Tag Archives: Short starter

Fighters skipper Kuriyama to quit

The Nikkan Sports reported Wednesday that Hideki Kuriyama (58) has told the Nippon Ham Fighters that he will step down after managing the club after eight seasons due to poor results.

The club will finish fifth in the PL for the second time since the Fighters won the league and the Japan Series in 2016.

The Nikkan Sports said the story was confirmed by sources close to the skipper, who is expected to meet with the team president when the season ends and make a formal declaration at that time.

Both Kuriyama’s managing and his situation within the Fighters’ organization have been outliers in Japanese baseball. He is the one credited with offering Shohei Ohtani the chance to both pitch and hit as an 18-year-old in 2013, and this year became the first Japanese manager to employ a regular opener and the first in decades to employ extreme defensive shifts.

Before he was promoted to be Fighters General Manager, Hiroshi Yoshimura said it was extremely hard for the Fighters to find a suitable manager, because the team’s system goes against the grain of Japanese baseball tradition, where the manager (unless he is a foreigner working for Hiroshima or Orix) has final say over player personnel decisions and draft picks.

That system evolved after the club’s move to Sapporo in 2004 through the aegis of chief executive Toshimasa Shimada, General Manager Shigeru Takada and manager Trey Hillman.

“It’s not easy for us to find a manager,” Yoshimura said. “Because Japanese managers are used to getting their way.”

Yoshimura’s words proved prophetic over the winter of 2011-2012 in Yokohama, where Shigeru Takada imported elements of Nippon Ham’s front office management style when he moved to become BayStars GM. Kimiyasu Kudo turned down the DeNA job because he would not have full control, and they instead turned to Kiyoshi Nakahata.

Being the Nippon Ham Fighters manager means access to an analytic team that is very strong by Japan standards, and players who are trained and developed the way the organization sees fit.

Being something of an iconoclast and also someone who sees himself as an innovator who takes novel ideas and runs with them Kuriyama sometimes gets into trouble with old-school guys.

Pitching coach Masato Yoshii quit the Fighters after the 2012 season because of Kuriyama’s desire to use pitcher Yuki Saito on the first team when he was not good enough for the farm team.

Asked about it afterward, Yoshii said he left because, “I wanted to be on a team with a manager who wants to win.”

Yoshii returned four years later but quit last autumn, reportedly over Kuriyama’s decision to employ “short starters,” pitchers who would start and only go through the opposing order once or twice depending on their ability.

The Nikkan Sports story said the organization sees the team’s results as a failure of player development — an area technically beyond Kuriyama’s reach.

NPB games of Aug. 15, 2019

The Seibu Lions take a walloping for the decade and the analysts on Pro Yakyu News suggest the Lions — with an ERA in August over 6.00 should try something like an opener or short starters, because they lack starting pitching.

That assumes the Fighters went to that tactic because of a lack of starting pitching, and not for another reason.

Should the Lions go short?

It’s hard to judge how effective the Fighters’ use of short starters and opener Mizuki Hori has been this season because we can’t compare them to themselves. The Fighters have allowed 4.48 runs per nine innings over the first five innings of their games this season, a figure second-worst to the Lions in the PL. Still, it is hard to know if manager Kuriyama’s plan to limit his pitchers’ overexposure is helping or hurting.

Through Wednesday, Fighters opponents had only 374 plate appearances against a pitcher past his 18th batter faced in a game, the fewest number in NPB by a huge margin — the BayStars at 560 are next fewest. Less than 31 percent of those batters reached safely by any means, the lowest in NPB while slugging .418 — NPB’s fourth-best figure.

Lions opponents, on the other hand, have sent 772 batters to the plate against a pitcher who had already faced 18 batters, the second-highest NPB total next to the Hanshin Tigers’. And the Lions’ results in those plate appearances, an NPB-worst.367 raw on-base percentage, and a second-to-worst .480 slugging average are probably a good indication that leaving their starters out there because it’s old school ain’t working.

So give credit to Chikafusa Ikeda and Yasushi Tao for bringing up the idea.

Pacific League

Buffaloes 20, Lions 8

At MetLife Dome, Stefen Romero homered twice, scored three runs and drove in six, while Steven Moya homered and drove in five as Orix knocked Seibu silly. Romero also singled twice and walked in his other three plate appearances.

Chang Yi (2-0) allowed four runs in five innings while striking out five to improve to 2-0 in two career starts. Lions starter Keisuke Honda (5-4) allowed seven runs and didn’t survive the second inning.

The 20 runs allowed by Seibu matched a franchise record, set twice in 2004 when the Lions won the PL pennant after finishing second in the regular season. After his team also hit four home runs, Lions manager Tsuji said his guys could put it behind them.

“I think we can move on, considering how well the hitters are doing,” he said.

Game highlights are HERE.

Eagles 4, Hawks 3, 11 innings

At Rakuten Seimei Park, Eigoro Mogi doubled to open the 11th against Jumpei Takahashi (2-1) and scored on Ginji Akaminai’s one-out, bases-loaded single as Rakuten snapped SoftBank’s winning streak at six. Alan Busenitz (3-2) struck out two in a scoreless 11th to earn the win for the Eagles.

Hawks catcher Takuya Kai went 3-for-4 with a two-run home run and two runs scored, while Hiroaki Shimauchi tied the game 2-2 in the fifth with a two-run home run.

With Mogi on second to open the 11th, the Eagles bunted him to third, and the Hawks ordered the bases loaded. Unfortunately, Takahashi fell behind 3-0 to Akaminai and missed down the pipe with a 3-2 fastball that ended the game.

Game highlights are HERE.

Marines 6, Fighters 0

At Tokyo Dome, Takashi Ogino lashed a three-run, second-inning triple as Lotte bashed Toshihiro Sugiura (2-3) for four runs in four innings and handed Nippon Ham its ninth-straight defeat.

Marines starter Chihaya Sasaki (2-1) worked five shutout innings while lefty Toshiya Nakamura struck out three in three innings of relief.

Two weeks after the Fighters were on the verge of taking over the PL lead, they have fallen into fourth place after their longest losing streak in two seasons. Afterward, Fighters manager Hideki Kuriyama apologized.

“There are reasons why have not been able to win,” he told reporters after the game. “One can look at various factors, but simply put, I’m not putting us in position to win. I accept all the responsibility for this.”

Game highlights are HERE.