The Nippon Ham Fighters will have their captain, center fielder and leadoff hitter Haruki Nishikawa, back for the 2021 season in Japan’s Pacific League after his posting deadline expired without a contract on Saturday afternoon.
The 28-year-old slap-hitting on-base machine, who was unlikely to match the $1.9 million he’d received the past two years in Japan, had stated his desire to go as a pursuit of learning things he couldn’t in Japan. One has to love that, but without power and with another slow winter free-agent market, it was going to be a tough slog for a guy on a 30-day deadline.
Although Yomiuri Giants ace Tomoyuki Sugano has been cleared for takeoff to the majors via the posting system, there was no word yet whether he will go ahead and test the waters in MLB’s petri dish next season until Thursday night in Japan. At that point, Kyodo News‘ Japanese side reported that the right-hander had indeed asked his team to file the paperwork to post him.
The story suggested that Sugano will see what the market its like but is not 100-percent sold on moving to MLB this winter.
The Sugano posting so far has been an inversion of the regular process. Prior to 2019, there were two posting patterns, one for 10 teams and another for the SoftBank Hawks and the Giants
Teams other than SoftBank and Yomiuri
Player speaks to media after meeting with team officials in December to discuss next year’s contract.
Player tells the media that he’s told the team he wants to be posted.
Team says it will be considered.
The following year, the team posts the player.
SoftBank Hawks posting
Player tells the media he wishes to be posted.
Team tells the player to forget about it and focus on baseball
Yomiuri Giants posting
Team denies any players will ever be posted.
Sugano tells everyone he’ll go when he can but never says he asks to be posted.
Team calls report that Shun Yamaguchi will be posted “untrue.”
Team posts Shun Yamaguchi.
One team official said policy toward posting players has not changed and that there are no exceptions — except Yamaguchi.
Another team official said policy toward posting players has not changed but that Tomoyuki Sugano is an exception.
Team reveals Sugano is free to go if he likes.
Sugano at some point reveals whether he will go or not.
Nishikawa joins Arihara in posting que
The Nippon Ham Fighters revealed Thursday that they have posted center fielder and leadoff man Haruki Nishikawa, who now joins ace pitcher Kohei Arihara in pursuit of major league work.
This past week, Hirokazu Sawamura filed for free agency, saying he would be open to offers from all 30 MLB clubs and all 12 in Japan. His teammate, Ayumu Ishikawa was allowed to go but decided against it this winter, citing the coronavirus situation in the States as one reason to stay put.
The Nippon Ham Fighters have agreed to post ace pitcher Kohei Arihara and center fielder Haruki Nishikawa, both 28, Sports Nippon first reported Tuesday, news that has since been confirmed by multiple outlets.
The Fighters are one of the Pacific League’s two minor powers over the past decade, but unlike their growth spurt after posting Yu Darvish, the team has skidded since sending Shohei Ohtani to the majors in 2018. Now they will lose a quality leadoff man — if someone takes Nishikawa — and their best pitcher, Arihara.
Japanese teams used to be able to decline insufficient posting fees but have since signed away those rights to MLB, so their only return in a soft market for Japanese position players is going to be minimal.
Arihara should net them around $10 million in fees when all is said and done.
The Fighters are in an interesting position. The team is not positioned to win for the next few years, and they will open their own stadium in 2023. Once they leave Sapporo Dome, the club will turn into a money-making machine, that could fund massive development and allow them to challenge the SoftBank Hawks, something they are incapable of at this instant.
The Seibu Lions have also invested heavily in infrastructure around the team’s home base in Saitama Prefecture on the western outskirts of Tokyo. That will likely keep the Lions from tumbling to where the Fighters are now, but their stadium’s location is always going to be a bottleneck for future success.
With Arihara and Nishikawa going into the December posting market, and Lotte Marines right-hander Ayumu Ishikawa taking a pass, that leaves Yomiuri Giants ace Tomoyuki Sugano left as the big name yet to decide. There has been chatter about Marines reliever Hirokazu Sawamura, and MLB teams ARE interested in his wild, fastball-forkball arsenal, but Sugano is the prize if he and the Giants decide the time is right.
Sugano will be an international free agent a year from now, and the Giants would love to keep him around to help at a third straight Japan Series defeat, I mean birth, but in the way few MLB teams and fans would understand, the Giants owe him the chance to go if he likes.
Sugano pitched OK in Game 1 of the Japan Series on Saturday, and the game could easily have gone the other way, but if you want to see the real deal, watch him in the 2017 WBC semifinal against the United States.
The Japanese Professional Baseball Players Association asked Monday if NPB could revise its player-entry procedures to account for players who begin their pro careers abroad following the abolition of its awful Tazawa Rule.
According to the Nikkan Sports, the union wants Japanese nationals who turn pro overseas to be treated in the same manner as imported players, who can negotiate to sign with a team of their choosing for whatever they can get.
NPB rules require Japanese nationals and non-citizens who finished their amateur careers in Japan to sign their first NPB contracts only after being selected in the annual new-player draft.
Even players with extensive major league experience can only enter NPP through the draft and then are subject to NPB’s salary structure. These limit first-year player salaries to15 million yen, roughly $160,000, along with a maximum signing bonus of 100 million yen ($950,000) and 50 million yen in incentives.
A Japanese national, such as Gosuke Kato, who has never lived in Japan but has played pro ball in his U.S. homeland for years, can only enter NPB on the same terms as an amateur in Japan. The was true for Mac Suzuki and more recently Junichi Tazawa. Had the draft rules been different, and had he not been banned from playing in NPB because of the Tazawa rule, Tazawa could have picked up his career this summer in NPB instead of turning to an independent minor league team.
Fighters to talk posting Arihara, Nishikawa
A pair of the Nippon Ham Fighters’ top players, ace right-hander Kohei Arihara, and centerfielder Haruki Nishikawa, reiterated their desire to move to the major leagues this winter via the posting system, Sponichi Annex reported.
Arihara’s 2020 season was in many ways the same as his 2019 second half, after he was unstoppable in the first half. He posted an 8-9 record and saw his ERA rise by a run.
Nishikawa, the ultimate Japanese slap-hitting up-the-middle defender, posted a career-high .430 on-base-percentage, largely because his .372 BABIP was near his career high and his batting average rose with it to .307.
Hawks exploit Lions rookie to gift Ishikawa
Nobuhiro Matsuda and Yuki Yanagita homered off Seibu Lions rookie Hiromasa Saito (0-1) in a three-run third inning, allowing Shuta Ishikawa (11-3) the chance to earn his 11th win as the SoftBank Hawks won 6-2 at PayPay Dome on Monday.
Matt Moore allowed a run over three innings, while Seibu starter Kona Takahashi threw two scoreless innings he needed to qualify among the league ERA leaders. Matsuda then tied it by leading off the third and Yangita put the Hawks ahead for good with his 29th home run, a two-run shot. By preserving the lead for three innings, Ishikawa tied for the league wins lead with SoftBank ace Kodai Senga and Hideaki Wakui of the Rakuten Eagles. The wins title is Wakui’s fourth and his first since 2015.
Senga and Ishikawa both won for the first time and became the first NPB pitchers to lead their league in wins after entering pro ball on non-roster developmental contracts. Senga also tied for the league-lead in strikeouts, while clinching the ERA title. Ishikawa posted the PL’s best winning percentage, .786.
Ukyo Shuto became the first Hawk to steal 50 bases in a season since 2011, the year the Hawks won the first of their six Japan Series titles during the 2010s.
Fighters end with win
Catcher Yushi Shimizu homered and drove in three runs to help the Nippon Ham Fighters erase an early deficit in a 7-4 come-from-behind season-ending win over the playoff-bound Lotte Marines at Chiba’s Zozo Marine Stadium.
The Marines, who will open the playoffs in Fukuoka on Saturday, finished second for the first time since 2007.
Active roster moves 11/9/2020
Deactivated players can be re-activated from 11/19
For the second straight night, a Yomiuri Giants hitter who had tied the game earlier with a home run came up with a chance to turn the game around with the bases loaded but were turned away by the BayStars bullpen. Two straight sixth-inning strikeouts stemmed the tide in DeNA’s 5-2 win at Yokohama Stadium.
The Giants loss completed a three-game sweep and prevented them from clinching the pennant in Yokohama. Their magic number, however, dropped to one after the Dragons lost to the Tigers.
Yoshiki Sunada struck out slugging on-base machine Yoshihiro Maru swinging on a 3-2 changeup and right-hander Shingo Hirata got Hiroyuki Nakajima looking at a 3-2 strike to enable starter Kentaro Taira (4-5) to earn the win after allowing a run in 5-1/3 innings.
Taira, who turned pro with the Giants, only pitched in one game for them before he was plucked from among the unprotected players on Yomiuri’s roster as compensation for the signing of free agent and current Toronto Blue Jay Shun Yamaguchi. This puts Taira in the same boat as his outgoing manager, Alex Ramirez, who finished his career in Yokohama after being discarded by the Giants, for whom he won two CL MVP awards.
And while Ramirez tends to be egregiously positive and would have congratulated his former skipper Tatsunori Hara had they clinched in Yokohama, you had to think that sweeping them and preventing them from celebrating in their home park had to be sweet.
Angel Sanchez (8-4) allowed two runs over six innings to take the tough loss and the BayStars piled three runs on after Sanchez was replaced with lefty Kazuto Taguchi. Tyler Austin and Neftali Soto each drove in a run in the inning.
Maru’s home run was his 26th of the season and the 200th of his career.
Jose Lopez had two hits, moving within two of 1,000 in Japan, a milestone that would make him one of three players with 1,000 in both MLB and NPB along with Ichiro Suzuki and Hideki Matsui.
Giants captain Hayato Sakamoto also had two hits, moving him within five of Japan’s iconic 2,000-hit milestone.
Nishi takes cue from Ono
Yuki Nishi (11-5) allowed six hits and a walk over the distance as the Hanshin Tigers took advantage of poor control from Yudai Ono (10-6) to beat the Chunichi Dragons lefty in a 3-1 win at Koshien Stadium.
The irony is that Nishi’s fourth complete game came against Ono, the guy they’e now calling “Mr. Complete Game” because he’s gone the distance in 10 of his 19 starts — a figure that seems incongruous in this age.
Nishi gave up the opening run, a leadoff shot in the first when Yota Kyoda barreled up a waist-high changeup and just cleared the fence at the right-field pole for his fifth home run. The right-hander overcame a two-out “triple” on a miss-played single to right and then shut down the Dragons the rest of the way.
Ono took the mound without his pin-point location but the Tigers only barreled up one of his mistakes in a two-run first. It went: bad pitch + bad swing = leadoff single; bad pitch + good swing = RBI double; tough pitch + good swing = infield single; and an RBI groundout when Yusuke Oyama chased Ball 4 but grounded to short.
The Tigers runs snapped Ono’s streak of 45 consecutive scoreless innings, and the loss dropped the Dragons into third place behind Hanshin.
Chono spoils Swallows’ rookie’s starting debut
Yakult Swallows 20-year-old rookie Yuto Kanakubo, their fifth pick in 2017, threw five scoreless innings in his first career start, but Hisashi Chono’s pinch-hit homer tied it in the Hiroshima Carp’s three-run seventh and both teams left the bases loaded late in the 3-3 10t-inning tie at Hiroshima’s Mazda Stadium.
Hawks speed past Marines
The SoftBank Hawks’ Ukyo Shuto set an NPB record by stealing a base in his 12th consecutive game and pinch-runner Go Kamamoto scored the winning run from second on a two-run wild pitch from closer Naoya Masuda (3-5) in a 4-3 win over the Lotte Marines at Fukuoka’s PayPay Dome.
Matt Moore went eight innings for the Hawks, allowing three runs, two earned, on five hits while striking out nine and walking none. Marines reliever Hirokazu Sawamura allowed the Hawks to close within a run in the eighth on a home run by Takuya Kai.
Eagles keep Lions at bay
The Rakuten Eagles took extra BP after the first pitch, hammering Zach Neal (5-8) for five runs over two innings on six hits and three walks in a 13-5 win at MetLife Dome over the Seibu Lions, who remain one game back of the Marines in the battle for the PL’s second and final playoff spot.
Rookie Eagles catcher Takaya Tanaka, a 28-year-old purchased from the Giants on Sept. 28 after two games with them, went 3-for-3 with his first career home run, a squeeze and three RBIs.
Fighters squeak past Buffaloes
Christian Villanueva tied it with a sixth-inning sacrifice fly, and Haruki Nishikawa manufactured the winning run in the 10th in a 4-3 win over the Orix Buffaloes at Sapporo Dome.
The Buffaloes’ back-of-the-bullpen duo, setup man Tyler Higgins and closer Brandon Dickson, kept the game tied 3-3 through nine with one perfect inning apiece. Nishikawa singled with one out and stole second. He slid headfirst and took third after catcher Torai Fushimi’s throw hit off him and into right field for an error. Ryo Watanabe then did his duty with a drive to right to score Nishikawa.
Bryan Rodriguez worked a scoreless inning of relief for the Fighters.
Viciedo out with shoulder injury
Chunichi Dragons’ first baseman Dayan Viciedo injured his left shoulder making a diving catch in the eighth inning of Wednesday’s game against the Hanshin Tigers at Koshien Stadium and was deactivated on Thursday.
The Dragons, who are the least forthcoming of Japan’s 12 teams regarding player injuries, said he was deactivated due to “insufficient upper body fitness.” This makes me wonder whether would use that catch-all to describe a player losing an arm in a traffic accident.
I’ve written before about how Japanese baseball’s ultimate mantra is “prepare and execute,” so when things go south, things must be done. At the very least, there must be “hansei” — self reflection — on one’s failures.
The big issues on Friday were the inadequacy of the current replay system. A string of challenges at Chiba’s Zozo Marine Stadium held up the Marines-Eagles game for nearly half an hour. They were a string of close plays that were not obviously wrong although one was overturned.
The rule in Japan is for the umps to uphold decisions on the field without clear evidence to the contrary. The most egregious mistake came when Akira Nakamura of the Hawks was granted a decisive tie-breaking home run on a foul ball because the poor quality of the monitor afforded the officials at Kyocera Dome made it look as if it had passed on the fair side of the foul pole.
When the umps saw it on a better quality monitor after the game, they realized it was obviously foul.
Osamu Ino, the director of NPB’s umpiring technical committee has in the past blamed the cheapskate owners for not making the umps job easier and then blasting the officials for not being able to make better decisions.
On Thursday, Haruki Nishikawa was called safe at second base on a stolen base attempt despite a fairly clear image of him being tagged before his foot hit the bag.