Points of order

A little more than three months after Alex Ramirez told that he would not bat his pitchers eighth this year, as BayStars, he slipped lefty Haruhiro Hamaguchi into the No. 8 hole on Wednesday against Hiroshima’s Kris Johnson.

Ramirez told reporters before the game that the timing was right. Before the season, several journalists wrote that Ramirez’s policy of pitchers’ batting eighth had been severely criticized by Japan’s legion of former-player talking heads. Ironically, the move came in the wake of a move that still has the old farts reeling, moving Japan cleanup hitter Yoshitomo Tsutsugo into the No. 2 slot, a spot traditionally reserved in Japan for batters who could bunt and punch at the ball and rarely hit home runs.

On Tuesday night, former slugger Yoshiaki Kanemura, speaking on Fuji TV’s Pro Yakyu News, said, “Frankly, I think moving the Japan national team cleanup hitter into the No. 2 spot is a slap in the face.”

On Thursday, pitcher Shota Imanaga was in the eighth spot as DeNA began the day in second place, playing the third-place Chunichi Dragons.

From April 14, 2017 to Oct. 10, 2018, Ramirez had his starting pitcher bat eighth 252 times, starting with Joe Wieland, who had been a good-hitting infielder who chose pitching as a pro because he felt it would get him to the majors faster. After 15 more games with his pitchers batting ninth, Ramirez switched to the No. 8 spot until the end of the 2018 season.

Some speculate that finishing out of the playoffs for the first time since he took over the club in 2016 forced him to give up a very defensible choice. The choice is whether a position player can do more damage finishing off the heart of the order in the No. 8 spot or setting the table for the top of the order in the No. 9 spot.

Although Ramirez has been far and away the biggest recent user of pitchers in the eighth spot, he is far from a precedent setter. I have 29,811 digitized box scores in my data base in which the starting pitcher was in the batting order. Of those, roughly 95 percent batted ninth.

Shohei Ohtani, Japan’s most famous hitting pitcher, batted in the starting lineup 15 times, and never batted ninth. He is the only pitcher in my spotty records to bat first, cleanup or fifth — where he started five times. Ironically, the only spot, where I haven’t found a pitcher in the starting lineup is second.

Even with Ramirez’s eighth-place renaissance, neither 2017 nor 2018 stands as the season with the most starting pitchers batting out of the No. 9 spot. That honor goes to the first year I have records for. In 1958, NPB managers started their pitcher out of the No. 9 spot 248 times. The next year, that figure was down to 45. There were also 145 games started by a pitcher batting higher than ninth in 1970. I’ll know more if I ever get around to sorting through the digital records of the other eight or nine seasons I have floating around.

And just when it seemed that people would get tired of talking about Tsutsugo batting second, former BayStar Hitoshi Tamura discussed the issue during Thursday’s broadcast, saying that while it was OK for a DH league like the AL, putting a big hitter in the No. 2 spot when the pitcher is in the lineup is counter productive. Mind you, he didn’t mention that Ramirez is now using Maeda as a second leadoff man at the bottom of the BayStars lineup.

NPB games, news of July 17, 2019

Pacific League

Fighters 4, Hawks 0

At Kitakyushu Stadium, Kohei Arihara, the only starting pitcher FIghters manager Hideki Kuriyama trusts to face a lineup more than twice, struck out seven, while allowing four base runners over eight innings to improve to 10-4 as Nippon Ham completed a sweep of league-leading SoftBank.

The Hawks opted for a short starter, throwing Roberto Suarez (1-4), and he allowed one run in four innings but took the unlucky loss.

Game highlights are HERE.

Lions 4, Marines 3

At MetLife Dome, Seibu’s Keisuke Honda (5-3) served up three double play balls, allowing him to escape a couple of jams and allow only a run over seven innings in a win over Lotte.

But while Honda was able to get two straight comebackers to escape a no-out, bases-loaded pickle in the second, Mariners starter Kazuya Ojima (0-3) surrendered four runs in a similar predicament in the fifth, and Seibu’s bullpen held on for the win.

Game highlights are HERE.

Eagles 7, Buffaloes 3

At Kyocera Dome, Orix squandered a three-run first against Wataru Karashima (4-2), who lasted five innings, while four Rakuten relievers kept the Buffaloes from mounting a comeback.

Kohei “K” Suzuki got the short start, allowing two runs over 2-1/3 innings, but his relief was ineffective. Jabari Blash homered, reached base four times and scored twice for the Eagles.

Alan Busenitz and Frank Herrmann each worked a scoreless inning of relief for the Eagles, while lefty closer Yuki Matsui struck out two in a 1-2-3 ninth in a non-save situation.

Game highlights are HERE.

Central League

Swallows 5, Giants 4

At Jingu Stadium, HIroki Yamada (2-0) allowed three runs over five-plus innings, Norichika Aoki hit a three-run homer and Yakult’s bullpen pitched out of trouble for four-straight innings to avoid a sweep at the hands of Yomiuri.

Giants shortstop Hayato Sakamoto hit two homers and drove in three runs. He now leads the CL with his 28th. He is now 13 shy of the NPB record of home runs by a shortstop, set my Masaru Uno of the Chunichi Dragons in 1985 at home run-happy Nagoya Stadium.

Top 5 seasons, home runs by shorstops

Masaru Uno41DragonsCL1985
Masaru Uno37DragonsCL1984
Kazuo Matsui36LionsPL2002
Takahiro Ikeyama34SwallowsCL1989
Kazuo Matsui33LionsPL2003

BayStars 3, Carp 1

At Yokohama Stadium, struggling Hiroshima put four runners on in the first inning, but scored only one run as five DeNA pitchers combined to allow three hits and five walks, while striking out 10.

Dragons 6, Tigers 4

At Toyohashi Stadium, five scoreless innings from Chunichi’s bullpen, paved the way for two eighth-inning runs off Kyuji Fujikawa (4-1) to break a 4-4 tie in a win over Hanshin.

A Yohei Oshima leadoff double, a Zoilo Almonte walk, and a two-run Toshiki Abe triple broke the tie as the Dragons won their seventh-straight game, their longest winning streak in four years.


Dragons lose CL batting leader Takahashi to hand injury

CL batting leader and captain Shuhei Takahashi ruptured a ligament in the little finger of his right hand on Tuesday while sliding back into first base on a pickoff throw, and was deactivated on Wednesday. A .255 career hitter, Takahashi was leading the league in batting with a .319 in his second full season.

NPB games, news of July 16, 2019

Pacific League

Fighters 3, Hawks 2

At Yafuoku Dome, reserve catcher Shingo Usami drew a two-out, bases-loaded walk in the ninth inning to lift Nippon Ham to its second straight win over league-leading SoftBank.

Sho Nakata drew a leadoff walk and was replaced by a pinch-runner. The Hawks understudy closer, right-hander Hiroshi Kaino, hit the next batter when he tried to sacrifice. The next batter did sacrifice.

Fighters manager Hideki Kuriyama pinch hit for career .209 RHB Toshitaka Yoko with career .225 switch-hitter Toshiya Sugiya, basically gaining nothing by bringing someone off the bench — except it may have encouraged Hawks manager Kimiyasu Kudo to try and set up a double play by intentionally walking the bases loaded.

After a strikeout, Kuriyama went with another pinch-hitter, Usami, who forced in the go-ahead run.

Fighters starter Toshihiro Sugiura allowed two first-inning homers and came out before his third trip through the lineup.

Game highlights are HERE.

Lions 5, Marines 1

At MetLife Dome, Sosuke Genda drove in the game’s first run with a third-inning RBI single and tripled in a seventh-inning insurance run as Seibu beat Lotte.

Game highlights are HERE.

Buffaloes 1, Eagles 0

At Kyocera Dome, Orix’s Taisuke Yamaoka (7-2) won a dynamite pitching duel with Rakuten’s Takahiro Norimoto (1-1).

The Buffaloes manufactured a first-inning run on a single, a sacrifice, a fielders choice and a Masataka Yoshida sac fly. Norimoto retired the next 19 batters, nine by strikeout, but took the loss.

Six Eagles runners reached over the first four innings, but Yamaoka got two double plays and retired the last 12 he faced. Brandon Dickson faced four batters in the ninth to record his seventh save.

Game highlights are HERE.

Central League

Dragons 3, Tigers 2

At Nagoya Dome, Zoilo Almonte drew a bases-loaded, ninth-inning “sayonara” walk, lifting Chunichi past Hanshin.

Daisuke Matsuzaka, sidelined since February after a fan gave him a particularly vigorous high five that left him with inflammation in his right shoulder, allowed two runs over five innings in his season debut for the Dragons.

Giants 6, Swallows 3

At Jingu Stadium, Yakult may want to put a bounty out on Yomiuri’s Yoshiyuki Kamei after he terrorized him for the second straight night.

Kamei iced Monday’s 11th-inning win with a two-run home run. On Tuesday, he broke a 3-3 with an RBI single in the fourth and added a solo homer in the seventh.

BayStars 8, Carp 5

At Yokohama Stadium, Kyle Regnault (4-2) walked the bases loaded with the game tied 4-4 in the seventh to set up a four-run DeNA inning as the BayStars came from behind to beat struggling Hiroshima.

NPB games, news for July 15, 2019

NPB play resumed Monday, a national holiday, after the all-star break with a full slate. The big result was the Hiroshima Carp beating the DeNA BayStars in Yokohama as the three-time defending champs won for the first time since June 25. During that 12-game stretch, they lost 11 and played one tie.

Central League

Carp 8, BayStars 5

At Yokohama Stadium, DeNA starter Shoichi Ino couldn’t locate his pitches at the start, and Hiroshima punished him for it, scoring six runs in three innings. Carp right-hander Allen Kuri, who had recorded his team’s last win on June 25 in his first career shutout, allowed three runs over six innings.

Giants 7, Swallows 4, 11 innings

At Nagano Olympic Stadium, a single and a two-base throwing error on former major league pitcher Ryota Igarashi (5-1) on a sacrifice bunt broke an 11th-inning tie and Yoshiyuki Kamei finished off Yakult with a two-run home run.

The Swallows led 4-3 in the eighth, but lefty David Huff surrendered a leadoff single to Yang Dai-kang and an RBI double to Christian Villanueva.

Scott Mathieson (1-1) worked a 1-2-3 10th inning to earn the win, while Ruby de la Rosa struck out two in a scoreless inning in his NPB debut

Dragons 4, Tigers 2

At Nagoya Dome, Chunichi lefty Yudai Ono (6-6) allowed two runs over eight innings as the Dragons scored two runs off of Hanshin’s all-star middle reliever Pierce Johnson (2-2) to take the lead in the eighth. Raidel Martinez worked a 1-2-3 ninth to record his seventh save

Pacific League

Fighters 5, Hawks 1

At Yafuoku Dome, Kensuke Nakata capped a four-run first inning against with a two-run triple — a double that got past left fielder Yurisbel Gracial — as Kotaro Otake (5-3) allowed five runs over 4-2/3 innings. Nippon Ham’s win snapped the club’s six-game losing streak to SoftBank.

Two three-inning stints from Mizuki Hori and Bryan Rodriguez (4-2) held SoftBank to a run, and three relievers, Naoya Ishikawa, Naoki MIyanishi and Ryo Akiyoshi allowed one hit while striking out six and walking one.

Hori faced nine batters, and the guys on TV were going, “Don’t you want to see him stay in the game and see what he can really do?” But manager Hideki Kuriyama limits how many times batters get to look at his pitchers, and even the talking heads had to admit it’s kind of working.

Game highlights are HERE.

Marines 6, Lions 5

At MetLife Dome, both starters went six innings despite giving up four runs through two. Tomoya Mori doubled and scored in the sixth to put Seibu in front, but former Yankee Brandon Laird hit his 25th home run in the seventh off former Red Sox pitcher Kyle Martin (2-4), a game-changing two-run shot for Lotte, whose players were wearing their Hawaiian shirt jerseys.

The Lotte bullpen put two runners on in each of the last three innings but did not allow a run.

Game highlights are HERE.

Eagles 6, Buffaloes 2

At Kyocera Dome, Rakuten’s Hiroaki Shimauchi had three hits including a triple, scored a run and drove in three to lead Rakuten past Orix. Shu Sugahara (1-2) allowed two runs over five innings in an emergency start after Takahiro Shiomi was scratched.

Game highlights are HERE.

Cleanup man bats 2nd, world survives

The world did not end on Monday, although considering the urgency two different broadcasts placed on Japan cleanup hitter Yoshitomo Tsustugo batting second for the first time in his life, it seemed some kind of cataclysm was in the making.

As many of you probably know, the No. 2 hitter is the Area 51 of Japanese batting orders. It’s the weird-shit-goes-on-there-but-don’t-ask-questions spot. From box score data I have access to, the No. 2 spot has been the seventh weakest spot in both teams’ lineup based on aggregate OPS.

This is a development, I believe, from the canonization of the sacrifice bunt that took place between 1975 and 1990, that dictated that the No. 2 hitter’s job was primarily to make productive outs. The irony is that at the same time the bunt was being spoken of as the secret to winning, home runs were beginning to fly out of Japanese parks.

Here are the figures from 2003 to 2016 — my current era box scores go back to 2003.

NPB OPS by batting order

Min YearMax YearB orderOBPSlugOPS

And here are the past two seasons below. As you can see, the No. 2 spot has kind of undergone an upgrade recently.

OPS by batting order 2017-2018

Min YearMax YearB orderOBPSlugOPS

Nomura gets sick over this revolting development

Despite these changes, the two broadcast crews were pretty taken back. Here’s a snippet translated from the TBS broadcast, with former BayStars pitcher Hiroki Nomura doing the color commentary:

Nomura: He can say he’s going to keep the same approach, but the question is how he’s going to feel when there’s no outs and a runner on first…

<Carp No. 2 hitter Ryosuke Kikuchi comes to the plate with the leadoff man on first, doubles down the left field line to set up a four-run inning.>

Nomura: It would be hard to avoid that urge (to play small ball).

<Tsutsugo bats in the 5th inning.>
Announcer: I’m not used to saying, ‘Batting 2nd, Tsutsugo.’
Nomura: Frankly, it makes me feel queazy.

And here are some takes from another broadcast with former Carp ace Kazuhisa Kawaguchi providing the somewhat more enlightened commentary.

It’s all about the batting order

Analyst: Kazuhisa Kawaguchi
Announcer: Kei Fukuzawa

F: No. 2 Tsutsugo. Manager Ramirez said I want a high on-base percentage guy batting second. He has not hit well with runners in scoring position but he does get on base. So he wants him to get on base.
F: So in the first appearance as No. 2 in his life, Tsutsugo flies out to right.
K: Yes. He got him to hit his pitch.

<Neftali Soto steps in.>

<Ball 1 to Soto>

K: He (Tsutsugo) gets on base a lot as a No. 4 hitter, so for me what I’d like him to see is keep that same approach unchanged.
K: If he can’t do that, his results will get worse.
F: If you look at his last 5 seasons…
<Soto fouls off 2-0 pitch>
…he has basically batted 3rd or 4th.
K: No. 3 was not that long either…
F: Of course, one aspect of this may be motivation for the individual from manager Ramirez’s standpoint.
<Soto flies out to short>
F: No. 3 Soto flies out. Three outs, inning over.

<New inning and the camera focuses on Tsutsugo walking to left field.>

<Strike 1 to Carp batter Kosuke Tanaka>

F: The Carp are in an 11-game losing streak, and now we’re back from the all-star break as we begin the second half of the season.

<Strike 1 to Tanaka>

F: Tsutsugo, batting 2nd for the 1st time in his life, flew out, and the BayStars failed to score in the first inning.

<Ball 1 to Tanaka, 1-1>

F: The Carp are now batting in the second…

I’m glad to say that as runs were scored, and there was a game to talk about both broadcast crews kind of got over the whole thing.

NPB news for July 14, 2019

Marines sign speedy outfielder Martin

The Pacific League’s Lotte Marines have signed 31-year-old outfielder Leonys Martin following his release in June by the Cleveland Indians, the Pacific League club said Sunday.

The contract is reportedly worth $300,000. Over his past three big league seasons, Martin has posted a .290 on base percentage and has gone 18-for-31 as a base stealer.

The Marines, in their second year under former major leaguer Tadahito Iguchi, are fifth in the PL, 8-1/2 games back of the league-leading SoftBank Hawks, but only four games separate the second-place Nippon Ham Fighters from the last-place Orix Buffaloes.

Tigers return all-star fire at Koshien

Koji Chikamoto had a night for the record books on Saturday. The Hanshin Tigers rookie became the second player to hit for an all-star cycle and was named the MVP of All-Star Game series Game 2, an 11-3 blowout by the Central League that ended the Pacific League’s five-game winning streak.

Chikamoto became the first rookie to lead off the first inning of an all-star game when he went deep off Orix Buffaloes pitcher Taisuke Yamaoka in the CL’s two-run first.

After Yomiuri Giants ace Tomoyuki Sugano’s two scoreless innings, the CL hitters got to face Seibu Lions right-hander Kona Takahashi. To say they schooled him or took him to the woodshed would be an understatement. They went to the lumber yard and gave him a beating with some serious clubs.

Two Tigers catchers went deep back to back to open the inning. Fumihito Haraguchi, who homered in the ninth inning of Friday’s game as a pinch hitter led off. His catching partner Ryutaro Umeno, an early favorite for the CL’s Best Nine Award, followed. Chikamoto doubled and scored on the first of two doubles by the Chunichi Dragons’ Shuhei Takahashi.

After a Tetsuto Yamada singled, Yoshitomo Tsutsugo crushed a line drive out to left center, which takes a tremendous poke at Koshien, which boasts Japan’s deepest power alleys thanks to its original design as a multipurpose stadium.

“I felt my pitches just weren’t good enough to face the best CL hitters.” said Takahashi, who was added to his first PL all-star roster by his skipper, Hatsuhiko Tsuji of the Lions.

“I think I’ll be happy to avoid the all-star game from now on.”

After one win and one loss, Tsuji said.

Chikamoto became the first player with four extra-base hits in an all-star game and the second to have five hits, the other being Yakult’s Roberto Petagine in 2001.

The series, at Japan’s two biggest parks, set a two-tame attendance record of 90,008 spectators.

The two home run derby finalists, each homered in the game. Seiya Suzuki of the Hiroshima Carp won this year’s derby, beating Friday’s finalist Masataka Yoshida of Orix 4-3.

Suzuki beat Tomoya Mori of the Lions 4-3 in his first round and then knocked off Tsutsugo 5-4 in their semifinal. Tsutsugo advanced past Japan home run leader Hotaka Yamakawa on a tie-breaker.

Lions’ Mori top of the pops

Tomoya Mori continued to be Mr. All-Star home run on Friday, when he hit his third all-star home run in his third game, his two-run, second-inning homer sparking the Pacific League’s three-homer assault in a 6-3 win over the Central League in Game 1 of Japan’s All-Star Game series.

It’s called the All-Star Game despite the fact that there are always more than one. Mori was named MVP, while Seibu Lions teammate and NPB home run leader Hotaka Yamakawa also went deep in the sixth inning, following their former teammate, Rakuten Eagles second baseman Hideto Asamura into the seats.

Fumihito Haraguchi of the Hanshin Tigers, who is recovering from cancer surgery in January, hit a two-run, pinch-hit homer in the ninth.

The home run came off Orix Buffaloes right-hander Yoshinobu Yamamoto who pitched the last three innings to earn the save. It was the 10th three-inning save in all-star history but the first since Hiroshi Takamura (Kintetsu Buffaloes) did it in 1996.

The PL now leads the series — which started in 1950 after the CL and PL were formed out of an expansion, 85-78. There have been 11 ties without any help from Bud Selig.

The PL has now won five straight games.

Saturday’s Game 2 will be held at Koshien Stadium outside Osaka.

Yoshida reaches HR derby final

NPB’s ubiquitous and annoying home run derbies have been modified again this year into a single contest, albeit one that is played over two days.

Years ago, the rules for the obligatory batting practice power hitting contest differed from game to game, so nobody really knew what was going on. A few years ago, fans were allowed to vote on the participants for each game, so the most popular players generally appeared in both.

This year, eight players are taking part divided into four groups, each with one player from each league.

Masataka Yoshida of the Orix Buffaloes won Round 1 after defeating Yakult Swallows teenager Munetaka Murakami 5-4. Yoshida then dispatched Yomiuri Giants shortstop Hayato Sakamoto, who had beaten Brandon Laird of the Lotte Marines 4-2.

Saturday’s second round will see Hotaka Yamakawa and DeNA BayStars left fielder Yoshitomo Tsutsugo in one group, and Tomoya Mori and Hiroshima Carp right fielder Seiya Suzuki in the other.

The winner will take on Yoshida in the final, so now in the future when someone in America says, “so and so won the home run derby in Japan” they’ll actually sound like they know what they’re talking about — because there’ll be only one.

Area coach holds efficient practice

This is not from the Onion or the Rising Wassabi. However, when the manager of a Japanese high school team limits his practices to 2-1/2 hours, it has a chance to be a national news item with a headline worthy of those satirical news sites.

Here’s the Sports Nippon Annex story HERE.

On Tuesday, 33-year-old Christopher Robert Kawamoto Boothe — known as Robert Kawamoto in Japan — won his first official game as manager of Hachioji Jissenchugakko High School, beating Meiji Gakuin Higashi Murayama High 11-7 in the first round of Western Tokyo’s summer tournament.

The Japanese story’s headline reads: “1st game for ‘Robert-san’ shows improvement from revolutionary 2-1/2 hour efficient practices”

Boothe, who grew up in Japan as the son of a Japanese mother and American ballplayer, signed with the Dodgers after he was not selected out of Asia University in NPB’s 2007 amateur draft. He appears to have played three seasons in the low minors. Since 2012 he has played mostly in Japan’s independent minors with a brief stopover in Taiwan with the Lamigo Monkeys.

He was hired this spring, and Boothe has asked his players to call him “Robert-san” instead of “Manager Kawamoto” as is customary.

The team captain said, “We are close to Robert-san. He patiently works out our mechanical issues, and reminds us that rest time is for getting rest.”

According to the story, the manager has also revolutionized the players’ workloads, reducing practices to 2-1/2 hours.

NPB games, news of July 10, 2019

The horror. The horror.

Kris Johnson throws seven scoreless innings and drives in the tie-breaking run, and still the Carp can’t win. They have now lost 11 of their last 12, with one tie mixed in there. That 11-game losing streak is the franchise’s longest since 1999.

The Carp of darkness

Just when it seemed like it was safe for the Carp to go back in the water, reliable Kyle Regnault relieved Kris Johnson with a one-run lead in the eighth and simply couldn’t get the third out.

After walking six batters in his first four innings in Japan, Regnault (4-1), had walked 16 over his next 37-1/3 innings. After giving up two singles to open the inning, the Dragons gifted him an out with a sacrifice. An intentional walk to Dayan Viciedo loaded the bases and allowed for a force out at home on the next play.

Then the wheels came off. Atsushi Fujii battled drew a walk on a 3-2 count, but Yota Kyoda didn’t swing at any of Regnault’s four pitches and that was the ballgame.

Enny Romero had been on the hook for the loss after allowing one run on three hits and no walks over seven innings. With the lead in hand Raidel Martinez avoided giving up the tying run in the top of the ninth thanks to a nifty fielding play at first base by Dayan Viciedo that ended the game.

Giants 4, Tigers 1

Hanshin’s Randy Messenger (3-7) lasted a season-low two innings, while allowing four runs and four Yomiuri relievers saved the day after starter Nobutaka Imamura (3-1) ran into trouble in the sixth at Koshien Stadium.

The game’s highlights are HERE.

Swallows 7, BayStars 2

Rookie Yakult lefty Keiji Takahashi allowed two runs over six innings, and relievers Kazuki Kondo (3-1), David Huff and Scott McGough helped the hosts cruise at Jingu Stadium against DeNA.

Lions 7, Hawks 3

Tsuyoshi Wada (2-2) game crumbled in the fifth inning on solo homers from the bottom of the Seibu order. The lefty issued a two-out walk and surrendered a single before leaving the mound with stiffness in his leg.

His relief, right-hander Masayoshi Tanaka, surrendered a two-run triple to Shuta Tonosaki, and the Lions iced the game in the seventh inning on back-to-back home runs from Hotaka Yamakawa and Takeya Nakamura.

The game’s highlights are HERE.

Buffaloes 7, Eagles 6, 10 innings

Yuma Mune singled in the go-ahead run in the 10th inning off Yuki Matsui (1-5) after the Eagles sent it to extra innings by tying it in the eighth off Tyler Eppler. Brandon Dickson (2-0) worked a scoreless ninth to earn the win and finished the game off with a scoreless 10th to close it out.

Given the way relievers are used these days, a case could be made for the same pitcher to earn a win AND a save in the same game. Certainly, Dickson earned one of each, by winning it in relief and then saving it. He did what is normally the job of two pitchers. He deserves double credit.

The game’s highlights are HERE.

Marines 5, Fighters 0

The opener-happy Nippon Ham Fighters got opened, with Yuki Karakawa throwing a scoreless first for Lotte, followed by three goose eggs from Chen Kuan-yu (1-0) at Zozo Marine Stadium.

Toru Murata (0-1) was tasked with going through the Marines lineup twice, but surrendered three runs, one earned in his 3-2/3 innings on the mound as the Fighters fielders made four errors in the game.

The game’s highlights are HERE.


Seibu spends to keep up with the SoftBanks

In a bid to reclaim it’s golden age, the Seibu Lions have revealed the team has spent about 18 billion yen, roughly $160 million, to upgrade its facilities surrounding MetLife Dome, their 40-year-old park just across the border from Tokyo.

The Sankei Sports story is HERE.

The article suggests the new indoor training facility will be the largest in NPB, and will be open so that fans can watch as players work out. The project also expands the number of dorm rooms on site from 20 to 28, expanded physical training space, more meeting rooms and includes a new merchandise shop.

The Lions last year won the Pacific League for the first time in 10 years, although they lost in the playoff to the SoftBank Hawks, who since 2010 have won either the league or the Japan Series in six seasons since.

The Hawks have invested heavily in their minor league and rehab facility in Chikugo, Fukuoka Prefecture, and their efforts have been rewarded this season with a sizable PL lead despite missing a number of their best players.

The Lions won the PL seven straight seasons from 1982 to 1988, another five time from 1990 to 1994, but only six times since. Since 2010, the Hawks have won five pennants, the Nippon Ham Fighters two, and the Lions and Rakuten Eagles one each.

Hawks’ Yanagita, Imamiya not ready for early return

The SoftBank Hawks will be without star center fielder Yuki Yanagita and starting shortstop Kenta Imamiya through July 26 at least, following their withdrawal from this weekend’s All-Star Game series.

Players picked for their league’s All-Star team who fail to appear are prohibited from playing in their team’s first 10 games after the All-Star break. The Hawks are scheduled to play their 11th game after the break on July 27 at home against the Orix Buffaloes.

Yanagita suffered a muscle tear behind his left knee on April 7, while Imamiya was deactivated on June 22 after spending much of the season with left hamstring issues.

Both were voted onto the PL squad by fans. Some have called for the 10-day suspension to only be applied to those selected in the fan ballot, since an opposing manager could select a rival team’s star who is nearly fit for duty to keep him out of action for 10 more games.

Seibu Lions closer Tatsushi Masuda and Hawks outfielder Yurisbel Gracial were chosen as replacements.

Stewart sees 1st game action

Carter Stewart Jr, the eighth pick in MLB’s 2018 amateur draft, took the mound in his first game since arriving in Japan over a month ago.

The 19-year-old right-hander allowed a leadoff double against the first batter he faced but retired the next six and left after two innings and 24 pitches in a practice game between SoftBank’s third team and corporate league club Mitsubishi Motors Kyushu.

He touched 151 kph (93.8 mph) when he struck out the opposing cleanup hitter to end the first inning.

According to the Nikkan Sports, Stewart said he was excited and nervous, but was able to throw at about 90 percent of full strength at the Hawks’ minor league park, Tama Home Stadium.

All NPB teams are required to enter a farm team in either the Eastern or Western league. Third teams are a different breed that play independent minor league teams, corporate league and university teams.

Kawasaki to coach in Taiwan

Former major league utility infielder Munenori Kawasaki, who has put his playing career on hiatus since developing a nerve disorder, is reportedly going to coach on a three-month basis this summer with the Wei Chuan Dragons according to the CPBL Stats website.

writing & research on Japanese baseball