Category Archives: Commentary

Is there an MLB match for Machi?

Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks third baseman Nobuhiro “Machi” Matsuda.

@bronxfanatic asked about Nobuhiro Matsuda’s chances of signing with a major league team.

The San Diego Padres had reportedly been interested in the dynamic third baseman of the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks–just as they had been reportedly looking into Hanshin Tigers shortstop Takashi Toritani a year ago. Fox Sports reports the two sides met earlier this week.

The chances of someone offering Matsuda guaranteed major league deal are small, given his age; he’ll be 33 in May. Another factor is that while Matsuda is a quality third baseman, all of his career has been spent on artificial surfaces.

Matsuda stands far off the plate in the right-handed batter’s box, daring pitchers to throw him outside and then shoots pitches to right field. Because those are his favorite targets, he can be enticed by outside pitches well off the plate. When he fails to make contact with those, he regains his balance by bouncing around the plate on one foot–what John E. Gibson  calls the “hot-foot dance.”

His success, and I believe he has a chance to succeed is in scrapping his preconceived notions about what works for him and start fresh. The change in velocity and pitching style will require major adjustments that are not easy for a mature player, so a large drop off is to be expected. He is athletic and smart enough to find a new approach, but it’s not a good bet to make.

On the plus side, he has won four Pacific League Golden Gloves, is a LEADER on the field, and according to the foreign players on the Hawks, the funniest guy in the club house. He could easily be a team favorite like his mentor, Munenori Kawasaki, and prove valuable after winning a job in a spring training invite.

That being said, he has said he will return to the Hawks if no deal is pending. This is essentially a similar situation to the one Toritani found himself in a year ago. Because he’s not high on the board, teams will wait to see who moves where before making Matsuda an attractive offer. Last year, Toritani put a mid-January deadline on negotiations because he felt he had to tell the Tigers if he would be available on Feb. 1 for spring training.

So while, Matsuda could win a job in the spring, he is unlikely to leave the Hawks in the lurch by going without a contract, and thus he is not likely to get the opportunity he longs for.

Will Kenta Maeda be posted?

Kenta Maeda while pitching for Japan.

On Tuesday, Kenta Maeda told the Hiroshima Carp for the third straight year that he wants to be posted. But unlike the past two autumns, Carp GM Kiyoaki Suzuki has kept the door open.

Suzuki has in the past said, “when it’s the best time for him, the team and the fans,” and “when he performs like an ace,” adding that Maeda’s case is much stronger now then it was two years ago.

The best time for Maeda is now.

But for the team, which thrives on underpaying its stars while merchandising the heck out of them, it is obviously not the best time. The penurious Carp would lose a year from Japan’s best pitcher (at the moment) at a cost of around $3 million as well as licensing revenue from shirt sales and other trinkets in exchange for $20 million it  can still collect a year from now.

As for the fans, as much as they’d live watching Maeda on TV pitching in the majors, having him in red with the promise of pennant contention would be better.

The Carp began play in 1950 and went 25 years without a pennant. After a stretch 17 seasons as a CL powerhouse, 2015 was the club’s 24th straight season without a league title.