Kodai Senga

NPB news: Nov. 2, 2022

We’ve had some news items since the Japan Series ended Sunday with players talking about taking their acts overseas, including one whose efforts might teach us whether Orix’s ownership has evolved beyond the slime stage. Also, I spill on this weekend’s trivia question.

Free at last

Kodai Senga, having shouldered the load of being the SoftBank Hawks ace for years, will soon be free to negotiate with any team on the planet after filing for international free agency Monday, the first day he was able to.

In my Profile: Kodai Senga, you will find background information and a fair amount of discussion of his pitches, one a plus, two above average, and an average one that will knock your socks off on those occasions when he is blessed with decent command.

Senga is joined in the MLB offseason pitching market by Shintaro Fujinami, who will be posted by the Hanshin Tigers, and perhaps Masataka Yoshida, who announced Monday that he has told the Orix Buffaloes he wants to play in MLB and requested they post him.

Posting is never automatic, unless the player in question compelled the club that drafted him to put a posting clause into his first contract. Yoshida was tied for fourth overall pick in the 2015 draft, so it’s not impossible.

Given Orix’s reputation of having Japan’s slimiest ownership, one would expect them to have said, “We won’t put it in writing, but you can have our word of honor on it” while even intending to keep that promise until it became inconvenient.

The Orix team we love to hate

The lovable underdog Orix Buffaloes that won the Japan Series this past weekend, are just the latest image of a fairly sad franchise.

The current version has been built after the club finally managed to rid itself a few years ago of some front office parasites that had used their positions, not to try and improve the club, but to undercut the members of the other front office rival faction. The biggest cockroach in the bunch was Ryuzo Setoyama, who had been run out of Fukuoka for some shady dealings only to surface at Lotte, where he was eventually fired for shady dealings.

It’s not Setoyama’s fault that Orix hired him despite knowing he was poison, that was down to ownership, which showed its character in the winter of 2004-2005.

Orix’s 2004 merger with the Kintetsu Buffaloes forced Japanese baseball through its most tumultuous year, with players striking four weekend games, talk of further contractions, and a movement by fans and players to protect the existing two-league, 12-team system that resulted in numerous changes.

One of those changes was expansion. To field a team, the Rakuten Eagles were allowed to take a few of the better players from the combined rosters of the Orix BlueWave and the disbanding Kintetsu Buffaloes.

Orix got to keep every first- and second-year player, and the rights to every import under contract, then the teams chose up the rest of the guys. When Kintetsu’s player rep, Koichi Isobe, said he’d never play for Orix, Orix’s ownership said, “Not to worry. We won’t take anybody in the distribution draft that doesn’t want to play for us.”

At which point, Hisashi Iwakuma raised his hand and said, “Me, too. I’m out,” which the Orix owners ignored and took Kintetsu’s ace with the first pick of the draft.

When everyone asked about the Orix promise, Orix’s president said, “Well, you don’t expect us to let a pitcher we need go, do you?”

Iwakuma did end up with the Eagles, where he went on to more success, but only after refusing to go quietly into that Orix night and hold out, at which point Orix sold him to Rakuten.

If Yoshida, or ace Yoshinobu Yamamoto are expecting Orix’s owners to act like other teams and more or less honor their word or act honorably, they might be disappointed.

On the domestic side

One day after saying he needed to think about filing for free agency, Seibu Lions catcher Tomoya Mori made up his mind and filed.

The Osaka native is a domestic free agent, and it would be no surprise to see him join the Lions’ other escapees, Takayuki Kishi and Hideto Asamura, with the Rakuten Eagles, especially since Seibu’s handling of their free agents has been, “Here’s our offer. If you don’t like it, hit the road.”

Maybe they’re just lucky…

With too much time on my hands the other day while avoiding work I should have been doing, I decided to look at which teams’ batters got the highest and lowest percentage of calls in their favor on pitches they didn’t swing at.

The average for called balls on pitches taken this season was 65.55 percent. The standard deviation was 0.0168. Only the Yomiuri Giants were more than one standard deviation above the mean and nearly reached two. The Marines were just barely over one standard deviation below the mean, while the Carp’s hitters were 1.83 standard deviations below.

I was kind of surprised to see the BayStars so high up on the list, but the DeNA philosophy for years has been to go up hacking, and they took an NPB-low 9,904 pitches. The Eagles, Japan’s Imperial walkers, led both leagues in taking pitches.

TeamBallsCalled strikesBall Pct.

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