Tag Archives: Randy Bass

Hall of Fame time 2020

By this time tomorrow we’ll know whether or not a large majority of voters for Japan’s Hall of Fame have stepped up to the plate and done their job or are still in need of a spine transplant.

I’ve written at length about the players division and Tuffy Rhodes, who I rank as the 31st best player ever to lace up his spikes in NPB. Rhodes was left off over 60 percent of last year’s ballots to finish ninth behind eight guys who are in most ways less qualified then him.

Former White Sox reliever Shingo Takatsu, who was runner-up in last year’s players division ballot, and has an argument for selection in that he was for a time NPB’s career saves leader. He and Hall of Famer Kazuhiro Sasaki were really the first two Japanese closers who were effective year after year at a relatively high level. They were both eventually surpassed by Hitoke Iwase, but their achievements still deserve some recognition.

The experts division, however, is more interesting. Last year’s runner-up with 64.7 percent of the 75 percent needed for induction was slugging Hanshin Tigers catcher Koichi Tabuchi. Right behind him, however, was Tigers first baseman and two-time triple crown winner Randy Bass.

I’ve written about Bass a bit. His career profile would have been better had he played in Japan longer, but he had to return to America when his child needed cancer treatment and that was that.

In my book, Venezuelan first basemen Roberto Petagine and Alex Cabrera had better careers in Japan than Bass, but neither were particularly well-liked by the media, almost a prerequisite for selection by baseball writers. Tom O’Malley, too, probably had a better career here, but the likable Bass’ claim to fame as the MVP on a historic franchise’s first Japan Series championship team — and two triple crowns — carries more cache.

By my count, Tabuchi is the third greatest catcher to ever play in Japan, behind Hall of Famer Katsuya Nomura and the recently retired Shinnosuke Abe. I also think Tabuchi is the second-best candidate on the expert’s division ballot. The best, and I have him as the second greatest third baseman of all time, is yet another Tiger, Masayuki Kakefu.

Kakefu was a distant third in last year’s ballot. Behind Tabuchi’s 64.7 percent and Bass’ 63.2 percent, Kakefu mustered only 30.8. But if Bass and Tabuchi go in this year, Kakefu is sure to shoot up in the voting.

My ballot for 2020

My ballot, in the order I believe they deserve to go in is:

  1. Tuffy Rhodes
  2. Hiroki Kokubo
  3. Norihiro Nakamura
  4. Takuro Ishii
  5. Kenji Jojima
  6. Alex Ramirez
  7. Shingo Takatsu

Mind you, Tuffy was fond of saying about long home runs, “If they go in (the seats) that’s all that matters.”

The kotatsu league: Tigers conclude Bour hunt, Giants rearm

The Hanshin Tigers on Saturday announced they have acquired 31-year-old slugging infielder Justin Bour on a one-year deal reported at $2.5 million according to Kyodo News (in Japanese).

One interesting thing about Bour is that according to Fangraphs he has a fastball hitter with a history of success against curveballs. While most of the curves he sees in Japan will be a little different from those he was more used to in the States, it suggests some ability to adjust off the fastball. He will see really good breaking balls, and it would be no surprise if he still has good success once he gets his timing down — until the locals wise up and become more selective.

When the deal was first agreed to, Tigers head of baseball operations Osamu Tanimoto compared Bour to former Tigers icon Randy Bass because of his ability to drive the ball to the opposite field — potentially negating the impact of the jet stream blowing in from Osaka Bay that holds up fly balls hit to right field at Koshien Stadium.

As a matter of interest HERE are how NPB’s different main parks affect the frequency of home runs hit by left- and right-handed hitters — with the higher figures indicating how much harder it is to hit home runs based on which side of the plate the batter bats from.

Sanchez to Giants

On Friday, the Yomiuri Giants announced they had concluded a contract with 30-year-old right-handed pitcher Angel Sanchez, who went 17-5 with a 2.62 ERA last season for the SK Wyverns of KBO. Sanchez was in his second season in South Korea. His two-year contract with the Central League champs will pay him approximately $3 million for the first year according to Kyodo News Japanese language site.

The Giants are going to lose their best pitcher from 2019, Shun Yamaguchi unless the right-hander fails to sign an MLB contract by the end of his 30-day posting window.

In a statement released by the team, Sanchez, who is from the Dominican Republic, said coming to Japan had been a dream of his since he was a child and that he was eager to learn the language so he could communicate with fans and teammates.

Bolsinger still available

Mike Bolsinger, who was released this month after his second season with the Lotte Marines, surprisingly remains on the market. Following a 2018 debut campaign in which nearly everything went right and he finished with a 13-2 record, Bolsinger was 4-6 in 2019 with an ERA 1.5 runs higher than the year before.

Although Zozo Marine Stadium had new turf in 2019, Bolsinger suffered from a foot injury through the first half of the season, when he went 1-3 with a 4.87 ERA over 57-1/3 IP through June. During that stretch, he allowed 12 homers and walked 34 batters. From July, he was 3-3 with a 4.34 ERA while walking 18 batters over 45-2/3 innings and allowing two home runs.

Take him to the SoftBank

This should trigger your “small sample size” alarm, but Bolsinger is 4-2 in his seven starts against the three-time defending Japan Series champion SoftBank Hawks with 1.41 ERA and an average game score of 62.7.

To show you he’s human, the two-time defending PL champion Seibu Lions batters have treated Bolsinger like he doesn’t walk on water, handing him a 6.81 ERA and a 3-2 record over eight starts. Still, that’s 15 starts against the Marines’ two toughest opponents out of 35 career starts against the five other PL teams.

As I pointed out somewhere, that besides the foot issue, Bolsinger’s biggest shift from 2018 was in how often batted balls found holes against him. Opponents batted .278 against him on balls in play a year ago and .295 through June — when he was not pitching well. From July, when he had stopped giving up walks and home runs, opponents’ Babip was .329.

I’m biased because Bolsinger is a good guy, and easy to talk to, but those are the facts. The team that picks him up should get a bargain and results somewhere in between what he did in 2018 and 2019.

The kotatsu league: Moves aplenty

Tigers announce Bour agreement

The Hanshin Tigers announced Thursday that they have come to terms with Justin Bour. The team’s director of baseball operations, Osamu Tanimoto said, “He reminds one of (two-time triple crown batter Randy) Bass.”

@thehanshintiger might have said: “Welcome to the monkey house”

The comparison is not utterly without merit since both came to Hanshin as left-handed hitters with some pop who drew walks, but their ages and career paths prior to signing with Hanshin are so different.

Kyodo News Plus’ story is HERE.

Unlike Bass, who was at the age of 21 one of the best Triple-A hitters in America and then got better, Bour came out of college and didn’t make it to Triple-A until he was 26. The following year he had 446 plate appearances for the Marlins. Bass had 366 plate appearances over six major league seasons, most coming in his Age 27 season with the San Diego Padres in 1981.

It’s not hard to look at Bour’s major league career and see Bass doing the same or even a little better. Of course Bass came to Japan at the age of 29, while Bour is nearly two years older.

Bass’ Japanese batting stats are HERE, in Japanese unfortunately.

Although Bass took a couple of years to really master the Japanese strike zone, he had two seasons when he walked more often than he struck out — something that had been routine for him in the minors.

I’m not saying Bour has no chance to be nearly as good, but Bass — whose bid for the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame is gaining momentum in the expert’s division, is a fairly optimistic target.

Sugano wants 20 wins before moving to majors

Kyodo News reported that Yomiuri Giants ace Tomoyuki Sugano has set a target of 20 wins for next season after a 2019 campaign that was marred by injury and ended his bid for an unprecedented third straight Sawamura Award. The Kyodo News story as published by Nikkei Shimbun is HERE.

Sugano’s player profile is HERE.

“I want to try and win 20 games,” he said after signing his 2020 contract. “I understand what I am capable of, and I think it’s important to go into the offseason having set oneself such an issue to attend to.”

On Wednesday, Giants owner Toshikazu Yamaguchi left the door open a crack for the possibility that Sugano could be posted, even while asserting that the club has not changed its official policy of rejecting the posting system altogether.

Yamaguchi said, “The case of (pitcher Shun) Yamaguchi was an individual exception…Sugano, of course, sat out a year as an amateur (to sign with the Giants) and so that is something that could be taken into consideration.”

On Thursday, Sugano said, “My desire (to go to MLB) remains unchanged. But my focus is on next year. I want to take care of that business, aim for a championship, and after that, I expect there will be various discussions.”

No such luck for Senga

Asked whether the Giants move to discuss posting had changed the landscape for his team, SoftBank Hawks owner Masayoshi Son, said in essence, “No, no, and hell no.”

“Why should we do anything that’s not in the team’s best interest.”

This does not bode well for star right-hander Kodai Senga, who will not be able to file for international free agency until Nov. 2024 at the earliest, — when two months before he turns 32. Although some said hell had frozen over when the Giants posted Yamaguchi, it seem

Hawks ditch Miranda, Suarez

The SoftBank Hawks announced Thursday they will not offer contracts to to left-hander Ariel Miranda and right-hander Robert Suarez. Suarez had been a bullpen workhorse in 2016, but has not been as effective after needing elbow surgery after the 2017 World Baseball Classic.

After eight impressive starts in 2018, Miranda was much less effective this season over 18 games.

Hotaka Yamakawa and the art of 1st team survival

Nobody in Japan hits home runs as often as Hotaka Yamakawa, not Shohei Ohtani, not Yuki Yanagita, not anybody. So how come it took the Seibu Lions’ big bopper so long to earn playing time?

It’s complicated.

And in case you’re curious about who in NPB history with 50 or more home runs has hit them more often than Yamakawa, there are only two. One is in the Hall of Fame, one is likely to earn admission to the Hall of Fame through the expert’s division ballot within a few years. They are Sadaharu Oh (10.66 at-bats per career home run), Randy Bass (10.93) and Yamakawa (11.08).

This summer I spoke with Yamakawa several times about his early playing time mystery and he explained how an attitude adjustment — and good luck opened the door for him. You can find that story on Kyodo News here.

Complete NameABHRAB per HR
Sadaharu Oh925086810.6566820276
Randy Bass220820210.9306930693
Hotaka Yamakawa9538611.0813953488
Chuck Manuel212718911.253968254
Orestes Destrade181616011.35
Rick Lancellotti6675811.5
Ralph Bryant298025911.5057915058
Tony Solaita178615511.5225806452
Hal Breeden9217911.6582278481
Tyler Van Burkleo6565511.9272727273
Roberto Petagine283023312.1459227468
Wladimir Balentien310325512.168627451
Tyrone Woods294024012.25
Koichi Tabuchi588147412.4071729958
Larry Parrish8747012.4857142857
Alex Cabrera451035712.6330532213
Adrian Garret130210212.7647058824
Clarence Jones318224612.9349593496
Mike Diaz12569313.5053763441
Tuffy Rhodes627446413.5215517241
Gene Martin256218913.5555555556
Takeya Nakamura523338513.5922077922
Jack Howell136510013.65
Bernardo Brito6845013.68
Hideki Matsui457233213.7710843373

More to come from PL MVP Yamakawa

Hotaka Yamakawa has only been the Seibu Lions’ regular first baseman for 1-1/2 years, but the Okinawa native has already established himself as an elite home run hitter, but during the Japan MLB-All Star Series, he sounded an ominous warning.

Although he led both of NPB’s elite leagues in home runs with 47, Yamakawa said his glass was only half full. He hit well enough against pitchers he sees over and over during the year and was honored as the Pacific League’s MVP this year, but against major leaguers he’d never faced, he looked completely lost.

“I dislike facing pitchers for the first time,” he said. “On top of that, the major league pitchers have good late movement on their fastballs. It’s clear from this that I have a lot to learn about getting the barrel of the bat on the ball.”

Among all players in NPB history with a minimum of 750 plate appearances, Yamakawa ranks third in home run frequency behind only Hall of Famer Sadaharu Oh, and iconic Hanshin Tigers slugger Randy Bass.

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“I hit 40 home runs this year, so I know I have power. But you know what? I hit almost all of them without really squaring it up. So that’s something I need to work on,” He said that prior to Game 3 when he had a good pinch-hit at-bat that turned series around.

“Whatever I learn here, I’m going to apply as much as I can going forward.”

And as scary a hitter as Yamakawa already is, the idea of him making even better contact is not a pleasant one for PL pitchers.