Category Archives: Players

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Tanaka scrapes by

Masahiro Tanaka made his third start on Saturday, against the Lotte Marines, at Sendai’s Rakuten Seimei Park and navigated another stage on his pilgrim’s progress through the pitfalls of poor command to earn his third win.

In his April 17, Tanaka couldn’t locate his fastball, and after serving up a pair of straight ones that reached the seats. But his other pitches that day were top notch, and after leaning heavily on the four-seamer at the start, he began throwing good sliders in the zone and retired 12 of his last 13 batters.

A week later, the Seibu Lions showed they were paying attention to that game. They went up looking for sliders up in the zone from the jump, and they jumped on those Tanaka served up early before going back to a balanced mix as he found his rhythm and retired the last 10 batters he faced.

Live event schedule

Matt Winters – Nippon Ham Fighters professional scout, and former NPB star. All subscribers, paid and free are welcome. —– May 3, 11 a.m. (Japan), May 2, 10 p.m. EDT

Which brings us to May Day, which is what an inner voice appeared to be shouting to Tanaka after he left straight pitches in the heart of the zone. With two on and two out, he missed dead center with a straight 3-2 fastball that Shogo Nakamura grounded to short.

As Nakamura made contact, a cartoon dialog bubble over Tanaka’s head read: “For goodness sakes.” Tanaka walked off the field, he looked completely and totally puzzled about what had gone wrong.

His fastball did have good life on it, even if his location was unreliable. Unlike the Fighters and Lions in his previous starts, the most noticeable thing about the Marines hitters was a determined effort to lay off Tanaka’s chase pitches, the big downward slider and split.

They seemed, however, unprepared to hit Tanaka’s mistakes in the zone. Mind you, that’s no easy feat even for pros against a guy who still throws reasonably hard with that dynamite split, a couple of different sliders, a good cutter and an occasional curve and change. Whatever the reason, Tanaka got away with a lot of mistakes.

  • Q: How did you approach today’s game after winning your 100th in NPB last time?
  • A: “The same as always. (laughs)”
  • Q: Could you go over your pitching today for us?
  • A: I had to pitch a lot with runners on and it was like one inning after another under extreme stress. I’m sure the people watching felt extremely stressed out as well. The good thing is that despite that I was somehow able to struggle through without allowing any runs.”
  • Q: Pitching coach (Shinichiro) Koyama said your fastball had more life on it today than last week.
  • A: “I think so. Although I threw a lot more pitches, today, but in terms of just the pitches themselves, I think overall they were better today.”
  • Q: What is the cause of your tenacious pitching today?
  • A: hmmmmmmmmmmm. The reason? I didn’t lose? (laughs)
  • Q: What was your take on the run support you got in the third and fourth innings from Asamura and Okajima?
  • A: We had some tenacious offense, too. And in that way, we scored and from that I found the rhythm within myself, so I’m grateful to them.

Scout diary: Fujinami back on table

The current pandemic world of abnormal sports events may not be optimal, but for the next few days at least NPB is playing televised preseason games, and that means chances to see lots of players play baseball.

After finishing my scout course, I want to see everybody, and have tried a few different tactics to maximize coverage while also reporting on notable performances for the website. After a stressful trial-and-error period, I’ve settled on watching one game at a time, perhaps choosing based on the players involved but really focusing on everything I can during that game.

Jump to 1 year as a scout page

It’s not helping me rapidly expand my knowledge of players, but it is rapidly expanding the things I know about a few individual players. On Wednesday, while I wanted to see Matt Moore pitch again for the SoftBank Hawks, I watched new Swallows right-hander Gabrial Ynoa pitch against the Hanshin Tigers and their one time teenage phenom Shintaro Fujinami.

Fujinami, a beanpole right-hander was once considered the top pitcher in a draft class that included Shohei Ohtani, but after going 35-21 over his first three seasons, he went 15-19 under his second pro manager. Last year, with his career in tatters, the 25-year-old pitched in one first-team game.

In addition to Fujinami and Ynoa, I was also curious about Orix Buffaloes third-round pick Ryota Muranishi, who may get some opportunities to pitch this year with the big club.

So, here are my snapshot reports of their games.

Shintaro Fujinami

Fujinami struck out five batters, walked one and allowed two hits over four scoreless innings. His command was below average but, the quality of his pitches was excellent.

He often got behind batters but then battled them in the zone, getting good arm action and good movement. That was probably the biggest take away.

He had good depth on a “cutter” that looks more like a slider and would be a plus pitch if he could command it better. His fastball command was mediocre but he was sitting at 93.2 mph with some good life on it. He threw some good splitters.

If he can improve the command at all, he is going to be really effective.

Slider (called a cutter)5050
Other – Splitter5555
Baseball Instinct5050

Gabriel Ynoa

Ynoa is a 26-year-old right-hander who throws high 3/4. He has pitched in 55 major league games, mostly for the Baltimore Orioles. His fastball sat at 148 kph (92 mph). He also threw a slider a change and a few two-seamers. His fastball command was average, his slider a little less so, while he didn’t locate his change that well, although it had good depth.

He looks like he can contribute in the rotation and eat innings. If he is one of those imported pitchers who improve their command a bit in Japan, he could be successful here.

Other – Splitter
Baseball Instinct5050

Ryota Muranishi

Muranishi is a right-hander who throws low 3/4. His fastball sat at 90.7, but it was fairly straight, and he didn’t command it real well. The splitter really dives and the cutter has a huge amount of glove-side run.

If he can locate the fastball and get ahead in counts, the split should be deadly. His command is not real good so that’s a maybe, but if it happens, he could be a good middle of the order rotation guy.

Other – Splitter6060
Baseball Instinct5050