Tag Archives: SoftBank Hawks

A small step for Tanaka

At Nagoya Dome, Masahiro Tanaka allowed two runs over four innings of relief on Saturday as headlines trumpeted his “preseason game debut” as opposed to his practice game debut from two weeks earlier. Welcome to my world of nonsense.

Tanaka struck out six in his 70-pitch outing in a game in which he spent most of his time working on his slider until he got it right in the Rakuten Eagles’ 2-1 loss to the Chunichi Dragons.

“I used to be basically a slider pitcher. When I was able to get a tighter break on it, I could get swinging strikes,” he said, according to Nikkan Sports.

Manager Kazuhisa Ishii said, “He’s improving step by step. He’s not quite there with his mechanics, but I think he’ll be at a high level before long.”

And teams are now playing preseason games in front of fans for the first time since the end of last February. Here are some of the highlights from Saturday.

Buffaloes’ rookie looks good

In Yokohama, rookie Orix lefty Hiroya Miyagi, the Buffaloes’ first pick out of high school in 2019, struck out three and walked two in five scoreless innings in 5-0 win over the DeNA BayStars. Adam Jones went 2-for-3 with a home run for Orix.

Sasaki gets ready for 1st game

The Lotte Marines are inching closer to letting Roki Sasaki, their flame-throwing first pick from the 2019 draft, actually pitch in a game. On Friday, Sasaki threw in a simulated game.

Osera looks fit in 4 scoreless innings

Daichi Osera, tabbed to start on Opening Day for the Hiroshima Carp after coming off arthroscopic surgery on his right elbow in September, threw four scoreless innings in a 1-0 win over the Yakult Swallows.

Sands homers again against Hawks

Jerry Sands homered for the second straight game for the Hanshin Tigers in their preseason series against the four-time defending Japan Series champion SoftBank Hawks.

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Doing the Dragon twist

The Chunichi Dragons became the latest Japanese team to edit their official cheer song to suit changing times. With their ballpark’s naming rights sold this year to “Vantelin Nagoya Dome”, the club consulted with the composer of “Let’s Burn it up Dragons” to edit out the line about a “jam-packed” Nagoya Dome to “Battle Chunichi with strong dreams.”

I don’t have the complete list of all the teams that have kept their official songs but only swapped out offended lyrics. I do know that the songs of the DeNA BayStars, SoftBank Hawks and Hanshin Tigers were all written for their clubs’ old names. In the Hawks’ case it was simply a matter of swapping the name of the club’s former owner, supermarket chain Daiei, for SoftBank.

The Tigers’ iconic “Rokko Oroshi” was written when the team was known as the Osaka Tigers. In 1961 the team ditched Osaka for the name of its then parent company, the Hanshin Railroad, the “Osaka” in “Oh, oh, oh, Osaka Tigers, hurray, hurray, hurray,” was switched out to “Hanshin.” This is not as awkward as it might sound, and a lot of really old fans really hate it I understand, but I’ve never known any different.

The same cannot be said of the new hiccup in the DeNA BayStars team song.

When internet game company DeNA bought the club in 2012, it replaced the catchy, “Yo, yo, yo, Yokohama BayStars” with the horrible “Yo, yo, yo, DeNA BayStars.”

Yo, yo, yo, DeNA, fix your damn song.

Just in case you’re unfamiliar with what people are saying when singing “Let’s burn it up Dragons!” I’ve kind of translated it one main version of it. The Dragons are famous for alternate versions and I don’t claim to know where this one fits in, although it is a recent version meant to include interleague opponents.

 Hear the dragon's roar echo far away in the night,
 At jam-packed Nagoya Dome*.
 We shiver together
 Way to go, do your best, let's burn it up Dragons!
 
 Defeat the tigers, catch the carp,
 Cloud over Hama's starry constellation.
 Drop the swallows and the big guys.
 Hold your breath, we'll win.
 Way to go, do your best, let's burn it up Dragons!
 
 Catch a lion, hunt a hawk,
 master a buffalo and span the sea.
 Both the northern fighter and golden eagle
 will prostrate before the Dragons as we win.
 Way to go, do your best, let's burn it up Dragons! 

Way to go, do your best, let’s burn it up Dragons! It’ s not quite the Four Tops, but it is the same old song.

Here’s a version celebrating the Dragons’ 1974 champions, giving a shout out to each of the players in the lineup and the pitching staff and the bench and coaching staff as well.

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Van den Hurk to Swallows

Rick van den Hurk is poised to become the latest former Hawks player to move to Tokyo’s Jingu Stadium, Sankei Sports reported Tuesday, citing multiple sources.

According to the report, the Swallows have been actively pursuing the 35-year-old, who was non-tendered in December and the two sides are expected to work out their agreement in the coming days.

In recent years, the Swallows have got a surprising amount of mileage out of a pair of Hawks retreads, submarine right-hander Hirofumi Yamanaka and lefty Hiroki Yamada, although the Hawks have more than got their money’s worth from evergreen utility infielder Keizo Kawashima.

Van den Hurk, who was one of two former Dutch internationals on the Hawks last season after Wladimir “Coco” Balentien traded Jingu for Fukuoka. Although neither had a banner year for SoftBank in 2020, they did have at least one big game together.

Van den Hurk has been used sparingly by the Hawks due to a variety of physical issues that have not always been easy to pin down — even for the pitcher himself — but has been dynamite whenever he’s been on the mound.

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I’ve got news for you

In each of the last years, players from the Central League champion Yomiuri Giants were required to walk across Japanese pro baseball’s busy postseason thoroughfare and for two straight years they were run over by a bus.

OK, it wasn’t a bus that hit them but the Pacific League’s Softbank Hawk. In two videos that @HinosatoYakyu uploaded to Twitter, ace pitcher Tomoyuki Sugano and the team’s captain, shortstop Hayato Sakamoto were asked what the difference was with SoftBank.

I guess when you get swept by the same team two years in a row after dominating your own league, it’s natural to ask what makes that other team so good, and find a simple solution. Giants manager Tatsunori Hara suggested that using the designated hitter would give the CL teams a fighting chance.

Here are my three most recent posts related to the gap between the leagues:

But hearing the Giants players speak almost makes it sound as if some people think the Hawks are the reason the Giants can’t win the Japan Series and not the general imbalance between the two leagues.

If you think that, then as Ray Charles sings in the Roy Alfred song, I’ve got news for you.

The Hawks, as the most dominant team in either league, are a reason the PL is stronger, but they aren’t the ONLY reason. How do we know? Because if we stripped the Hawks’ 214-126-14 interleague record, the other five PL teams would STILL be better in quality than the CL.

CL records vs the 5 weakest PL teams

YearsWinsLossesTiesWin Pct.Pyth.
’05-’0723623311.503.515
’08-’10176175 9.501.445
’11-’1315818419.462.440
’14-’16143153 4.483.457
’17-’191291374.485.471
“Pyth” represents the CL’s IL Pythagorean win pct. over each three-year period.

It’s not the bus that ran over the Giants that is the problem, but that the traffic in that road just moves too fast for CL teams to keep up, and if it wasn’t the Hawks, it would have been somebody else.

League, Interleague win. percentages since 2005

TeamLeague InterleagueIL +
Hawks.572.629+.057
Giants.547.525-.022
Lions.524.510-.014
Fighters.523.542+.019
Tigers.519.484-.035
Dragons.509.497-.012
Carp.493.436-.057
Marines.490.541+.051
Swallows.468.465-.003
Buffaloes.460.497+.037
Eagles.460.469+.009
BayStars.433.402-.031

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Hirano back with a buzz

Yoshihisa Hirano fielded questions from the media on Wednesday, following his return to the Pacific League’s Orix Buffaloes for the first time in four years. The 36-year-old right-hander signed a one-year deal reportedly worth 150 million yen ($1.43 million) with additional incentives.

Here are some excerpts from the presser provided by Sankei Sports:

  • Hirano: “I’m so looking forward to being able to play in Japan again. I’m overjoyed. I desire to my very best for Orix.
  • Is your buzz cut an expression of your determination?
  • Hirano: “(Laughs) I guess so. If you want to say that it’s fine by me.”
  • Hirano:“When last season ended, I thought, ‘Of course I want to stay in America,’ but given the state of the world now, the desire to play in Japan began to take shape.”
  • Hirano:“In the difficult circumstances posed by the coronavirus, I’m appreciative of the warm welcome, and the only way to repay that is by winning a championship.”
  • about your one-year contract…
  • Hirano: “Right now I’m not thinking about going back over there. My thinking is to approach each year as its own challenge. Physically, I’m in the same condition I always am at this stage.”
  • You are coming back just like Masahiro Tanaka…
  • Hirano: “Hey, this is me we’re talking about. I don’t think I’m quite comparable yet to young Mr. Tanaka.”

Kodai Senga sidelined

SoftBank Hawks ace Kodai Senga, who either led or tied for the Pacific League lead in wins, strikeouts and ERA last year, will join the team’s rehab group due to calf pain in both legs, manager Kimiyasu Kudo said Wednesday according to Sponichi Annex.

There is plenty of time for him to be fit in time for the Hawks’ March 26 season opener against the Lotte Marines, but Kudo said the move was a cautionary step.

“He’s not running now, and we aren’t going to push it,” Kudo said. “We want him to return 100 percent fit and want him to go at his speed without rushing. We don’t have a plan right now, but that’s the situation.”

Fighters see 2-way possibilities for Ito

He’s not Shohei Ohtani, but the Hiromi Ito, the Nippon Ham Fighters’ top pick in last autumn’s draft, could be their next candidate to contribute on both sides of the ball, the Nikkan Sports reported Wednesday.

“From the very start, we talked about maybe playing two-ways,” Fighters manager Hideki Kuriyama said of the pitcher, a hard-throwing right-hander who has been flashing his foot speed in camp. “It doesn’t matter whether he does or doesn’t, but it was just one of the things I was thinking of.”

“Perhaps he could aim to lead the league in stolen bases as a pinch-runner before taking the mound as a closer. I need to give it some thought.”

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Camp 2021

Camps opened on Monday behind closed doors, and while taking care of some chores I watched some of the broadcasts on TV. There must be a market for baseball analysts commenting on the quality of the drills being performed– “That relay throw was a little high”– but I don’t get it

There were a bunch of Youtube videos, with the bullpen shots all showing pitchers throwing but not their pitches, so you can see that they all look comfortable throwing on Day 1.

I did notice that while all the other teams were on the field doing defensive drills or taking BP, the Hawks, whose manager studies sports science, were still stretching. When you go to different camps, you can notice lots of little differences, but otherwise there’s not a lot to see, except when there is.

Will Lions go round in circles?

On Day 1 of spring training there catchers did at least. One of the camps I’ve never quite gotten to is the Lion’s camp in Nango, Nichinan in Miyazaki Prefecture, the southernmost camp in Kyushu.

The staff of PL TV thought this catcher’s drill to build lower body strength and control was worth documenting, and truth be told I’ve never seen anything like it.

Of course, we can’t go there without going here:

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