Tag Archives: Hayato Sakamoto

I’ve got news for you

In each of the last years, players from the Central League champion Yomiuri Giants were required to walk across Japanese pro baseball’s busy postseason thoroughfare and for two straight years they were run over by a bus.

OK, it wasn’t a bus that hit them but the Pacific League’s Softbank Hawk. In two videos that @HinosatoYakyu uploaded to Twitter, ace pitcher Tomoyuki Sugano and the team’s captain, shortstop Hayato Sakamoto were asked what the difference was with SoftBank.

I guess when you get swept by the same team two years in a row after dominating your own league, it’s natural to ask what makes that other team so good, and find a simple solution. Giants manager Tatsunori Hara suggested that using the designated hitter would give the CL teams a fighting chance.

Here are my three most recent posts related to the gap between the leagues:

But hearing the Giants players speak almost makes it sound as if some people think the Hawks are the reason the Giants can’t win the Japan Series and not the general imbalance between the two leagues.

If you think that, then as Ray Charles sings in the Roy Alfred song, I’ve got news for you.

The Hawks, as the most dominant team in either league, are a reason the PL is stronger, but they aren’t the ONLY reason. How do we know? Because if we stripped the Hawks’ 214-126-14 interleague record, the other five PL teams would STILL be better in quality than the CL.

CL records vs the 5 weakest PL teams

YearsWinsLossesTiesWin Pct.Pyth.
’05-’0723623311.503.515
’08-’10176175 9.501.445
’11-’1315818419.462.440
’14-’16143153 4.483.457
’17-’191291374.485.471
“Pyth” represents the CL’s IL Pythagorean win pct. over each three-year period.

It’s not the bus that ran over the Giants that is the problem, but that the traffic in that road just moves too fast for CL teams to keep up, and if it wasn’t the Hawks, it would have been somebody else.

League, Interleague win. percentages since 2005

TeamLeague InterleagueIL +
Hawks.572.629+.057
Giants.547.525-.022
Lions.524.510-.014
Fighters.523.542+.019
Tigers.519.484-.035
Dragons.509.497-.012
Carp.493.436-.057
Marines.490.541+.051
Swallows.468.465-.003
Buffaloes.460.497+.037
Eagles.460.469+.009
BayStars.433.402-.031

Series 2020 Game 3

The SoftBank Hawks took a 14-game home winning streak in Japan Series games into Tuesday’s Game 3 against the Yomiuri Giants and extended it 15 with a 4-0 combined one-hit victory.

The Hawks have now won 11 straight series games after starting the 2018 series against the Hiroshima Carp 0-1-1. The Giants have lost eight straight, one shy of the series record nine straight they lost from 1958 to 1961,

Akira Nakamura, whose eight career Climax Series home runs tie him with a bunch of real home run hitters, hit Angel Sanchez’s worst pitch of the game through three innings, opening the scoring with a two-run, two-out, third-inning home run.

Nakamura, made it 3-0 in the seventh with an RBI single off reliever Yuhei Takahashi, who hit the first batter he faced and was charged with a run when Kan Otake surrendered an RBI single to Yurisbel Gracial.

That was enough for Matt Moore who pitched well and somehow managed to not surrender a hit through seven scoreless innings in which two runners walked and two reached on errors.

For the first time in the series, a Giants starting pitcher came out very sharp. Sanchez hit his spots, expanded the zone away to right handers with his cutter and threw some superb splitters and for the most part kept the Hawks from barreling up his mistakes. He survived a hard-hit first-inning single from Yuki Yanagita but an infield single and a hanging splitter to Nakamura gave away the lead.

Moore was not quite as crisp and seemed to have some trouble getting low strikes called, but he was helped out by some good fielding from his teammates — despite an ugly attempted rundown in the first inning. A big play at third base by Nobuhiro Matsuda turned a hard-hit ball into a force at second after Moore walked the leadoff man in the fifth.

Moore looked vulnerable in the sixth, after his own error allowed the leadoff runner to reach. He fell behind and two fastballs down the middle were hit to center field. Hayato Sakamoto, who’d barely failed to get all of a fat fastball in the fourth came to the plate.

After a meeting on the mound to make sure everyone was on the same page, the lefty unleashed his best fastballs of the game to start off Sakamoto before striking him out with offspeed pitches.

The Hawks held Sanchez’s feet to the fire sixth, when Nakamura, back in his groove after an uncharacteristically undisciplined first at-bat, drew a leadoff walk. Giants manager Tatsunori Hara issued an intentional walk to set up a double play against the hardest team to double up in Japanese baseball history, but got out of it when second baseman Naoki Yoshikawa speared a grounder headed for right and one or more runs.

The Hawks knocked Sanchez out in the seventh. With a single and a sacrifice and three lefties coming to the plate, the Giants went to lefty Yuhei Takanashi and things went downhill. Takanashi hit a batter, gave up Nakamura’s single. With one out, Kan Otake faced Yurisbel Gracial and gave up a single before the Giants finally got out of the inning.

Livan Moinelo opened with a strikeout and then worked around a one-out walk and a hit batsman by striking out two more. Yuito Mori allowed Yoshihiro Maru’s two-out single up the middle to keep the Giants from joining the 2007 Nippon Ham Fighters as the only Japan Series no-hit victims.

Wednesday’s Game 4 will put Tsuyoshi Wada in position to win his second straight Series clinching game. Wada, however, is the last Hawks pitcher to lose at home in the series, having dropped Game 6 in 2011 before he went to the majors and went through Tommy John surgery.

The Giants, who for some reason put their second best starter this season, Shosei Togo, in the bullpen, will start right-hander Seishu Hatake on Wednesday.

Game 3 starting pitcher profiles:

A pair of 30-something first-year imports get the starting assignments. The Hawks go with lefty Matt Moore, who suffered a hamstring injury early in the season that limited him to 78 innings.

Matt Moore

Threw his fastball 61.3 percent of the time, the second highest figure for any pitcher with 70-plus innings behind the Hanshin Tigers’ Shintaro Fujinami. Moore also throws his changeup and–like every Hawks pitcher–a curve of some sort. Moore’s curve averaged 127.7 kph this year according to Delta Graphs, that’s third fastest this season behind Sanchez (129.8) and Nippon Ham’s Nick Martinez (131.3).

Among pitchers who threw their change at least 10 percent of the time, Delta Graphs valued Moore’s as being the second most effective behind far-and-away 2020 leader Yuki Nishi. Moore was in fairly elite company this year with his swing and miss rate of 11.6 percent.

Angel Sanchez

Sanchez is only in his first year in Japan, but had good success with the SK Wyverns in KBO the past two seasons. Sanchez’s big pitch is his splitter, which he threw 21.8 percent of the time. He threw his cutter and curve a little less often.

Sanchez is good at getting guys to chase, which as I must have mentioned somewhere, seems to be the Giants’ team philosophy, but is not overly good at missing bats, which can be problematic against a hard-hitting team that makes good adjustments.

Setting the record straight

On Sunday, Nippon Professional Baseball announced that Yurisbel Gracial had tied a Japan Series record by scoring in nine consecutive games. On Monday, the body issued a correction, noting that the record is 12 games, set by former Hankyu Braves middle infielder Toshizo Sakamoto from 1968 Game 3 to 1971 Game 2.