Tag Archives: Nippon Ham Fighters

Faster, stronger, deadlier

When Japan finally realized its dream of hosting another summer Olympics, a big part of its bid campaign – other than greasing the wheels with $2 million dollars to a shady Singapore “consulting firm” serving as a conduit for alleged vote buying – was the assurance that the games would be safe from things like the March 2011 earthquake, tsunami and multiple nuclear meltdowns.

After spending millions and millions of dollars in repeated failed attempts lure the summer games over the years, Japan was not going to let the idea of 16,000 dead make anyone think bad things happen here.

“Japan is safe,” Japan’s then prime minister Shinzo Abe told the International Olympic Committee, when Tokyo’s titanic Olympic effort was launched in 2013 and declared unsinkable.

Since then, it has been: “Don’t worry about stadium costs. Don’t worry about logo plagiarism. Don’t worry about the effect on athletes and spectators from heat and humidity when Tokyo becomes a sauna in July and August. We’ve got this.”

To every problem that has arisen, the response of the government and organizers has been:

  1. Deny there is a problem.
  2. Downplay it.
  3. Insist the Olympics are simply too important to be affected by it.
  4. Admit that “No one saw this coming. What’s done is done.”
  5. Say, “Let’s move forward, because the Olympics are really important.”

When distance runners dropped like flies at the 2019 World athletics championships in Doha, the IOC unilaterally moved the Tokyo Olympic marathon to the northern city of Sapporo, outraging Tokyo governor Yuriko Koike. Of course, the IOC was complicit in handing Tokyo a summer Olympics IN THE SUMMER. Before the age of professionalism and big money TV deals, the first Tokyo Olympics were held in October.

So, when the coronavirus arrived, the style of the response was predictable. But unlike the customary costs of waste and fraud, denying and downplaying a deadly virus has given Tokyo an Olympic legacy future host cities will be hard pressed to meet.

The IOC at first joined the Tokyo Organizers in assuming the pandemic would be over in time to open the Olympics on July 24, 2020 and that there was no way the games could be postponed. The postponement which Abe announced but Japan never would have considered on its own, allowed to say everything will be safe by July 23, 2021.

But that time between Feb. 1 and March 24, a time when steps could have been taken to eradicate the virus in Japan the way it has been in Taiwan and New Zealand was wasted because high infection totals from testing and contact tracing would have been a bad look ahead of the Olympics. Once the postponement was in place, Japan issued a band-aid version of a state of emergency, where people were asked not to do things to increase infections but testing was still something the government was not on board with – because the Olympics in 2021 will be safe, right?

Last autumn, surveys indicated that the Olympic dream of sponsors, politicians and businesses poised to profit from them was not shared by 80 percent of the Japanese public, which had seen and heard enough. In accordance, IOC and the Japanese government began to switch from proclaiming Tokyo the first “post-pandemic Olympics” to the first “mid-pandemic Olympics.”

Four months ago, things appeared to be back on track as organizers and epidemiologists developed concrete plans in the Olympic Playbooks, but that optimism is now gone. Day by day, Japan watches as 2020’s policy of prioritizing the Olympics over testing and tracing is now bearing fruit in the form of rising infection rates from our fourth wave.

The international swimming federation had decided, according to the BBC, which saw the documents, to cancel its final Olympic diving qualifier in Tokyo over Japan’s inadequate coronavirus countermeasures and being asked to shoulder the burden of increased quarantines.

The event, however, is going forward, this week in Tokyo, without Australia, whose diving body declared them unsafe. Cancelling the Olympic qualifier would have been a bad look for Tokyo organizers, so I’m guessing the additional costs for coronavirus security that won’t be paid by the international swimming federation will be coming out of my taxes.

Meanwhile, the torch relay goes on, despite being canceled in some places, despite infections among relay organizing staff. It is like the Tokyo Olympics. It serves no purpose, except to build public support for the unpopular games, and is often being run away from the people it was supposed to entertain, while Olympic organizers reassure us daily that, “Yes, the Olympics will go on, and no, no one is considering cancellation.”

When the IOC began studying for its mid-pandemic event, it was encouraged by sports taking place in bubbles and by crowds at Japanese pro baseball, soccer and sumo. But that is no longer looking like the bright light it once was.

This week, the NPB’s Nippon Ham Fighters officially became an infection cluster, and so far, four of their first-team games and three of the club’s minor league games have been postponed.

But don’t worry, canceling the Olympics is not an option. Sure, if the U.S. athletics federation and swimming federation decide not to come, then there will be no Tokyo Olympics.

Until that happens, however, Japan’s dogged persistence to push forward regardless of the cost and opposition so far has taught us that no deaths will be too many for Japan to pull the plug on its own accord.

I swear, if these people were in charge of the Titanic in 1912, when two-thirds of the people aboard died two-thirds of the way to New York, the Tokyo Olympic organizers would have called it between 33 percent and 67 percent successful.

Arihara Leaves for U.S.

Making use of Twitter, he said, for the first time, new Texas Rangers pitcher Kohei Arihara left Japan for the United States on Sunday — see the translation below.

“I’m Kohei Arihara of the Texas Rangers, and I’m now departing for America, and I’ve begun using Twitter. Because of the coronavirus, it is a very difficult situation, I feel incredibly happy because I’m able to realize my dream of challenging myself in the major leagues. Although I am anxious about various things, I am going to give it my all. Here I go.”

— new Texas Rangers pitcher Kohei Arihara via Twitter

2-time PL champion manager Nashida tests positive for coronavirus

Masataka Nashida, who won Pacific League pennants with the Kintetsu Buffaloes and Nippon Ham Fighters and finished his managing career with the Rakuten Eagles, has tested positive for the new coronavirus, his management agency revealed Wednesday according to Kyodo News.

Here is a link to my coronavirus-NPB timeline

The 66-year-old former catcher had been resting since complaining of fatigue on March 25 and developed a fever three days later. On Monday he had trouble breathing and saw a doctor. He was admitted to a hospital on Tuesday, where he was diagnosed with severe pneumonia.

After a 17-year career with the Buffaloes, Nashida coached for the club and after winning the Western League pennant as their minor league manager in 1999, was promoted to manage the first team in 2000. In 2001, the Buffaloes went from last place to first but lost in the Japan Series to the Yakult Swallows.

He managed Kintetsu until the club was disbanded after the strife-torn 2004 season and merged with the Orix BlueWave. He went on to manage Nippon Ham in 2008 following the departure of Trey Hillman, and won the 2009 pennant, only to lose in the Japan Series to the Yomiuri Giants.

He managed the Fighters until 2011 and ran the Eagles from 2016 to 2018.

Scout diary: March 3, 2020 – Swallows’ and Hawks’ wings

Tuesday’s preseason game between the Yakult Swallows and Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks gave me a chance to see some players for the first time. So here are my notes on some players of interest. Because the game was at PayPay Dome in Fukuoka, the Hawks’ home broadcast displayed most pitches’ spin rates.

This took me back to talk in my scouting course of average rates for MLB. But before you get into that, have a look at this nifty article about spin efficiency by Trevor Powers. As far as I understand it, fastball movement can be improved, without increasing spin, by throwing the ball so that the spin axis is perpendicular to the direction of the ball.

As I watched the game after reading this — with knowledge of the spin rates different pitchers put on their deliveries — who is more or less efficient. The Fighters and Giants played at night, and I got a good look at Nippon Ham’s top pick Ryusei Kawano.

RHP Yuki Tsumori, Hawks

A 22-year-old right-hander (born 1/21/1998), Tsumori was the Hawks’ third draft pick last autumn out of Tohoku Fukushi University. He throws straight side-arm, with 142 kph velocity on his fastball and a sweeping slider. He threw five pitches and missed most of his spots.

RHP Noboru Shimizu, Swallows

A 23-year-old right-hander (born 10/15/1996), Shimizu was Yakult’s top pick in 2018 and had a rough 1st year, allowing frequent walks and home runs. Because he only threw 26 innings with the big club, he still qualifies as a rookie.

Shimizu throws 3/4. He sat at 147 kph with some hop on the fastball. He threw forkball, that Data Stadium identified as a two-seamer that got him swings and misses, and threw a curve that he didn’t command well, but looks like it could be good in time as he can spin that puppy about the MLB average of 2,500 RPM.

LHP Yuto Furuya, Hawks

Furuya is a 3/4 lefty, who is 21 (born 2/19/1999) who was Softbank’s second pick in 2016. He is described as having a fastball with good movement, but they were fairly straight on Tuesday, and he missed lots of targets.

LHP Hiroki Hasegawa, Swallows

Hasegawa is a 3/4 lefty who is also a SoftBank product, having signed with them out of the 2016 developmental draft. His fastball touched 153 kph with spin rates close to 2,400 RPM. The fastball command was spotty. He also had a forkball that tumbled and missed bats. He’s 21 (born 8/23/1998) and there’s a lot to work with.

LHP Ryusei Kawano, Fighters

The 21-year-old 3/4 lefty (born 5/30/1998) was Nippon Ham’s top draft pick last year. Against Yomiuri on Tuesday, he showed a 147-kph four-seamer that he sometimes had terrific movement on. His command improved as the game went on, and he then showed:

  • Slider, one that sweeps and one that drops
  • curve he can throw at different speeds
  • A splitter (looked like his sweeping slider though)
  • A forkball change that he gets on top of and runs it away from right-handed hitters like a screwball.

His delivery has a funky, start-stop to it. In this game, he kept everything down, but given how well he manipulates the ball, he has a lot of room for growth and adjustment. At first glance, he reminds me of a left-handed Tomoyuki Sugano although the command will have to come. The fastball, change, and curve are all above average with a lot of upside.

Open and shut: NPB goes under cover

I’m calling this spring’s preseason stories “Open and shut” since a main theme so far is 72 exhibitions scheduled to be played behind closed doors as Japanese companies are being asked to curtail large gatherings in order to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Sands opens with pair

Hanshin Tigers newcomer Jerry Sands blasted two of his team’s five solo home runs in a 5-4 win over the SoftBank Hawks on Saturday. The Tigers got three scoreless innings from their Opening Day starter, Yuki Nishi, and another scoreless frame from former Hawk Kenichi Nakata.

Yusuke Oyama, who is fighting to secure the starting third base job for Hanshin, also homered twice, while 2016 rookie of the year Shun Takayama homered to continue his comeback spring effort. Hawks starter Nao Higashihama allowed four solo homer, all off breaking pitches.

Matsui goes 5 in Eagles restart

Yuki Matsui, making the shift from closer, started and went five innings for the Rakuten Eagles in a 4-2 win over the Lotte Marines. J.T. Chargois and Alan Busenitz worked scoreless innings in relief for the Eagles, while former Eagle Frank Herrman and former Carp Jay Jackson each worked an inning for Lotte.

The PL clubs exchanged a host of players over the winter via free agency and other deals with. Herrmann, (Opening Day starter) Manabu Mima, and a pair of young minor leaguers, infielder Kenji Nishimaki and pitcher Fumiya Ono joined Lotte. Going the other way were Lotte’s former captain, infielder Daichi Suzuki, veteran right-hander Hideaki Wakui and pitcher Tomohito Sakai.

Buffs, Fighters show off season openers

The Orix Buffaloes’ Taisuke Yamaoka worked five scoreless innings, while the Nippon Ham Fighters’ Kohei Arihara allowed a run in three as the two teams went with their Opening Day starters. Orix newcomer Tyler Higgens worked a scoreless inning of relief.

Orix first baseman Takahiro Okada, who was exiled to the minors for the duration of the season after letting a routine grounder go through his legs last summer, homered in his first at-bat.

Viciedo blasts off

Dayan Viciedo homered and singled in his home preseason debut at a silent Nagoya Dome, while new Carp pitcher DJ Johnson allowed a run in one inning of work.

Camping World: Feb. 18, 2020

The Hanshin Tigers have named Yuki NIshi as their Opening Day starter the Daily Sports reported Tuesday.

“The deciding factor is his leadership of the pitchers. He’s demonstrating that he wants it,” manager Akihiro Yano said.

Nishi joined the Tigers a year ago from the Pacific League’s Orix Buffaloes, and went 10-8 with a 2.92 ERA. His English NPB players page is HERE.

Cousin picks walk-up music

Nishi’s distant cousin, Tigers’ first-round draft pick, Junya Nishi, has selected the music to be played for him at Koshien Stadium according to the Daily Sports.

The music for the slugging pitcher who has been working out at the minor league camp in Aki, Kochi Prefecture is going to be Shota Shimizu’s “Kazenifukarete.” While the Tigers have not said anything about the possibility of using Nishi in the lineup, at least we know what music he’ll have if he ever gets to the first team. #TigerPriorities

So far so good for Austin

Tyler Austin continued to rake on Tuesday. After homering twice and singling in his preseason debut on Sunday, the new DeNA BayStars import doubled and walked in a 1-0 practice game loss to the Central League rival Yakult Swallows.

2 solid innings for Fighters’ VerHagen

Drew VerHagen retired six of the seven batters he faced on Tuesday in the first live game action he’s seen with the Nippon Ham Fighters in a 5-0 win over KBO’s Samsung Lions, the Nikkan Sports reported. The 28-year-old threw seven first-pitch strikes, touched 147 kph and mixed in his slider and change, striking out three.

Marte homers in 1st game of spring

Jefry Marté, who is being asked to compete for the third base job following the offseason acquisition of first baseman Justin Bour, homered in the Tigers’ intrasquad game on Tuesday, his first game action of the spring according to the Daily Sports.