Category Archives: Commentary

Kimiyasu Kudo and the art of listening

Last week, Softbank Hawks manager Kimiyasu Kudo won the Matsutaro Shoriki Award, for his work in getting his injury-hit team to the Japan Series and winning it for the third time in his four years in charge in Fukuoka.

On Saturday, the Hall of Fame pitcher commented on the seemingly difficult choices he had in switching out front-line starter Shota Takeda and sticking him in the bullpen, where they were effective. Takeda was effective in middle relief in the postseason, where Kudo’s managing has even earned plaudits from John Gibson (@JBWPodcast).

“Those weren’t hard decisions,” Kudo said at Tokyo Dome, where he attended an event of the “Meikyukai” Golden Players Club. “We have so much pitching depth that we had lots of options. And even then, the decisions were only made after lots of study and discussion among the coaches.”

Is that indicative of a high level of communication within your team?

“Within the team, perhaps, but when it comes to communication, I’m the worst of anyone,” said Kudo, slightly tongue in cheek. “They do the talking, I listen.”

Shohei Ohtani press conference Part 4

Shohei Ohtani prepares to speak on Thursday, Nov. 22, 2018, at Japan’s National Press Club in Tokyo.


This is the final part of Shohei Ohtani’s Nov. 22 press conference. If you have any suggestions about better translations or corrections, please hit me up. Thanks.)

—What powers your ambition?

“I’ve loved baseball since the first time I played it. That’s how it’s been until now and has changed very little. When I was little it was twice a week. I looked forward to next weekend (to play) so much. I couldn’t wait. I think I’ve felt that way ever since.”

“This year, I loved every day I played baseball. It was a joy being at the ballpark playing ball. I think it’s an extension of that.”


—You’re compared to Babe Ruth. How conscious are you of him?

“People compare us, but In reality, I feel he’s like a figure out of mythology, and that’s how far apart we are.”

“I don’t think I give much thought to that (comparison). Certainly, I have put up some numbers and have some records. But in regards to that, I think I now lack the necessary talent. As the years go by and if my numbers get closer, then it might be something I think of. But where things stand now, I can’t imagine that.”


—What do you know about Babe Ruth now that you have been compared to him?

“Once those kinds of comparisons started, I saw he put up some really good numbers and I could understand he was a really good player. I didn’t understand, however, where and how he was such a great player.”

“When you really look at his production, what stands out is that those numbers are really different. My strongest impression of him is as a hitter rather than a pitcher, because he hit so many home runs in an era when they were rare. So my image of him is that of an amazing player, a great player.”



—You said you were nervous before your first start. Is that an issue again when you come back?

“Because I never play well in the preseason, I’m always anxious once the regular season starts in my first game as a pitcher or my first plate appearance. I expect that’s probably the same for all players. But I’ve never before entered a season playing as poorly as I did this year, both as a batter and a pitcher. The anxiety regarding my pitching, in particular, was especially heavy.”


—What challenges do you face when you resume pitching?

“I guess the big thing is to have less stressful, more efficient mechanics. But that is something that needs to be done in parallel with improving my skills overall, or it won’t produce results. There are a lot of things I can work on now in that area, things I will be able to put into practice after I make my (pitching) comeback.”


—Now that you’re back in Japan. How do you expect to spend your time?

“I feel like I want to eat really good sushi. As for things I want to do, there’s nothing in particular. This is a time when I need to prioritize my rehab. Whether it’s in Japan or America, it’s essential for me to concentrate fully on that.”


—You cook for yourself in America, so what’s your specialty?

“Because the only time I cook for myself is in the morning, it’s only on the scale of simple omelets. They put out food (at the ballpark) around noon and in the evening. Before I went to the United States, eating was something I was really concerned about, but I was able to get by a lot more normally than I expected. Now I think that’s one area where next year I’ll go without any worry. A specialty? I don’t have any.”


—In May and July, you went through periods where you didn’t elevate the ball. Did you overcome that by working with coaches or on your own?

“The answer is both. Some adjustments were things I could feel what was needed on my own, and others originated from coach’s observations.”

“When a series ends, you then face a different opponent who attacks you in a different way. You’ll see a certain trend through 20 or 30 at-bats and then you’ll face a different pattern. There are lots and lots of changes like that, so I think — especially in one’s first year — times like that (where you’re not hitting like you expect) — come and go. Ways to deal with that are to put even more effort into studying your opponents or simply refining your mechanics. I don’t think there’s any single fix, but rather it’s a process of making small adjustments throughout the season.”


—After this year’s results, what numbers are you aspiring to achieve next year?

“Of course, I’m not satisfied (with what I’ve done). When the number of plate appearances and games pitched changes, your season totals will change too. The meaning of that for next year, when I’m going to be a batter, is that I can’t clearly predict when I’m going to be able to resume playing. Since I won’t know absolutely how many games I’ll play, I am not going to throw out any numbers.”

“This is something not connected with my stats, but I really want to play in the postseason. That feeling has only gotten stronger after this one year. So first of all, I want to do my best so and aim for that.”