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.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

PSSBL Game at Safeco Field

I was very fortunate to be able to participate in a charity baseball game put on by the league I play in for the benefit of the Make-a-Wish Foundation of Alaska and Washington.  It was a great experience in one of my favorite places in the world and I'm glad I was able to share it with my family and some great guys and benefiting a great cause.

Please visit the Make-a-Wish website to see some of the stories of children who have benefited from the organization and the effect it's had on these children and their families.

Also a very, very cool story here about 18-year old Xander Bailey's wish to become a pro soccer player and his day as a Seattle Sounder, put together by Make-a-Wish and Sounders FC.

CL Race Tightens Up

With Yomiuri on a semi-skid, Hiroshima treading water, Chunichi playing pretty good ball and Hanshin playing really good ball the Central League race has tightened up considerably.  All four teams are now within 4.5 games of each other and could probably end up finishing in any order 1-4. 

Chunichi has been a little banged up, but are starting to get their players back.  Yoshimi has returned and started a couple games, Araki is back and Luna and Hirata should be joining the ichi-gun team within the next couple weeks.  In the meantime their replacements have been chipping in and Shuhei Takahashi has joined the big club. 

The Dragons will face the Carp in six of their next nine games, important games in what is currently a battle for third and fourth in the standings. 

Also, congratulations to Hitoki Iwase who increased his NPB all-time record for saves by picking up save No.400 in Chunichi's victory Saturday over Yomiuri.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Dragons Pull Even For Third Place

Thanks to an excellent performance by Daisuke Yamai, Chunichi was able to defeat Hanshin yesterday and move into a tie for third place with the Tigers.  The Dragons scored a run in the 8th to break a 1-1 tie and Yamai and Iwase were able to escape jams in the bottom of the 8th and 9th innings to preserve the victory. 

Chunichi had been stuck in 4th place since nearly the start of the season, but the Cental League has been tightening up.  Interleague play was good to the Dragons as they gained ground against Hanshin and Hiroshima.  Hopefully Chunichi can keep it up and make the Central League race interesting down the stretch, the season is almost half over already.  Hiroshima has been coming back down to earth so 2nd place isn't out of the question. 

Asao is back, and pitching well, and Yoshimi could be back as soon as next month.  That should help.  Hirata is banged up now, hopefully he won't be out for long.  Anderson Hernandez has gotten hot and given the team a boost as Naomichi Donoue has slumped back to the bench.  Outside of Yomiuri, all of the Central League teams have flaws so really any of the other teams could find themselves playing in the Climax Series. 

The Dragons are making a run, get fired up Dragons fans!