NPB news: Oct. 18, 2022

New Marines commandant Masato Yoshii and new Lions trainer Kazuo Matsui answered questions for the media Tuesday, while new old Hanshin manager Akinobu Okada spoke on Sunday, and I’ll give you some of those riveting exchanges.

We also had our final monthly award winners, two going to one league’s pennant winner, while the other league’s both went to its last-place team. Seven teams announced their first-round picks in Thursday’s draft, and we had the first trade of the offseason.

Some people asked where they could get the Bill James Win Shares calculations for NPB that I use to inform my award voting and which are rather different from WAR. So I’ll post the last three season’s files for you.

Managing the media

Here’s what the skippers had to say. And, I’ll be honest, I didn’t expect a question about a manager’s fashion choice prior to the draft, when that is expected.

Masato Yoshii

-How did you feel when offered the job?

Yoshii: “Because I hadn’t predicted it at all, I thought it was a big ask. I had to sleep on it, but I didn’t have a single reason for turning it down. I think everyone in this business wants to manage.”

-What are your expectations for Roki Sasaki?

Yoshii: “The target for this season was for him to pitch the whole season on the first team, regardless how that panned out. Next year, that bar will be raised a notch, for him to improve his fitness so that he can take his turn every seventh day.”

-What’s your ideal baseball?

Yoshii: “I want to have big innings early. I think it’s hard to deny that a team that can manage that is the strongest.”

-What are your team’s strengths?

Yoshii: “When this team is good, it’s unbelievably strong. When it’s not, it’s hopeless. I want to eliminate that gap.”

-What is needed to win the Japan championship?

Yoshii: “A lot of things. I think baseball is a momentum-dependent sport. I want to construct a team that can always create momentum and hold on to it.”

Kazuo Matsui

-Do you have a vision?

Matsui: “Aggressive running baseball. Making use of your speed, how you score one run, and you can prevent one run. Running diligently will be the first theme of our autumn minicamp, and we’ll build from there.

-What did you learn from outgoing manager Hatsuhiko Tsuji this year (as head coach)?

Matsui: “He talked to me about the finding the right ways for players to go at it, and the ways the team can win.”

-You’re wearing a blue necktie

Matsui: “New Hanshin manager (Akinobu) Okada wore a yellow one, so I opted for Lions blue.”

Akinobu Okada

Okada, wearing a yellow tie ostensibly, spoke to the press on Sunday:

-How do you feel at this instant?

Okada: “Watching from the stands, I had this great desire of wanting to do something. From the standpoint of my age, I can’t do it for many years. It’s unbelievable that we haven’t been able to win a championship since we took the 2005 pennant.”

-People are expecting a pennant after 18 seasons without one.

Okada: “I hate all this ‘pennant, pennant’ talk, but having said that, this is a team that is capable of winning one. First of all, we need to raise the quality of our current talent base.”

-What kind of baseball do you aspire to?

Okada: “For a long time we’ve been a defense-oriented club, without much expectation for scoring runs. We’ve been making errors at crucial moments. We need to get down to business and fix that.”

-Where can you get stronger?

Okada: “The heart of the order will revolve around (Yusuke) Oyama and (Teruaki Sato). I want to have them become fixtures at one position and let them carry the team. Ideally, I think Oyama would play first and Sato third, and would keep them there every game, not even taking them out for pinch-runners.”

-The pitching staff?

Okada: “(Koyo) Aoyagi and Masashi Ito have more or less established themselves at the top of the rotation. I think it’s up to the younger pitchers to compete for the remaining jobs.”

Draft targets

Thursday is Japan’s draft day, and as of Tuesday, seven teams have already announced who they will name in the first round of the new-player draft.

These are:

TeamPlayerPosCurrent Affiliation
GiantsShogo AsanoOFTakamatsu Shogyo HS
CarpYuta SaitoPTomakomai Chuo HS
BuffaloesRyuhei SotaniPHakuo Univ.
HawksIkhine ItuaIFHomare HS
LionsTakuya HirumaOFWaseda Univ.
EaglesKosei ShojiPRikkyo Univ.
FightersKota YazawaP-OFNippon Sports Science Univ.

Trade No. 1

The Hanshin Tigers and Nippon Ham Fighters conducted the first trade of the offseason on Tuesday, with Nippon Ham sending 27-year-old second baseman Ryo Watanabe and 26-year-old infielder Yuto Takahama, the brother of former Tigers outfielder Takuya Takahama to Hanshin in exchange for 29-year-old perpetual outfield prospect Taiga Egoshi and 27-year-old right-hander Yukiya Saito.

Both Watanabe and Egoshi have had a smattering of regular playing time, but have failed to cement their positions. As is usually the case with most trades, none of the players are expected to have much value for any of the teams involved, since rule No. 1 is never trade anyone who will make you look bad by actually contributing to another team. It is far easier in Japan to sit on one’s hands and do nothing, than to risk being criticized for doing something.

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