's not likely to give Chunichi much this year, but he's young and still has time to improve.

For the time being I'm liking this trade.  I think Mitsumata has a chance to be a better player than Iwasaki is or will be and hopefully can be a future middle-infield piece for the Dragons.  Chunichi needs more middle-infield prospects, it's kind of a weakness right now as they've had to sign a foreigner to play shortstop, pretty uncommon, and have an aging second-baseman.  So far the prospects they have haven't stepped up and though Shuhei Takahashi is looking promising right now he's probably more of a corner infielder than a middle-infielder long-term.  This hopefully will end up being a trade that benefits both teams, Orix in the short-term and Chunichi in the long-term.