Tag Archives: Pierce Johnson

Padres to sign Pierce Johnson to 2-year deal: ESPN

Pierce Johnson, whose power curve served him extremely well in his 2019 NPB debut season with the Hanshin Tigers of Japan’s Central League, has agreed to a two-year deal with the San Diego Padres, according to ESPN’s Jeff Passan.

A former No. 1 draft pick of the Chicago Cubs, Johnson’s curve was selected in a poll of CL players as the best in the league. According to Delta Graphs, Johnson threw his curve nearly half the time and was rated at over two wins per 100 pitches, and led all NPB pitchers in wins from his curve.

He joins the steady stream of players who come to Japan, learn some new adjustments or simply get a different perspective on things, and then find MLB teams eager to put those skills to the test.

When I saw this, I went back to Delta Graphs and saw that Johnson’s fastball was ranked 18th in effectiveness among the 120 or so pitchers with 50-plus innings in NPB last season. It was below average effectiveness in the States.

To say his curveball was effective because of the fastball is no surprise. This happened with Masahiro Tanaka in 2018. His slider and split became more effective because of his superior command of the four-seam fastball.

Again, as Bill points out, pitchers finding something in Japan is no longer news and one reason why a huge number of players are seeing Japan as a win-win situation.

The kotatsu league: Tigers acquire reliever Edwards

The Hanshin Tigers of Japan’s Central League announced Saturday that former Indians Padres and Rangers reliever Jon Edwards has been acquired on a one-year contract estimated at $800,000 according to multiple media sources.

Edwards, who will turn 32 in January, is expected to take over the setup role vacated by Pierce Johnson, whose curve was very effective in 2019, his lone NPB season. According to Fangraphs Edward’s most effective pitch is his slider, so that will be a slight change. With former closer Rafael Dolis now out of the picture for 2020 as well, the club is probably seeing Edwards setting up for the ageless Kyuji Fujikawa next season.

Giants counting (on) Crow

Warren Cromartie has enjoyed his Giant-sized celebrations for decades.

Former outfielder Warren Cromartie will have a somewhat expanded role next season as a team advisor with the CL’s Yomiuri Giants, Nikkan Sports reported. Cromartie, a fan favorite in his seven seasons with the Giants from 1984, was a fixture at the batting cage prior to home games this year at Tokyo Dome.

According to the story, Cromartie (66), who I have ranked as the 126th most valuable player in NPB history despite his limited time here, will join the team on the road and in spring training, his schedule permitting.

The club hopes that Cromartie, who joined Yomiuri from the Montreal Expos, will be able to tutor newcomer Gerardo Parra, who arrives from the Nationals, in the spring.

Back in the day, Crow used to lead the Giants fans in cheers when the teams changed sides after Yomiuri put runs on the board. The scoring team’s fans will chant the players’ names who drove in runs in the inning, and typically the players will doff their caps, wave or bow. But Cromartie joined the fans and they cheered each other. So if all goes well, Crow’s new routine might involve the Baby Shark

And then there’s the other “news”

Here’s a sample of other headlines on Dec, 21, 2019, an offseason Saturday in Japan from online stories in the Nikkan Sports.

The kotatsu league: Buffaloes Jonesing for proven big-league power

The Orix Buffaloes announced Tuesday they had signed veteran major league outfielder Adam Jones to a two-year deal, according to Kyodo News. Junichi Fukura, the Pacific League club’s general manager, said he expects the 34-year-old to be able to adjust to Japan’s game.

Here’s Jones’ agent, Nez Balelo, talking at the baseball winter meetings about his client’s move:

Nez Balelo: “We didn’t kick around Andruw Jones.”

“A lot of foreign batters struggle with inside pitches, but from the video we’ve seen, it appears he can handle those,” Fukura told reporters at the baseball winter meetings in San Diego.

The contract is reported as being worth $8 million.

HERE’s a link to my review of veteran major-league home run hitters coming to Japan and playing more than one season.

Akiyama, Kikuchi in town for winter meetings

Free agent outfielder Shogo Akiyama arrived at the site of the winter meetings on Tuesday, while Mike Seal, the agent for Hiroshima Carp second baseman Ryosuke Kikuchi revealed to Kyodo News that his client, too, is in San Diego with roughly three weeks to go before the deadline for Kikuchi to sign a contract.

DeNA BayStars outfielder Yoshitomo Tsutsugo, whose posting period will end this week, is also currently in southern California.

Johnson takes his leave of Tigers

Right-handed reliever Pierce Johnson will not return to the Central League’s Hanshin Tigers for a second season, the Daily Sports reported on Tuesday.

Here’s Johnson’s NPB player page.

Johnson’s 40 holds was third in NPB behind Pacific League leader Naoki Miyanishi of the Nippon Ham Fighters’ 43, and Chunichi Dragons lefty Joely Rodriguez‘s 41. Rodriguez has since agreed to a two-year deal with the Texas Rangers.

Johnson’s curveball was rated by Delta Graphs as the most effective of any right-handed pitcher with over 40 innings last season, while his four-seam fastball was well above average.

According to the Daily Sports report, his agent, John Boggs, said he was in talks with nine to 10 big-league clubs.

Meanwhile, the Tigers have reached an agreement to sign pitcher Robert Suarez, who was released by the SoftBank Hawks.

The kotatsu league: Tigers set deadline for Johnson decision

The Hanshin Tigers have set a Dec. 12 deadline — the final day of the baseball winter meetings in San Diego to decide on whether to try and bring back reliever Pierce Johnson or pursue other options, the Hochi Shimbun reported Sunday.

A collection of Pierce Johnson’s curves and strikeouts.

The 28-year-old right-hander was one of the Central League’s premier middle relievers in his 2019 debut Japan season.

Tigers officials are now in the U.S. to try and iron out agreements with Johnson and fellow right-hander Rafael Dolis.

And a collection of Dolis’ 2019 strikeouts.

The kotatsu league: Johnson, Coco taking their leaves

Much of Friday’s news from NPB concerned foreign-registered players who will not be back next season with their current teams. The big leavers include two quality middle relievers and Japan’s single-season home run record holder.

Coco free to go go

Wladimir Balentien’s run with the Central League’s Yakult Swallows has come to an end Kyodo News reported Friday. According to the report, the Swallows international director Masayuki “Michael” Okumura said, “Time’s up. We were unable to come to agreement.”

The 35-year-old Balentien, who in 2013 shattered Japan’s single-season home run record by hitting 60, hit 288 home runs and posted a .378 on-base percentage in his nine seasons with Yakult. He led the CL in home runs three times, in on-base percentage twice and was 2013 MVP.

Because of his nine years of service, he no longer counts against the four-active-player limit for foreign-registered players.

Kyodo News’ Japanese language story is HERE.

Tigers’ Johnson 1 and done

Reliever Pierce Johnson (28) will be handed his release on Nov. 2, Kyodo News reported Friday. Johnson posted a 1.38 ERA in his lone Japan season with the Hanshin Tigers. He went 2-3 and logged 40 holds.

According to Delta Graphs, Johnson led all Tigers pitchers with 50-plus innings in swinging-strike percentage (16.0) –and was second in the CL. Opposing batters made contact on just 66.5 percent of their swings against him, the best figure in the CL and the fourth best in NPB.

Dragons’ Rodriguez leaving Nagoya

Left-hander Joely Rodrirguez, whose 44 “hold points” (holds plus relief wins) led the CL by two over Pierce Johnson’s 42, is also on his way out of the Chunichi Dragons organization, the team announced Friday according to Kyodo News.

Hiroyuki Kato, the Dragons’ official representative to NPB, said Rodriguez’s agent suggested “the lefty’s priority was a contract with an MLB team” and therefore the Dragons decided not to include him on their reserved list.

The 28-year-old Rodriguez, who has displayed a plus two-seamer and changeup, has been solid in middle relief since joining the Dragons in the middle of the 2018 seasons.

Uwasawa apologizes for broken kneecap

In today’s “Only in Japan” corner, Nippon Ham Fighters Opening Day Starter Naoyuki Uwasawa accepted a pay cut of 10 million yen ($94,000) because he missed half the season due to injury. The lefty, one of two starting pitchers used in a traditional fashion by Fighters manager Hideki Kuriyama this season, had his season ended on June 18.

A drive off the bat of DeNA BayStars slugger Neftali Soto struck Uwasawa on the left knee cap and broke it.

On Friday, he said, “I’m afraid I was unable to carry my weight and was a bother to the team.”

I don’t know about you, but that’s like getting hit by a bus and then apologizing to the driver that hit you for making him late.

Here’s the Sponichi Annex story.