Orix Buffaloes

One of the oldest pro franchises, Orix purchased the club from the Hankyu Railroad in 1988 and has, with the exception of the seasons when Ichiro Suzuki was active under Hall of Fame manager Akira Ogi, has been pretty bad. They merged with the Kintetsu Railroad’s Kintetsu Buffaloes in 2004 and kept the better part of those two teams’ top talent, but have floundered since.

In 2014, behind an MVP season from then ace Chihiro Kaneko, the club finished within winning percentage points of its first pennant since 1996. Since 2002 after Ogi quit, the club has had 11 different managers, including Ogi for one year (2005). In 20 years, Orix has finished among the top three twice.

  • Manager: Norifumi Nishimura
  • 2019 Finish: Last. Despite its history and long pennant droughts, the Orix-Hankyu franchise has only finished last in consecutive seasons once (from 2002 to 2004).

Manager’s record: Norifumi Nishimura

YearTeamGWLTPctFinish
1995Marines11001.000(2)
2010Marines14475672.5283
2011Marines144547911.4066
2012Marines144626715.4805
2019Buffaloes14361757.4486
2020Buffaloes5316334.3276
Total62926932139.468
Prev. 3 yrsMarines43221120813.5042,4,5
Prev. 3 yrsBuffaloes4291852359.4416,4,4

Nishimura got his chance to manage in 2010 after a couple of Lotte executives seized control of the front office from Bobby Valentine in 2009 and sent him packing. Nishimura had been Valentine’s head coach and against all odds, the Marines reached the playoffs in 2010 by winning their final three regular-season games and then ran the table in the playoffs before beating the Chunichi Dragons in a thrilling Japan Series.

Nishimura has struck me as being incredibly old school when it comes to the sacrifice bunt ever since 2010, when he explained his rationale for bunting with his leadoff man after the Nos. 8 and 9 hitters reached to open the fifth inning when trailing by two runs on the road. But in his three seasons with Lotte, he never sacrificed as often as the league. It was only last year, with a fairly powerless Orix lineup that he carried on like the club’s other recent managers and bunted a lot more than average (0.066 sacrifice hits per runner on first base) in 2019.

Before he signed on to coach the club, former big leaguer So Taguchi criticized a team culture that allowed players, once they won regular jobs, to take it easy. The Buffaloes have produced a list of talented young players who appear to have failed to establish themselves after making names for themselves. Two big exceptions are outfielder Masataka Yoshida, now an annual MVP candidate, and right-hander Yoshinobu Yamamoto, whose stuff may be the best in NPB.

For one reason or another, players who leave Orix tend to do much better elsewhere. Following a purge of some of the front office’s bad actors, perhaps the team will see more players achieve their potential while still in a Buffaloes uniform.

The end

Nishimura called it quits on Aug. 20, after a loss left Orix 16-33-4, and was replaced by Satoshi Nakajima, who had managed the farm team since 2019. Originally signed by the Hankyu Braves before Orix purchased the club after the 1988 season. A longtime coach for the Nippon Ham Fighters, Nakajima had managed the Buffaloes’ Western League farm team to second in 2019 and was in second place when he moved up to the big club on Aug. 21.

Nakajima becomes the ninth manager for the Buffaloes, formed out of the merger of the Orix BlueWave and Kintetsu Buffaloes after the 2004 season, have had. This year marks the fifth time a manager has changed during the season since then.

Key players

  • Keita Nakagawa RF, 1B, 3B
  • Shuhei Fukuda 2B, SS
  • Kenya Wakatsuki C
  • Yuya Oda RF, CF, LF
  • Masataka Yoshida LF, RF
  • Hayato Nishiura CF, RF
  • Koji Oshiro SS
  • Shohei Kojima 3B, 1B
  • Stefen Romero LF, DH
  • Steven Moya 1B

Strengths and weaknesses

Despite Yoshida’s development as one of the PL’s best hitters, the club has serious issues drawing walks, getting on base and hitting for power. The lack of power may stem from what appears to be an organizational philosophy that values speedy slap hitters. In this respect, Delta Graphs groups the Buffaloes with the CL’s Chunichi Dragons in that both make less frequent hard contact and hit the ball on the ground more than their league rivals. Injuries to foreign hitters counted on for power, Stefen Romero and Chris Marrero, also hindered the team’s hope for more home runs.

Team Offensive rankings

  • Best in the league: offensive GDP
  • Next to best in the league: stolen bases, strikeouts
  • Next to worst in the league: home runs (for the 3rd time in 4 years), walks (worst or next to worst the last 4 seasons), BABiP
  • Worst in the league: runs, Avg, OBP, Slug, Iso Power

Despite the emphasis on speed and defense, the Buffaloes’ team defense has really been only average at best. Things worked out well for them in 2018, when their team defensive efficiency was second best in Japan, but season has been an exception.

Catcher Kenya Wakatsuki did well cutting down base stealers in 2019, and the Buffaloes have been decent at turning double plays–despite a shifting cast of characters at second and short–but that was about it.

Rankings against opponents’ offense

  • Best in the league: SB pct
  • Next to best in the league: home runs, SB, GDP
  • Next to worst in the league: runs, doubles, BABiP, slug
  • Worst in the league: triples–Orix is the only team since 1999 to allow 40 triples in a season and did so the past two years

Other rankings

  • Best in the league: complete games, quality starts
  • Next to worst in the league: ERA
  • And… the Buffaloes finished next to last in holds with 113, and led the PL in both intentional walks issued and sacrifice hits

Roster

Notes: Names in all caps are imported players; names with asterisks still qualify as rookies, hyperlinks are to the player’s English language page.

PosNameNo.Prev years 
PSachiya Yamasaki115
PHiroya Miyagi*130
PKazumasa Yoshida146
PYudai Aranishi151
PHirotoshi Masui1710
PYoshinobu Yamamoto183
PTaisuke Yamaoka193
PTaisuke Kondo204
PDaichi Takeyasu214
PRyota Muranishi*220
PDaiki Tomei266
PANDREW ALBERS272
PRyoga Tomiyama*281
PDaiki Tajima292
PKohei Suzuki302
PBRANDON DICKSON327
PMotoki Higa3510
PKeisuke Kobayashi393>> Traded to Hanshin Aug. 28
PYuya Iida396<< Traded from Hanshin Aug. 28
PYuito Mae*430
PHitomi Honda*461
PTomoyuki Kaida478
PKoki Saito485
PKeisuke Sawada493
PTyler Higgins*520
PNobuyoshi Yamada579
PKazuyuki Kaneda587
PYu Hidarisawa*601
PTsubasa Sakakibara611
PTaisei Urushihara*650
PRyo Yoshida*664
PYu Suzuki685
PFumiya Kanbe*950
PChang Yi*980
PKazuma Sato*0010
PFuta Tanioka*0020
PYuito Nakata*0030
PMasayuki Matsuyama*0080
PYuta Kuroki1243
PKohei Azuma*1280
PSoichiro Yamazaki*1353
CTorai Fushimi237
CMasato Matsui3311
CKenya Wakatsuki376
CYuma Tongu441
CDaisuke Iida*453
CKatsuki Yamazaki6219
CRyoya Tsurumi*0050
CHiroki Inatomi*1230
CFelipe Kissu De Souza*1300
IFShoki Katsumata*00
IFHiroyuki Shirasaki28
IFRyoichi Adachi38
IFShuhei Fukuda42
IFMasahiro Nishino55
IFKoji Oshiro94
IFKotaro Kurebayashi*240
IFRyo Ota*311
IFTatsuya Yamaashi362
IFShohei Kojima388
IFDaisuke Okazaki*4002020/9/14 Signed from D roster
IFADERLIN RODRIGUEZ420
IFSho Gibo*531
IFShinya Hirosawa*642
IFKeita Nakagawa671
IFAkihito Hiyane*1290
OFHayato Nishiura002
OFSTEVEN MOYA13
OFYuma Mune65
OFShunta Goto89
OFADAM JONES100
OFRyo Nishimura252
OFMasataka Yoshida344
OFKodai Sano414
OFYuya Oda505
OFTakahiro Okada5514
OFYusuke Matsui5611
OFKaoru Nemoto*593
OFYutaro Sugimoto994
OFYamato Hirano*0040
OFSeiichiro Oshita*0060
OFYugo Sato*0070

2019 team data

Batters

NameBatsGPAABRH2B3BHRRBISBCSBBSOAvgOBPSlugwOBA
Masataka YoshidaL143610521921682422985517964.322.413.543.408
Shuhei FukudaL1355834926512313523830146257.250.342.309.300
Keita Nakagawa*R11139636439105212332952562.288.334.382.318
Kenya WakatsukiR138348298215390121202173.178.241.218.215
Koji OshiroR91345302367918232811102556.262.329.364.312
STEFEN ROMEROR8133129547901501863332583.305.363.539.384
Shohei KojimaL103266246235490418741649.220.266.305.258
STEVEN MOYAB642552422459701035001059.244.278.397.295
Hayato Nishiura*L77239220244381118831356.195.239.255.224
Yuya OdaL82203180213752321951247.206.275.306.260
Shunta GotoL91194165173773122431947.224.314.321.286
Masahiro NishinoL56188166214051114101624.241.314.301.282
Ryoichi AdachiR561791551843612201021829.277.354.368.326
Yuma MuneL54177148164061214731330.270.370.365.334
CHRIS MARREROR431331238267021400735.211.256.317.256
Kodai Sano*R6813012122255119123543.207.244.289.238
JOEY MENESESR2911810272140414011328.206.288.363.288
Yuma Tongu*R2893915185031000122.198.204.352.239
Torai FushimiR397261410001901816.164.278.213.231
Tatsuya YamaashiR286461310011801212.164.203.246.197
Takahiro OkadaL20565046001200619.120.214.180.191
Hiroyuki ShirasakiR255449610002600514.204.278.327.272
Kohei SuzukiR585344310100000412.227.333.250.280
Ryo NishimuraR195349313302420210.265.294.449.324
Yutaro Sugimoto*R18515158104710022.157.157.412.235
Masato MatsuiL2442365700020037.194.256.194.215
Sho Gibo*L828260610000027.231.286.269.257
Yuki MiyazakiR1528231300010029.130.250.130.196
Yusuke MatsuiR718182610110003.333.333.556.383
Daisuke Iida*R816130000000004.000.0000000.000
Ryo Ota*R616131000000027.000.1880000.131
Shuto TakajoR512111200000014.182.250.182.208
Kengo TakedaR6980100001001.125.222.125.178
Katsuki YamazakiR24880000000005.000.0000000.000
Taisuke YamaokaL26550000000002.000.0000000.000
Daichi Takeyasu*R10440000000003.000.0000000.000
Kohei Suzuki*R19440000000003.000.0000000.000
Yudai Aranishi*R13330000000001.000.0000000.000
Tsubasa Sakakibara*R13330000000003.000.0000000.000
Daiki TajimaL10220000000002.000.0000000.000
Yoshinobu YamamotoR20210000000000.000.0000000.000

Pitchers

NameThrGCGSOWLSHW PctIPHHRBBKRERERA
Taisuke YamaokaR262013400.765170154164515477703.71
Yoshinobu YamamotoR20118600.57114310183612737311.95
Kohei Suzuki*R19004600.400102 1/310015498856494.31
Tsubasa Sakakibara*R13103400.42979 1/3645375929242.72
ANDREW ALBERSL13002600.25063 1/38412104544415.83
Sachiya YamasakiL36002301.40054496283727274.50
Daichi Takeyasu*R10113200.60054635173728274.50
Yudai Aranishi*R13001400.20051 2/3556184232325.57
Hirotoshi MasuiR5300141814.20050 1/3515246429274.83
Taisuke KondoR520046122.40049 2/3394226119193.44
Daiki TajimaL10003400.42949 2/3484204026193.44
Tomoyuki KaidaL550012022.33349411113315101.84
Nobuyoshi YamadaL40000005.00043316184417173.56
Kazumasa YoshidaR33001106.50037 2/3333142817174.06
BRANDON DICKSONR370021185.66735 2/3291183812123.03
Motoki HigaR45003218.60033 1/3325113619174.59
TYLER EPPLERR24004403.50031 1/341292516144.02
Chang Yi*R8002400.33327 1/336791720185.93
Keisuke SawadaR280022017.50026283151914144.85
Takahiro MatsubaL5000400.00022 2/326391316145.56
Fumiya Kanbe*R19000005.000211745191093.86
Yoshihisa NaruseL6000100.00019 2/324381316167.32
Daiki TomeiR7001100.5001920516915157.11
Keisuke KobayashiR20000203.00017 1/323451715115.71
Kazuyuki KanedaR60010001.000.0007 1/312034444.91
Akira IwamotoR9000201.0007 1/392115121214.73
Koki Saito*L11000001.00071409810810.29
Ryo Yoshida*R4000000.0004 1/37232448.31
Yu Hidarisawa*L4000000.00031033000.00
Ryoga Tomiyama*L1000000.00020002000.00
Yu Suzuki*R1000000.00021032114.50
Mamoru KishidaR1000000.0000 1/30001000.00

So who are the bunters?

Since I looked it up, here’s how last year’s NPB managers ranked in how often they bunted relative to their leagues over their careers.

NameTeam2019 SHRel to league
Tsuyoshi YodaDragons1081.19
Kimiyasu KudoHawks1001.15
Tadahito IguchiMarines921.09
Akihiro YanoTigers1041.08
Hideki KuriyamaFighters781.06
Koichi OgataCarp1111.04
Junji OgawaSwallows841.03
Yosuke HiraishiEagles980.96
Norifumi NishimuraBuffaloes1010.92
Alex RamirezBayStars810.89
Tatsunori HaraGiants840.86
Hatsuhiko TsujiLions780.69

Only one manager in NPB history with 400-plus games under his belt has sacrificed relatively less than his league than Tsuji. NPB’s biggest bunting outlier is Hiroshi Gondo, who was essentially fired for being a non-conformist despite a very successful run in Yokohama. By the way, Orix general manager Junichi Fukura, Nishimura’s predecessor, bunted 24 percent more often than the league, the second-highest figure in history behind Hall of Fame Dragons manager Shunichi Amachi (1949 – 1958).

writing & research on Japanese baseball

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