Tag Archives: Hotaka Yamakawa

NPB 2020 6-27 GAMES AND NEWS

Sunday’s announced starting pitchers are HERE.

Let’s go Jerry!

The Hanshin Tigers dialed the right number on Saturday, when they called up 2019 KBO RBI leader Jerry Sands to the active roster. Sands made a run-saving sliding catch in the fourth inning, and put the Tigers ahead for good in the ninth, with a two-out, three-run homer off closer Yasuaki Yamasaki (0-1) in an 8-6 win over the DeNA BayStars at Yokohama Stadium.

BayStars starter Michael Peoples allowed five runs in five innings. The right-hander struck out three, walked one and hit two. Jefry Marte’s sac fly opened the scoring in the first before Justin Bour singled in a run and stole a base in the visitors’ two-run inning.

The BayStars tied it in the bottom of the inning on doubles by Takayuki Kajitani, Neftali Soto and Keita Sano. With the score tied 2-2 in the bottom of the fourth, a BayStars runner on first an no outs, Sands slid into the left field corner to just snag a fly for the first out.

Trailing 6-5 in the ninth, Yamasaki, who also closes for Japan’s national team was in trouble for the second-straight game. The right-hander got two outs before walking Marte and pinch-hitter Yusuke Oyama. Sands belted a 1-2 pitch over the wall to put Hanshin in front.

Former Chicago Cubs and Texas Rangers reliever Kyuji Fujikawa, who reclaimed the Tigers’ closer role last summer, also got into hot water. The 39-year-old had blown his last save opportunity, the first time that had happened in over a year.

A walk to Soto, and a single to former Padre Tyler Austin, who drove in two runs in the sixth, put the tying runs on and a hit batsman loaded the bases with two outs before Fujikawa got out of it for his first save of the season.

Yamada crushes Giants

Tetsuto Yamada capped a sixth inning in which both teams combined for 11 runs with a grand slam as the Yakult Swallows beat the Yomiuri Giants 9-6 on Saturday.

Yamada doubled in a run and scored in the first inning, but the Giants pounded Swallows starter Yasuhiro “Ryan” Ogawa for four runs in the sixth, two on Gerardo Parra’s third home run, a two-run shot.

Yoshimi stops Carp, Dragons’ losing skid

Kazuki Yoshimi (1-1), once the ace of the Chunichi Dragons staff, pitched out of a fourth-inning jam to allow a run over five innings in a 6-1 win over the Hiroshima Carp. Yoshimi, who has a long history of elbow surgeries and has had seven 100-inning seasons but only two since 2012. He struck out two and hit a batter while allowing four hits, all singles.

With a 3-0, fourth-inning lead, back-to-back, no-out singles brought up Seiya Suzuki, but the Carp star grounded into a double play. With two out and two on, Yoshimi retired Alejandro Mejia on a fly out to end the inning.

Sato caps Marines’ victory with 1st career hit

Toshiya Sato, the Marines’ second pick in last autumn’s draft, drilled a pinch-hit single to the wall in the 10th inning to lift Lotte to a 2-1 win over the Orix Buffaloes.

Tyler Higgins, made his Japan debut by getting three outs in the bottom of the ninth with the bases loaded for the Buffaloes, while Marines relievers Jay Jackson and Frank Herrmann each struck out two in a scoreless inning of relief. Herrmann (2-0) got the win.

The Buffaloes have now lost five straight since right-hander Yoshinobu Yamamoto won last Sunday. With the Pacific League looking to reduce travel among its far-flung teams by holding six-game series, Yamamoto will go to the mound tomorrow to prevent the Buffaloes from suffering a six-game sweep.

Yamakawa decides Lions-Hawks slugfest

Takeya Nakamura, with six PL home run titles under his belt, and Hotaka Yamakawa, who owns the last two, each homered for the Seibu Lions in an 8-7 victory over the SoftBank Hawks at MetLife Dome.

The Hawks’ Yuki Yanagita set the tone early with a first-inning shot off Lions starter Wataru Matsumoto.

The Lions bullpen, which has been inconsistent to say the least, worked six scoreless innings, while allowing two walks and three hits.

Trailing 7-5 in the seventh, Sosuke Genda and Shuta Tonosaki singled off Sho Iwasaki (0-2) before Yamakawa hit his fourth homer of the season to put Seibu in front.

Reed Garrett, who struck out the side on Friday night to earn the win, retired all three batters he faced in the eighth, while closer Tatsushi Masuda survived a two-out triple to nail down his third save.

Asamura wrecks Fighters

Hideto Asamura took a hammer to the Nippon Ham Fighters, scoring twice and driving in seven runs in the Rakuten Eagles’ 18-4 blood-letting at Rakuten Seimei Park Miyagi.

Jabari Blash drove in three runs, scored twice, walked twice and singled for Rakuten, whose starter, former southpaw closer Yuki Matsui, surrendered four runs in four-plus innings.

Six Fighters pitchers combined to issue 10 walks.

Buffaloes call up Higgins

The Orix Buffaloes activated right-hander Tyler Higgins on Saturday to take the spot of Opening Day starter Taisuke Yamaoka, who strained an internal oblique tendon in the first inning of Friday’s start against the Lotte Marines in Chiba.

In two farm outings this season, the 29-year-old allowed a run on one hits and a walk, while striking out three. Higgins spent nine seasons in the minor leagues, mostly with the Miami Marlins. Last year, he pitched in 33 games for Triple-A El Paso, where the Padres assigned Japanese pitching coach Akinori Otsuka.

In his Japan first-team debut, Higgins came on with two on and no outs in the bottom of the ninth of a 1-1 game. After issuing an intentional walk, he retired the next three batters to send the game to an extra inning.

Tigers bring up KBO RBI king Sands

Outfielder Jerry Sands, who led the Korea Baseball Organization in RBIs last season, was called up for the first time this season by the Hanshin Tigers of Japan’s Central League on Saturday.

Since Opening Day, the Tigers have deactivated three imported pitchers, Onelki Garcia, Joe Gunkel and Jon Edwards. Their four active imports now are Sands, first baseman Justin Bour, third baseman Jefry Marte and reliever Robert Suarez.

“Hit it hard and make it fly Jerry. Home runs to left, home runs to right Jerry Jerry Sands Lets go! Jerry Sands Lets go!”

Jerry Sands cheer, as displayed on the big screen at Koshien Stadium this spring.

Sands has played in two games for the Tigers’ Western League farm club this summer and has one hit and three walks in seven plate appearances.

The Tigers started the season 1-6.

Scout Diary: Feb. 2, 2020. Hitters

Part 1 of this week’s scouting assignment is to try and unpack the astonishingly difficult world of evaluating hitters, starting with the difference between “pure” and “power” hitters following the lines laid down in the book “Baseball Uncenscored” by MLB scout John Story.

The mission

Part 1Identify one “pure hitter” as described in “Baseball Uncensored” and one “power hitter.” Describe how each is important in the line-up and why. How has the “power hitter” changed the game? How does this affect scouts when analyzing hitting?

Story writes that the goal of the good hitter is “to consistently hit the ball hard,” and that regardless how that goal is achieved, solid hitting mechanics are reason the best hitters achieve that goal. (p. 73) By that logic, the overall measure of the hit tool is the player’s ability to consistently hit the ball hard. The job of the scout, then, is to recognize this where it exists, and recognize what gifts a player has that will allow him to achieve this at a high level with proper attention to skills that can be developed and the effort required to master them.

He describes excellent hand speed and aptitude as natural abilities. Adjusting one’s hands to the pitched ball and a short compact stroke are, he writes, learned skills.

The big question for Story is whether a player has or can learn to generate bat speed. The key, he writes, is the hands, and how the small muscles trigger the swing. To this he adds, balance, knowledge of the strike zone and a good approach are also components.

So let’s look at two hitters, one pure hitter, and one power hitter.

Jump to 1 year as a scout page

Pure hitter: Kensuke Kondo

Kondo is a 26-year-old on-base machine for the Nippon Ham Fighters of Japan’s Pacific League. He qualifies as a pure hitter by virtue of his ability to consistently hit the ball hard. Here’s how he compares to other NPB hitters with 350-plus plate appearances the past two seasons according to Delta Graphs:

  • Lowest soft-contact percentage: No. 1 (2019), No. 8 (2018)
  • Lowest swinging strike percentage: No. 2 (2019), No. 4 (2018)
  • Lowest swing percentage out of zone: No. 7 (2019), No. 6 (2018)
  • Highest hard-contact percentage: No. 19 (2019), No. 10 (2018)

By those numbers we can deduce he consistently makes solid contact, knows the strike zone, and has a good approach. Here’s a youtube video of Kondo:

Kensuke Kondo

Here’s how Kondo looked in his days at Yokohama High School

Kensuke Kondo in high school.

Power hitter: Hotaka Yamakawa

Yamakawa is the first baseman and cleanup hitter for both the Seibu Lions and Japan’s national team. He was the PL’s 2018 MVP. His qualifications as a power hiter – according to the Story line – are: 23% of his fly balls are home runs, this was the 7th highest figure in 2019, the 5th highest in 2018.

In his career, he has hit one home run per 11.45 at-bats. Among hitters with at least 1,000 at-bats and 100 home runs, this rate – that Story calls “power efficiency” (p. 80) – ranks Yamakawa fifth  — in Japanese pro baseball history. Ranked ahead of him are: Sadaharu Oh (10.66), Randy “I’ll be a Hall of Famer in 2021” Bass (10.93), Charlie Manuel (11.25) and Orestes Destrade (11.35).

First, a look at Yamakawa in his days as a Fuji University star:

Hotaka Yamakawa in university
Hotaka Yamakawa during his first full season.

The power ball lottery

The realization over the past 10 years that balls driven at a velocity of at least 98 mph at an angle between 26 and 30 degrees result produces optimum results that often outweigh the cost of increased strikeouts has been the biggest game-changer since the period from 1919-1921. Then, the confluence of Babe Ruth showed home run hitting could be a productive tactic, and clean baseballs allowed others to replicate his experiment. Since then, the fear of the cost of a strikeout has steadily declined and now has all but evaporated.

If I’m a scout, I’m on the lookout for strong players with quick wrists, who can make the necessary adjustments. The other side of the coin is finding pitchers who can exploit those hitters, and consequently, batters who can put the ball in play against the shifts that have since been implemented.