Category Archives: Players

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2019 NPB win shares leaders

I’m sorry this took so long, but I just emerged from a park home run and run adjustment rabbit hole yesterday, and with that out of the way, I was able to get this year’s win shares up and running.

The CL top 10

2019 CL Win Shares Leaders

NameTeamRaw WSBatting WSDef WSPitching WS
Seiya SuzukiCarp30.727.43.3
Tetsuto YamadaSwallows28.924.34.6
Hayato SakamotoGiants28.122.16.0
Neftali SotoBayStars25.122.32.8
Yoshihiro MaruGiants23.818.55.3
Yohei OshimaDragons23.418.44.9
Yoshitomo TsutsugoBayStars22.319.92.4
Tsubasa AizawaCarp21.214.96.3
Dayan ViciedoDragons20.918.62.3
Yusuke OyamaTigers17.112.94.2
The top 10 Bill James win shares from NPB's 2019 Central League

The CL’s top 10 pitchers

Win Shares CL pitchers

NameTeamRaw WSBatting WSPitching WS
Shun YamaguchiGiants14.6014.6
Shota ImanagaBayStars13.4013.4
Yudai OnoDragons13.0013.0
Kris JohnsonCarp12.8012.8
Yuki NishiTigers12.2012.2
Yasuaki YamasakiBayStars12.0012.0
Kota NakagawaGiants11.7011.7
Rafael DolisTigers11.5011.5
Kyuji FujikawaTigers11.3011.3
Daichi OseraCarp10.5010.5
2019 CL pitching win shares leaders

The PL top 10

2019 PL Win Shares Leaders

NameTeamRaw WSBatting WSDef WSPitching WS
Tomoya MoriLions33.230.03.2
Masataka YoshidaBuffaloes28.627.01.6
Shuta TonosakiLions25.919.26.7
Takeya NakamuraLions25.322.03.3
Hotaka YamakawaLions25.323.32.0
Hideto AsamuraEagles24.720.14.6
Jabari BlashEagles23.622.61.0
Haruki NishikawaFighters23.118.24.9
Shogo AkiyamaLions22.520.32.2
Eigoro MogiEagles21.215.35.9
Takashi OginoMarines21.218.72.5
The top 10 Bill James win shares from NPB's 2019 Pacific League

The PL’s top 10 pitchers

Win Shares PL pitchers

NameTeamRaw WSBatting WSPitching WS
Kodai SengaHawks16.0016.0
Kohei AriharaFighters14.7014.7
Yoshinobu YamamotoBuffaloes14.4014.4
Tatsushi MasudaLions13.9013.9
Yuki MatsuiEagles12.7012.7
Yuito MoriHawks11.6011.6
Rei TakahashiHawks11.2011.2
Naoya MasudaMarines11.0011.0
Taisuke YamaokaBuffaloes10.7010.7
Livan MoineloHawks10.1010.1
2019 PL pitching win shares leaders

Akiyama looking to majors

Seibu Lions center fielder Shogo Akiyama revealed Tuesday that he has informed the Pacific League club he will file for free agency in order to seek a deal with a major league team.

My analysis of Akiyama’s game is HERE. You can find the Kyodo News story published in the Japan Times HERE.

Since I have completed win shares calculations for 2019. Here are Akiyama’s career figures. For those unfamiliar with win shares, three win shares are worth one win.

Shogo Akiyama

YearTeamRaw WSBatting WSDef WSWAR
Career Win Shares

Love in his heart and fight on his mind

Edwin Escobar said his job is about love, respect, and confidence.

On Monday, I made it out to Yokohama to talk with DeNA BayStars lefty Edwin Escobar. In his third NPB season, Escobar was misfiring with the Nippon Ham Fighters, whom he joined after the start of spring training in 2017. He joined the Central League’s BayStars midway through the season, where he teamed up with another native of Venezuela, manager Alex Cabrera.

Since then Escobar, who pitched in 25 games for the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2016, has hit his stride in Yokohama as one of Ramirez’s favorite relief options in the seventh and eighth inning.

In the first stage of the CL playoffs, Escobar was hammered and took the loss in Game 1 on Saturday, but saved the day on Sunday, when he preserved a one-run lead in the seventh inning after coming on with two on and one out.

In our chat, Escobar talks about the process of coming back from a bad outing and how he prepares in the bullpen. I hope you enjoy it.

BayStars pitch Edwin Escobar prior to Game 3 of 2019 CLCS first stage at Yokohama Stadium.

Find this man a treadmill, please

In talking about his desire to focus more on his fastball next season, the Seattle Mariners’ Yusei Kikuchi talked about his work ethic recently.

The lefty, who went 6-11 with a 5.46 ERA this season, his first in MLB, said what he’s good at is grinding out at the same task over and over. And though one might confuse him with a gym rat, Kikuchi said he’s no rodent.

“I’m not a hamster, but if you put me on a treadmill and told me to go, I’d run for all I was worth. Doing the same thing over and over and keeping it up is what I’m good at.”

Yusei Kikuchi from Kyodo News Plus

Read the full story HERE.

Filling up with the ‘Gasoline Tank’

Testuya Yoneda, one of Nippon Professional Baseball’s pitching marvels from back in the day, spoke in an interview with the Nikkan Sports. The 81-year-old, who won 350 games in a career mostly spent with the Pacific League’s Hankyu Braves — before they became a dynasty in the middle of the 1960s — is second on Japan’s all-time wins list.

His nickname during his playing days was the “Gasoline Tank,” which Yoneda said Hall of Famer Noboru Aota stuck him with because of how much the pitcher could drink.

The interview is HERE, but here are some snippet translations from this wonderful interview. But first an anecdote…

Oh those foreigners…

I hadn’t thought about Yoneda since Jeremy Powell was roasted in the Japanese media for ostensibly signing contracts with both the Orix Buffaloes and the SoftBank Hawks in 2008. The drift of much of the commentary at the time was that only a foreigner would be so underhanded as to do such a thing.

In fact, Powell had reached an initial agreement with Orix, which then wanted to modify it due to concerns over an MRI of his right arm. He refused to accept those changes and instead signed with SoftBank.

What people neglected to mention at that time was that prior to NPB’s draft, a lot of player signed contracts to play with more than one team, and Yoneda, a Hall of Famer, is the best example. He signed out of high school with the Hanshin Tigers and then had a change of heart and signed with the Braves.

Another famous double contract problem was that of Masanori Murakami, who was obliged to sign with the San Francisco Giants, and who was conned into signing with the Nankai Hawks, who refused to accept that they had forfeited their rights to the young lefty.

The point of those comments is that times change, conditions change, and what’s normal for one player may be alien to another 20 years later.

Back in the day…

The interview is a snapshot of “back in the day” reminiscence that one used to get an earful every October at the Sawamura Award announcements.

Here goes:

Q: Your numbers are just so far beyond those seen today…

Yoneda: “It’s sad. It’s bizarre for pros to think that if you throw too much you’ll get hurt. Everyone is protecting you. What I’d like to say is to try harder.”

Q: But it is said that if you pitch a lot, shoulder and elbow troubles will follow…

Yoneda: “It is true that the ball is heavy and if you keep throwing it will put you under a lot of stress. But the answer to that is to build bodies that can bear that stress. If we don’t create pitchers who are able to throw, then the current low level will persist.”

Q: You are dissatisfied?

Yoneda: “Just look it. Everyone stands up straight and basically only uses their upper body to throw.”

Q: Your numbers are just so far beyond those seen today…

Yoneda: “It’s sad. It’s bizarre for pros to think that if you throw too much you’ll get hurt. Everyone is protecting you. What I’d like to say is to try harder.”

Q: Are you opposed to those who say marathon bullpen sessions are unneccessary?

Yoneda: “If pitchers don’t throw, they’ll never master their control. A pitcher’s livelihood is being able to pitch low and also inside.”

Q: So pitchers shouldn’t pitch up in the zone?

Yoneda: “No that’s not the point. The balls pitchers today throw high in the zone are all mistakes. It’s no good doing that unless it is part of your plan.”

Q: So control is essential?

Yoneda: “If you throw 300 pitches in camp, you’ll be able to throw 150 in a game. In my day I threw between 2,500 and 3,000 pitches in camp.”

For the record

Just out of curiosity, I looked up Yoneda’s career pitching logs. He did in fact throw 150-pitch games, 22 to be exact, and another nine of 145-149 during his 22-year career.

As I’ve written before, it is extremely hard to compare pitchers then with those of more recent vintage, because the usage is different. Before the pitch count fever hit Japan about 15 years ago, 150-pitch starts were vastly more common than in Yoneda’s day.

Take Hideo Nomo, for example. Nomo pitched only five NPB seasons and threw 23 150-pitch games, and also had nine more of 145-149 pitches. And we know what happened to his arm after four years, he couldn’t play without pain.

Or take another recent Hall of Famer, Masaki Saito. Perhaps from Yoneda’s view, Saito’s 180 career wins with the best Central League team of his generation must have been disappointing. The big right-hander pitched 18 seasons, although injuries kept him from getting to 200 wins. He threw 21 150-pitch games in his career, and another five from 145-149.

Dayan Viciedo and the zone

My buddy John Gibson interviewed Dayan Viciedo of the Chunichi Dragons last week, which you can hear on the Japan Baseball Weekly Podcast.

In the interview, Viciedo, last year’s CL batting champion, said the difference between this season and last has been more balls out of the zone, demanding better plate discipline from him.

According to Delta Graphs, Viciedo has, so far this season, seen a slightly higher percentage of pitches in the zone than he did last season. He’s swinging at fewer of them, and swinging at a few more outside the zone.

His percentage of pitches in the zone this season so far is 41.9 percent, up from 40.6 last year, which was then a career high for him in Japan. This year, he’s swung at 32.6 percent of the pitches out of the zone, and 68.1% in the zone. Last year, those figures were 30.2% and 73.5%, respectively.

The real difference has been what happens when he puts the ball in play. We don’t have exit velocities and Delta Graphs categories the speed of balls of the bat as soft, medium and hard. But those percentages have barely moved this season for Viciedo.

The difference seems to simply that he’s being hurt by more balls in play being turned into outs than he did last season. Last season, his BABIP was .354, this year it’s .335.

I’m guessing that that is partly luck and — because his percent of home runs per fly ball is way down so far this year (to 13 percent after being over 16.8 percent in each of his first three seasons. This could easily be a function of the colder early season weather.

There’s no reason to think that those things he does in the batters box to hit pitches are any less effective than they were a year ago.